Who are you and what is your backstory?
We’re Peter and Shruthi Lapp, (aka Holiday at See) aka just another normal couple living and traveling full-time in their 1987 Volkswagen Vanagon GL Westfalia. :) Shruthi is usually fawning over a puppy, thinking about falafel or on the trail with a camera in hand. Peter can usually be found wrenching away or chilling with a beer and a good book in hand.
Before we hit the road, the two of us were living and working in Nashville, Tennessee and saving up for our dream of extended travel. When Peter bought the van in 2006, he knew he wanted to drive it to Alaska some day. After we got married, we started an unspoken tradition of taking one big trip every year.
In 2015, we flew to Argentina to visit our friends Katie and Greg (@CrepeAttack) and spent two weeks living in their van with them while driving from Puerto Madryn to Buenos Aires. That trip confirmed our dreams of full-time travel and we made a pact on the flight back home to make that dream a reality.
When we started getting ourselves and the van ready for the road, we both tried to quit our jobs. Unexpectedly, we both got the opportunity to take our jobs on the road and the deal was sealed! In April 2016, we said goodbye to Nashville and explored the United States, Canada and Mexico. The following year, we shipped our van from Miami, Florida to Cartagena, Colombia and spent a year and a half driving The Pan American Highway to the end of the South American continent.
We spent the beginning of this year in Baja, Mexico and are now revisiting all of our favorite corners of the United States.
Tell us about the advantages to the Van lifestyle?
The most valuable thing about living full-time on the road is learning how much we DON’T need to have a full and happy life. Home can be anywhere and it’s really all about how a place feels rather than where it is geographically.
We’ve also learned a lot more about our limits, because let’s be real: life is not always sunshine and rainbows. There are so many friends (who are now like family) that we would not have met if we hadn’t been traveling the way we do.
"Don’t feel pressured to make your travels look like anyone else’s. Remember: this decision should be for you and you only. Everyone has a different way of life and travel. Do it for yourself!"
Additionally, if we hadn’t taken the leap with shipping our van to South America, we wouldn’t know the people we know now and we wouldn’t have learned all of the different kinds of Spanish we picked up from traveling through all of the different countries. I love being able to look at a map of South America and feel a sense of familiarity as I look at it. All of the wild, off-the-beaten-path places we remembered seeing on the map and dreaming of exploring were soon right before our eyes. We will never forget watching the sunrise over the ancient dwellings at Machu Picchu after hiking for five days to get there or spotting Fitz Roy in the distance and eventually seeing those iconic peaks towering over us. We knew all of these places would be beautiful but we never expected the heartstopping gratitude driving ourselves there would bring.
Tell us about the biggest challenges and downsides to the Van lifestyle?
The biggest challenges of living in our van comes with the constant need to be intentional about how much water, gas and power we’re using. We try to lead a life that is as minimal and waste-free as possible. We do miss being able to sprawl out in our single-family home, unlimited showers and the ease of conveniences like plumbing, running water and a full kitchen.
Another major challenge of not being stationary is that any time there’s an issue with our van, it’s much more intrusive since it’s our home. Gone are the days when we could just leave the van in the driveway, sleep in our house and continue working on said issue the next day. The same goes for basic maintenance. When we experience more major failures with the van, though the situation is completely different.
During our transmission failure in Patagonia, we were so far away from home and had to scramble to figure out a place to work things out with the van as well as how we were both going to continue living in it. We couldn’t just call up a friend to help nor could we find the parts we needed as easily as we could in the United States. Each morning, we’d be up super early and have to move all of our belongings out of the van to get into the engine bay, try to troubleshoot and then do it all over again the next day. It really took a toll on us because we had nowhere else to go to get away from it all -- the van was our full-time home.
How do you find a sense of community when you’re always moving? How do you maintain and build relationships on the road?
Now, more than ever, it’s super easy to stay connected via FaceTime, texting, social media, etc. It’s safe to say that those are the main ways we stay in touch with friends and family while we’re on the move.
We’ve also been incredibly lucky to meet some of our very best friends who also live on the road. When we miss each other, we just drive to meet each other, camp and go from there.
Before we started traveling, I (Shruthi) was very outgoing and extroverted, always doing something with someone and Peter was the opposite. Since we moved into our van, those roles have reversed. I’ve realized that I’m actually more of an introvert than I previously thought and I thrive on alone time more than I realized!
How do you support yourself financially?
We expected to quit our jobs when we started traveling so we spent a few years setting aside money for travel. When we decided to take the plunge of full-time travel, we sat down with our bosses to let them know. Unexpectedly, we were both offered the opportunity to go part-time and remote. Peter had been at his office job as an Information Security Engineer for a few years and Shruthi had been working her office job as a Social Media Coordinator for almost two years at this point. That being said, getting the opportunity to take our jobs on the road allowed us to save even more money while traveling.
Working from the road was generally easy but there were times when we had trouble tracking down sufficient wifi or concentrating on work because we were so eager to explore!
We also already had the van for years before full-time travel so that made the transition much easier on us and our bank accounts. In addition to savings and multiple sponsorships, we rent out our single family home in Nashville.
What is your one piece of advice for people who want to do what you do?
- JUST DO IT! You’re never going to feel fully ready and it’s never going to be perfect. You’ll learn and adapt as you go.
- Don’t feel pressured to make your travels look like anyone else’s. Remember: this decision should be for you and you only. Everyone has a different way of life and travel. Do it for yourself!
What have been the most influential and helpful books, podcasts, blogs, websites or other resources?
Over the years, we’ve used apps like iOverlander, Google Maps, Google Earth, Camp Indium, FreeCampSites.Net to track down places to camp. We’re also big fans of good ol’ fashioned forest service road maps and talking to your local ranger station for information. The Leave No Trace Center has been a great resource for how to be good stewards of the land we spend time on. A really great resource for living on the road specifically is the Women On The Road Podcast and similarly, the She Explores podcast for general outdoor travel/resources.
What does the future look like?
In light of COVID-19, we can say with full confidence that we have absolutely no idea what the future will look like.
We know we want to eventually find another home base (besides Nashville) and the hunt for that place is ongoing. It’s out there somewhere! We’ve just gotta find it.
For now, we’re looking forward to soaking up the rest of the summer while taking it day by day.
Rapid fire questions
What are the top 3 Van essentials that you couldn’t live without?
Our Cast Iron Skillet
Top 3 favorite places you’ve visited?
The Southwest United States
Where are you now?
How long do you usually stay in one place?
It depends on the weather/our plans and fluctuates a LOT.
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?
Pretty much the entire 12 months has been spent in the van, give or take a few months for visiting family during the holidays, transmission issues, quarantine and visiting friends.
What kind of vehicle/rv/trailer/setup do you have?
1987 Volkswagen Vanagon GL Westfalia
Where can we go to keep up with you and your adventures?