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Meet a Van dweller : Phil Berg

By June 03 2015All stories

Traveling in a van means meeting a lot of interesting people from diffierent backgrounds and that’s why we like it so much. Even if you don’t want to, you’ll start categorizing the travelers you meet; the lonely surfer living the dream, the cute little couple sharing their passion, the family working from road, etc. And that’s fine. But then you meet people like Phil Berg, who calls himself a butch. First thing he told me was : “You! Where you from, you talk funny”. He lives with his 12 years old dog Umma at the far east point of Long Island, in a parking lot with one of the most beautiful view I’ve seen lately. He has a fishing permit that allows him to be there with his yellow school bus. I’ve sent him some questions for this interview so he can write the answers, but he called me instead because he prefers to talk. When you ask him about his blog URL, he gives you his email address. Don’t even think asking about his SnapChat account. I’ve spent only 30 minutes with him but I felt like I’ve met someone really special! So here’s his story.

What is your vehicle ? Did you restore it yourself?

I drive a ’90 Thomas International school bus. I bought it from 2 Australians who drove from Canada where they bought the bus. I’ve found them online three years ago as their travels brought them in Brooklyn. I liked the 2 side doors so I can open them and have a cool breeze coming from the ocean.

Phil’s school bus or his “man cave” as he likes to call it.

Why did you choose to live off the grid like this, and why did you choose Montauk as your permanent residency? 

I’ve lived in Montauk for almost 50 years, and when my mom passed away we’ve decided to sell the house because no one wanted to live in it. Montauk being one of the wealthiest area on the east coast, rent is so expensive I’ve decided to buy a bus to live in and a motorcycle to travel with my dog Umma. After selling the house, we traveled for a full year all over the US and down to Mexico, putting 40 000 miles on the motorcycle and sleeping in a pop up tent!

Phil and Umma, ready to go!

The motorcycle pop up tent!

You live with your dog Umma, what is your biggest challenge to live with your pet in a bus?

She’s a service dog, she knows how to give therapy and make everyone comfortable! Since we traveled together, we did almost 200 000 miles on the motorcycle.

Umma is also good with kids!

Why the funky helmet?

I met a guy at the famous Iron Horse in Florida, a well known bar where you can come in with your motorcycle. This guy was making custom helmets, so I made him a joke about building one for me with a buffalo horns and pony tail…the next day he had the helmet ready! The helmet is not only for the show, it’s also for security as it makes me more visible on the road.

Phil’s inspiration for his unique helmet.

You seem to have a thing for the funny bumper stickers, which one made you laugh recently?



Where are you heading next? 

At the end of the summer, I’ll be heading to Northern California, tasting wines in Napa Valley and exploring all over this region. I’ll be meeting some friends in Montana to fish trout, and visit the Oregon Coast that’s even better than the Californian coast for me!