VanLife Q&A Session with Willa and Lucas from @ViatheVan
GSA - Who are you?
We're Lucas and Willa Via, a married duo from the San Francisco, Bay Area. We met back in college at a frat event (not the best meet-cute story), moved to NYC for a few years, then took a four-month cross-country road trip in our homemade Sprinter van on our way back to California.
GSA - What’s your current van make/model and why did you decide on this particular vehicle to embrace van living?... and does your van have a name? We recently sold our beloved Dodge Sprinter Van (Roosevelt) but we plan to purchase another Sprinter soon (Mercedes this time!).
GSA - How long have you embraced van living?
We embraced van living for about four months while we relocated from NYC to SF, though had our van for about 15 months in total. It flew by.
GSA - What are some of your personal Pro’s and Con’s about living full time from a van?
Willa – Gah so many pros! Biggest pro is waking up in a new place everyday. The feeling of opening up your doors to a new view everyday is spectacular, a feeling of freedom so tangible you want to hold on to it forever. The biggest negative for me would honestly be the mobility within the van. Sometimes I just want to swan dive onto the carpet and spread my arms wide- you definitely cannot do this in a van.
Lucas - Pros: endless freedom and accessibility. After working in a few New York City skyscrapers, I started to dream of waking up in a tent in national parks throughout the country. Having a van allows you to do just that - feel like you're constantly camping and exploring! Cons: While you are constantly on the road, finding any sort of professional routine, including reliable internet, can be difficult to come by. Being your best work self at your full-time job can get tricky.
GSA - Fondest location you’ve called home for the night?
Willa – Such a great question. Usually the more difficult a campsite is to get to, the better it is. We gave in and went with a park campsite within Olympic National Park one night. We woke up in a lush, grassy snow globe right out of Fern Gully. Twas a 45-minute drive over some pretty rocky ground but well worth it!
Lucas - Outside of Moab, Utah. After being there for a few days, it started to feel like home. I had to work most days, though in the evenings we hiked and we knew that once the weekend hit, we'd be exploring Arches and Canyonlands. Moab might be our favorite town in America right now. Go if you can!
GSA - What have been some of the biggest lessons learnt from living your best van life?
Planning is required though you have to accept that things simply won't go exactly as you expected. The weather can change, places to sleep fall through, mechanical issues arise, etc. Accepting this was a requirement and once we learned to do so, we were able to enjoy our travels so much more. It really is a lifestyle for exploring and taking each day as it comes.
Also- leave your doors open! People love the idea behind van life and you’ll meet some beautiful people that way.
GSA - If you could switch up your current van for one of the following below for a 48 hour adventure which would you choose and why?
Van options are from the following: The A-Team van, The Mystery Machine, Postman Pats van, The Mutts Cutts van or Dale's RV from The Walking Dead.
Lucas - I think I'd have to go with Postman Pats van. For starters, its bright red and has clean lines. Also, I've regularly thought about what it'd be like to convert a mail truck!
Willa – I raise you your Postman Pats van and rudely insert my dream of spending the rest of my life in the Wild Thornberry’s ComVey: the ULTIMATE in adventure van. It converts to a boat for Pete’s sake!
GSA - Making the most of the space around the van is essential, is there anything you wished you had in the van but didn’t have the time/money to install during the build? Oh, lots of things. You learn a lot when you build the entire interior yourself. "Sureeeeeeee, we can sleep diagonally" will forever be my famous last words. Money was the limiting factor or we would have spent more on convenience and luxury. I would have added window flares, lithium batteries rather than lead acid, and a roof rack and ladder. From a design perspective, we would change our bed layout because when you live in the van full time, you don't want to build the bed each night!
GSA - Strangest encounter while on the road?
Driving at night along a narrow stretch of road to an island in the Great Salt Lake. We were heading out to public land to camp and watch the stars. After driving for 20 minutes or so, we saw headlights come flying up behind us and start tailgating us. When we slowed down (thinking maybe this person wanted to pass us?) a small red mid 90s Nissan truck pulled up next to us; inside was a rather disheveled looking older gentleman. We both parked and the driver said "did you see the UFO out over that island?". We let him know that we hadn't and he proceeded to warn us that there were definitely aliens around. He pulled away, flipped a U turn, and sped off. We opted out of staying on the island that night (and it wasn't due to aliens.)
GSA - What would be your ultimate van journey destination and why?
Willa – Ooph, Italy. I can’t really say this because I haven’t been everywhere but I’ve spent some time in Italy, particularly the northern side and it’s my most favorite country in the world. I would love to van life it up around those tiny towns.
Lucas - I'd like to drive from Alaska to Panama and potentially down to Argentina. As I've fallen in love with the mobile lifestyle, I'm a big fan of overlanding and traveling great lengths to see the world. Traveling that far would require a lot of planning, it would allow us to see everything from deserts, to mountains, to rain forests, to beautiful beaches. It would easily be the biggest undertaking of our lives.
GSA - Who within the van living community would you highly recommend we follow on Instagram?
Willa – My absolute favorite accounts: @thedirtydarlings and @fromourvantage. Their photos are fiiire.
Lucas - What Willa said. She's the ViatheVan Director of Social Media
GSA - Where will the unknown road take you next and what’s the best way to keep up with your van life adventures? Once we complete our next build, we'll likely be adventuring around the west coast on weekend jaunts while we fine-tune everything. We're both working full time though when it comes time to take a break, we'll likely travel for a summer (Willa's a teacher so she gets summers off!). We originally planned on covering pretty much the entire US though stopped short of the Mississippi on our previous trip. We'll definitely go through Canada in warmer months and make our way to the eastern seaboard. The best way to stay in touch is via our Instagram account (@viathevan) as well as through our blog - viathevan.com.
GSA - My final question, what words of advice and wisdom can you pass forward to those who are thinking about making the move to living in a van?
Willa – If you’re planning on going in on it with a romantic partner (or actually any partner) expect to fight and give each other some space. Luke and I have been together for a little over eight years so we’ve had plenty of arguments – the big ones and those annoying why-are-we-even-talking-about-this fights. On the road, everything is magnified, the joy and the frustrations so give one another some space and make sure each one of you are heard. There will be a lot of choices to make while traveling so try to live both of your dreams.
Lucas - We get this question a lot and I tend to say the same thing. There are lots of books and guides about how to start living this lifestyle but the honest truth is, you need to simply start. Taking the first step of selling (or storing) many of your belongings, purchasing a van, and planning a build are all difficult steps to take and can scare many people. With that said, once you start, you get into a groove and the next steps begin to clarify themselves. For anyone that really wants to take to the road, start saving for a van and pull the trigger as soon as you can!