Next up in my Extraordinary Series is Giddi and Jace from Our Home On Wheels. They live in a van and travel full-time with their baby (yes, a baby!) named Juniper, and their dog, Lotus. They are outdoor enthusiasts who purchased and converted a Sprinter van in March of 2016.
When they first started full-time travel, they had no more than $40 to their names.
Before they moved into their van, they were feeling stuck and unhappy in their full-time jobs.
Now, they fund full-time travel by selling their handmade jewelry, and they also collaborate with brands on social media.
Their Instagram account is one of my favorites, and it’s how I first found out about them.
In this interview, you’ll learn:
- How they live in a van with three people and a dog
- How they are raising their beautiful baby in a van
- How they earn a living traveling full-time
- And more!
I asked you, my readers, what questions I should ask Giddi and Jace, so below are your questions (and some of mine). Make sure you’re following me on Facebook so you have the opportunity to submit your own questions for the next interview.
Related articles you may be interested in:
- 11 Reasons to Choose RV Life
- How I Run A Business While Traveling 365 Days a Year
- How This Family Travels Full-Time With 4 Kids and 2 Dogs
- How To Make Money While RVing
- How Much Does It Cost To RV?
- How I Travel Full-Time By RV And Boat With My 2 Dogs
Tell me your story. I’m a fan, but my readers may not be familiar with you – Who are the two of you and what do you do?
We are Jace and Giddi. We live in our van with our 9-month-old Juniper and dog Lotus. We have been on the road for over a year and a half. We have been up to Alaska and down to Baja, Mexico.
Did both of you want to make the switch to #vanlife or were one of you the driving force?
Jace was the driving force but both of us wanted to do it.
We have always wanted to live an adventurous life. There’s so much to experience and see, and we didn’t want to miss any of it so early on in our relationship. We established someday Jace wanted to live in a van, and I agreed.
Any big obstacles you had to overcome when you got started?
Minimizing. Our space is small. It was a big adjustment going from having lots to fitting the things we NEEDED into our van.
Related: The Honest Truth About Van Dwelling: Answers To The Most Common Van Life Questions
Can you tell me about your van?
It is a Freightliner Sprinter. Jace built it from scratch. Lots of Youtube videos and forums helped him get to what it is now.
Below is a Youtube video of ours:
Where do you put everything?
Everything has it’s place. The van was built to fit what we needed. We’ve been lucky enough to find things that we can collapse and make fit.
Where do you typically park? How much does that cost?
Totally depends on where we are, but a lot of Walmart parking lots, BLM, National Forest and friends’ driveways. Since moving into the van, we’ve only payed for two camp spots in the US, but in Mexico, we paid for places to park. It was really cheap (like $5 a day, and in really amazing locations).
What’s an average day like for you?
It varies. But we wake up, eat breakfast, and then the rest is determined by location. But, we like to stay active, so lots of paddle boarding, kayaking, rock climbing, eating tacos, etc.
How do you make a living even though you travel full-time? How do you afford your lifestyle?
We run an online shop. www.carteo-handmade.com. It doesn’t make us millionaires, but we make enough to be able to travel. We also collaborate with different brands through social media.
“Before moving into our first van, we were both working full-time jobs. We felt stuck as I’m sure many do. We weren’t doing the things we wanted to and didn’t feel like we were growing or expanding ourselves at all. We started to brainstorm how we could do the things we were passionate about, yet still be able to support ourselves. During this time Giddi had started a new hobby: jewelry fabrication. She had used her previous years tax returns to purchase tools and supplies and started experimenting with making her own jewelry (with the help of instructional YouTube videos to learn techniques) as a fun new hobby. That soon led to friends and family wanting pieces made, which then led to a small Etsy shop being opened up. Giddi left her full time job and was making jewelry full time. We had no van at this time and no idea what a rad blessing this jewelry shop was to become in our lives.
What started as a new, fun thing to do in the evenings after work has since become (with a lot of effort) our main source of income. We named our shop Carteo Handmade, which is a mashup of our two last names and is a reflection of the hard work we’ve put into it together. May sounds cheesy but we like it and it has stuck. Carteo is what feeds us and our baby. It is how we are able to afford traveling around from one place to another together as a family. It wasn’t intentional to turn this new hobby into a small business, it just sort of happened slowly. We saw the potential to grasp the lives we felt we were missing. It took a leap of faith, but we both quit our jobs and moved into the van, debt free (yay!) but broke as could be. We decided to invest our time into developing ourselves and this newfound passion and small business. ” – How We Make Money
How do you help your small child adapt to an ever changing environment?
We let her explore her surroundings and interact with all the different people. She doesn’t seem to be afraid of an ever-changing view, and seems to love being around new people. She’s definitely not a shy, reserved infant.
Related content: Best Baby Gear – Guide For New Parents
Do you plan on homeschooling your child if doing this for awhile?
We don’t know. We’ve discussed homeschooling for some years and then giving her the option of going to a school. Really, we want her to be able to choose and experience what she chooses.
How do you handle health concerns while traveling?
It hasn’t happened yet, but we would probably go to an urgent care. Juniper has a pediatrician in AZ that we often go back to for her check-ups and vaccines.
Do you ever feel like it’s not enough space?
We never feel like we don’t have enough space for the things we have, but sometimes when it gets really messy, we get claustrophobic. We just go right outside and the feeling goes away. We are happy with our home.
How do you save money traveling and in everyday life?
