Hey Everyone! My name is Kelly, an American girl from South Florida and the person behind @KellyNicoleTravel. Together with my boyfriend Dave, a British guy from Cornwall England, we love living and traveling full-time in our self-converted van, Flo. Flo is the second van we have converted and lived in together. When I say “I live in a van with a guy from across the world”, I still cannot believe this is MY life. We traveled all across Europe in 2018 and now America in 2019, and I am so beyond grateful for where we are at and what we are doing each and every day. So how did we get to this point together? Here’s our full story 🙂
How we Met
To get straight to the point: We met online. On a dating app known as Tinder. (I know you’re probably thinking really?! But yes, it’s true). In January of 2018, we were ridiculously swiping through dating apps and matched with one another. If you don’t know how Tinder works, you have to be within a certain mile radius of the people you are matched with, meaning we were in the same area when that happened. This is because Dave works on yachts and the boat he was working on was docked in my hometown for a few months. I was a bit reluctant to meet with someone who wasn’t from Florida, much less not from the same country,because how on earth would that work out? But at the same time, I thought he was cute and my little American girl mind was excited to meet a guy with an accent. It seemed exotic and exciting, so I decided to give it a chance.. but without high expectations. When I met him I definitely swooned over his accent.. but also his dimples, his outfit, his outlook on life, his goals, and definitely his talk about all the places he had traveled before. Much to my surprise, we clicked right away that night and ended up in small local pubs until 2am chatting away… on a week night.
When VanLife Came In
Literally the night we met. On our first date, I had brought up my dream to live in a van one day. Most people always raised an eyebrow at me when I said that I wanted to live in a van, or flat out said I was weird or crazy. However, I remember very clearly the day I told Dave my van life dreams, and his response wasn’t the negativity that I usually received. He said, “I’ve always wanted to live in a van too!” – One of the most important things to me was meeting someone with similar interests and goals in life.. so this was huge. From that point on, there was no turning back. We hungout nearly everyday for the first few months of knowing each other… including renting an RV for a week, road tripping and boating the Everglades for a weekend, spontaneously flying to New York City for no reason, and meeting in the Bahamas to snorkel and relax. That was just in our first 2 months of knowing each other.. so there was no question in my mind his sense of adventure was similar to mine.
Because of this, we mutually agreed that we should pursue our van dreams sooner rather than later. We decided to do so in Europe the first time around (spoiler alert: we loved it so much we currently have a 2nd van in the US now). But anyway, after 4 months of knowing each other, we shared the news with our families about what we’d be doing. This was absolutely terrifying to both of us, yet so exciting at the same time. The unknown was scary. Not knowing if we would be successful in van life, if the lifestyle would live up to our expectations, or honestly not knowing if we’d even still like each other after jumping into living together so soon. But we knew we would never know unless we tried.. so we did.
April 2018 was the last full month at our jobs at the time, which was also our first experience being in a long-distance relationship. Not down the road, not in another state, but across the globe on different continents. Dave finished working on the yacht he was on (that had since crossed the ocean to Europe), while I finished up working in the USA. This was a mentally trying time, and a time that seemed to sluggishly drag by. I often questioned what I had gotten myself into, because long-distance is NOT something I was interested in doing. But at the same time, I knew it was temporary and that I had to take this giant leap in order to obtain the van lifestyle I had always wanted to try. April 2018 was also the month that I packed up my apartment, donated or put all my belongings into storage bins, and prepared a minimal amount of stuff for van life with him. It was a lot of change and crazy choices all at once eh? So worth it though. In May 2018, I was on a one-way flight across the world to Europe.. now jobless, homeless, and ready to travel full-time with the man I had just met 5 months prior. If that’s not a giant step toward doing what makes me happy, I don’t know what is! (*Remember to not let excuses get in the way of doing what you want.. jobs, money, kids, physical ability, etc*).
VanLife Europe 2018
We bought our first van in England in May 2018 with money we had saved up. It was a 2005 Vauxhall Movano. As an American, I honestly had never even heard of this make of van before haha. But quite common in Europe. It had been previously converted into a camper van prior to us purchasing it, so we thought we would just have to make a few small changes to it ‘to make it our own’. What started out as ripping out one tiny wall, ending up as gutting the entire van to rebuild it ourselves. There was just too much we wanted to change and it needed more storage space. This was our first time ever building a van and provided a lot of learning experience. We didn’t really know what we were getting ourselves into but it ended up turning out pretty dang amazing. (Granted, we did not have to complete the electrical, plumbing, or insulation process ourselves the first time around in this van). It wasn’t completely perfect, but it was our happy place. (Pictured below is our first van that we had in Europe in 2018).
