Living and working full time on the road comes with its own unique set of thrills and challenges. After three years traveling the country in their home-on-wheels and doing field marketing for brands including Goal Zero, Ian and Lisa share their story with us.
What kind of van do you have and how long have you been living in it?
We have a 2006 Chevy Express 2500 named Mr. Daisy. We set sail in September of 2014 and have put over 80,000 miles on the van over the course of three years, traveling everywhere from Squamish, British Columbia to Clearwater, Florida, to Joshua Tree, California.
How did you meet and decide to pursue van life?
It was a breezy summer afternoon at a picnic table outside of the workplace. Two adventurers sat across from one another, locked gazes, and forbidden love permeated the air. Kindred spirits they were, with lofty goals of forfeiting their worldly possessions to live slightly above poverty level and explore the country in 72 square feet of steel magic. The purchase of an aging cargo van solidified the plan and the rest is history.
Talk to us about the name of your van. How did you come up with it?
Mr. Daisy was named on his/her maiden voyage from Boulder, CO to Joshua Tree, CA. Before we did any kind of build-out, we wanted to make sure that van was worthy of the long haul. So, we fabricated a makeshift bed and headed west. As we got a feel for the van, we thought it handled much like a cow would. A good name for a cow, we thought, is Daisy. Then, while motoring up the mountain passes, we noticed that newly named Daisy was starting to run a bit hot – as if her aging engine was experiencing “hot flashes.” Thus, we scientifically concluded that Miss Daisy was actually in transition to becoming Mr. Daisy, since his manly characteristics were pronounced but his feminine side could not be ignored.
What kind of work have you done while on the road?
Mr. Daisy Van became a business as soon as we hit the road. After working with the in-house side of the outdoor industry, we realized that a lot of brands were over-extended and short staffed. When it came to participating in events and field marketing opportunities, they wanted to get involved but often couldn’t because the logistics created too many challenges. We aimed to fix that for our partners and pledged to offer professional staffing, coverage, and follow up of the events that we attended. We expanded on that with content generation and “recon” for new opportunities and being as flexible as we were, could capitalize on new ideas and ways to activate for our partners throughout our travels. Our goal was to be on the road for a year, and three years later, we were still cruising.
Any challenges you faced? Favorite parts about the job?
Our favorite part about the job was all of the people we met along the way. It was fascinating to see the different backgrounds people came from and how everyone shared the same interests when coming to an event. It was constantly refreshing to feed off the enthusiasm of people who were discovering something new for the first time, whether that was rock climbing, trail running, or just being outdoors.
What’s a memorable moment/trip that you have had in your van?
There’s so many. Movie night at Hound Ears where Mr. Daisy Van hosted his first sleep over. Once on a cold afternoon in Joshua Tree, we had 13 people pile into the van to get cozy and warm. And of course, nacho nights. Lots and lots of nacho nights to feed hungry climbers all across the map.
Breakdowns are inevitable. What’s your strategy for when you run into van troubles?
We blew out two flywheels early on in our “advanture”. While this type of breakdown essentially renders the vehicle useless, we managed to limp into an auto shop for repairs with minimal drama on both occasions. The exciting part of Mr. Daisy Van is the unsuspecting death wobble that can occur at any time but seems most likely to occur when barreling down a steep mountain pass. In this scenario, apply minimal braking, as attempting to slow the vehicle to acceptable speeds only exacerbates the situation. Maintain directional control of the vehicle and hold on for a wild ride as the contents of the cabinets and stored items fly about the cabin. As the grade rolls out to level, activate hazard lights, pull off the highway into the shoulder, and begin unsuccessful troubleshooting of how and why things went wrong.
Everyone who resides in their vehicle has at least one sketchy van story. Can you share yours?
When you end up in a place you’re not sure you’re supposed to be, sleeping soundly can be challenging. We crashed in a parking lot one night, not 100% sure it was legal for us to be there, and were woken up at 5 am to the sound of a large diesel with its reverse horn beeping. We thought for sure we were getting towed away like a couple of sardines in a can, but when I peeked out the window to confirm, it was just the garbage man. This scenario has happened to us at least three times throughout our trip. That said, we’re pretty fortunate that this is the sketchiest story we have to tell. Unless of course you want to start talking about the death wobble…
How do you decide what is essential for van life and what is unnecessary?
If it fits, and doesn’t cramp your style, it’s necessary. If you haven’t touched it or seen it in a month, get rid of it. Unless it’s seasonal. Don’t throw away your puffy coats in the summertime. We also live by the “one in, one out” rule. If we buy a new shirt or new shoes, an old one has to go. This really helps put into perspective what you need vs. what you want.
How have you used Goal Zero products in your van?
Goal Zero products have been a critical part of our setup. We started out using two Boulder 90 panels to power our Yeti 1250, which in turn ran our small RV fridge, Goal Zero Light-a-Life Lights, and all of our electronics. When the Yeti Lithiums were introduced, we swapped out the Yeti 1250 for a Yeti Lithium 1000 but kept the original Boulder 90 panels because, well, they’re bomb-proof.
Walk us through your build out and installing power.
Installing Goal Zero products is about as easy as eating apple pie. It really is plug and play. We had to consider drilling a hole in the roof of the van, which was scary, but we ended up mounting our solar panels on cross rails and thus minimized the amount of drilling required. We designed our “kitchen” so that our Yeti power station would have a home and we strung Light-A-Life lights behind the framework in order to minimize the amount of visible wires. If/when we get tired of the setup, we can simply rearrange it and have an entirely new look.
What does a daily routine look like for you?
One of the biggest challenges of living the “van life” is that there really never is a routine. You can potentially wake up in a new place every morning and have an entirely new setting to adapt to outside your door. As strange as this may sound, you really have to stay motivated about seeking out new adventures. It can be exhausting for some people to have no regularity. We were fortunate in that luck stayed on our side with respect to repairs and maintenance for the van, and we have so many amazing friends and family across the country for support. We felt at home everywhere we went and rarely was there a day when we couldn’t find something to do or somewhere to be.
What does your future hold?
We have settled into a temporary living situation here in Las Vegas for the time being. We’ll still be living out of our van on road trips, but they’ll be spaced out a bit more as we go back to school to brush up on some learning. Our partnerships in the outdoor industry remain strong and we look forward to working with brands like Goal Zero as Mr. Daisy continues to push onward into his golden years.
Any words of wisdom to pass along?
If you’re thinking about trying out van life, do it! Whether you plan a one-week road trip or go all in and sell your furniture and TV, you will have the experience of a lifetime. You’ll do new stuff, see new places, learn new things, meet new faces. You’ll be scared at times, you might get lost, you’ll find new roads you’ve never crossed. You’ll see the world in a brand new way, and you’ll appreciate every brand new day.