Who are you and what is your backstory?
Hi! We are Ty and Meg, a husband and wife travel nurse duo who have been living full time van life since January 2020. We first met on the beach at home in Charleston, SC. When we met, we were working as nurses at different hospitals in Charleston and after about a year of dating we decided to start travel nursing together. As travel nurses, we are hired for 13 week contracts to fill needs at hospitals all over the country. Since we started traveling in 2019, we have lived and worked in New Mexico, Arizona, North Carolina, Washington, and Kentucky. We both enjoy having the freedom to choose where we go next and we love having four days off each week to explore the area.
In our profession, we are constantly shown how short life can be and never want to take a day for granted. We try to live our lives to the fullest and view every day as a gift and an opportunity to experience something new. This is why we took the leap of faith and moved into a van without much hesitation, why we decided to elope in the middle of a pandemic in the desert, and why we pick up our lives and move to a new place every three months.
An ideal day for us would be opening our van doors to a beautiful view of the ocean or a snow capped mountain, whipping up a good meal for breakfast, then spending time outside together hiking and exploring.
Take us to the moment you decided to begin your Vanlife?
Many people we’ve met on the road start van life because they want to be able to travel and leave their 9 to 5 jobs, but our transition to this lifestyle was a little different because we were already traveling for work. One of the biggest challenges for travel nurses is finding housing when moving to a new location. Every three months you are required to find short term, furnished housing and then have to deal with the hassle of packing and moving frequently. Aside from finding housing, we also found that we were paying a tremendous amount for rent each month for a space that we rarely enjoyed. On days when we weren’t working, we were always camping or hiking so it felt like we were just throwing money into a place where we never spent any time.
Regarding the conversion process, we would definitely recommend doing a lot of research and taking your time on the build if you are able to do so.... Look at a lot of different layouts and test drive several vans to make sure you have the right fit for you.
In August 2019, we had just started a job in North Carolina (our third move of the year) and were discussing how there must be a way to make the transition of traveling smoother and more enjoyable. We had seen many other travel nurses living in RVs and while we liked the concept of having a home on wheels, we wanted something that we could take off grid and wouldn’t be limited to campgrounds due to the size of our home or needing to hook up for electricity.
Van life was something that I (Meg) have always found fascinating and had been interested in doing at some point in my life. I proposed the idea to Ty, and after showing him how much money we could save each month and how beneficial it would be with our lifestyle, he was sold. One of the biggest considerations in the beginning was if we would be able to do the conversion on our own and how that process would work. We decided to do our own build and we are so happy we did because if anything goes wrong we know the van from the inside out. We also took the time to add up how much a van payment would be per month, along with the conversion costs, to make sure this was a financially smart decision for us.
Tell us about the advantages to the Van lifestyle?
One of the biggest advantages with van life is being able to pick up and go wherever and whenever we want. Before we moved into the van, we were constantly having to pack for trips and move all of our belongings every couple of months, so having our home on wheels has helped us to maximize our time spent doing things we enjoy. We’ve also loved being able to spend as much time as we want in the middle of nowhere while still having the comforts of home.
One of our favorite things about van life is how simple this lifestyle is. Moving from an apartment into a van took a lot of downsizing and careful selection of items that would be brought along. During this period, siblings became rich with our former possessions, Goodwill donations became frequent, and trips to the attic with big storage boxes were plentiful. It became obvious that this new life was going to be a simple one. The few possessions we carry with us are really all that we need. Having a limited space for storage really made us consider our needs over wants. In turn, we learned that a simple life is an easy life, which to us equals a happier life.
We have learned so much since starting our van life journey, both during the conversion process and on the road. It has taught us to be self sufficient and to think outside of the box because unforeseen events do happen and things break occasionally, which is to be expected with something that has so many moving parts. We have learned to adapt to the challenges and have acquired new skills we never thought we would have such as carpentry, plumbing, and auto repair.
We’ve also learned to slow down and enjoy the present moment. We used to rush from place to place in order to see as much as we could, but now that our home is on wheels, we have the freedom to take our time in each location and to stay as long as we want.
Vanlife has shown us that so many things are possible if you push yourself and work towards your dreams and goals. It has completely shattered any idea that life has to be or look a certain way.
