Digital Nomads Embrace Van Life
By: Lindsey Lowe & Connor Langfield
Photography By: Lindsey Lowe
In the summer of 2020, the pandemic shifted a colossal amount of how Connor and I operated in our everyday lives; who knew it would soon shape our future? It all started when I watched Canadian adventure influencer Hayden Korte-Moore take a week’s vacation with a few friends in a van, which inspired me to do the same. Both being Minnesota natives, we wanted to harness the ability to become ‘digital nomads,’ and we set off to do what we love most — explore!
Due to COVID-19 and the flexibility Connor and I were given to work from home, we started to reimagine how we could potentially work our full-time jobs on the go, I as an account executive at a software company and Connor as a credit analyst for a financial institution. With approval from work and some quick research on the best Verizon and T-Mobile hotspots to fuel our Wi-Fi needs, we had ourselves less than a week later a 2002 Diesel Ford Econoline passenger van with 130,000 miles that went by the name of Li’l Debbie.
With no prior building experience, but a little help from YouTube, we spent the next two months fully remodeling the inside of the van. This included adding floors, walls, a ceiling, cabinets, solar panels and electrical to energize our charging phones/laptops, a fridge, and afan. Our goal was to have a comfortable sleeping situation, maximize storage capacity and have enough solar power to support our remote-working needs.
On the Road/Travel Advice:
October arrived, and it was time to hit the road and spend three extraordinary months in a 6x10-foot space with our 75-pound dog, Kai. Focusing so much of our time on ensuring all our electrical work was done correctly and securing all cabinets so they don’t fly open when we drive (even our fridge), there wasn’t a ton of time to plan our entire trip. Connor and I made a list of national parks we wanted to visit, as well as all our friends who moved away (big shout-out to everyone who let us crash in your homes, take a shower and do some laundry) and formed a loose plan that could change on the fly. Van life isn’t as glamorous as photos always make it seem. Everything gets messy, smelly and unorganized VERY QUICKLY, so you need to have a place for every item and a routine that works for you. A few things that made our trip that much smoother were utilizing apps like FreeRoam, iOverlander and Dyrt; joining a nationwide gym for workouts and showering; and socializing with other van dwellers along the way.
Our first destination was Utah, a geological wonder, where we got to explore Zion National Park with iconic scenery of The Narrows and Angels Landing. We spent three days in the greater Zion area, visiting Bryce Canyon, watching a sunrise at Horseshoe Bend, taking a breathtaking kayak ride on Lake Powell to Antelope Canyon, and visiting the famous Grand Canyon. Another stop we highly recommend is White Sands National Park in New Mexico. You’ll want to rent a sled and let your inner child loose by flying down the sand dunes! Next, head down to Big Bend National Park, Texas, for jaw-dropping views. One of the park’s most spectacular hikes is Santa Elena Canyon Trail. If you’re a craft beer connoisseur, you’ll want to head to Asheville, North Carolina, microbrewery capital of the world. The Blue Ridge Mountains are home to waterfalls, lush forests and breathtaking vistas. And when you’ve had enough mountain and desert landscape, head for the ocean! Driving the 113-mile Overseas Highway to Key West was a perfect end to our voyage.
Goodbye, Van Life. Hello, Micro-Resort Restoration!
After 19 states, 8,000 miles and six national parks, our trusty van made it home safe with no issues. Traveling in Li’l Debbie has been one of the best experiences one could imagine. You stop seeing a home as a space but instead as a sentiment. You spend so much time outdoors, exploring and staying active, that you don’t feel confined to anything. The world is your living space. Once we were back in Minnesota, we started to brainstorm what was next for us, knowing that a home renovation was something we were willing to take on. Although Li’l Debbie was small (but mighty), the van gave us the confidence to dream bigger. In July 2021, we purchased Bay Pines Cottages, a micro-resort on the world’s largest freshwater chain of lakes in Three Lakes, Wisconsin. Connor and I are ecstatic to put our working gloves back on to flip three small cottages entirely. The goal is to bring an unparalleled boutique cottage experience with all the modern-day amenities situated in the remote woods. Who knew an idea sparked by an adventure influencer would lead us to our own adventure with Li’l Debbie and eventually to this more significant moment with Bay Pines Cottages — a moment we look forward to sharing with all our guests.
Read more of our stories in Issue 23 of Lake and Company.