Have you ever thought about selling off all of your belongings, purchasing a sprinter van and living a life of freedom on the open road? Well, you’re not alone. It seems like “van life” is all the craze right now; and honestly, for good reason. However, there’s more than just fixing up a van and hitting the road. Van life has both its ups and downs; but best of all—it makes for some great stories. Heres the story of Lexi and Cody, two creative entrepreneurs who decided to live the van life.
TELL US ABOUT YOURSELVES
Our names are Lexi and Cody and we are two creative entrepreneurs that love traveling, the outdoors, and creating art together. We started a business together three years ago and went became full-time entrepreneurs last June after graduating college with a film and graphic design degree. Before our last term of college we decided to save our money, sell everything we own, and start a sprinter van conversion.
What made you two decide to sell off your belongings, purchase a sprinter and hit the road?
The reason why we decided to sell everything we own and opt for a simpler, more challenging lifestyle is because we have few wants in our life. To meet new people and travel all over the world; discover new things and get outdoors more often and to cut down our expenses and save for future projects we want to do. We decided that we could not do any of these things living in the same place. We love our friends and family and Portland, but we ultimately decided that in order to get where we wanted to be, we had to make some sacrifices. So we had to make a huge change in our life that kept us on our toes constantly. We love Portland, but it was too expensive and we couldn’t do all of the things we wanted to do because of the expenses we had. Plus, it’s easy to get comfortable where you live. To do the same things every weekend, and to hang out with the same people. It is really easy to stay the same.
Had the two of you taken a road trip before? Or traveled prior to your trip?
When we first met six years ago, Cody was in the Army and stationed in Tennessee. Lexi was living in Portland working as a waitress and freelance photographer. We were long distance for two years, so our entire relationship was based off of traveling. Every couple months we would meet somewhere and always road trip and explore places. Our first date was driving up to Seattle together to visit the Space Needle. When Cody was finished with the military and ready to start college at Portland State University, Lexi bought a one way ticket to fly to Nashville and we both drove in Cody’s tiny convertible car all the way to Oregon. This trip was about two weeks long and we visited so many places. Ever since then, we had the idea in the back of our minds that we wanted to try van life. It wasn’t until we were finishing college that we said – “Let’s do it!”
How did you prepare for a life on the road?
We decided in January of 2016 that we would save our money, sell our belongings, and purchase a van before our lease was up at the end of May. We started to save all that we could and come april we sold our cars, and most of our stuff. We lived in an empty apartment for a few weeks. In May we purchased our 2016 Mercedes Sprinter Van. We put a down payment on the van and have monthly payments right now, much less than renting an apartment.
We graduated, and then packed all that we had left and drove to Chico, CA—here we would be staying rent free with family while we built our van. We figured it would take only a couple of months. The build was more expensive than we thought, and also took longer than we thought. A lot of the time spent was waiting for materials to ship to the house. We also had no idea how to do anything so we did have to redo things a few times until we got it right.
I think our best advice for preparing would be to save more than you think you’ll need. Make sure you have somewhere to stay that is dry while building it, and plan out everything you need to order ahead of time.
Did the two of you face any critics? If so, how did you overcome them?
We didn’t really have anyone that told us we shouldn’t. Most people knew us as adventurous people and they knew we were road tripping all of the time. Our family supported us a ton and told us we had a great idea. Some of our friends were upset that we were leaving them, and we wouldn’t be around to spend time with them every weekend. Some people didn’t believe us until we actually bought the van. Most people joked about us living in a van “down by the river.”
Living in a small space can seem a bit challenging. How have the two of you managed to pull this off?
Honestly, it’s not easy. Sometimes we can get frustrated with each other and we think about living in an apartment would be easier. But, we remind ourselves we aren’t doing this because it’s easy. We are doing this because it is challenging. As for small space, we each never really needed much, even when we had an apartment we didn’t have a lot of stuff. So that wasn’t really an issue.
We also know each other really well and know when we need space or time, so we leave each other alone and know how to deal with our quirks. We also just kind of work well together as people so being together a lot isn’t an issue.
How has your overall experience been so far?
It’s been hard. It’s hard to get used to. But we love it. Even when it’s hard, we still love our van and being able to go wherever we want. We love that we can get inspired by new places and have the ability to work with people from anywhere. We aren’t quitting anytime soon, and we really think it can only get better each day.
What have you learned from this journey?
One of the biggest lessons we’ve learned so far is that it’s really good to be prepared and plan ahead. When living in a van it’s easy to be spontaneous and do whatever you want, but it can be expensive to drive across four different states in one week. So planning ahead is good. Also, know how to get unstuck if you are stuck and to always keep a positive attitude even when it seems like things won’t ever go right.
What advice would you give someone who is dreaming of selling everything off and living a life on the road, even if it’s not long-term?
It’s not impossible and if you want to do something go all in. When we decided to live in a van, there was no doubt in our minds about it. We were 100% committed to doing it. We truly believe that being 95% committed isn’t enough. That last 5% of doubt is what can take away all of that commitment. So, if you are wanting to live the van life — just do it! Don’t listen to what other people say you should be doing. Don’t doubt that you can do it.
Also, get ready to get rid of stuff. Start using less water, taking less showers, and living with less in general. It will prepare you really well!
Favorite place visited so far?
Our top three favorite places so far have been Big Sur, Death Valley National Park and Sedona.
Mt. Shasta/Shasta Lake and Flagstaff, Arizona.
One of our favorite experiences was hiking in Death Valley National Park during a full moon! We decided to hike the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes during moonlight and it was one of the most magical experiences we have ever had so far.
Where to next?
We are currently in Sedona, Arizona and we love it! We are planning on staying here for a couple of weeks. It’s cold here but we know how to stay warm in our van. We recently wrote a blog post about it. After Sedona, we are heading up to the Grand Canyon and possibly Utah to meet some fellow van lifers.
Lastly, what does exploring mean to you? And why is it important?
Exploring and traveling in general (even if it’s only to nearby places) is so important because it helps the travel industries, it helps the economy in other places, and it helps people learn compassion and understanding for what goes on in the world. It helps you grow and discover who you are as a person. Which brings me to my next point.
“It gets more people aware of the world around them.”
The fact that so many people are interested in seeing the world; now more than ever, makes people more aware of what is going on. We can use social media and Instagram as a place to share and to spread ideas on how to be more compassionate human beings. On how we can help preserve these beautiful places, and how we can teach people to protect the environment and respect other cultures. If we stay in one place, we get stuck in a bubble.
To learn more about Lexi and Cody; or to view their professional work, make sure to visit their website State of Mind Studio. You can also check out their vlogs on Youtube and follow them on Instagram.