Vanlife: An Interview with Danny & Darlene

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Vanlife: An Interview with Danny & Darlene

#Vanlife Darlene and Danny

While onsite in the total eclipse path in Kentucky on the August 21st, I met an interesting couple who were living full-time in their Sprinter Van. As a #vanning enthusiast, I *thought* they might be full-timing. My friend, Adam, had already talked to Danny before I arrived and verified that they were traveling full-time.

Sooooo... I introduced myself to Danny when I saw him approaching the van. He was kind enough to give me an impromptu tour and to agree to be interviewed for my readers here on LivingSmall.com. A little later, Darlene came back to the van and I had the chance to talk to her as well. 

Charming people! And they seemed so happy! (As most #vanlife folk I've met do.)

Meet Danny and Darlene

Van Life: Danny and Darlene
Purchasing a #vanlife rig

Danny and Darlene Buy a Van


Danny and Darlene shared this photo from when they bought their beautiful van.
Iconic #Vanlife Photo

Darlene's Enviable View


Every dreamy-eyed wanna-be van dweller imagines a scene like this iconic #vanlife shot! Stunning!
Danny and Darlene in Utah #vanlife #vanning

Danny and Darlene Vanning in Utah


Danny and Darlene have traveled through a number of states on their journey so far. Here they are at Fisher Towers, Utah.

The Van Decision

What made you decide to hit the road?

We have always had the travel bug. In 1997 we bought one-way plane tickets and moved to St. Thomas, USVI. After St. Thomas we bought around-the-world tickets and backpacked for 3 months. For the past 15 years, we worked in the corporate technology world, but a stress-related health scare a few years ago prompted us to put plans in place to make traveling full-time a reality.

Why did you choose a van over an RV or any other option?

We always wanted a "low profile" van which provided the flexibility to inconspicuously boondock in a neighborhood, hotel parking lot, etc.  Since we rarely make camping reservations, we often do not know where we will be staying each night.

Why did you choose the Mercedes Sprinter Van? (It's really cool, btw!)

This van fell into our lap.  We did not want to buy a brand-new vehicle so we considered Nissan High Tops, Dodge, etc. We had patience and waited for something to come to us.  This van came on the market and we jumped on it.  We were not focused on the type of van as much as used vs. new.

The Living Area

The Living Area of the Van
This area contains their living area (couches on both sides), dining area (a table slides out between the two couches), a sleeping area (mattress is set up here to serve as a third couch, but folds down for sleeping). There is storage EVERYWHERE in their build and the ceiling and walls are a beautiful, warm wood.

The Kitchen Area

#vanning kitchen
Their kitchen has beautiful custom wood counters, cabinets galore below the counter and above the surface, a steel backdrop with magnetic spice containers and hooks as well as a good-sized sink and a small refrigerator. A fold down counter extension offers even more work-space when needed.

Garage Storage for Extras

Vanning Garage
Under the bed, is a space to keep occasional-use items, without cluttering the interior space of the van. The "garage" is accessed through the back french-style doors. A sliding bolt lock keeps the long pull-out drawer from shifting while they travel and LED light strips makes it easy to find things, even after dark.

Vanning Water System

Water system in van
Under the kitchen sink, Danny has installed a water tank, a gray-water system and a pump for use at the kitchen sink. A standard double-plug outlet is mounted for easy access. The door has a collapsible fabric garbage "can" lined with a plastic bag and drawers to the right offer additional storage in their kitchen area.

Making a Living & Having Fun While On The Road

What did you do for a living before the move to #vanlife?

We both worked in marketing for various technology companies. Danny still works part time on a limited basis.

What do you do for a living now?

For the past 15 years we have been buying investment properties. When the rental income matched our monthly spend we decided it was time to travel. While on the road, Danny works remotely 8-10 hours/week.

What do you do for fun?

We love to hike, mountain bike, climb, dive, surf and read. Our van is packed with all these toys.

Working on the Road

Danning working while #vanning
Danny does some work at his #vanning desk - which also serves as the dining area.

