Fools’ Gold: Tell us about yourself and what made you choose your current nomadic lifestyle?
Lindsey: My name is Lindsey, and I’m from Minnesota. About six years ago, I decided I wanted to try living out of a van and traveling, but then lost the idea in the craziness of everyday life. Ever since I can remember, I have loved the idea of traveling and have been lucky enough to do it often. Some of the places I’ve traveled include: Costa Rica, Thailand, Taiwan, Mexico, New Orleans, Florida, and many other US states. Once the world flipped in March, I kept going back to the van dream. Not knowing when I could catch my next international flight, I decided I would build a van out and travel that way.
F’G: Introduce us to your home.
L: My home is a 1998 Ford Ecoline 150. She’s got two names… Silver Lining and Gray Duck. When I bought it, it was gutted without anything in it. I first added flooring with insulation under it. The walls and ceiling are insulated also. I tried to use anything I could second-hand. That included my whole kitchen setup, some of the wood used, and the linoleum. I would say about 50% of the whole build-out was bought or given as second-hand. This made my environmental impact a lot less! I painted the walls a redwood color because they are my favorite trees. I also strategically chose decorations based on gifts from family and friends who I wanted to take along for the journey. I used an electric bread cutter to cut my 7 inch foam mattress to fit. The final touches of decorations were a moment worth all of the blood, sweat, and tears involved in the build-out (yes, all three were involved multiple times). It was a chaotic mess for a while, but it feels like home now. I’m happy to be sharing the experience.
F’G: How long and to where have you been traveling?
L: I have been living in my van for about 7 weeks. I had an organic farm work opportunity out near my brother in Northern California. So far, I have spent time in Denver + Steamboat Colorado, Park City + Ashland Oregon, and Arcata + San Francisco California.
F’G: Being from the central part of the US, what made you head West?
L: My brother actually moved out here a few years ago. I’ve been out here three times before this journey. Anytime I visited, I felt it was a place that was supposed to be home for a while. I didn’t know where in the West I wanted to end up, which was another big push for the van life.
F’G: What is a day in the life for you right now?
L: A day in my life is never the same. Some days I am waking up to do farm work, other days I am waking up next to the beach, and some days I just lay in my van all day because I’m exhausted. I do go on a lot more adventures outdoors. Coffee is always first, though. It’s probably the only consistency I have these days.
F’G: Pros/cons of living this way?
L: I would say the pros definitely outweigh the cons. The pros of living off grid is having less negative effect on the environment. I am completely powered by the sun, other than my gas for driving and cooking. I also have the freedom to be outdoors and see new places at any time. I also think knowing how little I need to be happy has been one of the best lessons so far. The cons would be not having a big space to live in. Although, I have learned to live much simpler and realized what I actually need to survive. I miss Netflix and couches though.
F’G: You’re traveling with a pet companion—does that make things easier? More difficult? More secure?
L: Traveling with my pet can be challenging when I need to go to the store or something like that. I installed a very expensive fan for him; so, if he does have to wait in the car, he stays cool. The longest I would be comfortable leaving him is no more than 20 minutes. Having a pet along makes me do things that benefit my health more. I spend a lot of time outdoors and in nature. I feel a lot safer traveling alone by having him with me. He never used to be territorial, but he definitely is with our van! It brings me a sense of calm knowing that I have him as a scare tactic. All in all, I wouldn’t be doing this van-life without him because he makes it more secure.
F’G: How has the pandemic affected your travels?
L: The pandemic has affected me like every other person in this world. I would say living in a van is slightly easier with the pandemic. I am less likely to spend money on things such as restaurants and concert tickets, but rather drive to the scenic destinations. The only thing I’ve really noticed as a setback with the pandemic is access to bathrooms. Make sure you always park close to a bathroom you know is open, or buy a portable potty for your van (they are a real thing!)
F’G: Any advice for someone considering a traveling lifestyle?
L: The advice I have for someone considering a van life is do it only if you feel called to. Also, it doesn’t have to be an insanely expensive project. I was able to buy my van, completely build it out, as well as solar power it, for around $4,500-$5,500. This included my new alternator, battery and a few other fixes.
Northern California has been most friendly to van living. Basically, anywhere outside of cities are usually easiest to find spots for the night, as well as BLM land which stands for “Bureau of Land Management” – it is basically federal land you can camp on for free in one location for up to three weeks. It helps to not have any expectations and let things just come to you naturally. It’s a beautiful thing when new experiences happen by surprise. Just follow your heart, and I guarantee your mind will be more open to experiences and lessons along the way.
F’G: What has this lifestyle given you that a more “traditional” stationary lifestyle may not have provided?
L: I feel like this lifestyle has given me more freedom to connect with myself. I also feel it has brought me a sense of freedom that I had been longing for. However, that freedom can be lonely at times which is why self love is crucial for this lifestyle.
F’G: How long do you foresee yourself sustaining this lifestyle?
L: I am trying not to plan any set date. For me, I really enjoy it but I can definitely see myself wanting to root down somewhere again soon. I want to do this through next summer, if it’s possible to sustain that long. I am also open to staying a few places for longer periods of time, but I guess I won’t know until that time comes.
Feel free to follow my journey at @earthgroovinlinda on Instagram! 🚐