Who are you and what is your backstory?
We are Jake and Emily from Two Roaming Souls. We have been living in our self-converted campervan, Delphie, since July 2019. After getting undergraduate degrees, our adventurous spirit led us both to Vail, CO where we were drawn to life in the mountains. We met working at the same restaurant, where Jake was a server and Emily was a hostess. It was love at first sight!
We loved taking camping trips to explore the western U.S. Our minds were blown during our first trip to Zion National Park. And we continued to be captivated by the natural beauty of the Western US and fell deeper in love with hiking and getting out in nature as much as possible. However, we felt that our next path in life was to pursue traditional careers with our college degrees. So, we moved to Denver, where Emily became a chiropractic therapist and Jake was seeking a job in web development.
We bought into the expensive city life, rented a nice new apartment, started furnishing it and quickly we were living beyond our means. As we continued to take many weekend camping trips, our passion for adventure kept growing. After some soul searching, we realized that vanlife could be the key to building our “perfect” life!
Take us to the moment you decided to begin your Vanlife?
We realized that vanlife could provide us the freedom to spend more time doing what we love most. And that part is key! We don’t think that anyone’s main goal should be to live in a van. But rather, use vanlife as a means to achieve some greater goals. Whether it’s travel, saving money, starting a business, all three, or something else entirely, just figure out what possibilities vanlife can unlock for you.
Emily is a “go getter”, so she didn’t hesitate to help us make the leap into vanlife. We didn’t have careers or a house full of stuff to tie us down, so we didn’t feel like we had much to lose. But, it was still intimidating to transition to full-time vanlife.
We had so many questions; buying a used van, getting mail, insurance, visiting family, making money, etc. And more existentially, would this be a “no turning back” moment of leaving traditional society (It’s not).
Once we had our hearts set on vanlife, we quickly made a plan. We needed to save up money for our van, downsize our lives, and learn how to buy and convert a van. We decided to move back to Vail, CO for the winter season because we could earn the most money. We both worked two jobs and saved every penny. We sold or donated anything that wouldn’t fit into our new life.
We started searching online for our perfect van. From consuming endless youtube videos and blogs posts we pieced together a quick “education” on all things vanlife.
"We both love having one another for life on the road. We’ve talked about how vanlife alone would be more scary and lonely. We applaud anyone who does solo vanlife. That takes a certain kind of bravery!"
We found our possible dream van for sale on Facebook marketplace. A 2010 Ford E-350 Extended with a fiberglass high-top. We called around to find a mechanic near the van who was willing to do a Pre-Purchase Inspection. This is an important step for anyone looking to buy a privately-listed used vehicle. Everything looked good, and we bought the van for $6,200! Holy crap, we bought a van! That feeling doesn’t wear off for several weeks.
We began demolition that winter, but we waited until spring to do the conversion. It took us two months of working 7 days a week to turn the van into a liveable home. Check out the van tour video on YouTube! The conversion upgrades cost about $8,000 total, but for the full breakdown check out our blog post: How Much Did Our Van Conversion Cost.
Tell us about the advantages to the Van lifestyle?
Emily’s Dad likes to joke that we learned more than a college degree during our van build. But it might not be a joke. Out of necessity, we learned so many different skills to convert our van. We learned how to put together a solar-power electrical system, basic woodworking skills, plumbing, cabinet making, and tons more. We also saved thousands by converting the van ourselves. We are excited to one day convert our second campervan, and hopefully do it faster with fewer headaches.
The van lifestyle allows us to have so many more travels and experiences that we wouldn't otherwise be able to have. When you work a traditional job, you only get so much time off, but living in a van working remotely or seasonal work, you get to explore many different parts of the country.
"Add some eye-bolts to your van so you can hammock behind it, and experience true comfort! Plus you really only need 1 tree to have a successful hammock set up!"
We always felt limited by the distance we could travel in a weekend. We absolutely love Colorado, but we always felt a craving to explore further. Now that we can travel for weeks or months at a time, we can explore new places much deeper and with less stress.
One such adventure was our trip to San Francisco in 2019. We had never been before, and were very charmed by this neat city and its surrounding areas. City-life in a campervan can be a little tricky, especially with all the steep and narrow roads in San Francisco. But our campervan spared us the cost and hassle of renting hotel rooms. We wake up, get dressed, make coffee, and hit the road minutes later. We were pleased to find all kinds of natural beauty just a short distance outside the city.
