INTERVIEW WITH KAT AND DALTON (@OUR HOME ON THE MOVE)
Who are you and what is your backstory?
We’re Kat Kennedy and Dalton Frankton, (aka OurHomeOnTheMove) we are just another couple of kids in love, living and traveling full time in our 2001 self built Dodge Ram 3500 Van. Kat is usually drawing out her ideas in her sketchbook, baking something yummy in the van, or documenting our day with a camera at hand. Dalton can usually be found fawning over doggies we meet on the road, taking an enchanting photo on the side of the road, on the trail looking for new bouldering spots, or chilling by the fire with a good beer.
Before hitting the road we were both living and working in Baltimore, Maryland trying to figure out what our next big steps were going to be. After art school, Kat immediately began working in a Children’s museum designing the museum’s new exhibits and props, whilst Dalton had been working as a high end metal fabricator creating intricate designs for luxury homes and commercial spaces in NYC and Washington DC.
Realizing what a small amount of material things you really need to live and feel happy has been a life changing experience. We believe it isn’t the things around us that make us happy but more the company.
When we would get off work we would rush home to see each other and then go to Yoga together or Kat would sketch/work in her studio as Dalton climbed at the gym. On the weekends we spent our time making art together and trying to get outside as much as possible. We fell in love with our weekend car camping trips to Upstate NY and West Virginia.
Dalton had purchased a 1981 Volkswagen Westfalia Vanagon before we had begun dating with the grand dream of restoring it to its former glory and then traveling the country with it. As we dreamed about the possibility of traveling in the Volkswagen and as we traveled more and more on the weekends, we ultimately felt that we were becoming detached from our careers in the city. We wanted to explore while we were young and not find ourselves trapped in a city because of a loyalty to a career. In September of 2019 we began to seriously think about Van Life as an option for us.
Take us to the moment you decided to begin your Vanlife?
When we began writing down all of the work the Volkswagen would take to complete and get onto the road we knew we did not have the time or budget to make that dream into a reality, so we started to think HOW could we get on the road and begin traveling the US in a reasonable amount of time? Which is when we began to look at vans (with engines haha) on craigslist. We only had been dating about 4 months when we started the idea. After a couple of Goldilocks moments, touring vans and busses that felt too big or too small then we found Dory! Our 2001 Dodge Ram 3500 Van which had been used as a transportation vehicle in the State of VA, and she felt just right!! We felt no hesitation, loved the test ride, and felt that we could accomplish all of the mechanical work she needed on our own.
We decided that it made more sense for one of us to leave our jobs while we worked on the van so we had the time to build but also still had some money coming in. We bought the van in the beginning of December 2018 and began the building process in Jan 2019. The van was complete by May of 2019 and we were on the road by the end of that month!
Tell us about the advantages to the Van lifestyle?
The freedom to travel while young and to do it relatively affordably is certainly a major advantage to the van lifestyle. We have had the chance to cross the country twice and travel more than we ever believed we would have. Its our mini RV when we are on the road and has really been our little home.
We believe living and working in such a small space on the road together, and only having each other to rely on, has made us feel more confident in our ability to do anything together. We have experienced some of our highest highs and lowest lows while living out of the van together and have always come out of it stronger together. We always try to keep each other focused but balanced because in all honesty it’s not always beautiful photos, sunshine, and rainbows.
We truly believe PLANNING is everything with this lifestyle, make the time to really do the research before diving in. Figure out what your budget is and what your needs truly are.
Realizing what a small amount of material things you really need to live and feel happy has been a life changing experience. We believe it isn’t the things around us that make us happy but more the company. We feel so blessed that the van has taken us to all of the incredible places it has, and we have experienced so many new faces amongst national parks and landscapes we never thought we would have the opportunity to see. The van has really opened us up to how grand this country is and there is just so much to see coast to coast.
Tell us about the biggest challenges and downsides to the Van lifestyle?
One of the biggest challenges of vanlife is adapting to the limited water supply, learning how to keep yourself hydrated, cooking , and cleaning for yourself with less than you are accustomed to. We have a foot pump on our sink which helps us to control how much water we are using, and to stay aware of our water use.
I think in the very beginning we saw picking a place to park every night as a major challenge, we felt like it was hard to find places we felt comfortable with. But as time has gone on we have found more confidence in choosing campsites that feel good to the both of us. We love apps like iOverlander and spend lots of time creating intricate google maps where we save all of our favorite spots and campsites.
One of the hardest things we experienced in the van was when Dalton rolled his ankle bouldering in Joshua tree, CA. He had a bad fall incurring a high ankle sprain. He had to use crutches to go anywhere which was not comfortable or really all that possible in the van. He couldn’t walk for over a month! Kat had to pick up all of the slack with the chores and also had to start driving the van full time. It was a struggle and put a lot of stress on her. We knew that we needed to address Dalton’s health and decided to take a short break to prioritize our health.
How do you find a sense of community when you’re always moving? How do you maintain and build relationships on the road?
With today's technology, and cellular service becoming more available everywhere, we find that it is now more than ever super easy to stay connected with our loved ones and friends back home using FaceTime, Zoom, texting, social media, etc… Those are the main ways we stay in touch while on the move.
