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After graduating from college, Pete Thuli and Taylor Bucher spent 10 months traveling through Southeast Asia, and when they returned home to the U.S., they realized how much of their own country they had never seen.
“We knew that committing ourselves to an office job straight out of college wouldn’t make us happy, so we started brainstorming ways we could travel and work for an extended amount of time,” the couple told TODAY Home. Their winning idea: an 80-square-foot van that needed some TLC.
Originally a San Diego airport shuttle bus, the van had also been most recently used as a construction vehicle. When they bought it for $4,500, there were a lot of random accessories and additions that each owner had added to it and modified.
The couple spent the next five months working full-time jobs and converting the van into a cozy tiny home for them and their 90-pound lapdog named Snoop.
“We designed everything strategically so that everything was multi-functional,” they said, adding that they spent about $5,000 on the renovations.
After gutting the old interior, they began building their new home from scratch.
One of the most important things to them was creating a place that could double as a spacious living room and bedroom.
“Our sleeping area is roughly the size of a queen-size bed and when made into benches, they comfortably sit six to eight people, if you’re willing to get cozy,” the couple said.
Under the bed/benches is ample storage space for things like blankets, pillows, shoes, dirty laundry, the stove, folding chairs, tools, tent, etc.
There were some challenging moments during the conversion though. The couple said the hardest part was figuring out the electrical system.
“Everything in our van runs off 200 watts of solar panels, which charges an AGM battery,” they explained. “Connecting appliances and outlets to a battery isn’t the same as your typical household electrical configurations, especially when the battery and electrical is located underneath your bed.”
They did ultimately figure it out and said there was no better feeling than flipping that light switch on for the first time and watching their LED lights shine.
Of course living in a van full-time has its challenges as well. The water system only allows for five gallons in the tank at a time so they have to be more conscious and ration until they’re in a place they can fill up again. Also finding good, inexpensive campsites can be tough.
Their other advice for couples who want to live on the road? Here's some advice:
- “Treat every shower like it’s your last.”
- “Put avocados in a drawer or on a shelf. When you put them in a fruit hammock, they’ll smack against the window and explode.”
- “If you and your partner already have communication problems, then we do not suggest living in a van together. Also, love your partner, but know when you need to take some time for yourself and respect your other half when they need a little ‘me time’ as well.”
Thuli and Bucher have so far traveled to about 12 states and plan on travelingall the way up the West Coast once the weather starts to warm up.
“Our lifestyle isn’t one long vacation as many people may think,” they said. “Traveling full-time and living on the road isn’t a luxurious lifestyle by any means. But it’s the lifestyle that excites us at this point in our lives.”