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Meet a Vandweller: Idle Theory Bus

By September 09 2015All stories

If you’ve followed the #vanlife community for a little while now you’ve probably heard of the Idle Theory Bus. They’ve been collaborating with, Where’s my office now, and their story is pretty inspiring! Doing an interview with them was not easy as they move a lot and they not always have so much time to answer questions. Between harvesting peaches and a working on a video project, I knew it would be a great post! We are excited to share this interview as well as James and Rachel’s amazing pictures of their adventures! Enjoy!

Can you tell us about Sunshine? What’s her story?

Sunshine is a 1976 VW Bus, our vehicle, home, and good friend. We acquired Sunshine in 2008, during our college years. She was sitting in a Kmart parking lot near Rachel’s university in Boone, NC for a good while. James came to the Blue Ridge Mountains for a summer visit and took a fateful test drive. We put cash down and drove her home as ours that day. We consider the VW Bus ideal for our lifestyle. Everything we own fits in the bus, and we’ve customized the interior with drawers and a counter top for cooking. Our bus is a Westfalia, which means that we have a canvas pop-top complete with an upstairs bed, where we sleep every night. The backseat pulls out into a bed as well, which allows for four to sleep comfortably–major bonus. We run LED lights off our battery at night, and store our food in a non-electric icebox. Everything has its place, more or less, and we’ve whittled our possessions down to what we use daily. It’s rewarding and freeing to carry few possessions, to need less. In the bus, we are light on our feet and can go anywhere we want.

How did you two meet and where did that Idle theory came from?

We first met each other in high school, sophomore English class. By chance, our seating arrangement put Rachel in the front row, directly in from of James. Together, we completed a class project on Beowulf and the rest was history. We spent our high school days exploring our hometown in southern Florida, spying on alligators and loafing on the beach during weekends. We have long been ‘’practicers’’ of idle theory, or the art of doing nothing. Rachel became interested in the relationship between work, leisure, and idle time in college. She collected books, essays, and research on how people spend their time throughout college. As we grew into “adulthood,” whatever that means, we began to evaluate where we wanted to go in life, and came to the conclusion that an office, a sedentary existence wasn’t for us. We quit our jobs and hit the road because we strive for a balance between work, leisure, and idle time. We feel that the modern American attitude towards time and life management is deeply flawed and unrewarding. Why work 60 hours a week? Why live in a way that doesn’t make you quiver, burn with excitement? We work for what we need, play hard, pursuing our passions, and sit under the stars for hours, doing nothing. That balancing act has worked well for us. Moving onto the road allowed us to grow in an unrestricted setting. We deal with hardships, for sure, but are fortunate to lead lives of incredible wildness and freedom.

Your trip started in 2007 in North Carolina, do you live full time on the road? 

We have lived on the road full-time for almost 3 years now. We acquired the bus in North Carolina 8 years back, with no plans of living in it as a year-round lifestyle. At first, she was just a daily driver and weekend camper. In 2010, we traveled through the west coast after graduating university, living and working in the bus for a full year. It was a free time; we had no responsibilities, no plan, and all the time in the world (kind of like today, we guess). After that year, James wanted to put his film degree to use. We moved into a studio apartment in Los Angeles to pursue his dream of making films. In 2012, we moved out of our apartment and back into the bus. The city had closed in around us, and the road and its endless possibility beckoned. We’ve lived out here ever since, in the wild places of North America, in the mountains and atop the Mesas of our beautiful and varied country.

What would be the top 3 lookout points in the US? 

People always ask if we have a favorite place we’ve visited. The answer is no, because we find something that fascinates us everywhere we’ve gone. However, from a photographic standpoint, certain spots just can’t be beat. Here are our favorite places to shoot in the US:

The Colorado River, Arizona

Death Valley, California

Million Dollar Highway, Colorado

How do you make money on the road? 

One of our main sources of income on the road has been creating video content. James was a full-time filmmaker before we hit the road, and we’ve been fortunate to utilize that skill as we travel. From Do It Yourself online shorts to promotional videos for nonprofits, these jobs turn around quickly and pay the bills.  We try to source our income from diverse sources, including freelance writing, videos, photo content, odd jobs, and farm work. Earning money with both our minds and our bodies has been an important and rewarding way of funding our travels and this rambling lifestyle.

Do you see yourselves settling down for a while anytime soon?

At the moment, we see no end to our nomad days. We are joyful and on fire for life every day. If that ever changes, we’ll make a change. But why fix what’s not broken? This lifestyle isn’t for everyone, but has been the best life choice we’ve made so far. We wouldn’t change a thing.

Would you raise kids living a nomadic lifestyle? 

If kids ever came into the picture, we would certainly raise them on the road. Children who travel, who spend time with a wide variety of people and live in the outdoors, are balanced and happy. Some of the most informed kids we’ve met are growing up on the road. So, yes, if kids are in the picture, we would definitely raise them out of the bus. What’s good for us is good for them, no?

As an amateur mechanic, what are the tools you always keep with you in the bus?

Sunshine runs on a 2Liter pancake engine that is simple to work on and user friendly. James does all of the maintenance, a lot of troubleshooting, and some repairs. By no means is he an expert, but with these buses, a firm background in common sense and passion to learn will get you far. Our first must-carry tool is How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive by John Muir. If you have a VW, get this book. It is a step-by-step guide to working on your engine, and has gotten us out of more pickles than we can count. We also always have a jack on hand, an extra fuel filter and oil filter. Lots of oil, as we have a perpetual leak. Wrenches and a good jack are a must! We travel and camp in remote places almost every night, so being prepared is important. We’ve been stuck in the desert, miles from a paved road and cell phone service. More than once. Let us tell you, that is no fun. Know your vehicle and carry tools; it has saved us from disaster!

Here’s a little video!

How To Change A Tire – D-I-Why Not? from on Vimeo.

Follow more of their adventures online:

Official website
FB page