Hello Noami and Dustin!
For the people who don’t know you, tell us a little bit about the story behind you.
Noami is from the island of Trinidad and has always had a nomadic heart. She moved to the US at the age of 17 and traveled around until she found New Orleans. Dustin is from a small town in south Louisiana. We met at an LSU football tailgate while we were both in college. We’ve been married for three years and have lived in New Orleans for five. Last year we decided to embrace a nomadic lifestyle and pursue the things that make us come alive.
How was your life before van life and how is it now?
Our life before van life was pretty redundant. We had full-time 9-5 jobs, spent the weekends partying with friends, and used our two weeks of vacation each year visiting family. While we did enjoy our lives, it was unfulfilling.
Now we have the time to pursue the things that are important to us. We have the freedom to travel, to connect with like-minded individuals, and most importantly, we’re not sitting around wondering “what if.”
What does van life mean to you and why did you choose this lifestyle over your previous life?
Van life means freedom to choose. It’s an opportunity to challenge ourselves and each other. It allows us to experience new things, people, places, cultures. Through van life we are able to learn and develop new skills that we wouldn’t have if we didn’t choose this lifestyle. Van life brings us clarity and puts life in perspective. We chose van life over our previous life because we wanted to travel, but it has become so much more than that. It has forced us to simplify our lives and focus on what is truly important to us.
What do you miss the most when you are on the road?
We miss having a hot shower and toilet to use whenever we need. Noami misses having a full kitchen and the luxury of preparing extravagant meals. We also miss boiled crawfish.
How did you realize that it was possible live in that way against the common life path? Was it difficult to take the plunge?
We’ve always been the kind of people to go against the grain, to follow our hearts and instincts rather than giving in to societal norms. And for us van life was a calling, something we fantasized about ever since we met. Before van life we took several extended road trips and realized we are resourceful enough to make it work. Taking the plunge into van life was easy because we knew it was right for us. We planned our work and worked our plan. The difficult part was accepting that not all of our loved ones understood.
Is it worth it?
Yes. It’s not a glamorous lifestyle by any means and it’s definitely not for everyone. But for us it’s absolutely worth it. We are having the best times of our lives. We are in constant motion, challenging ourselves daily, pushing our limits, and living our dreams.
How do you afford it?
Dustin works as a construction estimator. We have been fortunate enough that his job allows him to work remotely. Noami has been resourceful enough to find gigs on the road in small towns along the way.
Tell us a little bit about your van, what is the story behind it?
Our van is a 1985 VW Westfalia called Irie. When we decided to take the plunge into van life we gave ourselves three months to get our affairs in order, find and ready a van, and hit the road. We searched for months and every van we found lived on the west coast, and none seemed right for us. Still, we had faith we would find one in time. And guess what? One popped up right in our backyard in Mobile, AL, just 2 hours from NOLA. It was this tan beauty called Walden. Online she seemed perfect. She was equipped with a solar panel, a marine fridge, a working sink and stove, ready for life on the road. When we finally saw her, we knew she was the one. She had loads of character, some scratches and dings, and naturally some rust spots. Most importantly, she ran like a champ at a blazing 60 mph. Looking back, we know we made the right choice. She’s become part of our family.
How would you describe a normal day in your life now?
A typical day in our van life goes like this: First person up makes coffee and this is usually Noami, she’s an early bird and loves watching the sunrise. Then we’ll make breakfast and plan our day, which typically consists of an outdoor adventure or internet hunting, our other job. Our day is planned with an idea of where we’ll spend our night, mostly we seek out places with an epic sunset or sunrise.
What are the best moments you have lived in this adventure?
Some of the best moments of our adventure include chasing sunset in Lamar Valley in Yellowstone, climbing our first fourteener in Colorado, finally connecting with other van lifers after six months on the road at Descend on Bend and making lifelong friends with like-minded individuals. Also, driving down to Baja after fixing our van in a blizzard to meet said friends. Maybe the best was fixing our van ourselves, in a blizzard, after she blew a head gasket and realizing how capable and resilient we are.
What are the worst moments you have had to face?
Fixing our van in a blizzard after she blew a head gasket.
How long have you been living on the road?
We have been on the road for ten months. In April we will celebrate one year on the road.
What’s next? Short term, mid-term, long term.
We’re not sure what’s next, but we would like to sustain our lifestyle for as long as Irie will roll and our bodies will let us.
What advice would you give to the people who are doubting to take this huge step?
