By Mark McConville
MEET the army brat who lives and travels full time in a van after becoming hooked on a nomadic lifestyle thanks to her military mum.
Freelance writer Anna French (27), from Phoenix, Arizona, USA moved around a lot as a child due to her mum’s work commitments before studying abroad at colleges in England, Australia and Fiji.
Despite her degree in Sustainability and International Development, Anna decided her true calling was in writing and currently keeps a travel blog while also writing a book in her Ford Transit.
The creative traveller bought the van and refurbished it herself at a cost of $2000 over two months in order to suit her particular requirements and reduce the overall cost.
“The idea to buy a van was planted in my mind long ago,” she said.
“When I was 15, my mum, my grandma, my dog and I did a month-long road trip in a rented RV around National Parks in Utah, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.
“At the time, I was annoyed that I couldn’t spend my summer break with friends, but secretly I loved the captivity and freedom of RV life.
“Then a series of things happened in my life: I quit my job in NYC, I ran out of money backpacking around Asia, and I saw one too many photos of digital nomads living my dream, and there was nothing left holding me back, so the choice made itself.
“I knew that my next stage in life needed to involve pursuing my passions, and I could figure the rest out as I go.
“Travelling is my homeostasis, I have tried to put roots down all over the globe, but I have always felt the most myself while in transit, and life on the road is perfect for that.
As far as the logistics of deciding to buy and refurbish a van, rather than buy a premade one, I thought it would be cheaper.”
Anna has so far travelled through Yosemite, Lassen, Redwoods, Sequoia, Zion, Canyonlands, Arches, Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Glacier, Banff and Jasper National Parks (California, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Alberta-Canada).
She is currently volunteering on a farm in Oregon in exchange for free room and board as well as electricity for her van but has no concrete plans for the future.
“My plan for the future is to stop making plans- because they never work out anyway,” she explained.
“I don’t want to fill up my schedule too much though, because then it takes away from the point of living in the van, which is to be free of commitment, schedules, plans, and structure.
“I don’t know how long I want to do this, but for the time being it feels like the perfect lifestyle fit, and I see no end in sight.
“Life is simple in the van. I worry about two things: weather and gas prices. I stopped following the news- and I don’t feel guilty about it. I am in my own reality, a cosy bubble that allows me to pursue my wildest dreams, without the clutter of stuff.”
The aspiring author explained why she loves life on the road and why it’s the perfect place to pen a book.
“I love the simplicity and freedom of being able to wake up and think of a place I want to be and then I can just drive there, without having to think about how I’ll get there or where I’ll sleep,” she added.
“There is no roadmap to success, because if you chase some version of it that is not your own, somewhere along the way you’ll get lost.
“Once you give up on the idea that you have to find yourself, you have all this new space to create yourself. So, if that means travelling full-time, because you want to, even if you don’t have all the details sorted out, absolutely 100% just do it.
“Van life works for me because it allows me the freedom to explore those things. It gives me the time, the energy, and the inspiration to write.
“Some writers lock themselves in a cabin in the woods, some rent houses on lakes, some do it in their parent’s basement, but I thought what better story and setting to write a book, then on the road while living in a van.”