Ask A Van Dweller Ft. @alwaystheroad
To start things off, please introduce yourself to us.
We are Pete Thuli, Taylor Bucher, and Snoop. We are from different parts of Wisconsin and met in Eau Claire, WI where we went to college. We adopted Snoop while in school from the local humane society and he’s been making our life cuter ever since! We’re both musicians and graduated with marketing degrees. We are driven by curiosity and the desire to travel and explore, and now we live full-time out of our self-converted Sprinter van.
What’s your van’s name?
Our van’s name is Sonder or “Ders” for short. The definition of the word has always resonated with us deeply so it seemed to fit perfectly.
sonder n. - the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness
Tell us about your van? What kind of van do you have? Did you build it yourself?
He is a 2004 Dodge Sprinter 3500 with a Mercedes diesel engine and a 170” wheelbase. After we bought the van we completely gutted it. We then spent the next 5 months working full-time and converting the van at Pete’s parents house.
How long have you lived in your van and how long are you planning on doing it for?
We’ve been on the road full-time for about 10 months now. We don’t have a set end date for this lifestyle. We plan to live this way as long as it makes us happy and as long as we can financially support it.
Why did you decide to live in a van?
After coming home from traveling through Southeast Asia for 10 months, we realized how much of our own country we had never seen. We knew that committing ourselves to an office job straight out of college wouldn’t make us happy, so we started brainstorming ways we could travel for an extended amount of time. Once we came across the “vanlife” community, we were instantly hooked! Living and traveling out of something we built with our own hands, what’s better than that?
What is your favorite thing about van life?
There are so many aspects of vanlife we’ve grown to love that it’s hard to pick a favorite. One thing, in particular, that we love is the freedom that this lifestyle allows us. A lot of times when you’re backpacking or traveling overseas, you rely on various forms of transportation and accommodation (hostels, guesthouses, hotels), but with our lifestyle, we’re able to pick up and travel anywhere at really anytime! We also love living minimally, with only the belongings that we truly need. It has given us perspective on how little we actually need.
What is the worst thing that’s ever happened to you on the road?
Probably one of the worst things that have happened to us on the road was when Snoop was sprayed by a skunk at a campground late at night. It was Valentine’s Day too, which also happened to be Snoop’s birthday. It’s funny to think about it now, but at the time is was so stressful! Our van and Snoop vaguely smelled like skunk for months.
How do you shower and go to the bathroom?
We typically stay on free land where there aren’t usually facilities available. We have a small portable toilet in the van that’s used for #1 only. When it comes to #2, we grab our little shovel and head outside! As far as showering goes, you’d be surprised at how little you can take a full shower and still maintain good hygiene. We have a really nice pressurized camping shower that works great for us. We leave it out in the sun during the day so we can have a nice warm shower in the evening.
How do you make living in a van with your significant other/another person work?
Communication, respecting each others’ space, and having separate interests. With only 86 sq. ft. of living space there’s literally no room for miscommunication. Being open and honest with each other at all times is the only way to avoid petty arguments and disagreements. Making sure you each have time to yourself is extremely important too. We have personal interests that allow us to have time to ourselves, and when one of us needs some space we don’t take it personally. We know that we need to maintain our independence, especially when we’re together 24/7.. Pete will go out for a surf for a few hours. Tay will do yoga or go for a run. We take turns going on walks with Snoop. Sometimes just doing our own thing and not working on Always the Road stuff together gives us a little time for ourselves even if we’re both in the van.
Is there anything you would change about your van build?
Honestly, there aren’t any major things we would change with the build. There are certainly things we would like to add, but we love our open design that gives us a lot of space to move around as well as plenty of storage space.
What is something that you wish you had in your van that you don’t currently have?
We wish we had a composting toilet instead of a chemical toilet. They’re more practical and eco-friendly, but they’re pretty expensive!
What is the best investment you’ve made for your van?
Our blackout curtains. They make such a huge difference when it comes to controlling temperature inside the van.
Is there anything you thought you’d use that you ended up not touching?
Most of our clothes! We have a lot of storage so we filled our dresser and cupboards to the brim with clothes. Turns out we needed about half that much. We tend to wear the same things repeatedly and most of our clothes go untouched.
How are you able to afford van life?
Living minimally and working hard!
What are the ways you earn an income while living in a van?
We do a lot of things to financially sustain this lifestyle. We do seasonal labor whenever we can find it. We do a small about of sponsored posts on social media. We sell our Conversion eBook and Acoustic Album on our website. And lastly, Taylor has a remote, part-time marketing job.
Are there any unexpected expenses that you have while living in a van?
Well we always knew that we would have to make repairs to the van on the road; however, the timing in which those repairs are needed is usually completely unexpected!
What’s the one thing you spend the most money on?
Overall, we spend the most on van maintenance. But when it comes to daily expenses, we definitely spend the most money on food.
What’s your favorite guilty pleasure song to sing along to?
We have a ton of songs that we regularly belt out while cruising in the van. As far as guilty pleasures go though, we occasionally jam out to Sorry by Justin Bieber. Pete openly dislikes the Biebs’ songs, yet he can’t help but sing them when they come on the radio. Interesting, right?
Who usually drives?
Taylor actually drives most of the time. She always jokes about how she should be a long-haul trucker because she loves driving so much and can drive long distances easily.
What do you do to pass the time while driving somewhere far away?
Podcasts and Spotify.
How do you stay healthy on the road?
Living a healthy lifestyle is really important to us. We actually eat healthier on the road than we ever did at home. We only stock the fridge and cupboards with fresh fruits and veggies and healthy snacks. We also try to be active any chance we get. Besides going on tons of hikes, Pete stays fit by surfing and Taylor likes to practice yoga and go on runs.
What are you addicted to?