This couple traded the comforts of a traditional home, for a life on the road in their custom-built van

No Place Like Home profiles people who swapped the conventionalities of modern living for nomadic, off the grid homes and lifestyles. Each episode looks at some of the most interesting places that people across the country call home — from vans to sailboats! 

Mike, an architect, and Jess, a biochemist, traded in their traditional home in Baltimore for a life on the road. The couple purchased a big enough van and added all the accoutrements and personalizations necessary to turn it into a functioning home.

Learn more about their nomadic lifestyle on this episode of No Place Like Home!

19 PHOTOS
This couple traded the comforts of a traditional home, for a life on the road in their custom-built van
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This couple traded the comforts of a traditional home, for a life on the road in their custom-built van
What sparks joy in your life? Minimalism isn’t about having nothing, it’s about have only what you need and love. And nothing makes me happier than being prepared for every outdoor adventure a girl could dream of!⁠ —⁠ #vanthere #adventurevan #adventuregear #geargarage #alwaysready #vanlife
I’m taking over @thevanlifeapp account today, so head over to that page and check out my posts and stories about why I started building the app and what my vision for it is. There’s even a fun Q&A happening right now in the stories! Hope you’ll join me! — #vanthere #thevanlifeapp #cofounder
Figuring out how to maximize living space while making room for the comforts of home can be a real challenge in a tiny space. We prioritized a workspace for two, a nice kitchen, a lofted bed to secure our adventure gear underneath, and of course room for a composting toilet. If you’re considering living tiny, figure out what your top priorities are and build around them. You can compromise on everything else, but once you figure out the must-haves in your tiny space, the rest will fall into place!⁠ Want more inspiration for how to get creative with your home design? Check out @liveabode for expert tips!⁠ —⁠ #liveabodepartner #vanthere #tinyhomedesign
Did you know we built our kitchen cabinets so I could access the snack drawer from the passenger seat? Keeping clean snacks within arm's reach is a must to curb #hanger on long drives. I recently found beef biltong by @stryvebiltong, which is like jerky, but better! High protein, full of flavor without all the bad stuff that comes with regular jerky. And I definitely ate the whole bag of spicy peri peri biltong in one go so I don't even have to put it back in the drawer 🙊Ordering more #stryvebiltong to an Amazon locker now! — #realvanlife #vanthere #sponsored
I like to think everyday of vanlife is a Friday: there’s a bit of work to get done, but you can clock out early and you’ll be able to sleep in tomorrow. What day of the week would you describe your #vanlife journey to be? — 📷: @lovegrace_imagery at @heringerestates with @california.wines — #vanthere #lifeontheroad #digitalnomad #friyay #fridayvibes
Today, 6 years ago, I was riding my bike home on a warm summer night when a handsome stranger passed me. He said hello, and we chatted, pedaling side by side. It turned out, he lived two blocks from me in Baltimore!⁠ From that moment on, we filled all of our weekends with adventure, until we realized there weren't enough weekends in a year to do all the things we love. So we got married and moved into a van so we could adventure together everyday!⁠ Now I tell all my single friends looking for love to just get a bike 🚲⁠ —⁠ Thanks for capturing a photo of us together that didn't require a tripod! @lovegrace_imagery @california.wines @pamelasproducts @heringerestates
Home sweet home 🚐✨⁠ We made a few upgrades recently that I haven't shared with you yet! Can you spy them?⁠ The first is we trimmed the width of the mattress to add the white storage box on the right, underneath the overhead cabinets. This is now home to our heavy blanket and dirty clothes - which seemed to just float around the van previously.⁠ The second is concrete countertops! Yes, we know it's not light, but it's easily customizable, cheap and durable. Plus, Mike has a lot of experience with this material as he poured all the countertops in our last brick and mortar house.⁠ The third update is the foot box under the table. After two years, the propane furnace previously in this location needed some repairs that required it to be removed, so instead we just decided to get rid of it and never have winter again! 😂Baja we're coming for you!⁠ —⁠ #vanthere #thevanlifeapp #vanlife #homeonwheels #sprintervan #sprintercampervans #vanbuild⁠ ⁠
