INTERVIEW WITH "C'EST LA VIE THREE"
Who are you and what is your backstory?
Hey everybody! We are Alan, Heather, B, and P, also known as C’est La Vie Three! Alan and Heather are high school sweethearts who will always call Georgia home. We were a typical American family of three dreaming about traveling after retirement. We came to the heart piercing realization that our travel dreams may never happen when we received some earth shattering news on a frigid December day. We uprooted our family to another state for Heather to undergo major surgery to remove a softball sized mass that may have been cancerous, and spent many months recovering before heading back home. With a lot of faith and prayers, we are here and healthy, and decided there is no better time than NOW to travel this wonderful world!
Since then, we have been part time RVers, fulltime RVers, and now have been living in Europe for three years now, seen sixteen countries, and even added another little vagabond to our adventures!
Take us to the moment you decided to begin your Vanlife?
After Heather’s surgery and recovery, we bought an RV and traveled on the weekends, but quickly realized how much we would enjoy doing that permanently. Just short of a year after purchasing our RV, we moved in fulltime. We absolutely loved full-time RV life and really enjoyed the tiny house concept that gave our family more together time.
After living full-time in our RV just shy of a year, Alan was offered an opportunity we just couldn’t pass up! After living in an RV, we knew we wanted to continue traveling. Once we decided we would be heading to Europe, we knew we HAD to continue our travels and see as much of Europe as we could!
"My advice to you is to do it! If you’re on the fence, don’t sit there for years contemplating. I've never met people who wished they didn't make the leap, only those who wished they’d done so sooner!"
The decision quickly became not IF we should travel, but HOW. So the question became: planes, trains, cars, or RVs! After lots of research and tons of discussions, we decided campervanning would be our best travel option. Nothing beats being on your own schedule and we feel that way even more so with children in tow.
We were both nervous about traveling in such a small space. We had many concerned YouTube fans worried we wouldn’t have anywhere to drive and park a campervan in Europe. With so many people questioning your decisions, it can be hard to stay motivated, but we continued knowing we would love the adventure.
We sold our beloved custom Duramax Suburban which was our tow vehicle, purchased our campervan, and began to build our dream campervan while living in the RV. In a few short months, we were done and packing our things to head across the ocean. We sold our RV, shipped the campervan, and hopped on a plane for some awesome new adventures!
Tell us about the advantages to the Van lifestyle?
Vanlife has been amazing with all its advantages! We always went into this with a temporary mindset, assuming we would sell our van once we moved back to America and get back in RVing fulltime, but we decided we definitely want to keep the van and continue vanlifing around the US because of all its conveniences for traveling.
Traveling in a campervan gives you the ability to stop and enjoy the sights whenever you can! You aren’t confined to a certain hotel or a certain town even. You can see and go as you please. Vanlife has provided us the opportunity to sleep under a gondola in Andorra, nestled along the snowy French Alps, and even falling asleep listening to the North and Mediterrean Seas on several occasions!
Vanlife enables us to travel cheaper! We save tons on tourist type meals when traveling. We eat all our meals out of the van, and have an occasional splurge for local snacks throughout the day. It gives us the opportunity to take part in other cultures while not breaking the bank to feed a family of four. Since we aren’t paying for hotels as we try to wild camp wherever possible, we are able to escape the tourist traps and immerse ourselves within the local culture, as well as touring all the museums our toddler can handle!
We cannot even begin to explain how special it is to teach your child history and being able to pull up family photos or videos of our trips there, or even planning a trip specifically because we are studying something. Outside the educational books, my kids have built sand castles with Portuguese children, run on the playground with Spanish children, learned German from neighborhood kids, and even been unbelievably excited to find kids around the UK who he could understand!
Tell us about the biggest challenges and downsides to the Van lifestyle?
Some of the biggest challenges we have faced as a family traveling in a campervan is not always knowing where we will park, the lack of space can be confining on rainy days or when we all need a break from each other, and safety while parked at night. It can also be disappointing finding a great spot but having to leave after just one night since we wild camp. It’s exhausting pulling into a town, having to find somewhere to park for the night when the kids (and adults) are all exhausted and just want to eat and go to bed! We don't always have the luxury to park anywhere with kids. We look for level spots, less traveled spots because that means less noise, good light for safety, and off the road a bit so the kids can get out while we’re parked.
One of our funniest parking mistakes was finding this great big empty parking lot one night. We were in a town with little options and the campgrounds located there were member only. We thought we had struck gold! Until about 12am when the music started and cars began pouring in. Then around 3am when we heard many voices walking all around the van as the music still played. Unbeknownst to us, we had parked in a nightclub parking lot!
