By Mark McConville
MEET the former lawyer who gave up the rat race after losing her mum to breast cancer and now leads a more leisurely life on the road.
Lisa Jacobs (34), from Austin, Texas, USA, gave up her career in law when her mother died in 2014 and started a sustainable interior design firm where she renovated ‘green’ tiny homes and Airstream trailers.
Despite this new blooming career, a house and a boyfriend, Lisa knew something was still missing from her life and that’s when she discovered vanlife.
Lisa, who posts as @vacayvans on Instagram, now lives in a 2012 Nissan NV2500 high roof named Freebird which she converted herself at a cost of £12k.
“In the summer of 2017, it looked like everything was going great in my life— I had a house, boyfriend, and a successful company, but I was very depressed,” she said.
“Something was missing in my life but I didn’t know what. That’s when I discovered vanlife. When I realized that many people my age with similar ambitious and entrepreneurial aspirations were embracing life on the road, I had to join the movement.
“I discovered vanlife on a Friday night in June 2017, by Sunday afternoon I found a used Nissan NV2500 on Craigslist and was forcing a deposit check into the seller’s hand. Freebird was a used chicken catering delivery van and she was wrapped up like a big pink bird. She had all of my main requirements: low mileage, good price, and clearance for me to stand up inside.
“I started this vanlife journey with a boyfriend. We worked together on the renovation and planned to ditch our home to live long-term together in the van. We spent four months working on the renovation, excited about our future adventures. But once we moved into the van, it was suddenly clear we weren’t a good match. Vanlife has a way of amplifying everything: the good is great and the bad is terrible. We could no longer coast in a mediocre relationship.
“After the breakup, I drove the van back to my home in Austin, Texas, where I spent three months agonizing over what to do. I never imagined doing this lifestyle as a solo woman. I had no clue if I could do it on my own or if I even wanted to. After connecting with many new supportive friends in the vanlife community through Instagram, I decided to give it a go. In March 2018, I started my solo vanlife journey and I have been on the road ever since.”
Lisa, of Vacay Vans, started in Austin, Texas and headed west. She has clocked up 14,000 miles in just six months covering Texas, California, Colorado and Oregon, where she is currently.
Freebird has never broken down and Lisa explained what life is like on the road for a solo traveller living in a van.
“Living in a van is complete freedom and complete spontaneity,” added Lisa.
“I am always moving forward because I always have everything I need with me. Vanlife is actually extremely convenient– you have all your clothes, snacks, things, and the ability to come and go whenever you please.
“I am never bored because I go anywhere and see anything— the possibilities are endless. It can be very exhausting though, living solo on the road, because every day I make so many decisions about what to do, where to go, and where to park that night. It’s challenging sometimes not having a sense of “place” but the positives greatly outweigh the negatives.
“Sometimes I wish I had a partner to share the work of cooking, cleaning, driving, and planning, but this solo time is very imprtant for me right now and everything will happen when it’s meant to happen.”
Lisa is co-hosting a gathering with Vanlife Diaries in Joshua Tree, California in March 2019 for the vanlife community.
She also documents her solo vanlife journey every Monday on her Vacay Vans YouTube channel called Yes Monday. Lisa explained what she loves about this lifestyle and had a message for anyone wishing to follow in her footsteps.
“I love that I don’t feel limited by anything. I feel like I can follow any opportunities that arise anywhere, regardless of where it might be,” she said.
“If I meet someone from Montana, I can pursue that connection and spend time with them there. If I meet a filmmaker in San Francisco, I can spend a few weeks there to work on a project with them. I can be anywhere and follow any whim.
“Solo vanlife as a woman is challenging, empowering, fun, exciting, and stressful. It’s really imprtant for you to know why you’re doing this and stay focused on your goals when things get tough. Be gentle with yourself— if you get scared being on your own, go visit friends and stay in their driveway.
“If you want company, reach out to the vanlife community because there are always people to connect with. Stay strong mentally and don’t let you mind get the best of you— oftentimes feelings of fear are really a result of our inner monologue and not the actual circumstances around us. Trust your gut, have money saved in case of surprises (they WILL happen), and say yes to opportunities.”
For more information see https://www.instagram.com/vacayvans