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For this episode, we’re exploring a slightly unusual question—why should you move into a van with your spouse?

And that’s our topic because Ted recently had a conversation with a couple who recently uprooted their lives and now live in a decked-out Sprinter van traveling all over the country. They’ve learned some important things about their marriage and we can all learn from their experience.

Links

Interview

Can you tell us how you met?

Chris: We met five years ago when we were both bicycling across America. We were biking from Seattle to New York City to raise money for refugees in Thailand. We fell in love—you know, because of all the spandex. We were team leaders and with all the other people there we didn’t want them to know there were feelings growing so we kept it a secret.

Sara: I was still living in Athens, GA and Chris was in Raleigh, NC. After I graduated, I moved up to Raleigh and we dated another year and then got married.

Why did you guys decide to elope instead of having a big wedding?

We wanted to move out west to Seattle, where we officially met. Both Sara and I like big parties and don’t like big parties at the same time. So eloping felt right to us. It felt intimate.

We climbed a mountain in our wedding clothes with a photographer. There’s a lake at the top of the mountain and we baptized each other there to start off the marriage. We missed having our families there but it was very us.

Can you tell us about your current living arrangements?

We live in a van, but not down by the river. We transitioned from living in a stationary apartment to an 80 square feet Mercedes Sprinter van. It looks like a FedEx truck on the outside. We do need to make it clear—it’s by choice, not by lack of work or something like that.

What made you guys decide to live in a van?

We’d been saving money for a while; some of it had been for wedding money. We’d been in Seattle for a while but had landlord issues and we weren’t buying there anytime soon. We’d been talking about doing this and we just bit the bullet and did it.

What about your personalities played into your decision?

Chris: We’re both adventurous and like trying new things. We weren’t ready to settle down and buy a house. From an Enneagram standpoint, Sara is a 7, the adventurous type. I’m a 9, which is the peacemaker. I think that compliments each other—she’s always pushing and it gets me out of my comfort zone.

Sara: And he keeps me level headed and makes sure we’re grounded.

How did you get rid of enough stuff to move into a van?

Chris: We moved before that Netflix show, Marie Kondo, came out. Everything we had brought us joy, for me at least. We went through and made a designated area of essential items. The rest we decided to sell and make some money.

Sara: We didn’t know how long the van thing was going to last, so some of our bigger items we put in storage. We also kept all of our books. If there was any tension, it’s because I’m a big collectible guy and we compromised on those things.

How are you continuing to work from the road?

Chris: A lot of savings ahead of time. But we also work full time from the road. I do a lot of branding and graphic design and have been able to work from anywhere. My work allows me to travel and the van just put that to the test.

Sara: Before we lived in a van, I was growing a photography business. It’s been hard in the van, but in some ways it’s allowed us to grow our business jointly. I’ve been using those skills to grow our YouTube channel.

Why did you decide to document your journey on YouTube?

We had been on the road a few months and we were at a campground at Disney World. An older couple was there who had a YouTube channel about following their dog around on their travels. If they had one, we needed one, too. We recorded our first episode that day, and now we’ve surpassed 2.5 million views.

What have been some of your favorite experiences?

We actually have a YouTube video going up today about our favorite experiences so far. This summer we drove up to Alaska and at the end we drove up to the Arctic Ocean. It was like 500 miles each way on a gravel road and we saw grizzlies. It was a really fun adventure.

In the town of Bellingham in Washington, the director of the downtown association reached out to us to offer a tour. We went out and had coffee with him and for the next three days he gave us a behind the scenes tour. Our impression of a town after we leave always comes down to how the people were. One place that stands out is that we really like the people in Maine—it was an awesome experience for us.

What has been peoples’ reaction when you tell them you live in a van?

Sara: I think we were more nervous about Chris’s family. My family took us van shopping when they found out.  But everyone has been really supportive and not that surprised.

How has this living situation impacted your marriage?

The thing about living in a van is you have really high highs and really low lows. Alaska for us was just awful. It was fun but for us relationally it was not great. When we were driving back and decided to go to the Arctic Ocean, it was the complete opposite. We’d never been more supportive of each other.

In Alaska, we had really high expectations because there’s a lot of hype around Alaska. The weather was rough and the mosquitos were out of control. It was all these little things adding up. We did enjoy the state but the produce from the grocery store would be rotten by the time we tried to eat it. It was all these elements adding up and it was tense—a combination of circumstances and expectations.

What principles have you learned no matter where you live?

There are other ways you can do cool things without having to live in a van. You can take it one step at a time. You both have to be on the same page no matter what the adventure is. It’s natural to have one person be more balanced, but if one of you is all in and the other is not, it’s not going to be healthy for your marriage. You guys are a team and that’s what it comes down to—playing as a team.

 Your one simple thing this week

Chris: Put down the phone (or whatever you’re working on) and make eye contact with your spouse while you’re talking.

Sara: Be intentional to seek new experiences together that only you can share.

Show Closing

This episode was brought to you by the Married People Membership—an affordable, monthly subscription that provides married couples like you a ton of great resources every month to help you do marriage better. That means new date nights, videos, eBooks, messages, and more available to you when you need it—all in one place at one low price. Go to our website to find out more about the Married People Membership.

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