One of our scariest instances was having to move to another parking lot because we weren't sure what was going on near the rear of our van while we were all sleeping. We decided to move to another lot away from the people behind us and be near other campervans. We ended up waking up underneath a parked gondola which was pretty much the coolest thing for my boys! Everything in life comes with its own challenges though. Every path has pros and cons. We feel that the advantages of vanlife for our family heavily outweigh the challenges.
How do you find a sense of community when you’re always moving? How do you maintain and build relationships on the road?
When part-time vanlifing, it's much easier to maintain that sense of community. One of the reasons we are starting to vlog again on YouTube is so our family can experience our travels with us since they cannot be here to join us. We want them to feel like they are traveling alongside us. Thank goodness for social media making it much easier to keep in touch, but also find new families traveling nearby as well! We’ve met some amazing fellow Youtubers and travel families over the years!
How do you support yourself financially?
We are part time travelers because Alan maintains a full-time career. That is our source of income for our family and we will not be changing that anytime soon. He works a full-time job with an excellent vacation policy that enables us to travel more than most! This income helps us live, travel, and prepare for our family’s future.
If you are looking for information on how to travel and make money full-time, we are not the people you should look to. If you are looking for a balance between a career and travel, information and experiences on family travel, or just travel in general, then we could offer some great insight for you!
What is your one piece of advice for people who want to do what you do?
The comment I get most often is people saying they could never live in such close spaces. What you don’t often realize is that you probably already do! We had our large home in Florida and when we started thinking about full-time RV life, I realized how together we already were.
Parents of small children, observe your day-to-day one weekend and see how close you actually are. If I’m doing laundry, my younger kids always join me. If I’m cooking in the kitchen, toys always find their way onto the kitchen floor or on the kitchen table. Children innately want to be with you. Living in a small space won’t change that. Vanlife/RV life magnifies the feeling of togetherness when really nothing has changed. Just being in close proximity, even in opposite rooms of an RV still makes you feel more together. It is life changing!
My advice to you is to do it! If you’re on the fence, don’t sit there for years contemplating. I've never met people who wished they didn't make the leap, only those who wished they’d done so sooner!
What have been the most influential and helpful books, podcasts, blogs, websites or other resources?
Our decisions for this travel and campervan lifestyle have been influenced most by other social media pages. We watched as others led the way in RVing and travel, we learned from them and were inspired by them, and realized that we too could be as courageous as they were!
We first learned about full-time RV life from the Gone with the Wynns. After following their journey we were certain it was only working because they didn’t have children. Then we quickly found Less Junk, More Journey, Everyday Family Adventure (Trent and Siobhan), and Exploring the Local Life and realized families could thrive in this environment! Each family provided us with something different than the rest.
Once our European move came into view, we started watching tons of Rick Steves’ Europe videos on places we planned to visit, and all that was still needed was to find campervan spots along the way!
What does the future look like?
That’s the age old question, isn't it? We just finished campervan 2.0 renovation. We pulled everything out and started anew. Our goal was to have permanent beds that didn’t need to be made and torn down daily, as well as an extra seat for a guest.
Now that we’re finished renovating our van, we hope to see as much of Germany as we can over the next six months before heading to do a Scandanavian route, head back to the UK, and see as much outside of Germany as we can also.
We traveled around much of Spain, Portugal, France, and Italy over the last three years, so we want to stay north and east of that for the next two years!
Is there anything that you need that you can’t find or anything you are seeking help with?
We would love to hear from those of you who have learned a second language. We need insight on how to go from basic conversational German (or any language) to being fluent. We can carry on enough conversations with our local villagers, but I want to take it to fluency and am not sure how to bridge that gap aside from Duolingo, etc.
Also if you have any recommendations or resources for teaching children to fluency in a second language when they aren’t in a bilingual home, that would be much appreciated as well!
Rapid fire questions
What are the top 3 Van essentials that you couldn’t live without?
Li-On with solar
An induction cooktop
Top 3 favorite places you’ve visited?
Where are you now?
Social distancing in Germany
How long do you usually stay in one place?
If wild camping we only stay one night. In a paid spot or campground we stay up to about three days before moving on.
When did you first start Vanlifing?
Are you full-time or part-time Vanlifing?
How many weeks have you spent in the Van in the last 12 months?
During Covid/Van Renovation - 3 weeks, pre-Covid and Van Reno - 8 to 12 weeks
What kind of vehicle/rv/trailer/setup do you have?
2017 Ram Promaster
Where can we go to keep up with you and your adventures?