Juliana and Richmond are living their most Instagrammable life.
In 2015, the couple, who had only been dating for four months at the time, decided to move out of their small, pricey apartments in San Francisco and convert a used Sprinter van into their mobile dream home. Saying goodbye to the city’s rental market meant the pair could afford to quit their jobs and travel the West Coast in their souped-up van for a year. They blogged about their adventures online and on Instagram, attracting over 120,000 followers.
We caught up with Juliana and Richmond during a pitstop in San Francisco to see why #vanlife, with its cramped quarters and lack of a bathroom, beats apartment-living.
When Richmond and Juliana met online, it didn't take long for the pair to figure out they both wanted to take great American road trips, as depicted in their favourite books.
There was one major obstacle in their way: rent. San Francisco has the most expensive rental market in America. They both paid $1,500 a month, leaving little left over for travel.
Richmond, a consultant in the green energy industry, bought an old plumbing truck for $12,000. Over the next few months, they poured all their free time into renovating the van.
Some of the more major changes included new wood paneling, storage-seating, and a mechanical bed lift that raises their bed to the ceiling, saving space during the day.
They stayed days at a time in a city in the hopes of getting to know each place. Richmond said they drove between 25 and 50 miles a day.
Showering was a luxury. 'You get used to planning your day around, 'where am I going to go (to the bathroom) in the morning and where am I going to go at night,'' Richmond said.
Over the past year, the couple learned new things about themselves. 'Before leaving, I always felt weird if I didn't have something to do all the time,' Richmond said.
'On the road, you spend a lot more time reading, thinking, and doing things just to fill the time. There's no pressure. (You're) learning to let be,' Richmond said.
Juliana purged a lot of her belongings during the trip. 'One of the big realisation I've had is that I don't need a lot of stuff to be happy. More stuff makes me less happy,' she said.
The couple returned to San Francisco in May 2017. In the urban environment, they found it impossible to find safe, legal places to park.
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