We lived in this van full-time for the next 6 months. It took us through 10 countries. We summited so many mountains in the Alps, the Dolomites, and the Pyrenees. We layed on beaches all along the Mediterranean Sea and English Channel. We were surrounded by a myriad of languages, cultures, and new ways of life. We took freezing cold showers outdoors and sh*t in the woods more times than I could count. We learned to live with what was necessary and learned to live without a lot. I gained a new appreciation for hot water, air conditioning, the sun, quiet roads, and the natural world. We argued about little things and forcibly learned to get over it quickly since living in such a confined space together. It was the most challenging, life-changing, and rewarding 6 months of my life. The very thing I was dreamt about and longed for, actually came to life. I had found and felt true genuine happiness for the first time. It was then that I knew every prior doubt, fear, worry, challenge, crazy choice, negative opinion from others, and having no idea what I was doing was 100% worth it. It was then I knew I wanted to make this lifestyle more long-term.
VanBuild/VanLife USA 2019
Our time living in a van in Europe changed our outlook on life so much, that we decided we wanted to make it more permanent. We wanted to explore other parts of the world, and also needed to add/change many parts of our van’s power supply. Because of this, we decided to sell our first van over in England. We flew back to the USA and worked hard saving up money for a few months (definitely needed some funds at this point). This meant not buying a single thing except necessities like food, water, and gas while we saved up.
After browsing and inquiring about a myriad of vans in our limited budget, we finally found one we wanted. We flew up to New Jersey in February 2019 and purchased our second van, who we have named Flo. Flo is a 2005 Dodge Sprinter. She was previously a man’s cargo work truck and came with nothing but piles of dirt and old shelves. To us, this was the perfect opportunity to empty her out completely and have a fresh slate. If looks could talk, a lot of people’s faces when they saw Flo when we bought her would say something along the lines of “if you say so!”, with a hint of doubt in their eyes seeing the amount of work she needed. But fast forward to a few months after buying her, our second van build is complete! Just goes to show you can do anything you put your mind to. The build took countless hours, long days, frustrations, victories, self teaching, blog reading, video watching (to learn), doing and redoing.. but we built it ALL. Ourselves. From treating rust, to installing 4 brand new windows, to making a custom roof rack, setting up plumbing, electrical wiring, batteries, and solar panels, to building all the structure and choosing what we want and need. Some days it was anything but easy. We would have differing opinions on how to best do something and it would be trying on our relationship, but by the end of the day we’d work it out and feel we were exactly where we need to be, doing exactly what we want to be doing.
As of May 2019, we are living in Flo full-time! Our plans are to continue exploring this earth far and wide. We like roads less traveled, hiking, being surrounded by the sounds of nature, far from civilization and able to live offgrid. It is where we feel free and where we feel most ourselves.. challenges included. We couldn’t do it without the van when hotels/restaurants/etc are few and far between in the places we want to explore. I have a long list of mountains I want to hike, landscapes I want to see, and roads I want to drive. We have a general idea of the direction well be going, but at the same time, we don’t like to make too many plans. We take each day as it comes and adapt our lives to our situations. We usually don’t know where we’ll be sleeping until the day before and just go with the ‘Flo’;)
Our Message to You
We hope to inspire you to do what makes YOU happy, regardless of others opinions and outlooks on it. Regardless of your doubts, fears, what ifs, and personal situations. It won’t be easy. I like to say that a tough journey to happiness is better than a pitiful acceptance of unhappiness. Remember that. I am sharing this part of my life with the world to remind you of that fact. If you are unhappy with any aspect of your life, whether that be a relationship, a job, a home, your weight, your goals.. put your fears aside and take a leap of faith to change it. If I hadn’t put myself back out there to meet someone new, and if I hadn’t risen above my fears that he wasn’t from the US, I wouldn’t have met someone with the same interests as myself. If I hadn’t quit my full-time job that I was unhappy at and packed up or sold all my belongings, I wouldn’t have gotten to live and travel in a van around the world with him. If we didn’t give up buying anything except necessities to put every single penny toward our second van build, we wouldn’t have it. Point is, ACT on what you want. Face a fear, accept a challenge, and just do whatever it is you’ve been wanting to. Sometimes you don’t realize how miserable you actually are with something or someone until you aren’t miserable anymore. You never know the happiness you will find! And I hope you ALL find the type of happiness that I found with Dave and our van.
Please continue to follow our journey on Instagram @KellyNicoleTravel
Your support means so much more than you know. I have been actively working on my goals to make a remote income from the road someday. This is my ultimate personal goal. So that Dave doesn’t have to go away to work for months at a time sometimes. So we don’t have to have a long distance relationship while he works.. and so we can continue to explore, write, help, and share both van build tips and the beauty of the earth with anyone who needs it. This is what gives us the most purpose and meaning in our lives. Something as small as following us on our social media (@KellyNicoleTravel), visiting our website, subscribing to our new YouTube channel, or checking out our Van Build Shop & Complete Van Build Conversion Guide will be a giant step in the right direction for us! I spent a lot of time putting a lot the materials you need to convert a van into my shop, and a lot of time writing blogs and making videos to help others that are interested in doing it themselves.. All for free. For you.
We Love you! Do what makes you happy.
-Kelly and Dave