Tom and Sam met in Indonesia in November 2013. Sam was traveling solo and Tom had planned to travel Europe and Asia after his father passed away. It was love at first sight, and they spent the next three months traveling Southeast Asia together.
Tom, originally from Wales, spent the next year with Sam in her home country of Canada. He received a visa for a year to live and work there. After a year, they drove around North America while they waited for another visa. They got back to Canada to continue the wait, and then finally received Tom's visa and went back to the border to activate it.
While Tom was in Canada decorating Sam's apartment, immigration officials found photos of Tom with Sam and argued he was there working illegally and taking a job away from a Canadian. They gave him 10 days to leave the country.
They spent almost five months apart before meeting up again in California. This is the story of their lives after Canada and the journey that brought them together on the road.
Square Feet: 114
Make, Model, Year: 1992 Ford Econoline 250
We chose this van because we knew we wanted one that we could park in a normal parking stall. As much as we adore our pups, we wanted a loft bed to keep the dogs below and avoid getting dog hair in our bed. Also, this van has a four-burner stove, large fridge, toilet, shower and lots of storage.
Months Living Mobile: 7
Tom joined me about two months into living mobile because he was working. Now we are both living in the van full time with two dogs.
Currently Living: Crystal Springs, Florida
Why did you decide to travel around in a van?
Tom and I have always been traveling enthusiasts who love living simply out of just our backpacks. We have traveled Canada, Europe and Central America together.
After Tom was deported, we talked over a few options and decided we would buy a van. I would drive down to the States with our dogs and he would meet me there.
What was the process like to move into your mobile home?
It was a bit of a frantic move as I was more than excited to see him again, but it was very basic. We figured we would find out eventually, after moving in, what we would need and wouldn't need on the road.
How do you fund this lifestyle?
I am currently unemployed at the moment. I am actually a 9.5-year veteran of the world of exotic dancing. The money I saved has given me the freedom to explore new opportunities and the passion to determine where I want to take my life next.
Tom is a carpenter and a guru at working and saving but still manages to make the most of his social life. We are always tossing around new business ideas while we are on the road, but haven't brought anything to fruition just yet.
Where do you shower?
Technically, we have a shower in the van, but it has turned into an area to store our longboard and laundry hamper. Our shower is so tiny and really only good for emergencies. I'm 4’11'' and can hardly sit in it.
We either use state park showers or sneak showers at campgrounds. In Florida, we have made great use of the outdoor surf showers. Although, I must admit, showering at night can be pretty cold. Baby wipes are your armpits' best friends.
Where do you park?
Parking is quite an art if you're looking to save money. The only time we spend money on a campsite is if we really want to stay in the state park.
The van is completely self-sufficient so we don't need to be plugged in or use a generator. We use the ever so glamorous Walmart parking lot if we arrive late and haven't had the chance to check out the town. Usually we are always on the lookout for good places to park during the day.
If we were to hitch a ride with you, what song might be playing?
We have been listening to a lot of music by George Ezra and Hozier. We've been bringing it back old school with some Canned Heat, Maccabee’s, Mumford and Sons, Vampire Weekend and Ben Howard, and sometimes Tom insists on playing Justin Bieber. I listen along to keep him happy.
What are your hobbies on and off the road?
Tom really enjoys training the pups and is currently working on our dog Bali’s agility. He also loves playing around with his videography and photography skills.
I am an avid writer. I obviously love traveling as well as cooking and working out. I'm working on my photography and am trying my hand at writing for my travel blog.
Tom's top three go-to items
GoPro Hero 4: To capture every moment.
Fish Board: It's a nice little break from driving.
Baby Wipes: I think it's pretty obvious.
Sam's top three go-to items
Journal: It has become like a security blanket; I don't really go anywhere without it on my travels.
Nikon D3200 Camera: I'm really enjoying learning and trying new things with my camera.
Chips and Dip: Or any food really. I'm one of those “hangry” people, so you pretty much never find Tom without a granola bar in his pocket.
Tom's favorite destination so far: Padres Island, Texas
We spent our Christmas there and enjoyed the miles of empty but beautiful beaches. The island was dog friendly and had free showers.
Sam's favorite destination so far: Red Rock Canyon State Park
If you can't tell, we love dog-friendly places. The park also has stunning rock faces and backdrops. The weather was perfect when we were there, and the stars at night were indescribable.
Who inspires you?
We love checking in on fellow dog and van travelers, including:
We also love seeing people out there talking about the joys and struggles of tiny living with families.
What has been the most rewarding thing about living small?
I think we both agree: the freedom.
What has been the most challenging?
Apart from staying clean, I would say finding alone time. We love each other very much, but I think having time apart is vital for any relationship. When you live, eat, sleep and breathe in 114 square feet with two dogs (see our list on the worst things about traveling with dogs), it's important to do your own thing as well. Even if it's just making coffee or working out alone, it seems to keep us sane.
Do you plan to go back to your previous way of living?
Tom and I knew this couldn't be a forever thing in the States, as neither of us are residents. However, we have plans to relocate to the United Kingdom with our dogs, buy another van and continue our tiny home living while traveling around Europe.
What is your advice to people who want to live small or hit the road?
If you're planning on hitting the road or even living in a tiny home, start out with weekends away. It's not just a tiny space, it's a lifestyle. It has its challenges and it has its rewards. If you are considering it though, I would say, do it.
What's next? Any news you want to share?
We are both extremely excited about moving out to the United Kingdom to continue our van adventures around Europe. We also have a few business ventures we are working on that we are pretty pumped about. We're excited about life; we never plan to stop seeing the world and always look forward to what's next.