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Q&A Time on #VanLife

Updated: Jun 25, 2023

Q: What was it like living out of a van?

A: There's this freedom while living out of a van. It's hard to describe, but to us it is like a breath of fresh air. We felt this ease of living; that somehow it removed us from the hustle & bustle and most importantly it reduced our worries. If anything, we felt a weight lifted off our shoulders.

Big Bertha in the Collegiate Peaks, Colorado

There were some ups and downs, especially during covid which I think we all can relate to - van or no van, it was tough for all of us. A few times we'd go a couple weeks without a HOT shower (this meant that we'd "shower" in a river or take a cold indoor/outdoor shower). We had a water heater in our first rig and loved it, but due to the uncertainty of when or where we were going to get water (during covid mostly), we limited our indoor/outdoor showers. Laundry wasn't too complicated either since we could wash some of our clothes/towels in the river and when things got really gross we'd go hang-out at a local laundromat. Our favorite laundromats are the ones with showers and free wifi (warms my heart!).

Q: When did you find your first van? How long did it take and how much money did you spend building it out?

A: It was March 2018. Brandon religiously searched online to find our first rig and struck gold when he found her at a Nissan Dealership outside of Washington D.C. They listed her for a great price and Brandon paid $1,000 over the phone to secure it for us (Plus, with the help from his sister and broter-in-law co-singing we secured our first rig). We bought a one-way ticket from LAX - IAD and took our first road trip across the country from Washington D.C to Santa Barbara, California. It was epic to say the least. Our first night we slept somewhere in Tennessee to the hum of semi's engines in a Wal-Mart parking lot. The rest of the trip was filled with incredible, never seen before country side to, "what the fuck do people do out here!?" experiences. (But we mostly thought, "holy moly we live in such a beautiful country!"). The only night that was absolutely horrific was in Flagstaff, AZ (mind you, we LOVE Flagstaff) where we froze our asses off in 20 degree fahrenheit weather. It was brutal to say the least.

We invested roughly $75K - $80K (including the van purchase) into our first build and it took us rookies about a year to build her out. It would have taken us SOOO much longer if it wasn't for the help of Brandon's family. From sleeping outside their homes to using all of their tools, bathrooms, laundry, feeding us and so much more, we couldn't have done it without them.

Big Bertha's First Road Trip. Atlantic Ocean - Pacific Ocean. Photo taken off Wolf Creek Pass, Colorado.

Bertha Gets Wood. Beetle Kill Blue Pine Wood from New Mexico.

Sanding Like a Boss (Note: first time I ever used this kind of sander!)

Q: How did you poop!? Where did you poop!?

A: We pooped! (all good & healthy over here, Mom!). In our first rig, Big Bertha, we had a composting toilet by Nature's Head. (It is a magical concept in my opinion.) However, Brandon nor I ever pooped in our toilet because neither one of us wanted to clean a poopy toilet. Other ways we found a place too poop included, but are not limited to: staying in small towns and finding a coffee house or cafe to support and use their bathroom. We also loved staying in remote campgrounds where outhouses were accessible.

There's always a way to poop and if you're super worried about it, we highly recommend the following toilets:

1. Nature's Head - it comes with a sweet handbook and compost block!

2. Reliance (Plus other amazing products) - Reliance Toilets - basic, awesome, great for pooping.

Q: How did you come to the decision to live in a van?

A: Long story short - we were sick of living for the weekend. Don't get us wrong, we loved where we were living at the time (shouts out to Santa Barbara!), we loved our jobs and the people who made Santa Barbara so incredible, but we were really struggling financially. We hated living pay-check-to-pay-check and were dying to explore the country. So, we did what any late 20 year olds would do. We started saving, planning and looking for a rig.

We lived a mile away from the beach. It was so dreamy.
East Beach. Santa Barbara, California

Q: So, why a Mercedes Sprinter Van?

A: Since the first day we laid eyes on a Mercedes Sprinter Van in Mammoth Lakes, California we wanted one so badly (mostly Brandon, but it didn't take long for cupid to strike my heart with his sprinter van arrow). Anyway, while looking for our dream Sprinter van we kept an open mind to what else was out there. We looked at short-bus's (the roofs are super low for someone who's 6'3''), long bus's (can't really get off-road in one of those mam-ma-jamma's), Unimog's (they get 5 miles to the gallon!?), and lastly, Earth Roamer's (have you seen the price of those beautiful beasts!?!? It's too majestic for us muggles). In the end, the Sprinter was going to give us exactly what we needed and everything we wanted.

Q: Where do you sleep?

A: In our bed, sillies! Shout out to our custom made Tochta Mattresses! (they are amazing and can literally be designed to fit ANY dimension you need for your rig.) But in all seriousness, we sleep anywhere that is legal. We don't want to park anywhere, anytime where we would be in someones way or keeping someone from doing their job. We never want to upset any locals or try to make a statement about how we can, "sleep anywhere because it's my land! Blah, blah blah..." We mostly love to sleep in National Forest or, if we can make a reservation, we love staying at campgrounds with epic sceneries. We've also slept outside a few Cracker Barrels and Wal-Mart's in our day. If you're needing to know a place crash (not literally) or just curious of where we've stayed shoot me an email for questions! (Maybe one day I'll write a blog about it... we'll see)

Q: Do you have a hotspot or wifi?

A: We have an incredible mobile wifi set-up with the RV IT GUYS! Based in the United States, they are a company that makes technology for the road easy. We love and greatly appreciate this RV I T GUY! They have always had our backs and have some of the best customer service we have ever experienced. #Ivegotaguyforthat

Q: What did you do for work while living out of the van?

A: Brandon is an online endurance athlete coach for one of the most loved online coaching sites out there - Run Your Personal Best. Brandon has worked with and ran for some of the best coaches in the world and as a retired professional athlete from running, he knows what it takes to get an athlete ready for race day. I'm a little biased, but Brandon has been my coach for over 3 years now and has helped me achieve things in my running career. In the past three years I have ran new personal best from the 1000 meters to marathon. One of my greatest achievements was qualifying for the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials.

I (Brittni) am a Health Coach and looking to start another small business in the future. (To Be Shared Later!) I used to run professionally, but I am currently on the road to recovery after my second back surgery. Fingers crossed and all the good vibes that I'll be back out there soon.

Q: Why can vans be so expensive?

A: If you're starting with a 4x4 platform you should expect to spend close to 70K - 80K on your rig. Plus, ever since covid the cost of materials has increased exponentially. (What really boils our blood is seeing shitty builds with poor insulation, materials, etc. for sale at top dollar! One, you are the worst! Second, know your worth!)

We get some help every now & then with our builds, but for the most part it's our time, hard work and Brandon's OCD that makes our builds so reliable and unique. We use the highest quality materials, what's best for the environment is always a priority and lots, and lots of love.

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