Don’t allow the fear of uncertainty and the voices of society to hold you back from what you truly desire. The first mile is the hardest, but things will fall into place as they should. Surround yourself with people who are like-minded and supportive. Trust your instincts because they already know what you truly want.
Where can we follow you and learn more from you?
PRACTICAL STUFF: How do you deal with the next things? Can you give us a couple of tips?
Living in a tiny space has been an adjustment, and we are constantly playing the game of needs vs. wants. We reorganize almost daily based on activities of the day/week, weather, etc. One thing about living in a tiny space is that you earn it; whether it’s the comfy pair of socks in the back of the closet or the piece of necessary gear stuck at the bottom of the rooftop box, you earn it. Also, we spend a lot of time outdoors (I mean, have you seen the size of our backyard?) so that helps when one of us needs the van or some “personal space”. Most importantly we’ve learned to let things go.
Eat on the road. Stay healthy.
We rarely eat out except on special occasions. We cook daily and shop locally in whatever city or small town we visit – farmer’s markets, local grocery stores, even directly from farms. We try to keep our meals simple and fresh – healthy grains, beans, lots of veggies. Meat we purchase only when we’re cooking it the same day, probably once a week or when its easily available and clean. We refrain from anything processed. On days when we’re driving long distances we plan accordingly so that we don’t end up at a drive through window. We keep satisfying snacks readily available like avocados, bananas, kombucha which Noami sometimes brews in the van, boiled eggs, nuts and seeds, cheese and hearty breads and crackers. We’re proud to say we have yet to eat fast food or gas station food on the road. Thankfully we broke that habit years before van life. We don’t spend a lot of time in big cities where we tend to eat out a lot and spend more money.
We remain on a healthy regimen of whole-food based multi-vitamins and probiotics and we both try to stay as physically active as possible. When not backpacking or kayaking, we run or practice yoga. Van life is challenging so we try to put the health of our mind, body, and soul at the forefront.
Shower and hygiene on the road.
Showers has been surprisingly easy to acquire. When we’re out in remote places we jump into lakes, rivers, waterfalls which are usually cold but rejuvenating. We carry a 5-gallon solar shower in the van and we’ve used it in desperate times like Utah in mid-summer during a heat wave. Most truck stops offer clean, hot showers which we have certainly taken advantage of. Some campgrounds provide showers for a small fee, as do rec centers, gyms, and some laundromats. We’ve even scored free showers at fairgrounds in various parts of the country. And never underestimate the graciousness of strangers; we’ve met many people on our journey who’ve invited us to their home for a hot shower and a meal, sometimes even a bed to crash in for the night.
Find a good place to spend the night.
Where we camp depends on where we are and how long we plan to stay. When we’re looking for a nice place to camp where we can stretch out for a few days we look for a National Forest or BLM land, which is pretty easy to find on the west coast. We stay out of cities for the most part, but when we find ourselves in one we look for a Walmart parking lot where they allow overnight camping in your vehicle or camper. Some sporting goods stores like Cabela’s also allow overnight parking. Occasionally we’ll meet a nice person interested in our story who will allow us to camp in their driveway. When we’re driving for a long stretch and just need a place to land for the night, we’ll stealth camp on a well-lit residential street and leave at dawn. iOverlander and freecampsites.net are good resources for finding safe places to camp.
Relationships with family and friends.
When we immerge from several days off grid we spend a lot of time at coffee shops or libraries, skyping, emailing, making phone calls and texting, catching up with loved ones. We recently spent a few weeks in Baja where wifi was scarce, so this was done in one full day when we were digitally connected.
Most important and useful things you can’t live without on the road.
Noami: camera, spices, travel bidet, wine, Nat Geo magazines, and avocados.
Dustin: baby wipes, coffee, books, cold local brews.
Travel routine, how much time do you spend in the same place?
It depends on the place and how much it peaks our interest. For instance, we spent two weeks, by chance, in a small town in Colorado where we stopped in for a beer and wifi, we made friends and Noami got a gig. When we visited Yellowstone NP we spent one month because well… Yellowstone. Mostly we try to take it slow and fully experience where we are.
What are your favorite and most van friendly places you have been?
Baja, Mexico is probably the most van friendly place we’ve been and our favorite. In the US – Colorado, Montana, any remote area with a National Forest but these are our favorites.
Where do you look for van life ideas, resources, inspiration, help?
We seek help and inspiration from the wonderful van life community through blogs, Instagram, Facebook, and thesamba.com.