Roll with Monica in a VW Van

I've been on Instagram as "Tiny House, Tiny Footprint" for a little over a year now. Since the beginning of that time, there have been a few people I've been interacting with that I have grown quite close to. Monica is one of them—someone I would call my "tiny living soul sister." We've been rooting each other on for the past year, supporting each other from afar. Even though we've never met, we have no trouble feeling bonded by our love for traveling and nature.

Square Feet: 80

Or more than 57 million square miles of land on this Earth.

Joshua Tree National Park

Make, Model, Year: 1982 Volkswagen Westfalia

Years Living Mobile: 1

I have been living in my van full time since September 2014. Environmental advocacy and living debt free are important to me.

Being outside most of the time nourishes my soul to the fullest. Isn’t that what we all should feel every single day of our lives?

Currently Living: California

What were you doing before you went mobile?

I lived in five states during my childhood—all the way from the east to west coast—before enrolling in Gallaudet University in Washington, DC.

Why did you make the change?

During college, I traveled and interned in several countries. In Northern California, I lived out of a 1970 VW bug with a converted interior camper that included space for sleeping and shelves to store my food and gears. So a constantly changing environment has always been comfortable for me.

I find a sense of home in my heart and among the people in my inner circle.

The idea of being mobile captured me right away, so it wasn’t a sudden change or challenging transition but a lifestyle that fit.

What was the process like to move into your van?

Quick and easy.

I am already a minimalist. All of my childhood and college possessions are packed up in my father’s garage. It only takes one hour to gather up my daily personal items and outdoor equipment in the van.

Life has so much more to offer than having things.

Of course, the moment I got my van, I was overjoyed. Not only because I now had a mobile home but also because of the opportunities it can provide for years to come.

How do you balance work and living in a small space?

What is the definition of a "small space" since Mother Earth is so incredibly huge?

I am a full-time graduate student in my second year, so the desk in my van is pretty sufficient for my laptop and books. The van's electricity is powered by sun, and my iPhone provides Wi-Fi.

You could say the outdoors are my ‘classroom’ while I read and write and the sky is my ‘roof.’

What are your hobbies on and off the road?

I have plenty of hobbies, but my main, daily focus is to grow a network of like-minded people who are passionate about making a difference in the world by setting an example for others.

Many people say my hobby is camping, but I don't consider it camping because I am living it. I do not "go out to camp" or ever say "I'm going camping this weekend," because my life takes places in the outdoors on a daily basis.

Volkswagen hunting is something that I enjoy as well, especially in the state of California. I enjoy putting them back on the road instead of storing them in junkyards or hidden barns. 

Yoga is also a lifestyle for me. It helps me stay grounded with my inner senses.

What are your top three go-to items in your tiny home?

iPhone: I’m not a fan of having any technology, but this on-the-go device stores my photos, notes of my thoughts and a lifeline in case of emergencies. Since I am deaf and American Sign Language is my primary language, my iPhone lets others communicate with me using my secondary language, English.

Art Box: It is filled with all of my art supplies that I use when my creativity is juicing up while on the road.

Tools: It is important to keep up with my van’s maintenance because when I take care of the van, the van takes care of me.

What has been the most rewarding thing about living small?

Off-grid traveling with my van is something I strongly am in favor of since it reduces mind “pollution” and keeps me from racing through life with no time to spare. Being a minimalist with my van allows me to focus my energy on doing things outdoors instead of owning unnecessary possessions.

I focus my life on something I am passionate about: giving back to the community directly.

What is the most challenging thing?

Because society doesn’t encourage this kind of lifestyle, it's hard to interact with the majority of people, because they don't understand how important this is to me. However, I am thankful for my inner circle—especially the VW community and their quirky box-looking vans!

Who are you inspired by? was the first blog I was interested in. Since high school, I have been reading their travel stories from around the world. I also instantly felt connected to when they started their trip in 2012. Check them out; they may inspire you as well!

What is your advice to future homeowners who want to live small or hit the road?

Let go of whatever is pulling you away from your curiosity to jump into this kind of lifestyle. If you have been called to this lifestyle by the small voice in your subconscious, let it grow.

It might be one of the best life choices you make.

What's next? Any news you want to share?

I will be leaving van life for six months to work as an aupair in London. When I return, my journey will be continued with an abundance of love for years to come. My biggest dream is to complete the Pan-American Highway while working on a documentary and continue traveling around the world in my van.

Life on the road is full of surprises waiting for you to find them.

Follow Monica and her adventures 

Edited by Kate MacDougall.
All photos credit to Vegfalia