We Bought a Van!

Jan 28, 2019

Two and a half years ago we were living in Texas, saving money to build or buy a house in the Austin suburbs, spent most of our weekends inside watching TV (which we still love to do from time to time!), and hardly traveled. As we inched closer to our goal of buying a house, we realized that it wasn’t what we truly wanted.

We wanted adventure. We wanted to travel and see the world. We wanted to experience new things. And we wanted to push ourselves outside of our comfort zone. We made the decision to leave Texas within the next year and move to Seattle so we could be outdoors, hike, explore new places, and visit Hawaii more often (not going to lie, the nonstop flights to Hawaii played a role!).

That plan quickly changed when Kathryn lost her job during a surprise company layoff and we were suddenly in a tough position. But what felt like a massive failure turned into being the best opportunity ever–the chance to start the life we wanted even sooner. We started applying for jobs in Seattle (Adam landed one within a week!), found an apartment, and drove across the country to our new home.

Since moving to Seattle, we have had the absolute BEST time exploring the PNW on the weekends, pushing our physical abilities with challenging hikes, running around the beach at sunset, chasing waterfalls in the rain, and so much more.

Our move was the greatest decision of our lives and has filled us everyday with so much excitement, joy, and purpose. However, it has also made us crave more. We have become hooked on traveling and don’t want to live a traditional life in an office or settled in one place. We want even more adventure, more places to explore, and more freedom to do so. So with that said, we have some exciting news….WE BOUGHT A VAN!

We will never forget the moment that we decided this was the right path for us. We were in Bend, Oregon over Labor Day and spent our hike to No Name Lake dreaming about the future and how to get to where we wanted to be. So much so that we weren’t paying attention to where we were going and got lost a couple times. Oops!

We knew that our biggest dream was to travel full time and have remote lives, as we are happiest when we are on the go, road tripping, and not being stuck in one place. The next step was figuring out what traveling full time looked like for us. As much as we would love to not work and travel all around the world, we have our sweet fur child Kona that we can’t leave behind and we still need steady income.

So we decided that traveling mostly in the US and having full time jobs was the best bet for us. Kathryn started a remote job in September and Adam has been learning how to code and build websites to hopefully get a remote job as well. The stars started to align and we made the official decision to buy and live in a Sprinter van.

Some may think we are crazy for downsizing from our already tiny 550 square foot apartment, but we are SO excited to live with less and do more. With the van, we will be able to explore the entire United States, work from anywhere we want, hike everyday if we’d like, visit family and friends more often, and also become part of a like-minded community that craves adventure and a non traditional life.

We took a two week road trip at Christmas (you can watch the vlogs from that trip here) and it reassured us that living on the road was the right decision for us.

You may have a few questions, so here’s a quick rundown of our plan:

  • We bought a 2019 Mercedes Sprinter 170” van over the weekend in Texas. We chose to buy a new van because we plan to put a lot of miles on it and couldn’t find any low mileage used options, we wanted a warranty, and we wanted to build it out ourselves (vs. buying pre-built out).
     
  • We will be converting the van in Texas with Kathryn’s dad from now until the end of June, which is why we bought it in Texas. Not only do Kathryn’s parents have the space to build a van, Kathryn’s dad also has WAY more skills than us when it comes to building things.

    Kathryn will spend a lot of time in Austin the first half of the year working on it and Adam will join when he can (since he is still teaching).
     
  • Adam will stop teaching at the end of the school year and pursue coding and other projects to make money.
     
  • Kathryn will continue working full time for her awesome remote job while on the road. Having strong wifi in the van is going to be a top priority!
     
  • Kona will be with us in the van, which after how awesome she did on our road trip, we are pretty confident she will adjust well to!
     
  • Austin will technically be our “home base,” as we will have a free place to stay/park the van whenever we aren’t on the road, but we still plan to spend as much time as we possibly can in the PNW. We love it here too much to leave for too long and we are pretty bummed to not call Seattle our official home anymore. 🙁
     
  • We plan to drive all across the US and we have a good idea of where we want to go the next year and a half. We plan to spend a lot of time on the West Coast, in states we haven’t been to (like the East Coast!), and try to visit as many National Parks as possible. There are so many amazing places in our own country that we are dying to explore!
     
  • We plan to take longer trips abroad, which the van actually will help us do more easily, as we can drop Kona off in Austin and have her watched for free by Kathryn’s parents (which will save us tons of $$$), where she is treated like a princess and has a nice backyard to run around. We’re pretty sure they love her more than they love us (they’ll deny it though lol). 😉
     
  • A popular question we get asked is: “but what about a bathroom?” Don’t worry! We will be putting a bathroom in the van (shower + toilet) so we can live as comfortably as possible.

    To get an idea of the layout we are building, check out 40 Hours of Freedom and Dynamo Ultima. We are taking elements from both of their vans that we really like to create a layout that works well for our lifestyle.
     
  • We aren’t sure how long we will live in the van. We don’t want to create a timeline or put pressure on ourselves and instead want to enjoy the journey.

    However, we do know that at this point, we plan to settle back down in the PNW if/when we are ready for regular life again and plan keep the van forever as a weekend adventure vehicle. But we aren’t thinking that far ahead yet. We have a feeling we are going to be hooked on having a nomadic lifestyle.

We are very, very excited for this next chapter in our lives and look forward to the wonderful memories we are going to create as a family. But we are also looking forward to sharing this experience with all of you. From the van build to the adventures we have on the road, we want you to be right there with us.

We will be documenting our journey on our YouTube channel (if you haven’t subscribed yet, please do!), our Instagram, and on this blog. Once in the van, we will still be creating our travel guides, blogs, and resources, but they will be even bigger and better because we will be able to cover so many more destinations!

