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Q & A: After 4 Years of VanLife, WHAT’S NEXT?!

It’s crazy how quickly life can change. How you can go from one land to another and reality totally shifts. It’s crazy how you can return to a place as a different person, with new life experiences, new insights, new values, yet everything else has remained exactly the same. We are changed people. Nothing feels the same anymore. Our desires have been reshaped by life on the road and our stories made richer through experience. We’ve been EXPOSED. Ripped open by the world, stunned by its natural beauty and awakened to its pain. We have been disconnected from US culture and recharged by the call of the wild. Surrounded by nothing yet blessed by so much, we are now without walls and without wheels to call home, we are…. HERE, and home is with in.

What's Next, vanlife couple full time, vanlife europeFor us, life on the road started back in 2014, and since then, we’ve traveled 40,000 miles across Europe + Africa, and before that we spent an entire year exploring the US, Canada + Iceland all by van too. Crazy to think of all the footage + photos we have to edit into something epic one day! Here is a collection of the various rolling homes we have lived and travelled across the globe in throughout the years:

mercedes dodge sprinter van, best sprinter van conversion, live in sprinter vanTour of Vanna here.

dacia dokker camper, kuku camper, camper van icelandTour of our Kuku Camper here.

box truck conversion, amazing tiny home, best box truck conversion, iveco tiny homeTour of Hector (our most viewed YouTube video of all time) here + our tour of The Howeller (below) here.

ford transit camper van, europe vanlife, travel europe by vanSO WHAT’S NEXT!? This is everyone’s #1 question. We did hike around the mastiff of the highest mountain in Europe for 6 days + lived/travelled in Morocco for 3 months by van + discovered pre-historic creatures in Norway, but no one cares about any of that right now, everyone just wants to know what sort of new and exciting adventure they get to go on with us NEXT!

vanlife portugal, vanlife europe, mr and mrs adventureTo be completely honest, we’ve been confused about what to do next. Removed from society as we once knew it, only to be thrown back in, surrounded by a world of noise and needs, concrete and routines, we want to plant our feet but they just won’t take root. Part of us still craves the open road. The unscripted mornings, the fulfilling thrill of the unknown. We spent the past 4 years roaming and changing, so I think it’s only natural to find ourselves in this place. So, how do we move forward and redirect our lives after such an incredible journey?!

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Since returning from Europe we’ve been spending our time trying to regroup, catching up with old friends and reliving the glory days from when we used to call #LAlaland home. It’s been fun, we’ve been showering everyday (sometimes twice) and eating all the tacos, but we’ve both come to the realization that something is different, and it’s not LA… it’s us. Being surrounded by so much “stuff,” so much noise, so many buildings, so much of that incredible electric energy that made us fall in love with it in the first place. I think we’ve just spent too much time over the past 4 years surrounded by the peace and beauty that mother nature so freely offers, and now… it’s hard to know ourselves, and life, without it. So, today we find ourselves in the mountains, preparing to summit the 2nd highest peak in SoCal and sleep under the stars. #SanJacinto, it’s been 5 years since we’ve seen you, and we have so much to catch up on ⛰ • Photos circa 2013 (back when filters were cool): sunset on the summit

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We have some grand ideas brewing, but for now we just need to take things one day at a time, and soon enough, our present moments will flow right into our next big adventure. Besides wanting to know “What’s Next,” we asked you guys what other questions you had for us via Instagram, and here’s what we got!:

1.“It takes a lot of courage to travel to so many places as you did and deal with each individual culture, especially with such a positive attitude. You spent quite a while in the UK. Is there any cultural quirk that you will miss or takeaway from over here in the UK?”

Oh gosh yes, where to start. The word play and accent (miss it everyday), radio stations that value and uphold what has always made listening to the radio so great, the way that so many towns/cities are laid out to promote walking and community vs. disconnection and automation (if that makes sense), the preservation of traditions (there are so many), Rugby Clubs, pints at the pub (they’re either an inconsistently sized large or small), old architecture, small country roads and truly, the thoughtful conversations with people from your part of the world, always appreciating and always learning from them.

