Who are you and what is your backstory?
Hello! My name is Kristin Holden. I’m from Indianapolis, IN and I made the transition into vanlife about a year ago. I sold my home and most of my belongings to move into my van with my two dogs, Kashi and Bear.
Before vanlife, I was really living what I believed to be the American dream. After graduating college from Ball State University I started my career as an Auditor. After a few years, I purchased my 2 story home at the age of 24 and was working hard at my corporate 9-5 job. According to standards, I was successful but felt like I was drowning at life. I began to realize that I needed something more.
Take us to the moment you decided to begin your Vanlife?
Before vanlife, I always loved traveling. I longed to travel as much as possible but with only 3 weeks of paid leave I couldn’t do too much. I also had my two dogs so I felt guilty when I would drop them off at my parents house and go travel. One day, my best friend sent a picture to me of a girl doing this thing called vanlife. I couldn’t get it out of my head and began to do more research.
"I’m also very passionate about helping women get the courage to travel solo. So often I hear - aren’t you scared to travel alone as a woman? The truth is - yes, sometimes I do get scared. But..."
My number one hesitation was trying to figure out how to make income on the road. So I began talking to my manager at work about the possibility of working remotely. I put together a working remote proposal and presented it to my manager and I got the approval to begin working remote. I did scale back to working part-time and I compromised to be in the office during our “busy season”, which is December & January.
Once I got the green light I purchased my van and hired a company to build it out into my first tiny home. I honestly chose this company because it was the closest to me and one of my good friends had her van done by them. Unfortunately, I did not put much time researching the best option.
For my second build that I am currently having done I took a lot more time to research the best option. This time around I went with Just Roaming Conversions in Portland, Oregon. They are specialized in off-grid solutions with professional training.
Tell us about the advantages to the Van lifestyle?
Vanlife affords me the opportunity to pursue my love of traveling, while also keeping my dogs with me. I never even considered this an option before discovering vanlife. I once had someone tell me that they felt sorry for my dogs because they lived in such a small space. I could only laugh because my dogs have already seen more of the USA than most humans see in their lifetime. They are living a dream life, as am I.
Vanlife has also grown my love and respect for the outdoors. While I grew up in a small country town, I still lived in a neighborhood. And I played outdoors a lot but I never went camping as a child. I never learned basic outdoor skills. Vanlife has been a learning curve for me and now I’m still far behind most but I’m learning. As I learn more, I appreciate more. I care so deeply for the outdoor space. We only have one Earth and I try to do my bit to help cherish it.
One of my favorite places that I’ve been to is the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. The air feels cleaner and fresher. It’s very calming there. Green is my favorite color because it represents life. On the Olympic Peninsula everything is so green and lush. Even the tree trunks are green with moss. It’s almost like a fairytale to me. I was just walking in amazement and wonder.
Tell us about the biggest challenges and downsides to the Van lifestyle?
I truly don’t have many downsides other than the two most would assume - showering and pooping. I typically use fitness centers to shower, but it is a pain to pack a bag every time I want to shower. In addition to that, I was diagnosed with IBS when I was 17, so not having access to a flushing toilet can be frustrating. However, even with those two challenges I wouldn’t trade my lifestyle for anything.
I also recently became single. So dating without a home base is going to be an interesting challenge. I’m not sure how to face it yet, and I often hear complaints about this. But I would never make myself miserable to stay in one place and hopefully meet someone. I think you should always pursue your dreams and maybe one day someone will join your journey.
"I don’t see an end in sight for this lifestyle. I’ve only been in the apartment for a few days and I’m already itching to get back on the road. I would love to hit all 50 states in the van (Hawaii would have to be a rental)."
Also, I guess you can say traveling solo as a woman has it’s challenges. You definitely have to be more aware and proactive when it comes to safety. I’ve had only a few encounters where I truly felt unsafe.
One time I was near Mt. Rainier. And this drive to get to the campsite was LONG, and without cell service. Once I arrived there it was tents only, which wasn’t stated on the app I used. So I started driving back down when I saw what looked like a free campground. So I checked it out and sure enough it was a free campsite with toilets and picnic tables too! The biggest downside was no cell service. I was also the only person there which can be a bit eerie. But because it was almost dark and the road back down was so far I decided to chance it. Right before it got completely dark a group of men arrived with their dirt bikes and ATVs. I never saw them, I only heard them but I immediately closed up my van so they wouldn’t know I was a solo female. It just wasn’t worth the risk. Luckily, I wasn’t bothered at all but I think I made the smart move to lock up early.
