This is Brandon and Brittni - a couple with a passion for running, living full-time in their converted Sprinter van, Big Bertha, a fitting name for such a beast of a van!
Brittni is a professional runner competing in races all over North America. Being a nomad has positively impacted her training due to their ability to chase the perfect weather and seasons. As well as allowing her to be parked right by the trail when her training day starts - no need to commute out of the city to find a good running trail! She has been able to run a 2:41:31 marathon which qualified her for the 2020 Olympic trials. It was running that brought her and Brandon together and what led them to being able to live their dream van lifestyle.
Brandon used to run professionally and ran at the 2016 Olympic trials with a bright future in the running world. In May 2017, Brandon was out for a bike ride when he was struck by a garbage truck, suffering numerous injuries including: twenty-seven broken bones, fractured vertebrae, and a collapsed lung. The accident felt like a substantial setback in his running career, but he maintained a positive mind-set and used his creativity to overcome his trauma and started coaching running online. He now trains over forty people in all experience levels including his wife, Brittni. This is a perfect example of how no matter what happens in life there is always a way to find a silver lining and keep moving forward.
Brandon and Brittni are two people with a fire in their hearts and a goal in mind. They have chosen to go against the grain and escape the nine-to-five grind that so many of us think is essential to becoming successful. With drive and creativity they have been able to turn their passion and interest into a viable online source of income allowing them to live nomadically throughout North America.
Here are a few questions I asked them in the hopes of helping more people realize that they too can pursue their passion and make their dream into a reality. Enjoy!
How long have you been living full-time in your van? We've been living out of the van full-time for fifteen months, but didn't fully finish it until this past September. Has living full-time out of a van been easier or harder than expected? Much easier. Bottom line - you're happier and stress is low. Yes, there are obstacles, but the pros far outweigh the cons.
Is your coaching business your main source of income? Coaching is our main source of income, although we have a small source from sponsors and prize money through races. Also, when we plan to be in a town/city for longer than a month, Brittni will reach out to local outdoor/running shops and pick up some hours. That has been a great supplemental source. How do you find clients for your online coaching? Clients come from either the coaching website (typically found through a quick google search) or Instagram. My co-coach, founder of "Run Your Personal Best", and I have been super fortunate to be on the first page of google when searching for an online running coach. At one point we were number one and we've been consistently in the top three. Currently, google has changed the algorithm and we are on the second page and working our way back up!
How many hours per week would you say you spend working? Twenty hours give or take.
What obstacles did you face when trying to become a full-time nomad? Initially, it was the expense of the van and build-out. We saved for eighteen months before making the jump to full-time vanlife. Also, we had normal routine jobs - so making the transition to digital nomads was a process. During that time, we started living only off of Brittni's income and saving anything that I made. I worked at a running store, started coaching virtually, and was playing music about two nights a week. Any income that I made went into savings. It stacked up much quicker than we thought. When you set goals, you hold yourself more accountable to follow through.
What are three pieces of advice you could share to aspiring digital nomads/vanlifers?
Do it - take the leap of faith. You won't regret it.
Make a list of the steps and how you're going to bring your dream to fruition.
Do your research. Learn from other people that live on the road - connect with them and ask them questions.
What is your favourite part about vanlife? The freedom and ability to wake up and go – literally and figuratively. Living out of the van, we are able to do that. We can truly experience freedom. We travel by feel and if things “feel” right, we roll with it. One of the biggest advantages to living out of the van is following the weather patterns. We try to stick with the most conducive training environments. Whether it’s the altitude and brisk nights of the Colorado Summers or the warmer days you’ll find down South, we aren’t afraid of the time behind the wheel to get there. Also, life on the road has a way of allowing us to accept and embrace risks. It's not always comfortable, but it enables us to be vulnerable. It’s the foundation to new ideas, happiness, creativity, and love for one another and others. It's about the journey, the experiences, and the memories.
