INTERVIEW WITH SUNNY AND LUNA (@SUNNY LUNA LIVING)
Who are you and what is your backstory?
Hi, we’re Sunny & Luna! We are an engaged couple whose wedding was cancelled due to the pandemic so we decided to trade in our wedding for an empty cargo van instead. We met in New York City where we both lived for a long time. We were both brought up in loving families and had similar ideas for what we wanted for our future and valued similar things.
We got engaged at burning man and soon after moved in together in Los Angeles, CA just before the pandemic hit. We were both working demanding full time jobs in an office and lived the typical ‘city life’ of working Monday-Friday, sitting in traffic, ordering take out, watching a show and going to bed. On the weekends we liked to go to concerts and hang out with friends.
...the random nomads we’ve met while camped out somewhere are some of the best experiences we’ve ever had. Random or intentional meet ups with other nomads has been an incredibly fulfilling experience...
We thought we were living the only way you could live and had goals to get out of debt and save to eventually buy a house. We were tired, a lot, from the busy work week and going out on the weekends. We liked that LA was a slower lifestyle than NYC but we were still very much city people. We always enjoyed traveling and travelled together quite a bit including a camper van trip to Banff, Canada that we both loved.
We knew that we felt more fulfilled after spending more time outside. We would go on weekly hikes through Griffith Park in LA however we faced societal pressures, spent money we shouldn’t have, had a lack of energy from the rat race grind and often faced feelings of boredom. Overall, we had a good life, but since being on the road, our idea of what a fulfilling, beautiful life is has completely changed.
Take us to the moment you decided to begin your Vanlife?
Van life was a dream of Sunny’s for 5 years before we had the opportunity to do it. He was like many people, simply seeing those envious, dreamy van life photos on Instagram. We’ve always had the travel itch but he never thought he would be able to make van life a reality because he always worked a demanding office job. The second his job went remote (due to the pandemic) he bought an empty cargo van. I (Luna) thought he was crazy as it was quite sudden for me, but it wasn’t for him. Once we stopped paying LA rent, we could afford to quit my job. Because of my deep desire to travel I took the risk and haven’t looked back.
Both Sunny and I’s main hesitation was that we didn’t know how long his job would be remote. It could have been only a few months but we’re still here now and it’s nearly been a year and counting. In hindsight it was a good example of seizing an opportunity and taking a risk to go after your dreams. Even though there were a lot of unknowns, I was confident that it would be a grand adventure. I also thought it was a great opportunity to tap into my creative side.
I have a degree in videography and was really excited about creating content to share our van life journey with others. We immediately sublet our LA apartment and put all of our belongings into storage. We only took the bare minimum to my parent’s house in Nevada and started our build in their driveway.
Tell us about the advantages to the Van lifestyle?
The main and most obvious advantage of this lifestyle is by far, the ability to travel and see the world. There are so many benefits to this new level of freedom. We’ve seen places we never thought we’d be able to see and places we didn’t even know existed. Some of our most memorable experiences have been walking through the old growth redwood forests in Northern California to seeing some of the last J-Pod killer whales breaching in the oceans of Washington. From swimming with bioluminescent plankton in Mexico and feeling like we’re in Avatar to star gazing till four in the morning with zero light pollution and seeing the milky way clear as day. To swimming in the crystal clear Crater Lake and seeing just about every wild forest animal you can think of, to meeting farmers and listening to their life stories all throughout the country.
All the experiences that come along with this results in a newfound appreciation for the world and for nature. It leads to a life full of gratitude and deepens your connection to the universe. It also gets you out of your bubble and forces you to have encounters with people from all walks of life, from different cultures and with different belief systems. We find it very mentally beneficial to be exposed to diversity like this and to lessen mainstream news and social media consumption.
Second and perhaps a more important piece of advice is to make sure your finances are in order. Either have a job, a passive income stream or enough savings to cover your living costs while on the road. While this lifestyle generally allows you to save money, the build can be costly.
Once you actually get out in the world you’ll see it’s not as bad as you may think. Ironically the most unsafe we’ve felt since living on the road has been from being in cities including the one we came from. These are the types of things we like to share with our following on social media and work to be a source of positivity in this world.
Traveling during such an unprecedented and politically tense time has shaped our view of the world, our goals and our overall idea of true happiness. We see this lifestyle as a realistic way of life for our future family. We truly believe the benefits to spending an ample amount of time in nature is invaluable and the secret medicine of life. Since being on the road we’ve been learning a lot about holistic health and how to keep our immune systems strong. We plan to continue living a healthy lifestyle out in nature as much as possible even if we live in a house one day.
Tell us about the biggest challenges and downsides to the Van lifestyle?
