Gianna and Jake Bachowski seemed to have the perfect life.
She worked in real estate, he worked in hospitality, and they owned a fancy 1,400 sq ft home in Sarasota, Florida.
But they longed for something different.
When they discovered a community of families living in converted vans, that instantly struck a chord.
In 2018, the couple, both 32, and their daughter Luna, four, dove into a new nomadic lifestyle, selling their home and all their possessions and buying a secondhand Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Van.
Once the bus was theirs, it was time to turn it into a home.
‘We’d been talking for a long time about what our dream life looked like, and both agreed it included unlimited family time, travel and adventures,’ said Jake.
‘Van life seemed perfect. It was Gianna’s idea originally, but I was fully on board.
‘Of course, we had some concerns – mainly about health and safety – but the material side of things didn’t bother us. Quality family time far outweighed any possessions.
‘We didn’t think our daughter needed a whole room full of toys – it was more important to us that she should see the world and learn about other cultures.
‘We watched a lot of YouTube tutorials and had help from family too, which was great.
‘It was strange to reduce a four bedroom home to a 90 sq. ft. van, but getting rid of possessions was surprisingly freeing.
‘We donated a lot, so it was good to know it was going to other people in need.’
In late 2018, Jake, Gianna, and Luna set off, travelling through Tennessee, Arkansas, Iowa, Colorado and Utah, before ending up in California.
Then, in late 2019, as they approached the first anniversary of the day they started their trip, the pair discovered that Gianna was pregnant.
They quickly realised they’d need a bigger van, and managed to find an old school bus for just $4,800 (£3,542).
‘The vans we’d seen before were anywhere from $55,000 to $70,000, so it was substantially cheaper,’ Jake said.
‘We decided to go for it and got the bus in April – but baby number two was due in July, so it was a hectic summer of making sure the conversion was done.
‘We parked up outside the home of some family in Florida, who kindly let us use their facilities while we got everything sorted.
‘We did about 75% ourselves, then got some help with the carpentry. Now, the bus has beds, a wet room and toilet, an oven, a stove, heating, solar panels – it really is a fully-functioning home.’
Capri was born on the road in 2020.
Now, the family of four travel around the US in the school bus where they live and work, sharing their adventures on Instagram to inspire others to give van life a try.
For now they’re based in Florida, but hope to continue to travel the world, depending on pandemic restrictions.
The couple would also like to open a homestead where they will host other travellers.
Jake said: ‘We get messages every day from people asking us how we do things like keep a routine for the children, tackle bills, organise our finances – and even maintain an intimate relationship in such a small space.
‘Van life might look glamorous on social media, but it’s not without its challenges.
‘To us, there’s nothing like this lifestyle. We wouldn’t change it for the world.’
Jake reckons that our experiences of Covid-19 will make more people want to give nomadic life a go.
‘People don’t need or want to be in big cities anymore. We yearn for natural beauty and the beauty of humans,’ said the dad.
‘In the van, we are self-contained, so feel very safe – plus, there is nothing like waking up in nature.
‘There are days that feel challenging, like when we have to hunt for water or find somewhere that’s safe to park up without risking a knock on the window from someone telling us to move along.
‘But regret is the worst feeling in the world, so we had to take a chance – and now we’re following our dreams.’
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