In the spring of 2015, we took a huge leap of faith and decided to quit our jobs, buy an old VW bus, leave the life we had built in Austin and go explore! At the time, we were newlyweds who had just taken a three-week honeymoon to Thailand. Rough life, I know. Upon our return, we both felt the itch to extend our adventure and in the coming months, we devised a plan to not just think about the dream, but actually live it!
After countless conversations of potential destinations and several disagreements on the length of our trip, we finally came to a compromise to travel for three months and divide our trip into two parts: half of our trip would be spent exploring Chile and Argentina and the other half would be dedicated to adventuring through the Western U.S. The one element of our sabbatical that we did agree to keep consistent was our mode of transport: a camper van. We would fly down to Chile and rent a well-equipped camper van and then for the trip in the States, we planned to purchase a well-equipped van to continue our trip through the West.
Deciding on the van for South America was relatively easy because there were only a handful of companies to choose from and we were trying to keep costs to a minimum. The challenge became selecting the perfect vehicle for our Western road trip before we left for the first leg of our trip. We both scoured the internet, ad after ad, van after van, and finally after giving careful thought to the age of the vehicle, dependability, and of course the aesthetics and nostalgia of the car, we decided on what we thought to be the perfect van for our road trip: a Volkswagen bus!
After going round and round on which VW bus to purchase, we finally decided on a 1979 T-2 Volkswagen Baywindow Bus that a young couple from Abilene was selling on Craigslist. Driving the 3+ hours to Abilene was not too much of a hurdle, but we were hoping the 'van of our dreams' was in good shape, which meant that it had to run well and have minimal rust. The other item that was very important to me in particular was that I hoped to get a good vibe from the sellers -- I wanted to know the vehicle was loved and had a good story behind it.
To our surprise, we were able to pretty much check all of the items off our wishlist! It was just our luck that the couple was moving so they were willing to negotiate the price for a quick sell, there was minimal rust and the best part was that the couple selling the vehicle shared the same adventurous mindset as us: to explore and see as much of the world as often as possible! The couple had purchased the bus before their wedding and then traveled around in it for their honeymoon, so they were happy that we were going to carry on the adventure they had created in the van. After spending a few hours with them and exchanging contact information, we vowed to take the best of care of their prized possession and promised to put many more miles on her tires!
The ride home from Abilene was quite a long one, and we quickly realized that this old VW bus only had one speed: slow. We were going to have to get used to riding in the right-hand lane. With one big item crossed off our list before we took off, we were feeling great, but there were so many other items of business to tend to before we went off the grid. There were loose ends to tie up at work, we had to arrange for friends and family to take care of our pets and mail, research to do, flights to book, camping and hiking gear to purchase, the list went on and on...
With only a couple months to plan, we put together a loose agenda with the intention to start in Chile's gorgeously untouched southern Patagonia and the ultimate goal being to drive the entire length of the skinny coastal country, something Jared had always dreamed of doing. Side note: we chose Chile because Jared studied abroad there in high school and lived with a host family that he is still very close with to this day. I had only seen a small part of the country back in 2011 and knew there was so much more to explore, so this sounded like a great plan to me. My only request was to visit Buenos Aires at the very end of our trip to relax and take in a bit more of the Argentine culture. Traveling through Chile would also be a great way to visit Jared's host family and break up the road trip with a friendly visit, an occasional warm shower and a comfy bed. The rest of the time would be solely devoted to exploring the country in our newfound home on wheels!
After spending seven weeks in South America and meeting tons of inspiring people (many who were wanderlusting just like us (a la Crepe Attack + Our Open Road), we flew back to the States to begin yet another adventure in our newly purchased bus. We both decided our plan for the second half of our trip was to discover all of the beauty the Western U.S. has to offer, attempting to hit as many states and National Parks as possible along the way (exploring 16 out of the 59 National Parks in the U.S. to be exact!) while also visiting with friends and family (and hopefully snagging a good sleep and shower!) along the way.
Many can see the pattern forming here, we were in this VW bus A LOT, so naturally that lead to many conversations about dreams, aspirations and goals we wanted to achieve once we returned from our enlightened journey. One of the items that kept popping up in conversation was the 'afterlife' of the VW van once our trip was complete. An idea that I just couldn't get out of my head -- mainly because I have planned countless large-scale events for almost 10 years -- was turning the bus into a photo booth to rent out for corporate events, parties and weddings. This is how the idea of Vannagram & Co. was first conceived...and the rest is history!
After four and a half months of living the #vanlife, traveling to some of the most amazingly varied landscapes and meeting countless fellow wanderlusters, we decided it was time to 'hang up our hats', get back to reality and the life we had abandoned in Austin. And that is where we have landed with our trusty old bus. But don't fret, our adventure does not end here, my friends, we still have a story to tell and it is in the form of photos! Book Vannagram & Co. and continue to write our story of adventure and fun!
To read more about our adventure, visit our travel blog.