Hello Lisa and Coleman!
For the people who don’t know you, tell us a little bit about the story behind you.
Lisa and I (Coleman) are writers. And by that I mean we’re the cofounders of Li et Co, which contains lietco.com, our lifestyle publication produced out of the back of our 1983 VW Westfalia; and lietcomedia.com, a boutique content house that provide editorial solutions for brands and publications.
How was your life before van life and how is it now?
Hella different! Well, the work is similar. We met in Toronto in the magazine industry where we worked as editors, and were able to carry our contacts and skills over to our nomadic lifestyle. But other than that, our lives are very different than they were before. In Toronto, we lived on the 24th floor of a downtown condo building overlooking the CN Tower and Lake Ontario. We attended lots of events, wore nice clothes, and traveled first class for work often. A Good Life. Now we live in a van. Another (but much different) Good Life. But we know that our time is the ultimate luxury, and we’re the sole owners and controllers of that now.
What does the van life mean to you and why did you choose this lifestyle over your previous life?
Our ability to work from anywhere is what prompted us to become #vandwellers. At first we’d planned to move somewhere hotter and cheaper than Toronto—maybe Central America—and work from a beach property. But Lisa has always fantasized about going on a great cross-continent road trip, so we started researching and found the vanlifers. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to join a community while at the same time leaving a community. The rest is history.
What do you miss the most when you are on the road?
Family and friends (pets included). When we do get to visit with them it’s great because we have a flexible schedule and can stay for a while, but we’re still away from most of the people we know and love most of the time. It’s always tough to say “goodbye,” even if you know it’s just “see you later.” One of our friends is looking after our cat—we miss him, too. Maybe he’ll come join us in the van next year…
How did you realize that it was possible live in that way against the common life path? Was it difficult to take the plunge?
Again, for us, it really was a professional awakening more than a spiritual one. We don’t look at our voyage as “quitting life,” more as signing up for it. It was very important that we’d be able to advance our careers at the same time as having an epic adventure. In Toronto, I’d meet all these people working for themselves as freelance whatevers online, and I thought, “hey, we could do that, and we could probably do it from anywhere.”
It was tough, but we planned a lot and went slowly. By the time we were ready to leave, we felt ready.
Is it worth it?
Fuck yes! Do it!
How do you afford it?
We work every day. From coffee shops, from public libraries, from anywhere there’s wifi basically.
Tell us a little bit about your van, what is the story behind it?
Our beast is a 1983 VW Westfalia that we picked up from a sweet 60-something woman in Quebec. The papers show its life back until the early 2000s when it then becomes a bit of a mystery (we like mystery). I like to think it grew up in California before some Canadian acquired it and brought it up to freeze. They actually spray the undersides of cars with oil in Quebec during the winter, which helps prevent rust. So, lost of oil and just a little rust. Runs like a champ! (Knock on wood.)
How would you describe a normal day in your life now?
When we’re in the van it’s like this: Wake up and pee (that’s right, no bathroom in the van). Sleep another hour. Wake up again. Eat breakfast. Answer emails. Head to coffee shop to work. Go to a park for lunch. Go back to another coffee shop or library and work some more. Go for a walk or run or something fun. Make dinner. Free time. Sleep. Repeat.
What are the best moments you have lived in this adventure?
Getting outside to explore wherever we are is always amazing, be it in the middle of a big city or in the middle of the desert. There have been some coastal runs (in Nova Scoatia and BC in Canada, and California in the US) that stick out. Blood pumping, ocean breeze in your face, the knowledge that tomorrow you can drive in either direction—it’s pretty awesome.
What are the worst moments you have had to face?
Navigation is definitely a source of conflict for us—typical couple issue, I think—but, honestly, the worst moments are also the best. The thing about freedom is that it can look and feel a lot like homelessness. Sometimes, when you’ve failed to plan properly, you’ll find yourself sitting hungry in some parking lot at sunset without a clue where to go for the evening. It’s easy to feel discouraged when you’re tired and hungry and clueless. The only cure is preparation.
How long have you been living on the road?
Since May 31, 2016.
What’s next? Short term, mid term, long term.
We have a few balls in the air right now in terms of business that will determine which direction we travel come spring, but we’re going to finish winter down here in the warmer US States—I’m writing this from Arizona. We know that 2017 is going to be another big year of big adventure, but we’re not positive where that is right now.
PRACTICAL STUFF. How do you deal with the next things? Can you give us a couple of tips?
There are all sorts of hacks and tricks, but the most important is this: own less stuff. Haha. You should’ve seen the mountain of shoes we donated before we left.
Eat on the road. Stay healthy.
Good question. You stay healthy the same way you do at home; by staying disciplined. We grocery shop often, and plan as best we can for meals. Eating out of the van is fun, though, because it’s like a picnic somewhere new every time.
Shower and hygiene on the road.
Nothing makes you feel less human than not showering for days in a row. Trust us. We have a little pump shower that breaks down to the size of a football and can fit a couple shower’s worth of water. We’ve used it a few times to clean ourselves, and often for dinner. Usually our showers come from hotels, campsites, or wherever we’re staying.
Find a good place to spend the night.
Freecampsites.net is your best friend. We’ve spent a bunch of nights in places we probably shouldn’t have been and haven’t been interrupted. It does take some getting used to, though. The first few times we “stealth camped” we didn’t sleep well because we kept waking up thinking people were coming.
Relationships with family and friends.
Ya, we miss them all. We have each other and do our best to stay in touch via social media, email and phone, but it’s definitely a sacrifice the nomadic have to make. Though, we have made many amazing friends on the road.
Most important and useful things you can’t live without on the road.
Our laptops. They’re our livelihood, and without them we’d be broke.
Travel routine, how much time do you spend in the same place?
We’ve found that we get the most out of the experience when we stay for more than just a day or two. First of all, packing up the van every day takes time, as does finding a new place to park and sleep. Getting to know a location and its people over a couple of weeks or a month is ideal for us, and it allows us plenty of time to work.
What are your favorite and most van friendly places you have been?
Arizona is awesome this time of year. And cheap! Gas is cheap. Groceries are cheap. Camping is cheap (or free). And the desert is cool and different for us. Vancouver and Vancouver Island were also great. The west coast culture (like California, Oregon, etc) is all about getting outside and enjoying the nature, which we dig.
Where do you look for van life ideas, resources, inspiration, help?
The van community is incredibly strong online and off. Online, there’s all sorts of blogs and sites and forums and social media channels, from sites like the one you’re on right now, to a super strong Vandwellers Reddit community (those guys and gals are smart). Offline, there’s meetups and festivals and the like. Embrace the community and it’ll embrace you back.
What advice would you give to the people who are doubting to give this huge step?
Plan. Set a work-back calendar. Give yourself a step-by-step plan on how you’re going to achieve your dream and make the steps small enough so they’re easier to achieve. Also, try what Tim Ferris calls fear setting, which you outline the worst case scenario and what could be done about it. It has a way of putting things in perspective.
Where can we follow you and learn more from you?