GSA - Who are you?
Katie - I’m Katie and my partner, Evan, and I run the van account So We Bought a Van. I also work as the Editor-in-Chief for Go-Van, an awesome online magazine for all things van-related, and as a social media specialist for a women-only adventure company called Travel Her Way. I’m from Portland, Oregon and was really interested in downsizing and traveling in an adventure vehicle. Evan and I both had been abroad before and just never felt that we truly explored our own country. We felt like doing it while living out of a van was a great way to do so because it truly is so convenient to have your home with you at all times. We recently just came back to Oregon for the summer after traveling for a year full-time. Our goal for the year was to visit all 50 states and see all the parks and landmarks that were on our “list”. We’re proud to say that we accomplished this! Now, we’re super excited about slowing down our travel pace a little and figuring out what our next goal is.
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?
Katie - We have a 144” WB Mercedes Sprinter High Roof van. We decided on this particular vehicle mostly because of the space. Evan is pretty tall and the sprinter allowed enough room for us to do a full conversion, while still allowing Evan to stand up straight. We also wanted something newer and reliable, as our mechanical knowledge is minimal. Our van has been wonderful so far with very minimal issues, only scheduled and expected maintenance, and we’re very happy with our purchase. It feels like we’re one of the few out there who never named their van! Maybe in the future…
GSA - How long have you embraced van living?
Katie - As I mentioned before we’ve been living out a van for a year, since June of 2017. We bought the van in October of 2016 and spent nearly every moment of free time working on the conversion before we hit the road. It took us a while to find the perfect van, so we’d been looking as far back as Spring of 2016. It was something Evan always wanted to do and when he brought up the idea, combined with our common interest of wanting to travel, this was the perfect solution.
GSA - What are some of your personal Pro’s and Con’s about living full time from a van?
Katie - Maybe I live in a fantasy world but I really don’t feel like there are too many cons! Small expectancies of living in a van are what I would consider the cons. We don’t have a fully functional toilet, so that is challenging at times. Traveling the way we do requires a lot of driving, which can be taxing. You definitely have to be cautious of your consumption, as far as water, trash, food, etc. For the most part, I love the convenience factor. You have everything you need right at your fingertips. I never had to pack a bag, unpacking groceries is so simple, and you can reach nearly anything by just leaning over and grabbing it. There is also a fair amount of free time, since we’ve eliminated a lot of daily duties by living in a van, so I’ve had so much more time to do the things I love: reading, cooking, hiking, etc. One of the best parts though is that we are outdoors all the time! We’re constantly exploring new areas, National and State parks, and hiking as much as our hearts desire. In my eyes, it really is the ideal lifestyle.
GSA - Fondest location you’ve called home for the night?
Katie - This is such a hard question! We’ve found some amazing campsites. Staying above the Jackson Hole area in Wyoming was incredible, since we had an amazing view of the Tetons. The entire Custer Gallatin National Forest in Montana was amazing. We slept in locations every night with open forest, streams running through our site, and an abundance of natural firewood. The entire surrounding areas of Montana, Colorado, and Wyoming are so friendly to nomads that we were able to find pretty incredible places to call home each night. Plus there was usually epic hiking right near our campsites.
GSA - What have been some of the biggest lessons learnt from living your best van life?
Katie - This is such a loaded question because so many things have changed. I think the biggest thing is that I’m so much more present and in the moment. I have appreciation for my time and use it much more wisely. I’ve also learned to slow down and just enjoy a calmer pace of life. Also, consumption, consumption, consumption! I am SO much more cautious of how much water I use and not letting food go to waste, just to name a few examples. I’ve also learned to just live more simply. I don’t spend as much time getting ready in the morning or planning to go to events out of obligation. I make sure to pay attention to what is important to me and really prioritize my happiness more than ever before.
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? Where would you go? and to keep things interesting you have room for two extra companions, who would you pick to fill the empty seats?
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.