One day we spent going across the Golden Gate Bridge and exploring north of the city. We started our morning exploring Muir Woods National Monument, which is home to ancient and massive Redwoods Trees. It’s truly humbling to see such large living things. The forest is so enchanting, and surprising that it’s only minutes away from the ocean.
By midday, the temperature was around 80 degrees, so we drove a little farther north to Stinson Beach. This cute little beach town was bustling with other people thrilled about the warm weather. We quickly whipped up a little lunch in the campervan and headed out to the beach. We set up a blanket and had ourselves a nice relaxing couple hours on the beach.
In the afternoon, we hopped back in the van to hit a few more locations on our list. One spot was on the cliffs looking out over the Golden Gate Bridge with San Francisco in the background. We noticed a little beach cove down on the inlet to SF bay. We thought, gee that looks like a nice place to enjoy the sunset. So we did a little research and found out that it was a campground. Unfortunately, it was fully booked, however, if you are willing to hike down the dirt road, anyone is welcome for day-use. So we parked our van at the top of the hill and packed stuff for a sunset picnic.
We enjoyed some wine and cheese on the beach, while the sunset started glowing with pink and purple. We watched boats passing under the Golden Gate Bridge, while the city lights began to twinkle. It was a truly perfect end to an amazing day enjoying the freedom and flexibility of vanlife.
Tell us about the biggest challenges and downsides to the Van lifestyle?
We gave up many comforts to enjoy the benefits of vanlife. To name a few things…. shower, bathroom, hot water, big bed, and lots more.
We opted to buy a newer-ish vehicle (2010 150k miles) so that we wouldn’t have to deal with mechanical issues. And other than routine maintenance, and a few minor jobs, so far so good!
One of the biggest challenges of vanlife is not having a permanent home/address. It causes many logistical problems, like getting mail, insurance, voting, etc. But there are solutions to these challenges.
It can be stressful to always be on the move, always having to find new places to park for the night. But it’s another thing that you get used to. It’s definitely the worst on nights where you are exhausted and just want to sleep, but still have to find a place to park/camp.
The most stressful day(s) we had since starting vanlife was when we got caught in a surprise snowstorm in June! We were in the Uinta mountains in Utah. We were excited to do a little hiking and exploring the area. But mother nature had other plans. The beautiful summer weather we were having quickly turned cold and rainy. We were happy to stay inside the van and work on our blog while waiting out the storm. However, our solar panel wasn’t collecting much power to keep our laptops charged. And our campsite was very muddy, so we weren’t sure if our 2WD van could drive out even if we wanted to.
And unfortunately the storm lasted several days, and kept getting colder each day. Suddenly, it was down to 35 degrees and it snowed several inches. And our batteries were almost completely out of power. We kept clearing snow off our solar panel, to make sure that we weren’t missing any chance to charge.
In a brief moment of irrational panic, we tried to drive out of our campsite, and quickly sunk our back wheels into the mud. Now we were truly stuck. Luckily, we had plenty of food and water to last us a few more days. So we stayed put and spent the next couple days rationing out our little amount of remaining power. We played board games, read books, and found other things to fill our time. And even in this low moment, we were treated to one of the most amazing sunsets that we have ever seen.
Finally after about 5 days, the storm passed and sunny weather returned. We waited for the sun to dry out the ground so that we could drive out. We placed a bunch of loose sticks under our wheels to provide extra traction and gave it another try. Finally, we were able to drive out, and onto our next adventure. We documented the whole experience in an Instagram story if you want to watch the debacle unfold.
How do you find a sense of community when you’re always moving? How do you maintain and build relationships on the road?
Not only are we romantic partners, but we are also best friends. And we think that is critical for living vanlife together. We both love having one another for life on the road. We’ve talked about how vanlife alone would be more scary and lonely. We applaud anyone who does solo vanlife. That takes a certain kind of bravery!
But vanlife will still put stress on even the best and strongest relationships. Luckily the keys to a happy relationship are the same no matter what kind of lifestyle you live. It all comes down to good communication and a willingness to put your partners needs ahead of your own.
Keeping up with family and friends can be good and bad. We have had the chance to visit some family and friends during our travels. And we have more free time to visit people. But we are always balancing that against our desire to travel to new places.
We find that social media platforms are actually pretty friendly within the niche of vanlifers/RVers. We have met up with all kinds of people during our travels. Even found out that an old college friend (@thehendog and @keepingfinn) had also stumbled into vanlife. He uses his vanlife freedom to spread awareness and raise money for animal shelters in need. It’s an inspiring story, go check it out!
