Ask A Van Dweller Ft. @viathevan
To start things off, please introduce yourself to us.
Hey, we're Lucas and Willa! Also known as @viathevan on Instagram.
What’s your van’s name?
Roosevelt. We visited the van on President’s Day Weekend and we shouted our favorite presidents on the count of 3...Teddy and FDR. Seemed right.
Tell us about your van?
Dodge Sprinter 144” high roof. Built by Luke and my step-dad, Ron who had worked in commercial set design for years. The man is a wizard.
How long have you lived in your van and how long are you planning on living in it.
We’ve been in it for about nine weeks now (how? How is that possible?) and plan to continue until just after Thanksgiving.
Why did you decide to live in a van?
[Long exhale] So many reasons... We lived in New York for the last few years and while we loved it, it’s where we became the adults we are today, it could be draining. We found ourselves escaping into the woods upstate or cruising through Vermont, or Pennsylvania and beyond nearly every weekend. It seemed like we were robbing ourselves of something great.
Neither one of us was weighed down by too many obligations- why were we allowing our greatest moments to occupy such a small space in our day? So we started Craigslisting vans, found this guy for $3500, gave each other that 'uh-this-could-literally-be-the-worst-idea-ever' look, and went ahead with it
What is your favorite thing about van life?
LV: I like fixing things, I like challenges. I like when things break and I can figure out how to repair it. I like those mental and physical puzzles. Nothing amazing ever came easy… Well, not a lot of things.
WV: What it does to time. While living in New York, our days were relatively the same- it was difficult to remember when X happened, or Y went down. Monday through Friday began to feel like one long beautiful day- time was whizzing by at alarming rates because we had nothing to mark it by. Van life keeps us so busy that dozens of things occur between notable events so when we look back at the week we both think, ‘wow, that was LAST weekend? But we’re two states away from there by now!”
What is the best thing that’s ever happened to you on the road?
Meeting The Most Interesting Man in the World. And we’re not talking about the Dos Equis guy. Scott. We met Scott one fateful day on the road to Crystal Mill, a run-down mill that can only be viewed by walking a 4 + mile hike or being a badass and knowing how to drive off road really, really well. About fifteen minutes into the hike, Scott pulled over to let us know there was a bear up ahead on the road.
Due to the absence of shame in my personality, I boldly (possibly rudely, Scott, sorry dude, but because you are you I know you didn’t take it badly) asked if we could hop in. Long story short, we happened to get into the vehicle of not only a true wilderness man who just checked off the 200th time he’s stood on the summit of a Colorado peak measuring over 13,000 ft but also a gentleman who got us all the way to the mill in what would have been an otherwise terrifying ride (I’m, uh, not an off road gal). It was truly serendipitous moment.
What do you miss the most about living in a house/apartment?
Ease of operation. Walking in the door, throwing our bags down, sitting on the couch and relaxing without the knowledge you have food to cook/ clean/ put back, a bed to make, a shower to probably not take due to the work required to do so. I guess it’s missing the ability to be lazy. AKA, van life was really good for us lol. Oh, and Jeopardy. We really really miss Jeopardy.
What’s the funniest thing that’s ever happened to you?
Sohappyyouaskedthis. The time we didn’t take the change in pressure into consideration as we cruised through Oregon and Luke went to flush the toilet he had just filled with pee… BOOM. All up in his face. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I still laugh at pee jokes because it was HILARIOUS. The kid also took it really well- what a guy.
How do you make living in a van with your significant other/another person work?
LV: Be loving and patient. Let each of you own different things, be the expert. If you both contribute in ways that makes sense for you, you’ll always feel like a team.
WV: You know those posters you find on alpine hikes, “BE BEAR AWARE.” Replace bear with “partner”. Just like bears, partners don’t like to be provoked/ poked/ hassled/ surprised. I’m only half kidding here- the truth is, you just have to be cognizant of the other person and be respectful of their needs.
Is there anything you would change about your van build?
WV: Yes. Doesn’t everyone? Wait...don’t answer that. Yeah, there are a number of things we’re kicking ourselves for not including because they were part of our original build plan. I wish we had a smaller dining table- it can be tricky to squeeze in for that afternoon nap. I’m also embarrassed to say that the all white everything may be on the outs for our next build… The scuffs drive me insane.
LV: We wish we had a roof box next to our solar panels but the way they’re oriented now, there’s no room. Speaking of room- a queen sized bed. That’s a top priority next time.
What is the best investment you’ve made for your van?
The fridge (TruckFridge TF65)! Those stinkers are expensive so we waited a long time to finally click ‘buy’. We love it though- money well spent.
Is there anything you thought you’d use that you ended up not touching?
(This is a great question.) We have a half answer- we definitely use the swivel seat we installed in the van but, more often than not, we have to remind ourselves to do so. It doesn’t come naturally. Knowing this, if anyone out there is weighing the pros/cons of installing a swivel seat, hear it from us that it didn’t change our lives. If you want to install a permanent fixture to the back of the chair, have at it.
How are you able to afford van life?
Luke has a full-time job as the Director of Customer Success at a SaaS analytics company based in New York. They are wonderful and give long-term employees a four-day work week. I (Willa) am taking the first part of this year off from teaching.
What’s the hardest thing about working remotely on the road?
LV: I have many meetings so finding a spot to conduct these meetings is trickier than I would like. The other thing would be because I’m in so many meetings, a data plan with a mobile hot spot isn't the best solution for my job due to how much bandwidth I need for video chats.
Is van life cheaper than your previous lifestyle?
Alas, no. Losing Willa’s salary and also having to spend money on van fixes has meant we’re about even. We bought a van that came with 250k miles on it and while Sprinters are built to last, they aren’t meant to last in perfect condition. We’ve had to shell out quite a bit of cash on surprise engine problems, fuel leaks, steering wheel struggles. It’s a pretty big bummer every time.
What’s your favorite guilty pleasure song to sing along to?
[Insert smirking emoji] I’ve converted Luke into a country fan… Kindof. I myself am more of a pop radio country listener- I don’t know any artists, song titles or notable bands. I love it for the feeling it conveys. Most of the time we tune it to the local radio (which for some reason the only two stations that ever come in are country music and/or something in a language we can’t understand) and try our best to guess the upcoming lyric. Luke’s amazing at it but if he doesn’t get it on the first try he’ll just throw in some random words that have no logical place in the song.
What do you do to pass the time while driving somewhere far away?
We are big into audio books. Audio books and 20 questions. We’re in the middle of the Magicians series by Lev Grossman. So good, really easy to talk about when we hit pause.
What are your favorite hobbies and activities?
I think both of us despise boredom because filling time up with activities is a specialty of ours (okay, so maybe this is a positive byproduct of being on a perpetual road trip, but still.). Most nights we finish off the day with a nightcap and a game of cards/ Boggle/ Zip It and invite anyone who passes by to join. Sorry if you’ve been the unsuspecting victim of this outreach. We also love checking out as many rock climbing gyms as possible. We haven’t done as much outdoor bouldering as we’d like but when the opportunity presents itself, we’re in.
Name a movie you’ve watched more than 7 times.
We haven’t quite hit the 7 times mark but this is our opportunity to spread the word on how amazing the movie Storks is. We won’t say anything beyond that… Well just that Pigeon Toady needs his own TV show. Watch it. No regrets.