This past summer, we reached out to van lifers Parker and Jenelle of @togetherweroam to ask them a few questions about planning adventures and keeping home cozy on the road.
You may recognize them and their adorable pup companion Emma (aka @emma.roams) from their stellar instagram posts that we’ve been featuring throughout this last year. Now is your chance to hear more about the logistics and lessons behind the extraordinary wanderlust-filled, photogenic excursions you’ve been seeing.
1. When did you guys start your van adventure?
We started in October of 2015. Traveling from our home state in New Jersey, through the south, down to Key West, across the Gulf coast into Mexico for a bit, before heading up the Pacific Coast Highway into Vancouver. All in all we took five and a half months to loop the country and gave ourselves five days to get back to New Jersey for wedding season.
2. What made you decide to start living out of the van?
Oddly enough the means of living in a van is more of a catalyst than a permanent choice. I (Parker) had been traveling internationally for a fair bit of time previous to this journey. During that time, I would always encounter individuals who were very curious about the states or had just come back from the states and were raving about how great my home turf was. That got me thinking about how I seemed to overlook how great my backyard was. I’d worked intensely to travel abroad and to see these foreign places while they were doing everything they could to see America. So I started planning a solo trip around the states. Visiting all the places I’d never thought to visit. Seeing what I was missing out on.
As fate would have it. When I came back to the states I met Jenelle, who had a very similar experience traveling internationally. I had just finished designing the interior of my van while the relationship Jenelle and I had started building was in full force, I couldn't pull the plug on this trip I was planning but couldn't imagine walking away from this budding relationship. So I invited Jenelle. Her only question was “can Emma come?” So we set out to see everything we’d ever wanted to see in the states. Ultimately looking for a place to park the van and to set up a life outside of our home state.
3. What sort of things have you learned about life through living on the road?
That it’s all for nought if you don’t embrace where you are at any given moment. Living the van life can be stressful and requires a surprising amount of planning and patience but it’s important to remind yourself that being in a different place every day or every couple days provides an amazing opportunity to connect with new people and see new amazing places.
4. Hard question I'm sure, but out of all the places you’ve been, which has been your favorite?
That’s the first question everyone asks! You’d think we have an answer lined up but we really don’t. Places like White Sands National Monument in New Mexico really caught us off guard. We had heard about it and looked up pictures online but when we arrived there, our jaws dropped. There’s really nothing to prepare you. Endless expanses of white sand dunes that go off to the horizon. Other places like Charleston, South Carolina and San Clemente, California left a strong mark. More so because the people really helped us out and seemed interested in what we were doing. They were places we could easily see ourselves driving the van back to.That being said, places like Montana and the Pacific Northwest as a whole will always have a special place in our hearts.
5. How did you guys make your van feel cozy and homey?
We decorated it like a house and payed no mind to weight concerns, haha. Drawing from past van experiences I knew exactly what I wanted when designing this one. I knew I wanted a super comfy bed and a lot of storage. Solar panels were a must and a little fridge was a necessity. I built the van out thinking logistically about how it was all going to work. Hardwood floors, for instance. They look good, sure, but they are 1000% easier to clean. I wanted six months in it, to not only, be comfortable but functional. When Jenelle came on board she didn't hesitate for a second putting a feminine touch on things. The curtains went from a super drab 1987 grey to yellow flower patterns. We quickly had warm string lights for nights in the van. All of the sudden it went from functional to homey. It’s been a group effort every step of the way since.
6. Do you like to plan out where you’re going ahead of time or is it more spontaneous when you decide your next destination?
I wish it was that simple. We do our best to plan and look ahead but you need to stay open. If an opportunity arises or a really cool situation seems to be coming together you need to be willing to set aside your plans and push things back a bit. Some places we planned on staying for a few days turned into two weeks. Other places we wanted to spend a lot of time lost their luster and we ended up somewhere else completely. A life on the road is not one that’s easily planned. Even if you have a solid itinerary, breakdowns or set backs are always possible. You can plan all you want but that doesn't necessarily mean you’ll get there when you want. It’s all part of the journey. Which is something that took me a surprising amount of time to accept.
7. What are some essential items that you must have on the road?
Baby wipes, camera gear, a few good books, tools, and, of course, our bedface sheets.
8. You also have a furry travel companion in Emma the dog, what’s it like travelling with her?
It’s been an amazing experience. Emma is the perfect travel dog. As long as she’s a part of the adventure she couldn’t be happier. She’s quiet on the longer drives but always ready to jump into action. There are times where having a dog makes things tricky. Restaurant stops and grocery stores runs need to be planned out so she’s not left in the car too long, especially on warm days. There are times we’ve had to avoid certain national parks or locations because she’s wasn't allowed, but the benefits of having her along far outweigh the times we’ve had to make minor plan changes or re-route. The travels really wouldn't be the same without her.
9. Finally, what bedface colors did you choose for your van?
A huge thank you to Jenelle and Parker for telling their story with such joy while capturing beautiful moments of home and away to share with us all. We wish them all the best on their future adventures. You can continue to follow their journey and look forward to their respective photographic work through the following instagram accounts.@emma.roams