2.How did you guys meet? Basically what’s your whole love story?”

We met in college back in 2009 thanks to a fateful internship with JanSport. We were just baby adventurers back then, I had never even been camping before! You can read the entire story on our About Us page + the 2 posts below will share a bit more insight into how much it effected the course of our lives:

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Tonight is our last night with The Howeller, our trusted companion, our sanctuary, our vessel into the great unknown. He has taught us how to improvise, how to adapt and how to communicate as newlyweds in ways that will forever bless our marriage. And now we have to accept the fact that we are leaving his cozy, protective nook, his infectious good vibes, his limitless curiosity, his funny sounds, his carpeted ceiling… we are going to miss it all. But the spirit of The Howeller will live on forever in our hearts, just like #SkipYowell, after whom the Howeller is named. The founder of @JanSport, an extraordinary human, dear friend and the entire reason Drew and I met. Sadly Skip passed away right before our wedding, so we decided to dedicate our van to him… “The Howlin Yoweller,” a name chosen by Winnie, Skip’s wife, has been more like our guardian angel than just a van ❤️ As Skip always used to say, “Life is an adventure and the path is unknown,” a motto that we will continue to embrace wherever life takes us next. We’re so grateful to have you all along for the ride. ••• PS- Yes, we are wearing matching #Skipismyhomeboy tees that we’ve had for almost 10 years 🙌🏼

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3.Do you want to have babies and if so, when?”

This question happens to come up a lot! Especially amongst our friends and family, but yes, we do want to have kids, one day. I’m 30 and Drew is 31, so maybe in 2-3 years, God willing (“InshAllah”). We both grew up as only children, and because we craved the love and shenanigans that growing up with siblings brings, we ideally would like a minimum of 2, but recently we’ve been talking about how 3 might be the perfect number for the family dynamic we envision… though we’re not sure how all that will fit into a van… maybe we should start to consider the idea of #buslife! We’re also open to the idea of adopting (have you seen the movie Lion?). It all depends on what life has in store. Below is a photo of us with our dear friends/amazing family of 5 who created Quirky Campers:

quirky campers, travel europe by van, amazing campervan rental, escape campervans

4.How much did you have saved up before selling everything and uprooting your lives?”

Plain and simple, as much as we could. To be more specific though, it was enough to live off of for about two years. Our goal was more than $50k. Tip #2 in this blog post will help shed some more light + the YouTube video below:

5.Where do you recommend someone go for their first trip abroad?”

This one’s a toughie! It depends on the person and what they crave, but after talking with Drew about this, our #1 answer is Costa Rica. It’s where each of us went for our 2nd overseas trips, which was both of our 1st overseas trips as adults.

proyecto asis, volunteer with animals costa rica, costa rica monkeys, costa rica zoo, animal rescue costa rica, arenal animal rescueMy (Brittany) 1st overseas trip was with my family in 199?, I was 7 years old (I think). We went to visit my family in Brittany (Bretagne), France and stayed for a month. Some of the best memories of my childhood were made here, it’s also the one place we returned all 3 summers of our VanLife Europe adventure. The photo below is of me (right) and my cousin, eating our fave, “gaufres” (question #9 will talk about these delicious treats too):

gaufre, brittany france, french dessert

But the reason we’d say Costa Rica is because, if you have a choice, it’s a great place to start. Costa Rica is built out really well for travelers, it can be affordable, the food is great, the culture and people are incredible, the beaches and wildlife are LUSH + it’s where we got engaged, so we’d both have to say it’s romantic, unforgettable and leaves you wanting more – we’ve been 4 times! The photo below is from 2014:

rio celeste, costa rica, 1st trip overseas Runner up? Ireland. They speak English, the culture is warm and inviting, we found them to be the absolute kindest people in Europe and it’s the perfect place for a 1 -2 week vacay, as long as you’re up for a bit of Irish fog – meaning the weather 😉

6.What is your favorite memory traveling?”

