INTERVIEW WITH ETHAN AND KATELYNN (@THE HUNTERS VANLIFE)
Who are you and what is your backstory?
Hey there! We are Katelynn and Ethan. We have been married for over 4 years and both share a love for nature, all things outdoors and adventure, traveling, music and coffee.
It all started in 2013, when we met on a mountain at a music festival in New Hampshire, where we both grew up. We started dating a few years later and since we lived almost 2 hours away from each other, we looked forward to the weekends and whatever new beach we would explore up the coast of Maine. Some of my favorite memories when we were dating are all the spontaneous road trips we would take, I think we’ve always had a love for the road.
"Vanlife has allowed us to truly be hopeful for the future, there are so many opportunities and the future seems so bright. At this point in our lives we can’t imagine living any other way."
In 2016 we got married on a mountain in Mount Rainier National Park. Because of our love for adventure and the mountains, we knew on our wedding day that we wanted to hike a mountain we had never hiked before. Shortly after we got married, we moved to Nashville, TN - cause you know it’s the music city.
While living in Nashville we pursued our passions in coffee and the music industry. Ethan is a musician and worked as a barista and I worked in the music industry and also worked as a coffee roaster. We loved the community in Nashville but growing up so close to the mountains and the ocean, we were really missing the outdoors. We would take trips when we could, but it wasn’t enough because we were always working or broke.
Take us to the moment you decided to begin your Vanlife?
Rent kept going up in Nashville and we got to a point where we looked at our budget and couldn't believe the amount we had spent paying for a place to sleep. We knew something had to change, we started exploring alternative living and stumbled across vanlife. We knew this was what we had been looking for and we completely fell in love with the lifestyle at a vanlife rally in Asheville, NC later that year.
We had been embracing minimalism for a while so we already didn’t have many things, we also were wanting to live a more sustainable lifestyle, and we were wanting to travel more – it just made sense. So we said life is too short to wait, moved out of our apartment, sold everything we owned and moved in with some friends while we saved up for a van.
January 2019 we bought our van. We had put all of our savings on the down payment on the van, and needed to work full time in order to pay for the build out. Our day jobs consumed us and we were only able to work on the van 1 or 2 days a week. A few months later, we moved in with Ethan’s parents in Florida to save even more and have more time to spend building out the van. Our build took us over a year but it was so worth it knowing we took our time to make sure everything was done the right way.
Looking back on our lives before vanlife, we felt so stuck, each month wondering how we would pay our bills. Vanlife was a way out. It was freedom. Freedom from the status quo, freedom from 9-5s and the “American Dream”.
Now our days are spent together, making memories rather than working 9-5s. We are more active doing what we love, adventuring and going on hikes. We have the freedom to be more creative and pursue our dreams and passions.
Tell us about the advantages to the Van lifestyle?
This nomadic lifestyle allows us to go wherever we want. We can have mountain views one day or ocean front the next. Another big reason we chose this lifestyle was to have the freedom to spend more time with our family. We are currently in New England for the summer, which is where we both grew up. We have been able to see and spend time with our families like we haven't been able to in years.
Before, when we were paying rent, we felt like we were just throwing money away now we feel like we’ve built an investment without having to pay a mortgage or property taxes. The build definitely wasn't easy and we had to learn some new skills. Ethan has a background in construction but building a van is very different than building a house. We spent hours researching and watching youtube videos. But it was all worth it to have the freedom we have now.
"Too often we hear people who look at our van and say “I would love to do that but I just don’t have the time or money”. It’s just frustrating when people say things like that because we didn’t either."
One of our favorite moments was our first few days of vanlife. We were in Charleston, SC and had spent the day parked right up on Folly Beach and then drove into town and pulled up to an amazing spot right on the waterfront. We put up our window covers, made dinner and had a nice bourbon to celebrate finally being on the road. We were watching a movie and looked at each and laughed because we forgot we were parked on the side of a street, we just felt so enclosed in our little tiny home. It was one of our first mornings waking up by the water, and as I was skateboarding along the waterfront it finally hit me that we really get to live this amazing life. We had coffee at a local shop and explored Charleston.
Being in Maine this summer has been truly magical. We haven’t been able to spend time with family like this in years. We’ve explored Acadia National Park, lots of fun nights in Portland, have had many beach days, and have even taken our van on a ferry over to an island.
Tell us about the biggest challenges and downsides to the Van lifestyle?
Like anything there are pros and cons. It’s hard for us to focus on any cons though because to us they are just different types of “chores” than you would have living in a house. So one example would be things like emptying our compost toilet and being more aware of our water usage.