One of our best memories we’ve had on the road has been visiting Sedona, Arizona. Imagine driving down a long, crimson colored dirt road as the sun is starting to set. The road is bumpy and winding, so your speed must be slow, but that’s ok because you don’t mind taking in the scenery around you. In the distance you can see the red dirt and rock tower mountains that rise above everything else, drowning the valley below in their shadows. You find a pull off that is unoccupied and park to soak in the remainder of the purple, pink, orange, blue, and red combed sky from the falling sun. You can feel the cool wind starting to filter out the blistering heat of the day. As darkness finally overcomes the sky, you sit beside the warmth of the flickering firelight and take a look up at the sky as the coyotes sing their songs in the distance. The milky way is strewn across the canvas as far as you can see, sparkling diamonds are twinkling as if glued to the painting itself. This is the reminder of why you love this nomadic life.
Morning comes and you awake to the smell of vancakes… similar to pancakes but made with love in a van and topped with bananas and berries. You open your doors to the warmth of the glowing sun and look out to see the complete transformation from the world you were in last night. As you finish your breakfast, a roadrunner comes and goes so quickly in front of you that if it didn’t leave a small trail of dust in its wake, you would second guess what you just saw. The cacti are blooming in vibrant pinks, yellows, and reds contrasting the desert landscape around them in a beautiful picture. A full day of hiking awaits as you take all of this in and say to yourself, “ Home is wherever you park it”.
Tell us about the biggest challenges and downsides to the Van lifestyle?
Although the good outweighs the bad by a long shot, van life does come with its own set of challenges. One big adjustment for us in the beginning was not having the ability to take a hot shower whenever we would like. There definitely were days when it felt like an inconvenience to drive to the gym to shower after a long day of work, but this has gotten better over time and has eventually become part of our new routine.
Another adjustment and weekly chore is finding a place to dump our grey water tank and refill our fresh water tank. A huge mistake we made in the first week of moving into the van was letting our grey water tank under our sink get too full and it overflowed. We spent hours taking out our things and cleaning to fix this problem that could have been easily avoided. But hey, you live and you learn.
We have gained so much value from being on the road and hope to instill these values in our children someday.
Our most difficult time throughout our van life journey was hands down back in April when Covid hit. We were working in Phoenix, AZ when the virus broke out and everything shut down. To complicate the situation even further, we were in direct contact with Covid-19 patients. Not only were we paranoid about bringing germs back into our home on wheels, but we had to deal with the stress of not having our usual place to shower after work when the gyms closed. Although being in the van ended up being a positive experience during the pandemic in the long run (not having to use public restrooms, being able to stay “at home” and still be outside on public land on our days off), it was very difficult to maneuver in the beginning. Thankfully we were able to shower at the hospital we were working at and hotels began offering free stays for first responders, which helped us tremendously.
How do you find a sense of community when you’re always moving? How do you maintain and build relationships on the road?
We are fortunate to be a part of the van life and travel nurse community while on the road, both which are very welcoming. We have met and connected with most of our friends through Instagram or Facebook groups, but have also met several people at work. A couple of Facebook groups we have found to be particularly helpful include The Gypsy Nurse and Earning a Remote income|Van Life. When we started travel nursing, we spent the first three months soaking up our new lifestyle and didn’t really make an effort to find friends in our area or meet up with anyone. We quickly realized that having a sense of community was something that would be important to us while traveling so frequently.
You definitely have to put in the work to find friends on the road more so than if you were living in one location, but it helps you to step out of your comfort zone and be open to saying “yes” more often, which in turn allows you to meet some incredible people. We actually met two of our best van life friends, Brittany and Alex (@chasingsunsetsllc) at a Planet Fitness in Scottsdale, AZ where we were stopping for a shower. Brittany saw that we lived in a van and took the initiative to approach us when we finished our shower. We started out as strangers at the gym and fast forward ten months later... they photographed our elopement, we have visited them in their home state of WI, and we consider them to be two of our closest friends. One thing we love about the van life community is that you automatically share so many of the same challenges and experiences so there is often an instant connection.
How do you support yourself financially?