Our outdoor office just got a lot more powerful with a new 500Wh lithium power station, but more power means more charge input is needed. Instead of over-tapping our van’s solar system, we are testing out the 100W Solar Saga panel from @jackeryusa. We like that we can adjust the angle to get maximum solar charge and love that it packs paper-thin for storage in our garage. This setup has already helped us out since we’ve been back in the cloudy PNW!⁠ The 100W Solar Saga is already on Amazon and the E500 releases July 22, so hit the link in my bio if you want to snag one before they sell out!⁠ —⁠ #poweroutdoors #poweredbyjackery #vanthere #ambassador⁠
I'm doubling down on my commitment to me, reviving my self-care routine, and taking pause out of my work day to feed my body and soul. You see, I have a tendency to overwork myself and because I love what I do, there's not much incentive to stop working! But overwork leads to a lack of creativity, short fuses and burnout. So my current goal is to work less and live more, basically the whole reason I started #vanlife in the first place! ✋Who's with me? Will you take the pledge to make 30 minutes of YOU-time a day? What will you do with that time? Tell me below!👇 #sponsored by the #supertasty @revivekombucha 📷: @josiahq
Grand Tetons is where we made the decision to jump into #vanlife Three years ago we came to Jackson Hole to start a 6 day backpacking trip and noticed a van for sale on the side of the road. It was $120,000 😳 Completely out of our price range. But you know what? It’s a pretty cheap mortgage. And as we hiked 70 miles through Grand Teton National Park, carrying everything we needed on our backs, we conspired how to live a more intentional, minimal life off the trail. And so began our hunt for a van! 30 days later we bought the first van we looked at, then spent the next 5 months on the #vanbuild (which was waaaay cheaper than that first van we saw!), figuring out how to quit our jobs and build sustainable businesses. So coming back here to the Tetons, three years later with my whole team from @thevanlifeapp has been pretty incredible for us. Thank you to @theladiesvan @irietoaurora @van.project and @ourviewfinder for having such amazing vision and dedication to helping every #vanlifer thrive! And thank you to 📷 @laurenfletcherphotography for capturing this pic of Mike and I together! — #vanlifecommunity #thevanlifeapp #vanthere #intentionalliving
There’s no secret recipe for a happy relationship in a tiny space, but here are a few key ingredients👩🏼‍🍳 - 1 pinch of patience - 2 cups of communication - Handful of compromise - Smidgen of solo time - A dash of humor Mix all ingredients, and bake in the sun. Garnish with affection. Serves 2 👫 — 📷: @vantalk — #vanthere #tinyliving #couplegoals
Anyone else only use the slider door of their van?? 🙋‍♀️🙋‍♀️🙋‍♀️ It’s kinda like how in a real house only the pizza guy uses the front door, except for us, it’s the valet! 😄 Still gotta try a pizza delivery one day! — We had such a wonderful time @thevanlifeapp vanlife meetup and cleanup this weekend, and are so grateful to connect with each of you in person while keeping the beaches and oceans a little bit cleaner 💙 Next stop: Teton Vanlife Gathering hosted by @van.project!! — #vanthere #homeonwheels #vanlifecommunity #thevanlifeapp
🎥 +🍷+🐶 = 🥰 About last night... after a long work week I needed a night in, movie up, wine in hand and puppy by my side! Anyone else stay in last night too?? Big thanks to Bre @theladiesvan for letting me borrow her projector! — #wildnightin #vanthere
Sundays used to invoke anxiety, with the dwindling hours of freedom before Monday morning came around. It’s not that #vanlife has freed me of all responsibility, I just have more flexibility to create my own schedule. ⏰ How did I get here? By prioritizing my happiness and taking big leaps into the unknown. And you know what I’ve learned along the way? When you open up your world to new possibilities, opportunities will arise that you couldn’t even dream of! Start saying yes more, and you will find your own inspired path of success. ✨ I’ve said yes to a lot these days: new clients for my science consulting business, building the @thevanlifeapp, partnering with companies to create content, and of course sharing my stories with you here and my website. I am so grateful for the opportunities that have come my way, and I hope that by following my adventures, you feel more confident chasing your own dreams! — #liveyourdreamlife #livingthedream #vanthere #workhardtravelharder