What is your favourite place you've traveled? This is a super difficult question and I think it constantly changes. We've been through thirty-two states, but Colorado still has our hearts. We are big fans of the Collegiate Peaks. Particularly the Buena Vista area which is home to Mt. Princeton, Mt. Harvard, and Mt. Yale, where the Arkansas River rips through the town. It's a special place and one day it might be a place that we can call our home base. Another area that holds a special place in our hearts are the Eastern Sierras. In particular, the drive along 395 from Bishop to Lake Tahoe. We enjoy spending time in Mammoth, June Lake, and Truckee. The hot springs along 395 are endless and it's always a great spot to post up. Honorable mentions include Bend, Portland, British Columbia, Flagstaff, Ojai, and Santa Barbara. Places that we want to do more exploring include: Maine, New Hampshire, Idaho, Wyoming, and Alaska. What are your best hacks or products for your van?
Roof Rack: Not only can you store stuff on top, but it becomes a second room to your build. Strength training, yoga, coffee, beer, and music festivals... it's all better when you're on top of your van.
The RVitGUY Internet: we've tried many things - we even switched our cell service to Verizon. Got a hotspot and tried the hum device - cool concept, but the data is not "unlimited" like advertised. Typically 15-25 GB is all you get. Through the RVitGUY, you get unlimited wifi without throttling. The customer service is incredible and guess what... It was started by vanlifers who also live the lifestyle. It's $99 per month and comes with an encrypted VPN for safe browsing. It also enables us to binge on Netflix!!! Also, because we both work from the van, it is integral.
Bumper: Our Backwoods Adventure Mods Bumper not only protects us from creatures and other vehicles, but the built-in winch and lights allow us to get off-the grid with less fear. The rear bumper is great for getting the spare out from under the van and is extra storage for a generator, oil, propane and any other liquids you might not want inside the van.
We strongly recommend two fans - This allows you to maximize air flow by circulating air in and out.
Our Dometic Range - It uses propane and the oven works better than any other oven we've used. It also has three burners so you're able to cook a "normal" meal.
Flares (flarespace) - Frees up space! Also, we've lived in our van for fifteen months now and do our fair share of city (stealth) camping during the colder months. This means sleeping on the street where there can be cambered roads (almost every night!). Because we sleep perpendicular, we have the ability to switch sides and elevate our heads. Initially we had an air mattress that was parallel with the length of the van and we would roll on top of each other in the same scenario.
Comfortable mattress: We went with a Tochta and it hasn't disappointed. They will do custom cuts which works perfectly around the walls and flares. It also is a dual density foam and super comfy
Garage: Almost any full-time vanlifer will tell you how important it is to have the space under the bed for storage. Bikes, skis, water tank, electric, etc. Sure the modular bed that turns into a seating area is great for instagram photos, but long-term it isn't practical. Almost every individual we've talked to that has made the decision for the modular bed has regretted it. They get tired of taking their bed apart and re-making it at night. It's inconvenient!
Last but not least, what is your favourite road trip song? On the road, we enjoy listening to Colter Wall, Johnny Cash, Bobby Dylan or any old country western songs. They are folky and tell a story - perfect for driving!
Thank you! Thank you for reading Sprintrview #1 and a huge thank you to Brandon and Brittni for putting time into putting together such great answers to my questions! You two are a true inspiration to people who are wanting to chase their dreams and do something out of the ordinary.
Here are some links to vanlife essentials to make your life a little easier :)
The more you surround yourself with positive, successful people, who have accomplished something similar to your goals, the more likely you are to succeed. That is the whole reason behind doing Sprintrviews - to help people gain exposure to the life of a digital nomad and create a network of people who will elevate each other to achieve their goals.
Join the Sprintrviews community and follow along with weekly success stories so you too can get out of the regular grind and live a life full of fulfillment and adventure!
Stay tuned for Sprintrview #2 with @thebeardedvan!