Another thing is finding a camp spot for the night, for us we just consider it another daily chore but there have been times where it can be stressful. We usually will always research spots in advance. There was one time in North Carolina where we found this really cool camp spot online but there was nothing in the notes about how hard this spot was to get to - let’s just say it was definitely for an overlanding type of vehicle and not for a big van like ours. We were driving up this super sketchy mountain road and were skidding out and we had to push through it just to get to a spot where we could turn around. It just wasn't worth it. We’ve taken our van down some pretty crazy roads and we know what it can handle. But those situations definitely give us anxiety.
But the pros far outweigh the cons. We wouldn't even consider these things cons because we love this lifestyle so much.
How do you find a sense of community when you’re always moving? How do you maintain and build relationships on the road?
A big reason we wanted to do vanlife is so that we could always be together, doing what we love. Our lives were getting to a point where we were both working all the time and barely saw each other. We missed the days when we were able to travel more and go on long roadtrips. We could barely afford to take time off because of rent and bills that we were working 2 jobs each. We just got sick of it and said how much longer can we “work to live,” bought the van, and never looked back. Now we are making so many memories spending time together, we feel this is the way it should be, at least for us.
We’ve only been living on the road for 2 months now, and have visited family and friends along the way. Vanlife has actually given us the ability to spend quality time with friends and family. It is another big reason we chose this lifestyle. We have also made many friends in the vanlife community along the way. We have made friends at vanlife rallies, on the road and on have made many friends on instagram. The community in general is so amazing and I think it definitely helps with keeping that connection on the road, especially people that are living the same lifestyle as you.
How do you support yourself financially?
We have savings that we have been living off of the past few months we’ve been on the road. We work seasonal jobs but our goal is to get to a point where we can work 100% remotely and the ultimate goal is to create passive income.
We also make a small amount through our website thehuntersvanlife.com, through our Amazon links and other affiliate partners. I (Katelynn) am a coffee roaster by trade, we just installed my new coffee roaster in the van this week actually, so I can now take my craft with me on the road. Ethan is a musician and is working on some new music right now that’s more of a surf-rock vibe. The goal is to keep growing in affiliate marketing so we can spend more time traveling, on the road and pursuing our passions in music and coffee.
What is your one piece of advice for people who want to do what you do?
If we could give any advice to someone wanting to live this lifestyle it would be to figure out what you need to do in order to make it happen and just do it. Too often we hear people who look at our van and say “I would love to do that but I just don’t have the time or money”. It’s just frustrating when people say things like that because we didn’t either. We were broke and we worked our butts off to be able to do this. But we knew vanlife was for us and we did whatever we had to do to make it happen.
What have been the most influential and helpful books, podcasts, blogs, websites or other resources?
During our van build, we watched SO many youtube videos and did a ton of research. We used websites like FarOutRide.com for help with electrical and running gas lines. And of course youtubers like Trent and Allie or Sara and Alex James.
Some of our favorite essential vanlife apps are: iOverlander, Harvest Hosts, freecampsites.net, and Alltrails for hiking.
Some podcasts/books we love are The Minimalists and we’re currently listening to The 4 Hour Workweek on Audible and love it!
What does the future look like?
Our plan is to be in New England for the rest of summer (at least until it starts getting too cold) and then head south or west to warmer weather. Our plan was to head to Baja, Mexico for part of the winter but with the state of the world right now and borders being closed that is up in the air.
Right now we are playing around with the idea of doing our first client van build and Katelynn is in the process of starting her own coffee roasting business - follow us on instagram to stay up to date on that!
Vanlife has allowed us to truly be hopeful for the future, there are so many opportunities and the future seems so bright. At this point in our lives we can’t imagine living any other way. We have thought about boat life in the future, or buying land in central or south america. But for now, I think we’ll continue to live this lifestyle until we don’t feel like we want to anymore, if that day ever comes.
Is there anything that you need that you can’t find or anything you are seeking help with?
We pretty much do everything ourselves haha but we’re in the process of starting a new coffee business and could use help with brand/logo design. Any advice in growing our website and in affiliate marketing would be helpful. Also, If you are interested in hiring us for a van build please reach out! We are looking to take on a client build late fall/winter.
Rapid fire questions
What are the top 3 Van essentials that you couldn’t live without?
- Nature’s Head toilet
- All of our coffee gear
Top 3 favorite places you’ve visited?
- Acadia National Park or all of Maine in general haha
Where are you now?
We’re currently traveling around New England
How long do you usually stay in one place?
A few days to a week or however long we feel.
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 8 weeks
What kind of vehicle/rv/trailer/setup do you have?
2018 Ram Promaster 3500 159’ Ext.
Where can we go to keep up with you and your adventures?