A year and a half ago, Alex and I came up with the marvelous idea of become nomadic van-dwellers. I don’t think we’ve ever committed to a goal as much as we have with this one. After we dispatched from our previous home in Boston, we drove cross-country all the way to California to base ourselves here long-term. Along the way, all the sights during the road-trip, the adventure and the experiences for all five senses was invigorating and inspiring. There was something about being so human, getting ourselves dirty, and becoming engrossed by the rawness of nature, that tantalized our most innate human essence.

When we established ourselves in Santa Barbara, we rented a place. Got some jobs. Called the area our home and labeled ourselves, after a period of adjusting, “Californians”. What a dream and what a relief. 

But we didn’t stop reminiscing over the many magical memories we made along our road trip. Yes, there were many inconveniences, given we were driving in a car, tenting in many unmarked but permitted campsites, and always cooking over our little stovetop at night when it was too dark to see, that made it exhausting. But the big picture that we look at now makes us realize it was all worth it. Travel is what drives us. And so somehow the #Vanlife idea fell right into our laps – and we didn’t hesitate to turn it into a reality.

For a whole year, we looked forward to the moment we’d buy a van and start building it out.

Were we prepared though? Hell no. All the other van lifers we saw online seemed to be wildly organized with their plan. They seemed to have all of their savings worked out and their blueprints for the build ready for implementation. That was not us whatsoever.

We bought our 2007 Dodge Sprinter at the end of summer 2019, a month before the lease of our current apartment ended. We had the idea that we would convert most of the van by the time the lease was up, and we’d move into it while finishing it up. This was not the case. Jobs were lost, health issues arose and financial battles postponed much of the original vision we had in mind. Kind of goes to show the reality is never quite as luxurious as the dream.

BUT, we spent many months since then slowly building out our awesome van. And while the original plan was to leave in the spring of 2020, we were not expecting this to happen over the winter.

Then what happened? Covid-19.

And we suddenly got motivated to finish what we’ve started. A little counterintuitive, right?

The build is now happening faster than ever, and the taste of road travel is tingling on our tongues. There’s something about the world being shut down that’s made us re-evaluate a great many things, including what we really want in life. And the conclusion has come down to we really want to live in a van and to travel in it. We want to immerse ourselves in the natural beauty of the earth. Reconnect with our raw human nature and learn to see things through the eyes of a child again.

So now we’re practically finished with our build. What was it like the whole time?

Stressful, exciting, discouraging, and invigorating. And we couldn’t be happier with the way things have turned out.

So while I believe every passion that we choose to pursue can be a challenging and toilsome project, it is, after all, still a passion that we choose to tackle through our blood and sweat. And this is how we feel about our current passion: creating our little home in a badass van.

The harsh reality is, don’t believe what you see on social media about van living. At least, don’t imagine that the path to living such a rad-looking life is simple and fun.

Alex and I went head-on into this build not having a clue how or what we were going to do. We’re novices in all aspects of this project. Electrical, plumbing, carpentry, even layout planning – none of these were jobs we’ve ever done in our lives!

But was it worth it? Yes, yes, yes. We’re still not done with the project of a lifetime, but it feels good to be finishing a dream we started way back almost two years ago.

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Nancy Siris-Rawls

Thanks so much for the pictures! Also thanks for explaining where you both are at right now. Lots of luck on your trip! Be well and be happy. Also, give lots of hugs and kisses to our buddy, Astro.


Thank you for the kind words. We are set to leave next week and will be documenting our journey on this website!

Nancy Siris-Rawls

That’s good! We will miss you all! Be sure to visit if you are in the area.

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