Sunny and I like to map out our travel plans a few months in advance at a time. Sometimes we’ll even generally map out where we want to go 6-12 months in advance. When it comes to actually booking campsites, we wait till a few weeks beforehand all the way up to the night before, or even day of. Just depends where we’re going and the current demand in the area.
As with any new lifestyle you learn a lot along the way. We made a few big mistakes during the van build from accidentally shattering a $500 window we were trying to install to installing the plumbing wrong. We learned from our mistakes and quickly moved on.
Our vehicle (Stella) is very low maintenance, we get an oil change every 5,000 miles and wash her regularly. We take her in to get checked out every 10,000 miles. We have our eye on the breaks and will get those replaced when needed. We take good care of our baby and she takes care of us! We treat our van like our child. It’s a very loving relationship.
Every now and again we make plans with our family and stay in their home to take a break from van life. Having these occasional breaks with friends or family is rejuvenating. We like enjoying the simple perks like a normal bedroom, bed and full functioning bathroom and shower.
One of the main things we miss about apartment/house life is being able to take a bath. It’s a guilty relaxation pleasure we both love so we really miss that while being nomadic. Yet the main thing we like about being stationary is good wifi. As a content creator I’m constantly in need of good wifi to upload or download videos and images. This can sometimes be a challenge while on the road so our biggest complaint about van life is having limited or weak wifi.
How do you find a sense of community when you’re always moving? How do you maintain and build relationships on the road?
Downsizing from a two bedroom apartment into a 72 square foot space with your fiancé definitely comes with it’s own set of challenges. There’s a transitional period and you have to adjust and communicate. After we established what our roles and responsibilities were things got a whole lot easier. I write about our transition in more detail on my blog here with tips you might find helpful if you’re about to embark in tiny living with a partner.
Our sense of community has definitely changed and for the better might I add. We feel more connected to people since starting van life than ever before. While we had to leave our friends in LA, we’ve gained so many new friends since being on the road. It started out from connecting with other van lifers on Instagram, then meeting up in person on the road when our paths crossed.
Also the random nomads we’ve met while camped out somewhere are some of the best experiences we’ve ever had. Random or intentional meet ups with other nomads has been an incredibly fulfilling experience, especially during these times that lack physical human connection. We are so grateful for all the new connections we’ve made since starting this lifestyle. It’s truly a community of kind hearted, like minded individuals who all share a deep appreciation for adventure and nature.
As far as family goes, we’ve actually spent more time with our families this past year than we would have pre-van life. It’s been a huge blessing being able to drive and visit our families for extended periods of time.
The idea of living on the road can seem daunting and even lonely at times. I personally never find myself lonely because Sunny and my work keep me so busy. However I have the type of personality that would get lonely if I were a solo traveller. Sunny is the opposite. He loves being alone and the quiet so I think loneliness on the road mainly depends on the kind of person you are and the amount of engagement you need from others to sustain your happiness.
How do you support yourself financially?
Our transition from apartment life in LA to van life on the road was fairly easy. Sunny’s job in LA went temporarily remote so we immediately jumped on the opportunity as soon as we could to buy and build a van. We got a Verizon hotspot that we use as our main source of Wifi while working remote. We don’t stream off of it or do zoom calls so it works great. We’ve learned that we can’t be too deep into a national forest otherwise we run the risk of having no wifi. So we save those destinations for the weekends and are closer to civilization during the work week. We don’t live off of savings, we actually were in quite a bit of debt before van life. And while we did have to take a loan out to get the van, we are thrilled to say that other than the car loan, we have fully paid off our debt and are on a good track to building our savings.
My job wasn’t able to go remote so I decided to quit in order to do van life with Sunny. Since living on the road Sunny has been supporting both of us financially but our living expenses have drastically been cut compared to our life in LA.
I’m also finally starting to make some income from my content creation which is rewarding to see. With my new free time I’ve been able to create our website, our blog and all the resources you’ll find there. I also decided to document our journey and show every step along the way, the good, the bad and the ugly. I like showing people what this lifestyle is really like. I make a video every week so follow us on Instagram or subscribe to our email newsletter to stay up to date with van life tips and what we’re up to! Along with all the content I’m creating Sunny and I are also starting a business. We’ll be announcing that sometime later this year and we are so excited to share that with you!
What is your one piece of advice for people who want to do what you do?
Our biggest piece of advice for people who want to do what we do is to give it a true test run. Go online, like Outdoorsy, and rent a camper van for 2 weeks. Go travel somewhere that excites you. If you have a full time remote job you’ll be able to make sure you can still comfortably work while living on the road. If in two weeks you come back from your camper van trip and are thrilled to be in a house or apartment with a toilet and shower and a nice big couch then you probably are better off not spending the money and going all in for this lifestyle. We did a campervan trip through Banff back in 2018 and were in heaven so that showed us that we would trade in everything to do this when the time presented itself.
