Nat and Abi Rodriguez have been living on the road for the last three years, they said in a recent interview with Insider.
Nat, a chef, and Abi, a photographer, started vanlife three years ago after getting married, they told Insider.
They share their tips and travel stories on their YouTube and Instagram accounts, both called Let’s Play Ride and Seek.
Inspired by nature, Nat and Abi converted their sprinter van into a tiny cabin on wheels.
Nat and Abi said they got their van for $US6,000 ($AU8,053) in 2018 and spent another $US10,000 ($AU13,421) on renovations. Two years later, they said they decided to rebuild it again while reusing parts of the first build to give it a more rustic vibe.
The couple told Insider they wanted to find a way to bring the outside in, so they went with an organic, wooden theme.
“We spend a lot of time camping in the woods, so it’s nice to come into the van and still feel like we’re a part of that space,” Abi said.
Nat and Abi have a lot of detailed woodwork in their home, and they said they really enjoyed the creative process of making unique pieces.
Aside from the driver and passenger doors, the van has two entrances – the sliding side door and back doors.
The doors open to the kitchen and bedroom.
The sliding door opens into the kitchen, where extra counter space pulls out for spending time outdoors.
When they’re outside, Nat and Abi said they like having somewhere to put a drink, and Nat said she uses the space for cooking, too.
When you first walk in, there’s a mosaic mountain pattern to the right of the kitchen that Nat and Abi said they made out of wood they were given.
“We took all the reclaimed materials we could and patterned it to make this really cool mosaic,” Nat said.
Above that wall, which separates the cab from the house, Nat said Abi wood-burned a tree, adding that their mirror is on the door to the cab just below it.
Since it’s next to the kitchen sink, the couple said they use this mirror to brush their teeth and get ready for the day.
The tree is burned over doors that open up to their attic, which they use for storage space, Abi said.
“It’s very gorgeous,” Nat said of the tree. “It’s the best piece in the van, in my opinion.”
One side of the kitchen has a fridge and a sink with storage cabinets above.
Nat and Abi said they keep their coffee and teas in the storage space above the sink, and their fridge can hold two weeks’ worth of produce at a time.
Next to the fridge, there’s a hidden floor-to-ceiling pantry that slides out when needed.
“Being a chef, I wanted to have space for spices and things like that,” Nat said.
The other side of the kitchen has a stovetop, oven, and counter space.
Nat said that she likes to make elaborate meals, so the full kitchen is essential.
Nat and Abi use vertical space to store things too, like their knife collection on the kitchen wall.
It seems like there’s storage everywhere you look in Nat and Abi’s rig.
Below the oven and above the couch next to it, there’s even more storage for kitchen supplies and books.
Aside from books, the shelf above the couch holds various items like salt lamps, Nat said.
Past the kitchen is Nat and Abi’s living space, which they said can fit four people and two dogs comfortably.
Each couch can comfortably seat two people, according to the couple.
One couch has storage underneath.
Abi said she keeps her electronics, like cameras and other photography equipment, in the couch storage space.
The other hides their compost toilet. As for the shower, they have an outdoor set-up.
Nat said she and Abi built the composting toilet themselves, adding that one gallon of water will get you 15 minutes in their outdoor shower.
Above one of the couches, there’s a hidden sunken cabinet that holds jewelry, incense, and essential oils.
Because they have windows throughout the whole van, Nat said she and Abi were willing to compromise this area for additional storage space.
Also in the living room, Nat and Abi carved out a space specifically for their dogs underneath their bed.
The dogs’ den holds a bed and all of their toys and food, the couple said.
From the dogs’ den, a table pulls out for working and eating.
The table is decorated to look like a map of the world.
The bed is risen at the very back of the van, where doors open to take in wide views.
Nat said that being short allowed them to save room by building their bed across the van.
Above the bed, there’s closet space.
The couple said they designed the closet space to fit the exact amount of clothing they each have.
On the ceiling, which is made of cedar, artificial plants appear to be growing into the space, making it feel more like the outside, Nat and Abi said.
The cedar ceiling brings a natural smell into their space while repelling bugs, the couple said.
Under the bed on the backside, Nat and Abi store their electrical system. They said their van runs on batteries and solar power.
They said they refer to this space as their garage, and they keep tools back there, too.
On the rooftop, there’s a deck and three solar panels, allowing them to go off-grid for weeks at a time.
A short wall around the deck keeps the couple safe from falling if they fall asleep up there, Nat said.
The other side of the roof holds three 100 watt solar panels, Nat said, adding that this and their battery bank allow them to stay in the middle of the desert or mountains for two to three weeks at a time.
A ladder leads up to the deck behind the van.
The couple said they use the deck to watch the sunset and look at the stars.
While living on the road, Nat and Abi have used social media to connect LGBTQIA+ vanlifers around the world.
“We really felt we were missing a place where LGBTQ nomads could find each other and have representation,” the couple said. “So we just decided one day we’re going to stop wishing for it.”
They created an Instagram account for the LGBTQIA+ vanlife community to come together.
The account, Vanlife Pride, serves as a hub for the community, Nat said, adding that they feature accounts from all over the world on it. It had more than 10,000 followers at the time of writing.
“Ever since creating that account, we’ve actually met so many people that we knew were out there, but there was just no way to connect,” Nat said.
Eventually, Nat and Abi said they want to have a gathering for LGBTQIA+ nomads.