When we first laid eyes on the 1982 Volkswagen Westfalia that our Grandpa bought us, we never could have anticipated the effect that it would have on our lives.
When we first saw it, it was in pretty bad shape: No engine, no wheels, plenty of rust, and an interior that was cut to pieces with a saw. It was hard for us to understand why our Grandpa was so excited for us to get our hands dirty with this hunk of metal, but he was so persistent.
Throughout the restoration process we became familiar with our Grandpa’s history with these cars and he shared stories about his days traveling the world in his own Volkswagens. Camden & I were still young and didn’t even have driver’s licenses, but we became entranced by the idea of traveling in our new beloved bus one day. Over the following years we continued to improve the vehicle and learned how to take good care of it. We knew that one day, it would be ready to hit the open road. We named the bus Lars after our Uncle Larry, who lived for the simplest things in life like family, nature, and music. It was important to us that our bus to embody his spirit and his values.
Sometimes the biggest challenge with vanlife is saying goodbye to the comforts of a conventional existence and committing to a new way of life.
We knew that we wanted to pursue this dream, but struggled to find the right time. Amidst numerous family troubles, the two of us were separated in 2017. We quickly realized not only how important we were to each other, but also the massive role that our Volkswagen played in our lives.
In May of 2018, Camden graduated from high school and we committed the next 11 weeks to the most epic road trip our minds could think up. We had always used cameras to document our lives and share it with others, and chose to bring one along to create a documentary film about our growth on the road. To start, we both moved our belongings into storage, and packed up our van for an expedition across the West. We didn’t know what to expect, and had only a loose plan of where we wanted to go. We left the fate of our trip on the open road.
Over the next 11 weeks, the two of us explored the North American West in our baby blue bus, just like our Grandpa always envisioned for us.
We started in the Rocky Mountains, and crossed through the desert before cruising the Pacific Coast into Canada. Throughout the trip, we saw nine states and two Canadian Provinces on our 9,000 mile loop through some of the most beautiful and diverse terrain in the world. We collected hours of video footage every day of our journey, and stacked thousands of photographs. The peak of our trip was bringing Lars home to our Grandpa in central Washington. We shared all of our own stories of the road with him including the countless strangers that turned into great friends, the endless breakdowns that we fixed with our own bare hands, and the hundreds of hours that we spent behind the wheel of the car that the three of us built together. He was so proud, and that alone made the trip worth it.
Living out of a van is truly challenging. It pushed our limits daily as we struggled to find a place to sleep every night, battled the excruciating heat without AC, and fought through countless mechanical issues with our own hands. Despite the seeming discomfort that comes along with these challenges, we never felt more alive then when everything was on the fritz. We found that human connection with complete strangers had never been easier. Living out of a van you lose many comforts we take for granted in our daily lives, and individuals who still had access to those amenities were thrilled to be able to share with us. We were given showers and meals from complete strangers, and by the end of our time together we felt more like family. By having and living with less, it pushes you to embrace a life outside of your comfort zone.
Spending 100% of your time in a van with the same individual for 11 consecutive weeks offers its own set of challenges.
Despite the constant struggle of space (considering we’re both over 6 feet tall) we managed to stay on good terms for the entire summer. The obvious frustrations that come with traveling and van breakdowns were a common issue, but we quickly came to the conclusion that the anger was always a product of our circumstance rather than one another. We became good at reminding one another to not let these frustrations out on each other.
Leaving a conventional life to spend time traveling in a van or vehicle is something we have recommended to hundreds of individuals since our experience. When you have less, you embrace the world more. Living out of a van will challenge and teach you about yourself, relationships and this world far more than any other experience we have had in our lives. It is far from easy, and there are dozens of inevitable challenges, but the pros far outweigh the cons. Just imagine waking up in your cozy home with a new view out the window every day.
Over the past few months, both of us have gone back to school and moved apart once again.
This transition back to reality was hard to swallow for both of us, and we constantly crave the freedom of the open road. We’ve quickly realized that corporate life is not for us, and that chasing this freedom is the most fulfilling way to spend our time and energy. Our film project has proven to be more work than we ever thought but we still strongly feel that the story that we lived over the summer and the lessons that it taught us need to be shared with the world. This project is driven by pure passion, and we feel that our whole lives have built up to the release of this film. We can’t wait for you to see it!