Living The Van Life With Holiday At See
Dreaming of hitting the road and living the van life? But you're not exactly sure where to start? This is the story of Peter and Sruthi, a couple with a passion for exploring and the duo behind Holiday at See.
TELL US ABOUT YOURSELVES
Our names are Peter and Shruthi. We’ve spent the last year exploring North America while living and working out of our 1987 Westfalia Vanagon GL. Peter works in information security and Shruthi, digital marketing. We’ve been best friends for eleven years and our favorite food to eat together is pizza.
What made the two of you decide to hit the road in an ’87 Wesfalia Vanagon?
The van has been a part of our lives for over a decade now and we’ve always known that we wanted to make traveling together a part of our lifestyle. We had the opportunity to take our jobs on the road so we did!
Had the two of you taken a road trip before? Or traveled prior to your trip?
Prior to this trip, we created a tradition of doing one big trip together every year. We had our honeymoon in Germany and Austria, couchsurfed our way through the United Kingdom one summer and lots of road trips in between. The summer after we got married, we did a two-week road trip to Colorado in the van which was our first van life experience together. We loved it and vowed to one day do it for longer.
How did you prepare for a life on the road?
Lots of planning and lots of upgrades and maintenance on the van! We knew we wanted to hit the road for a few years before we actually did it. When it comes to money, we aren’t big spenders and try our best to put away money into a travel fund. We worked hard, didn’t buy what we didn’t need, and all the other things that go along with being frugal.
Time and itinerary are hard things to plan for. Nothing ever works out as planned and you may end up wanting to spend more or less time in a particular place. It also depends heavily on finances, obviously. When we started, we planned on about a year, maybe a year and a half. After a year when by we thought to ourselves “Man, that happened so fast. There’s still so much to see!” All in all it’s good to have an idea of how long you want to go for and a basic itinerary and then change it as you need to.
Vehicle-wise, prep work can be daunting. Sure, we could have just taken the van as it was and hit the road hoping for the best, and many people do. However, Peter is a planner and likes to be prepared, so he did a lot of upgrades and maintenance to the van before we hit the road. Now that we are going to South America, that is even more crucial, as parts for a Vanagon can be hard to come by. Despite all the planning, it’s always going to be the one thing you didn’t fix or bring a spare for that’s going to crap out on you and that’s just how it is. Just make sure you have a cold beer ready for when you’re on the side of the road wondering what to do next.
Did the two of you face any critics after telling people your idea of hitting the road for an extended period of time? If so, how did you overcome them?
We didn’t face any critics. Our friends and family are all amazing, supportive people and are thrilled for us! We are very lucky to have people like that in our lives. Every once in a while, there might be someone who gives us a weird look when we mention living on the road. It’s not for everyone but that’s totally okay with us.
Living in such a small space can seem a bit challenging, how have the two of you managed to pull this off?
As far as getting along with each other: lots of patience, communication and just plain old being nice and considerate to each other. It also helps to be outdoors as much as possible so that we can have our space and then meet back in the van in the evening for snuggle time. All in all it hasn’t been too hard, but sometimes we do find ourselves getting into arguments that seem pretty ridiculous (who ate the most gummy bears, peeing too close to the van, etc.) Bottom line: if you don’t get along great with someone at home, you’re DEFINITELY not going to get along with them in a van.
And then as far as not having a lot of storage space, we’ve gotten much better at only keeping what we need. Granted, we still have stuff we don’t need or rarely use, which is ironic, but we get better every day.
How has your overall experience been so far?
It has been life changing. Hitting the road was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made and we’re very blessed to have even had this as an option.
What have you learned from your journey?
We’ve learned how little we actually need to be happy and feel fulfilled.
What advice would you give to someone who is dreaming of living a life on the road, even if it’s just for a short period of time?
1) JUST DO IT. 2) Take the time to soak in every moment, good or bad. It all goes by so fast!
Favorite place visited so far?
We loved exploring Baja. There are loads of free beaches to camp on if you can get to them. The people, natural beauty and wildlife there had a lasting impact on us. Also, it’s hard to beat cheap tacos and margaritas on the beach every day, right?
There really haven’t been too many places we just plain didn’t like, but I’d say one of our least favorite spots was Eureka, CA. We just had a hard time finding good camping in/close to town (we were trying to get a few days of work in), and had a few encounters with crazy people. Now, the areas around Eureka were amazing, but we weren’t too thrilled with the town itself.
Our favorite experience is being under a sky full of stars with zero light pollution, zero reception and zero other people around. One of those times included camping on top of a hill in Montana and watching the Perseids meteor shower.
One time in Colorado the van lost power on a steep 4x4 road at 12,000 ft and then it started sleeting. We were pretty stressed out and were thinking we were going to have to spend the night heavily tilted on the side of the mountain. Luckily someone came by and helped us out. The very next day, we had a scary encounter with a Lynx and a mountain lion. Those were a rough couple of days, but they at least make for good stories!
Where to next?
Lastly, what does exploration mean to you and why is it important?
Exploration is getting out of your comfort zone and connecting with yourself. Choosing to push past your fears and leaning into them can do wonders for the soul.