So, We’re Moving! …Into a Van

by | Dec 7, 2018 | United States

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Here we go. Life on the road.

Yes, We’re Moving Into a Van

How did we decide to take on living in a van full time? Nearly a year ago, Tiffany and I had a hypothetical conversation: What would it take for us to uproot our lives and travel full-time? It’s the one thing we’re both insanely passionate about, but could we ever actually do it? We both had great jobs, a nice group of friends, and the steadiness and security that comes with settling down in a place we loved. 

After much discussion, we decided that if our house ever reached a certain value, we would entertain the notion of selling it and hitting the road. It seemed like a pipe dream at best and irresponsible at worst. There was no way we’d actually be able to make it happen, right?

Then everything changed.

A Fateful Conversation

For the past several years, I’d worked remotely from our home in Montana. One morning, I had a conversation with my boss, who informed me that my job would be moving back to the corporate office. I could either relocate to Michigan or find a new place to work.

We had a week to decide.

The Decision

The thought of packing up everything and moving again didn’t thrill us. We’d moved from Tennessee to Texas to Vermont and, finally, to Montana over the span of a few years. This is where we wanted to stay. With that in the back of our minds, we made a decision: we would stay in Montana and roll the dice. 

What could go wrong?

Within a few weeks, after many late-night conversations and a few anxiety attacks for Tiffany, we came to another realization: this might be the perfect, and only, time in our lives we could give up everything and chase our dream. Would we be able to make it work? Where in the hell would we even start? What pitfalls awaited us? We honestly had no idea, but figured this opportunity was worth taking a chance.

Living In a Van Full Time: Some Background

Over the years, I’d had ample opportunities to travel the country. I’d been fortunate enough to have visited 46 states and several countries, either for fun or through work. Tiff grew up in Florida and didn’t travel as much.

For grad school, she ended up in Tennessee, which is where we met. By the time our paths crossed, I’d already lived in 10 states and had traveled extensively. But on one of our first dates, she expressed her desire to travel as much as possible. I have to think that, at some level, one of the things that brought us together was our collective wonder at what the world might hold.

A Perfect Balance

I am normally the dreamer, the one with his head stuck in the clouds. Tiff has always been the more grounded of the two of us, the one with responsibility and future planning on her mind. I tend to fly by the seat of my pants. Tiffany might say she does as well, but she makes sure her seat is securely fastened and her pants are stain-resistant. This is why it was extremely surprising that she came up with our plan. 

“What if we sold everything, bought a van, and just traveled the country?” she asked one night as we pondered our future.

“That…seems like an irresponsible thing to do right now,” I countered, scarcely believing the words that came out of my mouth. Was I growing up? What was wrong with me?

“Think about it,” she said. “We don’t have any kids, we don’t have any debt except for the house, and we have nothing tying us down anywhere. This might be our chance.”

Without much prodding, she talked me into an interesting, if unconventional, idea: we would sell our house, buy a van, and travel the country for the next year or so. And so it began, our journey to living in a van full time. 

“Let’s do it,” I said. “We can make this happen.”

Living In a Van Full Time: Our New Van
Here’s our new home. On four wheels. At least it has a nice view.

A Bit of Training

In my younger years, two somewhat impulsive and, in retrospect, influential disasters actually served as perfect training for moving into a van.

Why am I so Wet?

One summer during college, I slept in the back of my Jeep in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, trying to find work in the fly-fishing industry. This would have been decent, except for the fact that I’d busted out the rear window of the Jeep, was sleeping on shattered glass, and had nothing more than a garbage bag separating me from the elements. 

I actually parked next to a public park to sleep and wondered why it rained every night around 3 a.m. I found my answer when I realized I’d been parking next to a sprinkler that was showering my Jeep on a set schedule.

No, I’m apparently not very smart.

This is In-Tents

The second, and more ridiculous, of these disasters was my first job out of college. I took an internship with a minor-league baseball team based in Florida. As a promotion, I actually lived in a tent at a baseball stadium for 152 nights in a row. While it got me coverage in Florida newspapers and even a segment on ESPN one morning, it was extremely miserable. Fire ants, snakes, and even armadillos attacked me on a nightly basis. And don’t forget the sweat. There was a lot of that.

But, as my mom said in the article linked above, I’m “pretty resilient when it comes to doing stupid stuff.” So, I figured, living in a van with my wife couldn’t be nearly as bad as sleeping on a moldy air mattress in Florida for an entire summer.

Living In a Van Full Time: Finding Our New Home

The first matter of business was finding our new home. I’m not going to lie: Tiffany and I are not the handiest of individuals. Nearly everything I try to fix in our current house ends up in worse shape than when I started. And if we try to fix something together, we end up fighting. So, we knew we needed a van that was already built. 

The particulars we required were fairly spartan: a van that runs, with a comfy bed, some solar panels, and a built-in stove. We found our new home in Livingston, a short drive from where we live. We got a great deal on the van, snatched it up, and drove off in our soon-to-be-home on wheels.

And we couldn’t be happier.

Living In a Van Full Time: Scenic Views
Looking out of our van into the Lamar Valley, Yellowstone National Park.

Anxiety is a B****

As we come into December, most of our plans have taken shape. We’re moving into a van. Our route is set, and we will be leaving Montana in mid-February. The plan takes us through a vast majority of the national parks, and gives us ample time to visit with friends and family around the country. 

The only problem is making sure we get to our departure date in one piece.

Tiff has long suffered from anxiety. She’s taken medication for it in the past, but as we get ever closer to leaving, things have come to a head. For the past week, she’s been suffering through some fairly intense anxiety-and-stress-related issues. 

I’m pretty sure this is to be expected. If I wasn’t so sure we were doing the right thing, I’d probably be right there with her. Sure, there are obstacles we need to overcome before we hit the road, but I’m confident we can tackle them together.

Things such as insurance, selling my truck, and packing up our house have left her in a vulnerable state. Luckily, I’ve supplied her with a steady course of cocktails and stupid jokes to try and put her at ease. 

I’ve also shared with her one of my favorite videos of all-time.

The Inspiration?

One of the greatest SNL sketches ever featured Chris Farley as Matt Foley, the down-on-his-luck motivational speaker. Recently, I realized Tiff had never actually seen the entire sketch. For anyone who hasn’t seen it (what is your problem?!), watch the video below. This is about to become our lives, minus the motivational speaking: 

I’m about three months from becoming Matt Foley.

When I was in high school, I idolized Chris Farley. The day he died, I tried to organize a candlelight vigil in his honor. I felt he and I had a lot in common, aside from the crippling addiction to heroin.

To me, it’s somewhat fitting that now I’ll actually be living in a van down by the river.

Any advice from experienced van lifers about living in a van full time is welcome. Feel free to reach out to us at [email protected]!

Some of Our Other Travels

Top Ireland Destinations: Five Can’t-Miss Sights

Dinosaur National Monument

Where to Eat in Santa Fe: The Shed

 

We’re Tiffany and John, a couple of childfree, DIY travel enthusiasts from Montana and we just can’t get enough of life on the open road. If you’re anything like us, then you feel the same way! We love exploring new places together and finding unique things to do everywhere we go. Read more about our story here.

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