We have also been incredibly lucky to meet a couple of other couples living and working on the road who have really inspired our journey. The nice thing about meeting people in this way is you really grow a network all across the US.
It is important to note that we do spend a lot of time alone on the road, we have found it is one of our favorite things about traveling in the van. There is a lot of solitude which can lead to a lot of time for self reflection, introspection, and time to create art which has been something we have both really enjoyed while living on the road.
Now our days are spent together, making memories together rather than working 9-5s. We are more active and spending out time doing what we love, making art, adventuring and going on hikes. We NOW have the time, space, and freedom to be more creative and pursue our dreams and passions.
How do you support yourself financially?
The first big trip we had in the van we traveled for 6 months on a really tight cheap budget and relied solely on savings, not a great idea! But we learned from that and were able to get on the road and were inspired to make the changes necessary to sustain this lifestyle! After that we came back to FL to save up some money to travel again and began making a much bigger effort to connect and build relationships with new freelancing clients on the road. We now sustain ourselves as freelance artists, creating content for a variety of different clients (from tech brands to lifestyle and skincare! Kat even creates educational content for Museums). We offer services in photography and design. You can check them out on the collaborate page on our website.
We also (pre-pandemic) accepted a lot of work via Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace Gigs, however the demand for this kind of work has gone down with the covid-19 pandemic.
What is your one piece of advice for people who want to do what you do?
We truly believe PLANNING is everything with this lifestyle, make the time to really do the research before diving in. Figure out what your budget is and what your needs truly are. This process takes time and really requires you to think introspectively about why you really want to live out of a van and what you hope to get out of it. I think after you have really thought all of these things through you can create a specific individualized plan to help bring your dream into fruition.
I think all too often Vanlife is represented in the same way over and over again on YouTube and Instagram and we want to remind you that it should be individualized to your specific needs and wants, and it's okay if those are different from what you see everyone else doing online.
(Again I would also like to mention water here, I think when we first set off we thought we would not use/need as much water as we did for two people. We found ourselves constantly running out and looking around for more places to fill up. I would definitely recommend adding an on-board water tank with enough water for two people for at least a week! Maybe two, it really has made an immense difference for us! )
What have been the most influential and helpful books, podcasts, blogs, websites or other resources?
Gnomad Home.com has been incredible - they show you all the options for everyone's budget! They also have a fabulous electrical guide walk through to help you get off the grid and completely solar powered.
YouTube is also an excellent resource, there are so many videos online showing you the complete process of building out a van and it's really wonderful to be able to learn from others successes and mistakes.
Also a random thing - but while building the van out every morning we would start the build/work day with a passage from our 365 days of Tao book and it was really helpful though the process. The passages always seemed to help us through what every trial or tribulation we were going through during the build process.
We love iOverlander and freecampsites.net for camping and All Trails for hiking, however you can find some incredible information online on people's personal blogs and by being friendly and talking with the locals wherever you go.
What does the future look like?
Right now the future is looking exciting! We just brought Daltons 1981 Volkwagon Van down that we mentioned in the beginning of this interview, we hope to begin restoring it and to add a Subaru engine to her this upcoming Fall. Until then we will be traveling across the country again in our Dodge van, we are hoping to get all the way out to the PNW this summer as we have never been before! If you see us on the road make sure to beep or say Hi! :)
We are not quite sure what the far off future has in store, we would like to travel in the Vanagon for a bit after its restoration and then maybe try something new. We have been researching and talking about perhaps living the boatlife after we have lived out of the van for a couple of more years!
Is there anything that you need that you can't find or anything you are seeking help with?
We really do almost everything ourselves, but please feel free to reach out and contact us if you are ever interested in having photo or design work done for your business. We would love to help you out. Dalton has also started offering Van Build/Design consultations via phone and Zoom and would love to help you out if you are in the process of building and feeling a bit stuck or frustrated. We are currently looking to accept van build clients for the Fall/Winter of 2021/2022 so please send us an email at OurHomeOnTheMove@gmail.com if you are interested :)
Rapid fire questions
What are the top 3 Van essentials that you couldn’t live without?
These are a bit boring but are our most ESSENTIAL items on the road that we constantly recommend!
- Our Jerry Can (water filtering system)
- Our solar system
- Our 360 degree marine fan!
Top 3 favorite places you’ve visited?
We have LOVED Vermont, Joshua Tree, & South Eastern Utah (these landscapes are probably the most different from our home towns though! )
Where are you now?
South Florida, we hope to be heading North with in the next week to beat the heat!
How long do you usually stay in one place?
Depends, when traveling we will spend a week to 1 month in one place, when trying to make money to fund our travels we will spend up to 8 months in one place in the van.
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?
About 50! :) We are only really out of the van to visit family occasionally, but she is always with us, or rather we are always with her, our home and daily driver :)
What kind of vehicle/rv/trailer/setup do you have?
We 2001 Dodge Ram 3500 HighTop Van
Where can we go to keep up with you and your adventures?
We are all over the place, but you can find us most active in these places down below!
We hope to be starting a YouTube channel sometime this year as well!