Eva and Victor from Foreign Natives left their lovely city of Barcelona to look for work on the American West Coast and eventually end up moving into their Dodge Ram! We’ve found them because of the #vanlife beautiful paintings Eva is doing. Read their really fun story and learn about a few things they were kind enough to share with us.
1. You left Barcelona for the American West Coast, what attracted you to come to America?
We were really happy in Barcelona, with our jobs, our cute flat in the city, our friends and our families. We know that Barcelona is the city where we will return after exploring new experiences out of our comfort zone and out of our country. We decided to go to San Francisco because Victor is a software developer and I’m a designer, so it seemed the right place professionally, where we would have a lot of new opportunities. We’ve been living in San Francisco for a year and a half, both working for Internet startups. Our jobs were pretty flexible, allowing us to work from home and traveling around California. But we still felt pretty tied to our offices and although we had never experienced the van life before, it was something that was always on our minds. So after a year and a half living in San Francisco, we decided to try another kind of life—one where we could take better control of our lives.
2. Do you live full-time in your van ? Did you convert it yourself ?
We are living full-time in our van since we left San Francisco. It is a Dodge Ram Van 1500 from 2003, and we converted it ourselves. The owner was a carpet cleaner who wanted to get rid of it, so we were really lucky. It was a very good deal considering its good condition and low mileage. It took us 8 months to build our tiny house. It was a hard work, but worth it.
3. Have you met Victor in Spain ? What have you been working on lately?
I met Victor in Barcelona. We know each other from highschool and we moved together to San Francisco. We have been traveling around the US and Canada since June, and we are now heading to Mexico. We are looking forward to explore this new country, with a different culture. We are currently working on different projects: Victor is a programmer and he is currently working on different personal projects and doing some freelance work as well. He also runs a lot, he is a competitive mountain and ultra runner and most of his free time is spent in the mountain or surfing in the ocean.
I’m a graphic designer and I’m still working part-time for a startup in San Francisco while working on other personal projects. During the last 6 months I’ve been painting with gouache a set of vans that could express the variety of what we find on our way: vans, cars, trucks, RVs, trailers, buses, etc. The final product is a 2016 calendar, with one illustration for each month. Everything handmade, even the typography! I already sold all my calendar copies, but you can still purchase one of the original paintings on my Etsy store. You can also order your own van, I’ll paint it beautiful! 🙂
4. What did you learn from the van life so far?
We’ve learned a lot! We’ve realized you can live with really limited things—just the most essential things. We started with a van full of stuff, and every week we just throw away or give away some of our belongings—clothes and books—trying to just carry as few things as possible. We also changed our life perspective. We are now more flexible, totally open to new adventures, and the best thing: we are the owners of our lives. Something we are learning everyday is getting to know different people, different lifestyles and cultures. The idea of life is different in Barcelona, Berlin or San Francisco, and even just going to other places like Bend, Oregon can give you a new perspective of what is our ideal life. We try to learn as much as we can from all of these experiences so we can use it to build our own idea of life.
5. What is the favorite place you’ve visited so far ?
Without doubt, Utah! Amazing natural landscapes! We didn’t know that nature was able to create such beautiful and unique landscapes. We also really enjoyed northern California, taking the Highway 1 from San Francisco up to Humboldt State Park. The road is simply beautiful, and it’s easy to sleep anywhere along the road and wake up the next day alone in front of the ocean with great waves. We were also really surprised by Oregon. It’s has beautiful land, with oceans, mountains, good beer and great people.
6. What’s the weirdest thing that happened to you on the road?
Well, I’m gonna tell the most dramatic experience that we ever had… On June, we climbed Mount Shasta (California), a 14,180 ft volcano, it was amazing. The climb was hard, intense and rewarding. But the sky was totally blue, not a single cloud, and the mountain completely snowed. But Victor forgot his sunglasses that morning and got his eyes burnt (he went snow blind) and I got all the skin around my nose burnt very badly too. I think we had the worst week that we ever had in our life. We had just moved into the van that week, and we were still trying to get used to living in a such small space, Victor was 80% blind, and I was having a really in pain. It was really hard to deal with our physical state, our pain and all the limited conditions that a van can offer.
7. What is your 3 most useful items you always bring on the road?
Installing an auxiliary battery to run electricity and enjoying a cold fridge and good lighting is obviously one of the top essential items. But the truth is that our electrical system broke down soon after we left, so we’ve been struggling with it using ice. Need to fix it. I think a solar panel would be better. Something we can’t live without is the Bose Soundlink bluetooth speaker. It’s so small, the battery runs long and the sound is SO good for it’s size. We carry music wherever we go. We even had a vinyl record player, but we had to take it away cause it was taking too much space.
8. Give us a useful tip for successful boon docking?
When we started traveling with our van, we wanted to sleep in the most beautiful places every day, and we were spending so much time trying to find the ideal spot. You can do that for a weekend trip, but when you are doing it everyday it’s much better to just stay at the first place you spot. A couple tips are: keep your eyes open even when you are not looking for a spot. Whenever we enter a new area we mark the good boon docking spots so we can go back there when the night comes. Also, using Google maps in satellite mode is a great tool for it. Also, because our van is all white, it makes it less obvious that there’s people sleeping in there, so we can be anywhere and go unnoticed.
9. Give us some a tip for a couple living in a tiny space ?
Sincerely, staying each other 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 30 days a month is the most challenging thing. I know it sounds funny, but trust me, it’s hard. It’s not because we are alone, just talking to each other all day. It’s because we miss people around us. Also, we decided that we would each go our own way once a week. So every Thursday, we wake up and we do our own projects. And then, at night, we meet again, so we can tell each other what we have been doing. And it works pretty well. We really recommend it. 🙂
10. What’s the worst thing about the van life ?
I’m still trying to get used to not having a shower every day, but little by little, we are finding new ways to clean ourselves. We mostly use campgrounds’ showers, but there’s also other kind of places where you can find a shower, such as laundries. After some problems, we started to clean by ourselves, with a big plastic container, full of water, where you can dip your hair and clean it. Victor usually runs everyday so he ends up just swimming in lakes or rivers when the weather is good.
11. Your top 3 favorite vanlife pictures ?
1. Victor seated on the van with a mountain: Jasper National Park, Canada
2. Me and Victor in the van: Redwoods National Park, California
3. Me with an awesome view: Crater Lake, Oregon
Follow Eva and Victor here !