Hey, I'm Hilary!
Owner of this website and pursuer of van life dreams since November 2019. If you’ve ever asked yourself, “how do I even begin van life?” or “is van life actually cheap?”, know that you are not alone.
All of those factors overwhelmed me to the point of inaction for a couple of years. But once I took the first step and laid a safety net for myself, each step became easier and my confidence in trying van life began to grow.
I’m here to share budget-friendly ways to start van life without feeling like you’ve completely spent all of your savings and pigeon-holed yourself into the lifestyle. Because as someone who still wears the same volleyball club sweatshirts from her middle school days, I’m a master at combining comfort and budgeting.
From Corporate Life to Van Life
Like most young people fresh into their 20’s, I had no idea what I wanted from life. I had been raised thinking that corporate life was just what you did once entering into the “adult” world. So, that’s what I did. I have nothing against the ‘ol 9-5 corporate life and think it’s a great place to start. It can provide stable income which provides a level of financial freedom.
But after a year working as a digital marketer, I craved change. My travel bug was rearing its head. I had a younger brother out in Utah and decided to take two weeks off from my job to do a cross-country road trip, with Utah as the end destination.
But I arrived in Utah and I fell in love with it. The weather, spacious and clean public parks, gorgeous mountain ranges and its quaint city feels. My brother was working at a water park and I decided I was going to work there, too. I didn’t care if it wasn’t a good “career” move, I just wanted to be in Utah with some kind of income.
Turns out, Utah has a booming tech startup scene (called the “Silicon Slopes”). My uncle, who also lived in the area, connected me with a very small, new startup. Should I take a fun job at the water park or take a serious job at a tech startup?
I figured a stable income and benefits would help me feel more grounded with my cross-country move, so I ended up working for this startup. I stayed there for three years and am eternally grateful for the things I learned there–not just about every facet of marketing, but also about running a business.
And then, true to the nature of startups, our whole marketing team was laid off. In truth, I was ready for a break. I learned so much but my brain hurt and I was tired of constantly feeling in over my head. So I set off to find a corporate job at a bigger company with more stability and a more defined role. And that’s exactly what I found…
I lasted two years before knowing this wasn’t something I could do long-term. I felt like a cog in the wheel; uninspired and unrecognized for my contributions. I made a promise to myself to leave the job after my two-year marker.
But as that deadline approached, I floundered with what I wanted next. Working remotely was appealing–and even better–being my own boss. And the ultimate dream–being my own boss, work remotely, and travel wherever my heart desired. But making the jump to freelancer life scared me. No benefits? Health insurance? Stable income? How did I even file taxes as a freelancer?
And then my body decided to step in and stop letting my mind run the show. I started having anxiety attacks at work. Particularly on Monday mornings when I knew I had a full week of work ahead of me.
One night, I went to see a movie by one of my favorite directors, Quentin Tarantino. During an intense scene I ended up running out of the theater because it caused a panic attack. That’s when I knew I had to make a change, fast–I wasn’t going to let anxiety run my life.
Within the next month, I realized van life was exactly what I wanted to pursue. Not only would it give me the freedom to travel wherever I wanted, but it’d help me make the leap to freelance work. I quit my job, found an inexpensive van that fit my needs, and began the five-month project of building it out with my dad. Along the way, I reached out to old connections and picked up some freelance work.
It was as if all these things I was afraid of doing were now seamlessly falling into place. I swear, when you start following your dreams, the universe listens and helps you.
It’s now been almost three whopping years since leaving my job for van life. After almost two years of living on the road, I’m now renting out my van to share the joy of the lifestyle with others (and making some money back!). I still work remotely and there’s a chance a second van build could be down the road…*pun intended*.
They say van life is great for its simplicity, yet I find it provides so many opportunities I’m constantly being inspired to do something new.
I’m here to share my experiences to help anyone else who is ready to make a big leap. Whether it’s van life, remote work, travel, budgeting–I want to help!