How do you support yourself financially?
In February 2018, we created a travel blog called Two Roaming Souls. While our dream is to have our travel blog be our main source of income, we supplement our income with seasonal jobs. Making the transition wasn’t that difficult, because we were already accustomed to seasonal work. And without a monthly rent payment or car payment, we don’t have to make as much money. Don’t get me wrong, there are still plenty of expenses for upkeep of our van, gasoline, and other travel expenses. But our lifestyle is significantly cheaper without rent.
Both of us have multiple years of hospitality experience, so we find jobs in adventurous places where we can make money while also filling our weekends with lots of adventures. Some of our favorite places we have worked are Sedona, AZ and Priest Lake, Idaho. They both have been amazing places to work and play.
What is your one piece of advice for people who want to do what you do?
Our best piece of advice is if vanlife is something you have dreamt about, then just do it! It is never going to feel like you are truly ready, but you will figure things out as you go. But put some thought into what you want to achieve once you have a campervan. The true joy of vanlife comes from accomplishing things that you couldn’t before.
If you don’t feel you are ready to build out a van yourself, consider buying a pre-built van. You can get an older van that is already built out for cheap or have a van custom made with everything you have ever dreamt of.
Also, add some eye-bolts to your van so you can hammock behind it, and experience true comfort! Plus you really only need 1 tree to have a successful hammock set up!
What have been the most influential and helpful books, podcasts, blogs, websites or other resources?
YouTube was the most useful resource for us while building out our van. But, even before vanlife we watched many different youtubers to get us excited and ideas for how we wanted to build out our own van. Some of our favorite Youtubers are: Cheap RV Living (Bob Wells), Trent & Allie, Eamon & Bec, Vanessa & Adam, Max & Lee (no longer a channel), & The Nomadic Movement.
Also for building out our van, we used many different blogs. Some of the most helpful blogs were Parked In Paradise, Gnomad Home, Kombi Life & Explorist Life. All these blogs go into great detail about basic van build essentials such as insulation, solar, plumbing, etc. We are constantly adding content to our blog to pass along our knowledge to the next generation of aspiring vanlifers looking to build their own van!
What does the future look like?
Our main goal is to have our blog Two Roaming Souls become our main source of income. We love helping others travel inexpensively while living their best life. But for now, we will continue to pick up seasonal jobs and travel in between. In the future we hope to do more international travel, but for now, we love exploring the beautiful U.S. We will probably be in the southern states this winter, but don’t have a concrete plan yet. Then we want to take a summer to explore Oregon, Washington & Canada.
We don’t see an end to vanlife in the near future. We hope to one day own property and a traditional home. But right now vanlife is how we can live our best life. We are excited to add a dog into our lives, but are still waiting for the right moment.
Is there anything that you need that you can’t find or anything you are seeking help with?
We are always seeking companies in our niche that want to collaborate. For brands that are a good fit we would love to talk about possible partnerships or exchanges. Our primary areas of content expertise are vanlife, hiking, backpacking, camping, hammocking, and outdoor adventure travel. We are open to product exchanges, sponsored posts, guest posting, affiliate programs, and more. Shoot us an email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also we have a very specific nerdy question that has bothered us ever since our van build. A common insulation material for campervans is Reflectix (basically, reflective bubble wrap). Reflectix is used to reflect radiant heat, so it is common to use in campervan windows to reflect the heat from incoming light. However, it requires an air gap in order to work properly. So our question is, “Does putting Reflectix right up against a window negate the air gap? Wouldn’t conductive heat be able to pass directly from the glass to the Reflectix?, or does the glass somehow function as a suitable air gap because it’s clear?” Nobody has ever been able to answer this question for us, but nearly every campervan is doing this.
Rapid fire questions
What are the top 3 Van essentials that you couldn’t live without?
Top 3 favorite places you’ve visited?
Valley Of Fire Valley Of Fire State Park
Where are you now?
Working at Elkin’s Resort on Priest Lake in the panhandle of northern Idaho.
How long do you usually stay in one place?
When we pick up seasonal jobs about 2-3 months in one spot. When traveling full-time, we move much quicker and don’t stay in one spot for longer than a few days.
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?
Every single one of them!
What kind of vehicle/rv/trailer/setup do you have?
2010 Ford E-350, Extended, with an after-market fiberglass hightop
Where can we go to keep up with you and your adventures?