I don’t need a fancy dinner or long stemmed roses, just you by my side and the road ahead of us. However, I will take that box of chocolates! 💋🥰😋 — #happyvalentinesday #vanthere #vanlovers #kisskiss
Gotta keep the solar panels clear in this #polarvortex so we can run our furnace as much as we want! ❄️☀️Read my latest blog on 5 tips to stay warm in #wintervanlife using the link in our bio to learn how we survive winter in a van, and let me know what tips you’ll use to stay warm by commenting below👇 — 📍Headed Tahoe tonight for a bluebird day tomorrow! ⛷ — #pow #sierranevada #vanthere
A regular Saturday night in our #vanlife 🚐 We are humbled that so many of you find inspiration from our simple life. I recently asked why you follow @van.there, and I was overwhelmed with the positive comments and love you shared. Among the top things you responded were love of our minimalist tips, van build guidance, travel and camping destinations, hot springs and #vanlifehacks. Thank you for being a real part of my happiness. I hope I can continue to be a part of yours too 💙 — #vanthere #happinessisonlyrealwhenshared
What’s your New Year’s Day tradition? Do you have one? Mike and I always pause to write down our favorite moments and inside jokes of the previous year and what we’re looking forward to in the next 📓 This year however, the task is weighing heavy on me, as I need it to be a more defined goal setting and life strategy session. You see, I’ve been feeling like I’m behind the past few months, held captive by a seemingly endless list of to-do’s. I’ve been saying yes to so many things this past year, adventures and career wise. I’m working with two startup companies (@thevanlifeapp and a biotech company) and finding my skill set is coalescing in a strange and beautiful way (science and communications!) but it’s a hustle!! 🤓 And on top of that I have you here, and this little @van.there business where I always feel like I’m not writing well enough, not giving you pretty enough pictures. I want to use my words and images to create compelling stories. Hopefully, you find them enjoyable or inspiring in some way, but I often find myself comparing myself to other amazing storytellers and photographers in this community and feeling like there’s no way I could even compare. And that can stop me sometimes ✋ So for our goal setting session today, I’m going to figure out what steps I need to take to break through these feelings, focus on the small steps needed to reach large defined goals and get me feeling on top of everything again! This is just the first day of another beautiful year, friends! 💙 — #vanthere #newyearsday
You may already know this story...but...in March of 2018 I was driving in Idaho on my way to go snowboarding at Sun Valley. It was about 9:30 at night and I was cruising at 65 down a wide open two lane road. When from my left an elk collided with the side of the van, taking off the driver side mirror. In the same instant 4 others appeared in my headlights as one rolled up the hood of the van, leaving an elk sized depression in the windshield. It was a violent collision as cabinets flew open and books came flying forward from the shelf behind me. I hit the brakes hard to bring the vehicle to a stop on the shoulder, knowing that the smoke and steam being illuminated by the single remaining headlight was going to be a problem. Luckily, no one but the elk was injured but as the tow truck driver dropped us off at a hotel that night, the diagnosis of our van home was not looking good. Within a few days @van.there and I realized that we would need to say goodbye to our home on wheels. That van was written off as a total loss by the insurance company, and we doubled down to rebuild a new vehicle as soon as we could. But this time we would do a few things differently: 1. We got a smaller van because it’s fun to do more with less. 2. We no longer drive at night. 3. We wanted to get a custom after-market bumper that can stand up to the hazards of the open road / off-road. Thank you to @backwoodsadventuremods for making a strong, sexy bumper for the front and rear of our home. We hope we never encounter wildlife in quite the same way but if we do, we’ll have some better odds. — #backwoodsadventuremods #thewildiswaiting #mybamride #sprintervan #vanlife #vanconversion #4x4 #drawing #penandink #watercolor #painting #sketchbook #art #offroad #sketch #design #drawnthere
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