Oh geeze… there are so many, how do we pick just one!? For the sake of having a video so you can really share in the memory, we’d have to say watching the Eiffel Tower sparkle at night for the very first time. It’s absolute MAGIC. Every night, starting at sunset, La Tour Eiffel sparkles for five whole minutes every hour on the hour, until 2am. We happened to be on a private little rooftop to catch the first glittering show of the night. Talk about ROMANCE!

There’s that, PLUS the time we met Woody Harrelson while kitesurfing in Tarifa and then hung out for 2 days…!! Yea, that one’s pretty hard to top.

woody harrelson vanlife, woody harrelson tarifa spain, woody harrelson is dope, woody harrelson and mr and mrs adventure

7.You seem to hike and do lots of daring things that take you to high elevations, are you afraid of heights at all?”

Drew and I have both been skydiving on separate occasions (my video here) + went bungee jumping off of California’s Bridge to Nowhere and though I didn’t much like the experience of throwing myself over the edge (Drew loved it), there is something that we both CRAVE about being ON the edge. I grew up in Florida, where it is FLAT EVERYWHERE, so when I hiked my first mountain I was absolutely exhausted, but even more so, I was hooked! I feel a great sense of aliveness and responsibility for my life when I’m standing on top of a mountain, feeling so small yet so strong all at once, taking in views like the ones I’d imagine to see from heaven one day. Neither one of us has a fear of heights thankfully, otherwise adventures like Half Dome, Vagakallen and Mount Whitney would have likely been out of the question!

8.What activities do you miss most from your past that you don’t do anymore?”

It’s the simple things really. Hanging out with our neighbors, having BBQ’s in “the courtyard,” going out on dates when we didn’t spend 24/7 together in an 18-foot space. We miss having a little nest of our own to return to after our travels and adventures, a stable place where our gear and things are all in one spot, where we can shower, relax and experience what the kids nowadays call “Netflix and chill.” Sometimes we even miss having a (dare I say it) JOB. There’s something so simple about going in from 9-5, with a set formula for effectiveness and efficiency, knowing that you’ll go home that day having created value in a way that will help you afford the things want to do in life. For the freedom we gain living a life of adventure as digital nomads, there are sacrifices, but the blessings that come along with, make it all worth it for us.

Another thing we miss, that often goes unappreciated in “normal life,” is the convenience of having a big desk/dining room table that doesn’t move. A place where you can sprawl out your papers, pens, journals, leave a book open to a page you want to return to, little nicknacks to help inspire you and a forgotten mug of coffee left behind… in the van we have to put everything away all the time, which creates additional steps before those otherwise so readily-available, table-top activities can take place:

digital nomad, vanlife work space, van conversion office, wheres my office now

9.What is the best “sweet bread,” aka. dessert, that you’ve tasted out of all the places you’ve been?”

Oh what a fun question! There are many to consider, but the 1st one that comes to mind is a French speciality and childhood favorite of mine, “Gaufre avec Nutella.” Let your mouth water as you watch Drew eat his first bite ever here! And do figs count?? Because the figs in Croatia were unlike anything we have ever tasted and after 2 years of searching, we have not found anything to even come close to comparing to these magical creations:

As far as “sweet bread,” aka dessert, in the US, the chocolate-dipped key lime pie on a stick (found on our Key West bucket list post here) is pretty freaking incredible, and unique, too!

10.Movies or Netflix?”

100% movies but that’s mostly because roaming across all the different countries in Europe meant that we had all sorts of different data plans + varying service strength, so Netflix was out of the question (especially in France where we had to pay $60 for 5GB of data!), and now we’re used to life without it. Luckily, we’ve been gifted with downloaded movies from friends met along the road and because the wild world around us is so insanely beautiful, most nights we’d rather watch the show outside our window than something on a screen anyway.

