Living The Dream
"You're living the dream!" is a common reply that Edwige and I get when discussing our lifestyle with other people. Yes, we're living a dream of ours to travel the country photographing amazing places. We spend warm winter days with views of mountains and long summer days breathing clean air by the world’s largest fresh water lake. We experience this all from the comfort of our... minivan.
We began living this life in late 2013 after we decided to move out of our apartment and move into a vintage Dodge Travco motorhome. We gathered up our possessions, our fine art photography and headed to Florida to participate in the winter art fair circuit. Once we got off the interstate we discovered the challenge of trying to find decent locations to park our rig overnight. State Parks were typically booked, private RV parks were too expensive and Walmart Parking lots were sometimes dangerous.
Overall our winter in Florida was a positive experience and in the spring of 2014, we limped back to Minnesota (literally) as our Travco had five of it's eight valves burnt out. Apparently, the "rebuilt" engine - which was such a great selling point when we bought the Travco - didn't include rebuilt valves. This meant the vintage engine required a lead additive put in the gasoline to help lubricate the valves... which hadn't happened over the 4,000+ miles we drove the motorhome.
At an average top speed of 40mph we reached Northern Minnesota where we traded life on the art fair circuit for life as volunteer camp hosts at a State Park. We lived out of our motorhome until October of 2014 and then sold it to a friend who owns a small RV campground along the North Shore. Our Dodge Travco had seen its last palm tree!
The Travco was truly a great home for us but at 27 feet long, weighing over 10,000 lbs and getting only 6 miles per gallon, it wasn't a great vehicle for full-time living, even with healthy valves. Desiring something more cost-effective and considerably smaller we ended up purchasing a 3-season wall tent that would serve as a base camp and we outfitted our minivan as a micro living space.
This worked very well for us while we were stationed in Northern Minnesota over the spring, summer and autumn months. In the winter of 2016 we transferred to Southern California and began volunteering in Death Valley National Park. Our wall tent was erected but didn't fare well in the extreme conditions of the desert. As a result, we ended up moving into our minivan and found it to be quite comfortable, smaller than what we might prefer but it was more than adequate to shelter us from the elements.
We mounted a solar panel on the roof of our van and installed a 400-watt inverter to provide us with power when we're off the grid. We also equipped the van with highly efficient LED lighting and use small USB fans to help control temperatures. Very simple but effective housing!
Our dream was never to just live out of a van. Whatever our shelter may be at this time, it is only a small part of what we call home. We can truly say that our homes have been Death Valley, Joshua Tree, Gooseberry Falls, Saint Augustine and countless other places where we have spent months at a time. Volunteering our photography and skills to causes we care about, reducing our carbon footprint while living in beautiful and unique places has become our dream life!