We have a “secret” bank account that I (Giddi) forget exists, and Jace adds money into it. We don’t have lots of expenses because we don’t have the space to add random things, so most of our money goes to food, and then savings naturally happens.
What is your favorite thing about being a nomad and not having a “normal” home?
The freedom to move. We never feel like we are stuck in one place. We choose where we want to be for however long we want to be there and that is extremely liberating.
I love that you are living life on your own terms, but how does your family feel about it?
Our families are extremely supportive. They respect what we have chosen and never judge, just support and love us. And sometimes meet us on the road.
What has been most challenging and what has been most rewarding?
Most rewarding has been being able to experience so many different places, meet so many different people and new friends, and try new foods all over the country as we travel.
The most challenging thing for us is being in such close quarters with one another constantly. This generally isn’t a big deal. And to be honest, we usually love it, and it has strengthened our relationship, but there are those times of tension where you just need space from one another. It is a little harder to come by when you live together in just 84 square feet.
What has been your favorite place to visit in your van so far?
Oregon is hands down one of our favorite places, at least in America. We really like the laid back feel of the state, massive amounts of public land and bountiful outdoor activities. Baja Mexico comes in at a close second being so rugged, raw and beautiful.
What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out on a similar journey?
Do it. Do not wait, do not hesitate.
If you even have a small desire to change your life in the slightest, go for it.
Change is a good thing. You will have more control than you think, and what seems like a scary thing now, you will soon look back on as one of the turning points in your life that opened the door for more freedom and happiness.
Could you do van life? What about with a baby and a dog?
Ember @ An Intentional Lifestyle says
That is so awesome!! I want to travel with my family (hubs and 3 kids, 2 dogs), and I’ve dreamed of selling everything and buying a camper to do it, at least for awhile. My husband would not be so excited about that though. 🙂
I love that your fun side business became your family’s full income and support. That’s so awesome!
Since y’all don’t seem to want to stop anytime soon, how would adding another baby to the small living conditions work out (assuming another baby is wanted at sometime)?
Love this story! Y’all are awesome and Juniper is precious!!
Michelle Schroeder-Gardner says
Glad you enjoyed this!
Ms. Frugal Asian Finance says
Wow this is so inspiring! I’ve always wondered what it’s like to live a van or RV life with a baby. We have a ton of baby clothes and baby gear that take up so much space not only in our house but also our storage shed. I am glad you two make it work so well.
My husband and I currently live in a house, but I’d been suggesting to him we try to live in an RV for a week or even a month to see what it’s like!
Michelle Schroeder-Gardner says
You should try it!
Kristin @ The Wayward Home says
Oh my gosh, I love them so much! They were one of the first people I interviewed about van life when their baby was just a few months old. I love that families like this are inspiring others that THEY TO can get out and travel while raising a family and don’t have to be stuck to mortgages and jobs they hate. I’m so glad you profiled them 🙂 And I’m really jealous of their awesome van.
Michelle Schroeder-Gardner says
Yes, I love their van!
Lily @ The Frugal Gene says
My husband is not on board with living in anything on wheels. I’ll hell bent on humming along in a RV because it’s cool and I can drive to the best backyard USA food. Too bad we’re total opposite in this respect.
Juniper is an adorable name!!! Very cute!
Michelle Schroeder-Gardner says
Haha, yes, the food is one of the best things about RVing!
The Savvy Couple says
Love this couple! We follow them on YouTube quite often.
Love learning about how others live life so differently. Eye opening to say the least. So much FREEDOM!
Cara Jones says
I love this series. And these two (three really!) are awesome…I’m going to follow them on Instagram for sure. Even if some of us can’t swing living and traveling in a van, it does provide inspiration to go after your dreams (whatever they may be) and make it happen! You only get one shot at this wild ride called Life!
The Challenge Book says
Great article 🙂 Living in a van is not my thing, but I always admire people who make their dreams come true, and are not scared to live their lives as they truly want. Very inspiring.
Angela @ Tread Lightly Retire Early says
What an amazing situation that allows them both to be around their baby all day while she grows up. I’d say that’s way more important that more space 🙂
Our family of 3 + roommate + 2 large dogs + cat + snake live in 1350 SF and we’ve gotten quite a few comments about when we are going to trade up. Our house is PLENTY big enough for us (really bigger than we need). I can see how downsizing to a van would be really freeing.
Wow! This became your family income and support. That’s insane. Awesome Article. Keep up the good work.
All they needed was a van, smartphone, armed with knowledge how to start an online side hustle, and use their smartphone to create “lots and lots of content.” Just gotta love the internet because evergreen content and effective e-mail marketing alone with or without affiliate links can make anyone money 24 hours a day and inspire them to not only take the side hustle seriously, but quit their day job.
WOW! I enjoyed this post so much. I’ve always wondered what it’s like, I really enjoyed finding about your family!
This is SO inspirational. A dog and a baby? You both sound SO happy and content with life. It really is about exploring yourselves through your surroundings!
Cat Holladay says
What an inspirational story! We are just starting our RV adventure (have lived in ours for three months now) and at times it is hard. We have a 4-yr-old so the biggest challenge is making sure he is thriving. So far, it hasn’t been a problem – I love the way they are letting Juniper explore and make her own choices, that’s what we want for our son too!
Caroline Vencil says
This is such a cool idea! I would love to try living in a van for year to travel and experience beautiful sites around America. I’m sure this will inspire more adventurous family to do the same 🙂
RAD frenchie says
So inspiring!! Getting ourselves a van and traveling all over Europe is on our bucket list! Thanks for sharing. loved it!