Lindsey jumped on the #vanlife bandwagon after spending some time as a nanny in Italy, and it’s been just over a year since she started living and traveling in her van.
This lifestyle means she can work different gigs here and there and then jump back on the road and travel with what she’s saved up. Her dad (who has been flipping homes for 40 years) helped her created her first van, which has a sunny yellow kitchen and the most gorgeous Frida-inspired quilt created by her mother.
While she ended up living with her boyfriend and his parents during quarantine, she spent the time outfitting a second van build to sell (check it out here!). We got to do a Q&A with her which you’ll definitely want to read at the end of the post.
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Life on the Road with Wander Woman Go
Lindsey enjoying her Sprinter van.
Here’s the dazzling quilt made for her by her mother.
The best part of vans has to be the views!
Could you live like this?
Q&A with Lindsey: Real Vanlife
How many people (and animals) are living in your van?
I’m the only one living full-time in my van but my boyfriend comes along for many of my adventures.
Where do you live? How long have you lived tiny?
I’m currently near Denver, Colorado and I’ve been living out of my van since April 2019.
What do you do for work? Or do you travel full-time?
For the most part I take seasonal jobs and travel in between gigs. I mostly nanny but I’ve also been a barista, bartender, and virtual assistant.
Why did you decide to go tiny? What are you hoping to get out of living tiny?
I decided to go tiny because it seemed like the best way to allow me to travel full time. I had already been living pretty minimalistically while nannying in Italy so it wasn’t a huge transition to move into my own tiny home. I was feeling weighed down by stationary houses and how much STUFF I had and it felt really good to pare down to just what I needed. Or as Marie puts it – to what “brings me joy”.
How did you first learn about van life?
When I was living/working in Italy, my job was about to come to an end and I knew I had to start thinking about the next step. I began looking into buying a car when I got back to the states and road tripping to my parent’s house and I stumbled across a vanlife blog. I immediately fell in love with the idea of being totally mobile and exploring the US and knew it was something I HAD to do.
How long did it take to finish your van?
I bought my van on November 1, 2018 and hit the road April 19, 2019. I was working part time during that time and navigating New England winters so some of the build was delayed but we got it done!
How did you build your van? Did you have any help? Did you do it yourselves?
I built the van with my dad! Weirdly enough we had both been looking into vanlife and he was super excited to help me build out my dream. He’s been flipping houses for 40 years so having someone with tools and serious carpentry knowledge was essential for my first build. Through his expertise and a LOT of YouTube, we managed to convert a pretty sweet van!
Are you comfortable sharing how much your tiny home cost? What are bills/utilities like compared to before?
I paid $22,000 for the van (2011 Sprinter with 70k miles) and we put about $7,000 into the initial build. I’ve added about $1,500 in add-ons and another $1,500 in maintenance and repairs. Because my previous job was a live-in nanny job, I actually haven’t paid rent or utilities since 2015! Before that, I was living and working in Charlotte, NC paying $750/month in rent with another $150 in utilities as well as my car insurance and student loans (another $350). The only bills that continued on when I moved into my van were my student loans, monthly subscriptions, and car insurance. Realistically my monthly bills come out to about $500/month now. Because of that, I’m able to work part time or for just a few months, save up some money, and travel for a period of time. I’m still able to save a little money as well and so far the system has worked out great for me!
How did you find a place to park and live in your van?
My first month on the road I stuck with visiting friends and staying in their driveways. After that I was really on my own and found places to park through apps and websites like Campendium and FreeCampsites.
Before going tiny, what was life like?
Before going tiny I was living and working in Italy, but that doesn’t quite feel like a fair comparison because that was just a blip in time for me. In my “real” life before Italy and even while I was building the van, I worked 5 days a week, went out with my friends, went to concerts, took weekend trips with my girlfriends every once in a while, attempted to date, and generally had fun. I actually really enjoyed my pre-van life and I look back on it with fondness. But I always knew that living in a city, working for someone else, and scheduling my life around work was not what I was meant to do. It was just fun to pass the time. I always knew I was meant to do something different and form a unique path for myself. And now here I am!
Is there anything from your old life that you miss?
Even though I love the way I live my life now, I do miss aspects of pre-van life. I miss some consistency and building really strong relationships with people by seeing them on a regular basis. As stupid as it sounds, I miss having a “crew” because I’m moving around so frequently. I don’t often get lonely because I make friends easily but I miss having a regular bar with my regular group of friends in a place that’s familiar to me. Being “normal” can be kind of nice.
What benefits are you experiencing after going tiny?
After going tiny I feel like the whole world has opened up to me! Without an apartment I have to care for and pay for, I’ve been able to travel all over the US and live in different places. I’ve also been able to take jobs all over. I’ve lived and worked in different parts of Colorado, Florida, and New England, with plans to go to New Mexico and California next, all in the span of a year!
What about some challenges?
I’ve had 3 challenges with vanlife: weather, relationships, and coronavirus. When you’re living in a giant metal can, heat causes everything to melt and cold temperatures causes everything to freeze. You mix -10 degree weather with a Diesel engine and suddenly you have a vehicle that’s buried in the snow and won’t turn on. When it comes to relationships, I’m 100% mobile and looking to move new places every few months. Finding a partner who shares that ability and desire with you can be tricky. Luckily I found a fella who fits those criteria :). And yeah. Living in a van during an international pandemic just sucks. I ended up having to move in with my partner’s parents (which has actually been a lot more fun than it sounds).
What makes your van special?
My van is special because it’s mine. It was fate that I found it on Craiglist for the perfect price, had a dad who was able to help me build it out, and the finances to afford it and be on the road.
What is your favorite part of your van?
My favorite part is how colorful it is! I have the CUTEST lil yellow kitchen and a wonderful Frida Kahlo-inspired quilt. Altogether it radiates comfort, femininity, and warmth.
What helpful advice would you give to others interested in going tiny?
Give it a try first! Start by cutting out parts of your wardrobe, watching your budget, and even rent a van for a week or so! Make sure it’s the kind of lifestyle that you really can handle. Everything will be an adjustment and your entire perspective will have to change because suddenly you will have to think about things that you’ve never had to think about before. Where am I sleeping tonight? Will I be safe? Where will I take my next shower? Where can I fill up on water next? Where can I empty my grey water tank? Do I need gas? What can I afford to do this month? Will there be wifi? Where can I do laundry? Will I be able to find parking there? Will my vehicle make it down that road? Once you jump in, these questions won’t seem so daunting. But if the idea of not knowing any of these seriously worries you, vanlife and tiny living may not be the life for you. So just try before you buy.
Anything I didn’t ask about that you’d love for people to know either about your van or van life?
This is specifically for my solo ladies out there who are contemplating vanlife – don’t be afraid to go at it alone! There is a MOUNTAIN of support out there and so many badass babes that are killing it solo on the road! Just go for it!
Do you have a website, blog, or social media page where we can follow along?
- Sprinter van
- On the road since April 2019
- Spent COVID-19 lockdown living with boyfriend and his parents
- Works gigs in between travel to save and live
- Spent $22,000 on the van & $7,000 on the build out
- Spent another $3,000 on upgrades and repairs.
- Hand-made quilt by Lindsey’s mom
- Dad helped her do her conversion
- Bright yellow kitchen
- She and her boyfriend converted a second van that’s for sale
Our big thanks to Lindsey for sharing!
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