As we mentioned, we work as travel nurses so we are able to maintain the same job we had prior to van life. We have also recently started making a small portion of income through affiliate links on our website We The Wanderers where we share van life and travel resources. We typically work our three month nursing contracts then take about a month off in between each new job to visit family and travel.
One financial goal that we have in the future is to be able to increase our income through our website so that we can enjoy more time off in between assignments. We did not find the financial transition to van life to be a difficult one at all. In fact, we are more financially stable and have been able to save money after moving into the van because we are cutting costs on things like rent and not eating out as frequently.
What is your one piece of advice for people who want to do what you do?
We see so often how short and precious life truly is and how things can change in an instant. So many people wait until retirement to start living or traveling because they think they will be financially stable or have everything figured out when in reality, you don’t always have your health at that age. The best advice we can offer is that there is no “perfect timing” or “perfect situation” and that you can start making your dreams happen and working towards your goals to van life or traveling starting right now.
Regarding the conversion process, we would definitely recommend doing a lot of research and taking your time on the build if you are able to do so. We were on a time crunch because we only had about three to four months of building before we had to drive cross country for our next job. It all worked out, but there are definitely things we wish we had more time to learn or incorporate before we hit the road. Look at a lot of different layouts and test drive several vans to make sure you have the right fit for you.
Van life is a constant learning and growing process. You will not know everything in the beginning and that is okay. Do not beat yourself up over it. Reach out to other people on the road and ask them for advice. We have learned the most from people who have gained their knowledge from their own experiences and also hope to help others by the mistakes we have grown from.
What have been the most influential and helpful books, podcasts, blogs, websites or other resources?
For our build, some of the websites that we found to be very helpful were Gnomad Home, Parked in Paradise, and Far Out Ride. Divine on the Road and Bearfoot Theory are also great resources for van life.
Our favorite app is iOverlander, which we use on a daily to weekly basis for finding campsites. Not only is the app free, but it can be used without cell service which is a huge benefit. Along with using the app to find free campsites in your area, you can filter your search to find free dump stations, paid campsites, and showers, You are also able to read reviews from others who have stayed in this area to find out if the spot was safe, offers cell service, was noisy, ect.
What does the future look like?
We are currently on the way to Washington where we will spend at least three months of the winter working, hiking, and snowboarding. After that, we would like to take at least two months off to travel and spend some time with family in the spring. One of our passions is helping others make the leap into traveling or doing something out of their comfort zone so we will continue sharing resources on our website and hope to grow in that area over the next year.
In the future, we plan to continue traveling and seeing as much as we possibly can. A long term goal of ours is to own property where we can have tiny houses or treehouses for rent for an off grid experience. This would allow us to share this simple and beautiful lifestyle with others, while also funding our travels.We do eventually want to have a family, which for us would mean moving into a larger van or bus and teaching our children that there is more to life than material things and the lifestyle that many people perceive to be the norm. We have gained so much value from being on the road and hope to instill these values in our children someday.
Vanlife has shown us that so many things are possible if you push yourself and work towards your dreams and goals. It has completely shattered any idea that life has to be or look a certain way. We are incredibly excited for the future and where this journey will take us!
Is there anything that you need that you can’t find or anything you are seeking help with?
One thing we really struggled with this summer was staying cool in a hot, humid environment. We have a Maxx Air fan on the roof and multiple personal fans but we couldn’t find any solution that was simple and didn’t require an AC unit installment at a reasonable price. Is there anything you have found to be helpful and stay cool when you aren’t able to move to a new location based on the heat?
We are also wondering if anyone doing this long term has had to replace the stock suspension on the van prematurely or replace their suspension with something more heavy duty?
Rapid fire questions
What are the top 3 Van essentials that you couldn’t live without?
Propane camping stove
Insulated window covers
Top 3 favorite places you’ve visited?
White Sands National Park, NM
North Cascades, WA
Where are you now?
Northern Utah and making our way to our next assignment in Washington
How long do you usually stay in one place?
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?
We’ve lived full time in the van except for a brief few weeks when we were in a hotel in April during the beginning of the pandemic.
What kind of vehicle/rv/trailer/setup do you have?
2019 Ram Promaster 1500 High Roof
Where can we go to keep up with you and your adventures?
Facebook: We The Wanderers