By Mark McConville
MEET the couple who do every adventure from abseiling to travelling the globe with their pair of loyal pooches.
Incredible images and video footage show the pair travelling with their canine pals in the desert and even taking them climbing with one dog filmed abseiling down the climbing rope to reach the ground.
Other candid shots show the dogs relaxing in their van as the humans pack for their next trip or lying in the shade as the adventurous couple set up camp for the night.
Freelance writer Brianna Madia (27) and her husband Keith (29), from Bridegeport and Fairfield, Connecticut, USA respectively, claim they couldn’t bear to leave their dogs and go anywhere without them.
“It’s messy and it requires a lot of planning and sacrifice but I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” said Brianna.
“When you live in a vehicle with your dogs, they stop being regular house pets and really become the co-pilots of your life. Anywhere we go, they go. Any activity we do, they do. There is no us without them.
“Bucket and Dagwood are essentially an extension of my own body at this point. Their joy is my joy. Sometimes when they’re sprinting through the desert alongside the van as we rumble along down these dirt roads, I just lean out the door and watch them.
“There are no words to describe the look on their face…the way the muscles in their little legs ripple under their fur as they’re chasing a rabbit or weaving through juniper trees.
“I’ve learned everything I know about being free from watching my dogs. I’ve learned everything I know about joy from watching my dogs. I know they don’t know how many states they’ve been to or how many beaches they’ve run on or country’s borders they’ve crossed or oceans they’ve swam in but I have to bring them there.
“I have to see places through their eyes. I have to experience things the way they experience them. No place would be the same without them, so I just couldn’t imagine leaving them behind.”
The couple do run into some problems by bringing their dogs everywhere and have to avoid US National Parks due to strict leash laws or no dog policies.
Brianna recalled how they came to live in a van in the first place and how the lifestyle is less glamorous than is often portrayed on social media.
“After college, my husband and I had nowhere to live so out of desperation, his family let us post up on their 33-foot sailboat for seven months while we worked and saved up some money to move out west,” she said.
“I’m sure that sounds super glamorous, but the fact is we had no running water, no air conditioning, no internet, no TV and no refrigerator.
“We had one pot and one pan that we’d wash with a hose out on the end of the dock while the big fat seagulls would pick at our leftovers. It was the first time in my life that I felt like I was actually living, like I was an active participant in every moment of every day.
“A couple years later, we were sitting across a desk from a mortgage loan officer at a bank when I realized that I didn’t want to go live inside four walls like everybody else. I wanted to feel the way I felt waking up on that boat every morning.
“So about six days after that meeting, I walked back into the same bank and withdrew every single cent I had to our name and handed it to a man in a parking lot in exchange for that gigantic orange van. We’ve been on the road ever since.
“There is an overwhelming sense of safety and comfort in knowing exactly how little you need to be happy.
“People are usually shocked that there are four of us living in here. They’re shocked that we live in the desert where it’s over 100 degrees and we have no AC or protection from the elements.
“They’re shocked when we tell them that we dig holes in the ground to use the bathroom or pee into bottles in the middle of the night if we’re parked somewhere in a city.
“I think there’s a huge discrepancy between what some vanlifers choose to display on the internet and what this life actually looks like. Most people who see it or experience it will very quickly realize that it’s much more than lying with your bare ass out on a perfectly white sheet gazing at a sunset.”
The couple spend most of their time in Utah but have travelled through Oregon, Colorado, California, Arizona, Nevada, Wyoming, Idaho and even Mexico.
They hope to live on a sailboat again someday, somewhere outside the US – but not without their dogs.
For more information follow @briannamadia on Instagram.