By Rebecca Drew
THIS COUPLE spent THIRTY-EIGHT THOUSAND POUNDS on a van conversion to leave their corporate lives behind – but admit it ISN’T SAFE, after two men tried to BREAK IN whilst they were sleeping.
YouTubers, Allie Miraglia (29) and Trent Childs (33) from Washington D.C. and Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, respectively, first met on the dating app Bumble in December 2016 and they bonded over their shared passion for travel and adventure.
At the time Trent worked as an outdoor gear sales representative and Allie worked as a project manager for a healthcare quality improvement organisation during the week and they relished their weekends together where they would go rock climbing, mountain biking, trail running, snowboarding and exploring nature.
Two days before their first date, Trent bought a van so that he could go on weekend trips in the mountains without having to pitch a tent. The couple took their first eight-week-long road trip in 2017 through the Pacific Northwest and Canada and fell in love with the idea of living in a van permanently and the freedom of experiencing a life away from material possessions.
So, they sold their first van and bought a RAM Promaster van in autumn 2017 and spent five months whilst still working their day jobs and spent £38,327 ($50,000) converting it into a tiny home on wheels complete with a shower, toilet, hot water, an oven and fridge.
In early summer 2018 Trent and Allie decided to finally give up their day jobs and have been travelling through North and South America with their dog, Frank, full-time ever since; experiencing cultures that they say they would never be able to experience if they could only travel for one or two weeks of the year.
Currently in Chile and on their way to Patagonia, Trent and Allie say they feel more connected to the world by living this way and that not being able to have many belongings in the small space of their van is liberating. Life on road hasn’t been without its hiccups, as on June 17, 2019, whilst in Nicaragua two men tried to break into their van whilst they were sleeping which has made Trent and Allie more aware of where they park up for the night.
“After building out our first ‘weekend warrior’ van, we took an eight-week mountain biking trip through the Pacific Northwest and Canada. That summer, living and traveling in the van, making some of our first attempts at YouTube videos, we realised what a gift it was to live without so many physical belongings,” said Trent.
“The previously ludicrous idea of living so minimally, with only what fits with you on the road, became the most liberating lifestyle imaginable. Our ability to connect with and appreciate the world around us seemed to grow deeper every day.
“The idea of going back to our home in Utah and settling into our normal corporate routine seemed more and more unsatisfying. With our love of travel, exploration, adventure, connection, growth, it all seemed possible, affordable, even sustainable in the van.
“We decided life is too short for regrets this big, and once we returned from that trip we sold that van and began building our current van— with the intention of including everything we needed in order to live in it comfortably, full-time.
“Our van has a shower, toilet, hot water, oven, refrigerator, and temperature-controlled furnace. These were the basics we felt we needed to live comfortably on the road.
“We always tell people you don’t have to make huge sacrifices to be comfortable in a van. You should identify your priorities and comforts and include them in your build. For us, that meant a fully capable espresso machine, enough solar power to use a hand mixer for chocolate chip cookies and a blender for smoothies, and a big enough garage to store all our adventure gear.
“Our floorplan is designed to accommodate all parts of our daily life— working, cooking, cleaning, sleeping, lounging, yet it is small. Every inch has a function and a purpose.
“When people ask if we feel cramped or tight the answer is no— we built this van to live OUT of it and in the world, and when we are IN the van, we know we have everything we need to be safe and happy.
“We’ve been able to experience so many cultures and countries that we never would’ve seen if we could only travel one to two weeks a year. It’s been a huge lesson in learning how privileged we are to be able to choose this life, especially when so many people we meet in Latin America don’t have any choice in their future.
“It’s a constantly humbling and eye-opening experience that we try to savour it and be grateful for every day.”
So far the couple have travelled through Canada, USA, Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, Peru, Chile and Nicaragua.
Allie went on to talk about how one evening in Nicaragua shocked them into being more vigilant on the road.
“One night in Nicaragua, parked on a city street, we woke up to two men trying to break into the van. They had a metal tool and were trying to break open the front passenger door,” she said.
“Trent jumped out of bed in his underwear and gasped at their faces through the front window. He frantically started moving a five gallon water jug off the front seat so he could drive off, and luckily it swayed the van enough for the men outside to realise there were people in the van, and they ran away.
“It was a huge lesson for us in always having an escape route, keeping the front seat clear and the keys nearby when we go to sleep— and we have since become very mindful of the places we pick to sleep at night.”
The couple are now full-time YouTubers and also offer one-on-one van build consultations to people who are looking to follow in their footsteps. Their income fluctuates each month but they earn enough to cover their frugal travel expenses each month.
“This lifestyle is liberating. When you’re not tied to physical belongings and can simplify your life, you have more room to be present with others and intentional about the choices you make,” said Trent.
“This lifestyle is more affordable, sustainable, and forces us to be much more environmentally conscious. The world around us seems more tangible, more connected, and we feel a deeper appreciation for it.
“The future is never guaranteed, you can’t always travel and experience the world the way that you can right now, in this moment.
“Whether you’re taking a short road trip, weekend adventure, or looking to make a long-term lifestyle change, living and travelling in a van is an incredible way to experience the world.”
For more inspiration see www.youtube.com/channel/UCwh2SF7McSUf1GVFVk0nP8w/about and www.instagram.com/trentandallie