How do you find a sense of community when you’re always moving? How do you maintain and build relationships on the road?
Truly some of my closest friendships are people I’ve met on the road and only seen a few times a year. Social media and video calls make it very easy to stay connected to each other. This can be said for my best friends and family at home. I’ve been super blessed to have friends that are willing to fly out and meet me on the road. I’ve hosted my best friend several times.
However, friends and family members that have kids can be difficult. I’m pretty much watching their kids (some my nieces) grow up via video calls. And because they all have younger kids, they aren’t able to fly out to meet me. So I try my best to put in the effort to see them when I’m home visiting.
It’s interesting when people ask me about loneliness on the road. I felt (and still feel when I’m home in the winter) more lonely prior to vanlife. I was constantly surrounded by so many people but felt so lonely. However, now that I’m on the road, I put more effort into those I really care about and I’m not sure I’ve ever felt lonely on the road. And truthfully, it often feels as though I’m seeking alone time. It’s easy to meet up with friends or other vanlifers on the road so I find myself needing alone time.
How do you support yourself financially?
As I mentioned above, I work remotely part-time as an auditor for Delta Faucet Company. I’m extremely blessed that my company took a risk and allowed me to jump into this lifestyle, while holding on to my financial security. I worked hard for my career so I’m happy that I don’t have to give it up.
I want to help others do the same, so I created a working remote proposal template on my website - www.wheretheroadforks.net and this helps provide guidance on how to confidently propose working remote to a manager or higher up. In addition, I’ve started to make some extra spending money through affiliate links and social media.
What is your one piece of advice for people who want to do what you do?
JUST GO FOR IT! As I said earlier, I had little to no experience prior to vanlife. And yes, it’s been a learning curve but it’s a beautiful curve. I love this lifestyle so much.
I’m also very passionate about helping women get the courage to travel solo. So often I hear - aren’t you scared to travel alone as a woman? The truth is - yes, sometimes I do get scared. But I would rather embrace my discomfort for a fulfilled life than let worry keep me miserable.
Vanlife is not comfortable. It’s not always the perfect view out the back doors. Sometimes vanlife is parking at walmart, or praying you don’t get that dreaded knock on the window because you have to park in front of someone’s house. You have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
What have been the most influential and helpful books, podcasts, blogs, websites or other resources?
One of my best friends, Sydney Ferbrache, has a great website (Divine on the Road) and podcast (My Solo Road) that I learned a lot from. I also learned a lot from Women on the Road podcast and gained a lot of inspiration from their stories. Additionally, I watched hours and hours of vanlifer on YouTube. This helped me learn so much as well as help sort out how I wanted my van build to look.
What does the future look like?
Currently, I am homeless. I have sold my first van and I’m without a second van at this moment. I’m living near Portland in an apartment and once I find my new van I will be having it built out by Just Roaming Conversions, which is an amazing company based out of Portland, OR. After almost a year in my first van, I figured out what I liked and didn’t like. So now I plan on building out my forever van home.
I don’t see an end in sight for this lifestyle. I’ve only been in the apartment for a few days and I’m already itching to get back on the road. I would love to hit all 50 states in the van (Hawaii would have to be a rental). And I’m hoping my dogs will be along for the ride for as long as possible. There is no greater joy than seeing how happy Bear is hiking through the mountains, or how excited Kashi gets to catch the ocean waves in her mouth.
Is there anything that you need that you can’t find or anything you are seeking help with?
I won’t say I know it all, because I don’t. But there are so many good resources and blogs out there that it’s easy enough to quickly find the answer. However, at times it would be lovely to meet up with other vanlifers to do a difficult hike with, or even help create content with!
Rapid fire questions
What are the top 3 Van essentials that you couldn’t live without?
- Good hiking shoes - I use Merrells
- My bonnet (I’m a curly haired girl)
- MY DOGS :)
Top 3 favorite places you’ve visited?
- Olympic Penisula
- Grand Tetons
- Goldbug Hot Springs
Where are you now?
How long do you usually stay in one place?
I probably move too quickly. Typically, no longer than a week.
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?
What kind of vehicle/rv/trailer/setup do you have?
I will be purchasing a 2019 ford transit 250 high top 148”wb for my next build out.
Where can we go to keep up with you and your adventures?
Youtube - Kristin Holden
Website - www.wheretheroadforks.net
IG - @wheretheroadforks