Living In The Van

What's the most difficult part of full-time vanning?

We miss our core group of friends and family. Traveling is easy, but not seeing our friends and family on a regular basis is hard. Fortunately, while on the road, we’ve been able to meet up with old friends who live in different states.

What's the most surprising part?

I thought finding places to sleep/boondock would be a challenge, but this has been surprisingly easy.

On the nasty side, while in Chicago attending a Cubs game, we came back to the parking lot to discover our “home” had been towed. That was heart-stopping!

The Van is in Jail

The Van is in Jail
Your vehicle in auto-jail -- a sad sight for anyone, but particularly alarming for a #vanner !

When you are living in a Van full-time, there are a few things you really need that often take up too much room. Not so in this van. The composting toilet is hidden under a seating section that unlocks to give access to the potty when needed.

Vanning, Full-Time Travel & Relationships

How has vanning impacted your relationship?

Danny:

It has been good.  We are used to traveling with one another, so it’s easy.  Not that we don't have heated discussions around timeframes, locations and what to do and when. Darlene is more structured than I am. She likes to have a plan and a checklist. I am a “fly by the seat of my pants” person.

Darlene:

Aside from traveling together we’ve also worked at 7 different companies together -- in fact that’s how we met! So going in we knew each other’s “work persona” & “home persona." Fortunately, there haven’t been any surprises on the road. We recognize when one of us needs “active time” or “alone time” and respect each other's differences.

What did the families say when you announced your intentions?

“Oh, there they go again!”  They have seen it before and were not surprised we’re doing this.

What do the families say NOW?

They all follow us on our closed Facebook group and they seem to enjoy it.

20 years ago, when we lived in St. Thomas and then traveled around the world, we didn’t have an effective way to share our adventures. Email was relatively new and digital cameras hadn’t been invented.

Now they see what we’re doing and can provide feedback & suggestions.

The Wander Wall

I just love the map and travel stickers wall in the van and the inspirational post-its.

Future Plans

How long do you plan to be on the road?

Right now, we are shooting to be on the road at least 1 year, but who knows this may change. We met an inspiring couple who had the same plan and they’ve been on the road for 7 years.

What are your plans in the immediate future?

We want to experience the United States. We meet new people, mountain bike, dive, and climb in locations we have only read about, and LIVE.

With the divided political climate, this an interesting time to be on the road.  We are discovering that people are people and they are friendly everywhere you go.  We just need better communication between the parties and we should listen to the scientists.

What are your long term plans?

For the next 7 months we are going to keep traveling. We will head up north for Fall Foliage, then down the east coast and winter in the Florida area.

We’d would like to visit the Bahamas and Cuba.

Advice for Wanna-Be #Vanlife Folks

What advice would you give to the #vanlife daydreamers?

Danny:

Live a minimalist life, figure out what you need to live on, focus on income streams, and/or the ability to work remotely and put together a 5 and 10-year plan to make it happen.

Darlene:

Trust your crazy ideas. Make a wish-list, and then put a plan in place to make your wishes a reality.

I'd like to extend a HUGE thank you to Danny and Darlene for being so gracious, for giving me the tour of your tiny house on wheels and for sharing your vanning wisdom with my readers. We all hope you continue to grow and thrive while you live and drive in your lovely van home!

Want To Meet Danny and Darlene?

Danny and Darlene are looking for people along the way to their next adventure that may offer them a place to park for a day or two. If you are on the way to (or in) the Bahamas, Cuba or places along the way, you can contact them at d.d.sprintervan@gmail.com.

They are also happy to respond to questions or comments.

Storage Nets Alongside the Bed

Storage Nets on Both Sides of the Bed

Storage Behind the Seat

Extra Storage on the Back of the Passenger's Seat

Darlene and the Van

Darlene and the Van

Danny and the Van

Danny and the Van

1 Comment

  1. Ron Ripley says:

    Awesome! I know that guy – looks like you are having FUN Mr. McKeever! Very cool interview and love the “van”. Hope all is well, miss seeing you, young man!

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