Second and perhaps a more important piece of advice is to make sure your finances are in order. Either have a job, a passive income stream or enough savings to cover your living costs while on the road. While this lifestyle generally allows you to save money, the build can be costly. The last thing you want is to feel financially stressed out while trying to enjoy the benefits of traveling. Just be financially responsible.
Last piece of advice is to do your due diligence when it comes to heating and cooling installations for your van, depending on where you plan to travel. We’ve travelled all over the United States. We’ve gone from super hot deserts to spending last winter in Colorado mountain hopping. It’s imperative you take extra measures to make sure your van will stand extreme temperatures otherwise things will break down and you don’t want that.
What have been the most influential and helpful books, podcasts, blogs, websites or other resources?
I designed our van. The design process was a ton of fun but a LOT of work, going back and forth and considering so many different types of layouts before making our final decision. We bought the Sara & Alex James van guides to get an idea of different layouts and watched as many YouTube videos as possible. But overall, Pinterest was my main source when it comes to inspiration. You can check out some pin boards I spent countless sleepless nights making during the design phase to help you get inspired! These are the two pin boards I highly recommend: Van Life Design Inspo & Van Life Necessities.
The design process is not easy so we made a free design resource to help others learn how to design their own van. It’s a Van Design 101 Guide and I highly recommend downloading it here before you start the build. Getting your design right BEFORE the build is absolutely imperative, and it’s totally free, so why not check it out?
For the build, our main resource was YouTube. We can’t recommend YouTube enough for aspiring van lifers and van builders. This was essentially our only resource during the build. While it wasn’t fool proof and we did make mistakes, it was an incredible resource and the best way to get a real look into this lifestyle. We actually documented portions of our build and made ‘How To’ videos step by step that you can check out here when you’re ready here.
We also enjoy the Nikkie Bigger’s podcast from time to time and love learning about how you can make money while living on the road.
What does the future look like?
The future is unknown as with many during these strange times. Sunny’s job is currently remote but at some point he will get called back into the office. We’re told that will be towards the end of the year in 2021. However you never know. We would like to stay on the road for as long as possible as it’s been a great way to see the world and save money as we work towards financial freedom (something that’s been quite hard to accomplish while living in Los Angeles).
Some of our short term goals is to get into Canada as soon as we’re able. If not, we plan to spend as much time back in the Pacific Northwest throughout the year. We also have some big life changes coming up. Our wedding is just around the corner. It initially got cancelled last year due to the pandemic so we’re really excited it’s finally happening this summer! We’re also looking forward to our first big van festival in Southern Utah on May 8th called ‘Van Fest’. We got invited to showcase our van so we’ll be there if you want to come meet up! There will be live music and tons of awesome vans to check out. Basically it’s a van lovers paradise. Look into it here and you can use our code: SUNNYANDLUNA for 10% off GA tickets. Don’t forget to find us and say hi!
While the long term future is unknown, it feels bright.
Is there anything that you need that you can't find or anything you are seeking help with?
We aren’t seeking help with anything at this moment. Our tiny home on wheels runs well. The build was a huge learning experience and we have come out the other side with so much more knowledge than when we began. We actually provide a lot of great resources on our website for those thinking about starting van life. We offer a free ’10 Step Van Build Start Guide’ here to help you get started.
We find that people are always very curious about how much our van build cost so we share all that information here to give you an idea of what yours could cost. And if you love our layout and want to build a van just like ours you can buy our Van Layout Guide for only $9.99 where we share all of the specs of our van and more here.
Most importantly we love connecting with the people in the van life community. We make a video once a week on our Instagram to show what van life is like and give you a glimpse into this lifestyle. We’re so excited to connect online and learn about who you are and where you’re at with your van life journey. So please don’t hesitate to to reach out and shoot us a DM. We always respond and are a resource to help!
Rapid fire questions
What are the top 3 Van essentials that you couldn’t live without?
- Our movie projector/screen
- our stove/oven, massage gun.
- You can check out our whole van life essentials list here.
Top 3 favorite places you’ve visited?
- Pacific Northwest
Where are you now?
How long do you usually stay in one place?
When did you first start Vanlifing?
4th of July 2020
Are you full-time or part-time Vanlifing?
How many weeks have you spent in the Van in the last 12 months?
What kind of vehicle/rv/trailer/setup do you have?
Ram ProMaster, 159 Wheel Base High Roof
Where can we go to keep up with you and your adventures?
- Our website: https://www.sunnylunaliving.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sunnylunaliving/
- TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@sunnylunaliving
- Facebook: http://facebook.com/sunnylunaliving/
- Youtube: https://youtube.com/c/SUNNYLUNALIVING
- Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/sunnylunaliving