A few years ago, I received a text message from an unknown number saying, “you don’t know me and this may sound weird but…do you want to go camping in Arizona for the weekend?” to which I cautiously replied, “yes.” After scrabbling to pack up my gear, I went to my family and said, “If you don’t hear back from me by Monday, I’m probably dead in the desert somewhere.” It was somewhat comical at the time, but the choice I made to go on that camping trip turned out to be one of the best decision that I have made. Jen arrived the following day to pick me up, and we spent the next 5 hours getting to know each other while driving to Arizona. That trip was the start of a connection for us. A connection that has largely been grounded in our mutual love of the outdoors and a shared love for adventure.
Since that first camping trip, we’ve made an effort to travel as much as we can. Within the first year of dating, we traveled the entire western half of the U.S. and Canada. Throughout our travels, the idea of owning a van together would inevitably get mentioned but would quickly fizzle out. On a particular trip last fall, we set out to explore the west coast of the U.S. Our journey started at the northwestern point of Washington and continued south down the Pacific coastline to California. No real plan in place. If we felt like driving, we did. If we wanted to stay somewhere longer, we would. Some nights would be spent on the side of a dirt road, other nights we’d try to be proactive and find a campground with showers. All the while living out of a tent or my Subaru Outback, which was fine, but the sleeping arrangements took work. The nighttime ritual of shifting everything from the back of the car up to the front and then back again in the morning had grown old.
Eventually, we arrived back in Utah and started talking seriously about buying a van. We did some research and began combing through classified ads. The purpose of a van (at that time) was simply to make life on the road easier, to avoid the nighttime ritual that we had grown tired of. We honestly didn’t put much thought into it beyond that. We also figured since winter was approaching, a little fixer-upper would be a fun project to work on together during the cold months and come springtime we’d have it all dialed in and ready to hit the road.
The day came, and we bought a van. As weeks past and the van build moved forward, a shift in our thinking took place. We started talking about what we truly wanted in life and how the van factored into that. The bottom line was, we wanted more time together and more freedom to travel and do things outdoors. We became committed to those ideas and started working towards them. The more we thought about our home, the more it seemed excessive for just the two of us and a small dog. Shortly after that, we made the decision to downsize our home to something much smaller. This required us to sell or donate much of our stuff, sacrifice most of the luxuries we had been accustom to living with and simplifying our living situation to just the basics.
We came to envision the van as a traveling extension of our smaller home. Our van build became all about making it more comfortable and livable so we could be out in nature for extended periods of time. We added power for electronics, a kitchen, and several little nuances that made it feel like we didn’t need much more than that to live. The best part was, the van has given us more freedom and time together. It has deepened our appreciation for each other and the outdoors. Living simply has increased our sense of happiness. The things that truly matter to us are in the forefront now instead of buried under the excess. What had started off simply as a travel convenience turned out to be something that changed our thinking and inspired a different way of life. It has given us the opportunity to do more in life, with less stuff.
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