Fun fact: We surprisingly experienced the best data and connectivity in Morocco! Here we would stream movies via Amazon Prime when we felt so inspired:

11.What do you do to stay in shape while adventuring? Nutrition is obviously a big part, but what about the exercise part?”

vanlife workout, portugal vanlife, the algarve beaches portugalA little bit of everything everyday! Between biking trails, weekly exploratory runs, hiking up spontaneous mountains, walking around new towns and cities + I do at least 20-60 minutes of yoga/Pilates every morning, along with 30 daily push ups (Drew does 40), without fail. I like to keep little 3-5 pound weights around to add to the mix every once in a while too + we use our back roller literally everyday, and Drew has a thing for full-up bars.

stay fit on the road, travel fitness routine, vanlife workout, couples fitness video, couples fitness routine travelAlso, when living in a van, making the bed every night and morning is a work out + filling and carrying our 30-gallon water jug collection every 3 days or so + the overall effects of living an active lifestyle that doesn’t require us to sit behind a desk for 8 hours a day. We want to be ready for any and every adventure that life has in store. We train to stay strong for life!

pen y fan, hikes in wales, mr and mrs adventure12.“Where did you leave your van in Europe when you took your trips back home to the US?”

It was always hard leaving The Howeller behind (as the video clip above states), but for convenience and security, we most often chose to leave him at long-stay (on and off-site) airport car parks. Gatwick cost just $50 per month, not bad! We did this at other airports too, like Lisbon, Portugal and Split, Croatia. AirBnB is another great resource. You can search for people in the area you are hoping to leave your van who have parking at their listing, and then privately message them enquiring about parking your van on their property for X amount of time, at a rate you can both agree upon. We were also lucky enough to have a friend in Germany whose family owns a farm/castle (video here), so The Howeller was able to rest in luxury for a while as we took the train into Munich to catch our flights to the US and back. You can find our other tips on preparing for VanLife in another country here.

13.“What’s your travel bucket list?”

This is a great blog post idea! Full list coming SOON 🙂

14.“Any tips for van security?”

BE STEALTH. Have good window covers. Do not put your bikes on the back. Do not leave any valuables up front in the cab where passersby can see. Always lock the doors. Put security system stickers on the windows (regardless of whether or not you actually have one). Create additional barriers to entry aka. internal lock on the back doors + internal hook system for the slider door. Hide a mounted safe somewhere inside the van to store your valuables, like money, hard drives, etc. When in doubt, pay for parking in a secure/monitored area. Stay out of cities if at all possible. Try not to sprawl out and show the contents of your van if you plan to leave your van parked in that same spot, unmonitored, in the near future. Park and travel with other “vanners,” there is safety in numbers. Have a locking cabinet/storage area for all electronics (computers and camera gear). Bring a dog along with (yay!). Moroccans are especially afraid of black dogs and we know of a few people who adopted a stray or two during their VanLife travels for safety and well, joy! We went for a cat. Safety? Not so much. But joy? Definitely.

In conclusion, the less interesting your van looks from the outside, the better. We knew The Howeller wasn’t going to win any beauty competitions but he was strong, reliable and well, WE sure thought he was handsome! I don’t know if there’s ever been a van more loved than he:

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Love is a little white van 🚐 #TheHoweller

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Hopefully this post has been insightful and entertaining to each and everyone of you in one way or another! We’ve been sharing our adventures since 2013 and have collected not only some incredible experiences along the way, but even more so, we have been blessed by the most incredible people. To wrap up this Q & A we’ll be sharing one of our favorite comments from the recent days:

@vikki_harriss: i’ve loved following your adventures abroad and i’ve grown quite fond of both of you….thank you for sharing your epic journey with us and for representing the “van life community” with grace and class…your an amazing young couple and i can’t wait to see where “we” are all going next!! 🙌❤️ and…if ya ever wanderlust into my great, amazingly beautiful country 🇨🇦 your more than welcome to stop over in my little corner of the world for a hot meal, shower, and soft comfy bed for the night!! much love to both of you xox.

Thank YOU to everyone who has taken an interest in this unpredictable adventure we call life. Be sure to stay up to date via Instagram, we’re SO excited to share where we ALL go next, xoxo.

vanlife romance, vanlife honeymoon, cornwall vanlife, mr and mrs adventure

1 Comment

  1. Reply

    Barbara Herring

    October 1, 2018

    Fascinating!!

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