Katie - I love the A-Team van! I’ve really been enjoying lower roof vans lately, like Ford Econolines. I would probably use a model like this as a weekend rig but I have seen some super awesome conversion in these types of vans, especially the 4x4s. I love my van but sometimes cringe when we’re driving down dirt or wash-board roads. We also have hanging items in the van that just make the rocking back and forth down bumpy roads seem so much worse. Something shorter, a bit smaller, and simpler would really allow you to fly down any dirt road you want without hesitation. I would probably take it to New Mexico! I LOVE that state and everything it has to offer. I spent nearly 2 weeks there recently but still don’t feel like I even scratched the surface. Lastly, I would bring my sisters along! They both love a good adventure and haven’t traveled in a van yet, so sharing that experience with them would be really special.
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?
Katie - The only thing we really didn’t have space for but wanted is a compostable toilet of some sort. We just didn’t plan for it from the beginning so by the time we came around to talking about toilets, we landed on a small Thetford toilet for middle-of-the-night emergencies. Compostable toilets also are about $1k and, at the time, we didn’t think that price was worth it. However, if we did a van again, I think we would include a more functional toilet.
GSA - Strangest encounter while on the road?
Katie - One thing in particular sticks out, and in a positive way! We were around Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada and ended up driving out to meet this family and hang out for a night or two based on some coordinates they sent us. On our drive there, we got another DM from a van couple (Paul and Maria AKA @goaty.the.van) who wanted to hang out and sent us their coordinates. They were nearly the same coordinates, just a few hundred feet away! We ended up stopping by, shared some beers, hung out for a bit, then said our goodbyes. A few weeks later, we were driving miles and miles down this dirt road in Sedona and we suddenly passed Paul and Maria AGAIN! It was such a weird coincidence! We stopped by to say hi of course, but just couldn’t believe the odds of that happening twice.
GSA - What would be your ultimate van journey destination and why?
Katie - I would love to travel internationally in a van, whether that means shipping our van somewhere or renting a local van. After traveling in a van I’ve just realized it truly is the most convenient form of travel. I’ve traveled internationally before, usually with just a backpack and hostel hopping, but I’d love to be in a van and explore beyond just big cities. Traveling via van is also just a great way to meet people so I imagine that doing this internationally would result in some pretty awesome travel buddies along the way.
GSA - Who within the van living community would you highly recommend we follow on Instagram?
Katie - Some of my favorite people I follow right now are Matt + Megan (@thedirtydarlings), Laura + Shane (@vannathetransit and @howsheviewsit), Pete + Tay (@alwaystheroad), Noel Russell (@noel_russ), and Joe + Devon (@lifeultralight). Some of these are people I’ve met along the road, inspiration souls I simply admire over the internet, or van designs and content that I love. All five put out positive vibes, dreamy photos, and have inspired my personal van experience.
GSA - Where will the unknown road take you next and what’s the best way to keep up with your van life adventures?
Katie - We’re currently in Oregon for the summer and plan to work, save up some money, and just reboot for a bit. Within the 50 states, Canada and our bucket list, we did miss a few big stops (Glacier National Park, Banff National Park, and Jasper National Park - due to weather and fires last summer). I’d love to visit these the next chance I get during an appropriate season. You can follow our van life adventures on Instagram (@s0weboughtavan) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/soweboughtavan/), and more of my general adventures on my personal account (@k_larr). We have a blog and are in the middle of working on a new website but if anybody is interested, you can check it out (https://s0weboughtavan.wordpress.com) Just a heads up - we haven’t updated it in a while! Also I love connecting with people and am always open to messages or email. You can find my email address in the bio of my Instagram.
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?
Katie - I think my biggest piece of advice is that if you’re interested in living on the road, in a van, or even just traveling in a van part-time, do your best to make it a reality! This has been the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. My entire life has changed because of this experience. The way I work, the things I want for my future, and how I view life in general is different, all for the better. I never would have thought I would live in a van or see the entire country by the age of 26 but here I am. It took research, a lot of energy, and a fair amount time before I had the money to do so, but the point is that I did it. It is very attainable but if you’re able to simply identify your hurdles and think critically about how to jump over them, you just might find that it isn’t as complicated or far-fetched as you think.