We are also hoping to create a few van resources for anyone else looking to join van life, but our goal is to still cater to people with limited time and money, who want to explore as much as they can, with or without a van.

Thank you to everyone who has supported us in this crazy plan of ours! And if you have any questions about our future van life or have any van build tips, please comment below or send us a message. We’d love to connect with you! 🙂

Curious how our van turned out? See our van conversion + cost! Want to know how we like van life so far? Read our 6 month van life update!

about us

Hi y’all! We’re Adam, Kathryn, and Kona, an adventurous married couple (+ pup!) living on the road in our self-converted sprinter van! You can often find us driving all around the US and Canada, scoping out the best coffee shops, eating tacos and ice cream (we’re a 5+ taco and 2+ scoop household), and enjoying nature.

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6 Comments

  1. Suzanne

    I’m so excited for y’all and am so happy that you are living your dream!!! We do love Kona with all of our hearts but you will ALWAYS be our baby girl!! Looking so forward to seeing you three more often and getting the chance to sit for our fur grand-baby!!!

    Reply
    • Kathryn Frazer

      Kona can’t wait to see her gamma and gampa more!!! We are so excited!

      Reply
  2. Adam Davis

    This is very cool what you two are doing. I saw your van in Wilmington NC today (3-15-2020). You are staying in an Airbnb across the street from me.

    Reply
    • Kathryn Frazer

      Ahhh no way!!! Nice to virtually meet you! 🙂

      Reply
  3. Rita Duncan

    Hi Adam, Kathryn, & Kona!

    This is absolutely hands-down one of the BEST videos I’ve seen! You guys have truly inspired me! And YAY to Austin! My son & DIL live in Austin & I live in Dallas.

    I also work 100% remotely and since I can work from anywhere as long as I can connect to the internet, I’ve been tossing around the idea of getting an RV for 2 years now and getting out of this Texas H.E.A.T. Now here it is a 3rd summer later and UGH! A #vanlife video caught my attention a couple of weeks ago and now I’m binge watching them. I really feel like maybe I haven’t done anything yet because I couldn’t decide which way to go – tow or drive, etc. These van conversions just feel right to me! I’m so excited now and can’t wait to get this show on the road!

    The way you guys did your video and posted all the information and photos, breakdown on cost, recommendations, mistakes to avoid, etc. – WOW! So incredibly helpful. I’ll definitely be binging on your other blogs and videos!

    So if you don’t mind answering a few questions I have to help me move along faster?
    1 – Did you buy your van brand new? Where in Austin did you purchase it? How much did it cost? Was it stripped down inside so you could build it out or what? I haven’t watched your other videos yet but will be watching soon – just had to ask.
    2 – When you started on this dream, how did you do your research? Do you have any of these resources listed in any of your blogs, such as websites, books, etc.? Or do you have a list you can share with me?
    3 – IF you had hired someone to convert it instead of doing it yourself, who would you have hired? Any recommendations? And did you price any of that out?
    4 – This may be a silly question, but do you guys also earn commissions on any of your blogs? Like when you post links to merchandise, etc.? If so, what are some resources to help me learn how to do that?
    5 – Last question I promise! Approximately how much did making this move change your finances for the better? Like a comparison of total living costs. I’m super curious to know because this could impact my decision to move forward on this much sooner if I know the real tradeoff so I can plan my transition.

    Thanks so very much for the inspiration!!!

    Reply
    • Kathryn Frazer

      Hi Rita! Thank you SO much for all of the super kind words! We feel ya on this Texas heat…we are back in Austin right now due to COVID-19 and oh my gosh, we are ready to get out of here! It’s so hot! We love having a van over a trailer or RV since it is easy to drive and park in cities, we don’t have to hook up to anything (so that means we can do all free campsites!), and we don’t have to worry about towing a car or leaving a trailer anywhere if we want to explore. Happy to answer those questions for you!

      1. Our van was a brand new 2019 Mercedes Sprinter. We got it at Mercedes Benz of Georgetown and had a great experience. It was about $45k before adding the rails on the roof (to help mount solar panels), the extra warranty, taxes, etc. It came out to around $55k all in. It was completely empty on the inside, minus this partition wall behind the cab that we had to remove.

      2. YouTube was a huge resource for us! Sara and Alex James made a ton of helpful videos that helped us figure out how to build the van and we also bought their van layout guide, which had dimensions and diagrams to help us figure out sizes. We used one of their layouts which has worked great for us! Our friends Chris and Sara (Lets Be Us) have a ton of great FAQ videos about van life that answer a ton of questions about van life, like where to park for example. Divine on the Road also has great resources!

      3. We looked into hiring someone to build it and we reached out to Outside Van, Vanlife Custom, and Nomad Vanz, but the quotes we got were around $100k (without the van cost) for everything we wanted. We also thought about hiring Sara and Alex James to build it, since we were using their guide and wanted the layout they’ve done, but they were booked up for months.

      4. We do! Our blog makes ad revenue, but we also have affiliate links through Amazon and Booking.com. They don’t bring in a ton of money, but it definitely helps pay for some adventures. For a long time we made like $1 on Amazon each month. The van conversion post has helped that go up a lot though! This article is super helpful: https://blog.hubspot.com/sales/amazon-affiliate

      5. Our situation is a bit different since Adam had to quit his teaching job, so his income is a lot less now. Our expenses went down about 37%, but our income went down about 35%, so for us it’s about the same as before. We do have a van payment and student loans, which take up a good chunk of our monthly expenses. But hopefully we will pay those off soon!

      I hope that helps! Feel free to reach out with any other questions! 🙂
      Kathryn

      Reply

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