Hello Again! We’re coming at you from a Panera Bread in Happy Valley, AZ. We will be posted up here in town for the next day or two getting supplies and ourselves ready to start making our way North (our post on Wednesday will go through all of our upcoming plans). In the meantime, we thought we’d answer some of our most asked questions. If you have a question we didn’t answer, leave a comment and we’ll answer it there. So, without further ado…here’s our most FAQ’s:

What about all of your stuff?
Always a favorite! Basically, we don’t own “stuff” any longer. That sounds really hippy-dippy but it’s true. Sure, we could pay a ridiculous amount of money each month for a small room to hold things we collected throughout the years, but we didn’t see much sense in paying for a room to hold things we cared so little about that we didn’t need to see them for the foreseeable future. Before moving into the van, we probably did 10 “sweeps” through our house over a 3-month period. Each time we felt less attached to things we couldn’t bare to part with the sweep before, and we did that until everything could fit into a storage bin…and then, we went through that storage bin and I (Ashley) cried and cried at the thought of parting with all the homemade cards Sean had made me through the years, but nevertheless, we persisted and got rid of some very sentimental items. What was saved can fit into a shoe box (every last card made the cut haha) and we travel around feeling at home because we have that special box stored carefully under our bed. The gear and clothing we own now, are good quality, long lasting, and backed by the companies we purchased them from. We found that with less stuff, comes more happiness, more time, and better living. 

How do you make money/afford vanlife?
Before we move into the van full-time, we worked as much as humanly possible together at a restaurant in Denver and we were able to save up $10,000 after all the van expenses and insurance were paid. We discussed what number we would feel comfortable going down to before finding temporary jobs and decided that $3,000 was the magic number. Once we get close to it, we will find restaurant jobs and work for 4-6 weeks, saving everything we make before hitting the road again. To make money last as long as possible, we try to budget and keep living expenses, like food, low. Usually coming in around $600 a month in expenses. One thing to note is, we aren’t miserly when it comes to money either, if we see something cool, we do it. Our motto is “thats what the money is there for”. Plus, we aren’t afraid to work hard so we can play harder + longer.

Where do you park the van?
Most people don’t know that we have never paid for camping or parking. We utilize free public land, typically managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). If you aren’t familiar, this land is scattered bountifully all throughout the southwest and offers endless amounts of monuments, parks, and dirt roads where you are free to pull over and camp. 90% of the time, there are established sites with fire rings for you to use. (READ: If you plan on using this land please visit the Leave No Trace site and learn how to not be a human piece of garbage when you are outdoors!) These sites offer boondocking camping and have no services (no bathroom, trash or water) but the sites have lots of distance between them, offer solitude, and give you a view of the backcountry that you just can’t see from a paved road. When we are traveling through cities, we check with the local Walmart or Cracker Barrel to see if they allow overnight parking (70% allow it!) and if that isn’t an option, we stealth camp. Which is just parking the van in a neighborhood and hoping no one notices this weird van that just came out of no where. 10 weeks in, we haven’t had to pay once or been unable to find a safe spot to park, so we’re stoked on that.

How do you go to the bathroom?
If we are camping on BLM land, then we go in the great outdoors! Meaning, we dig what is called a “cathole”: a 6-8 inch deep hole that we then go to the bathroom in. It is imperative that these holes are at least 200 feet (70 paces) away from camp, water sources, and trails to minimize our impact on the land that we love so much. Toilet paper get’s burned or packed out, which may seem gross but it’s better than destroying the land and leaving used toilet paper for animals to find. For a full lesson on what do with your waste when in the out of doors, read this. When we are posted up at Walmart, we use their bathroom, which can be awkward when the door guy sees you bolting in at 5AM and going straight to the bathroom, but that won’t stop us. Starbucks has been another great treasure, they open early and have a public bathroom policy. If all else fails or if it’s an emergency, we keep an empty Gatorade bottle in the van, which I can use too, with a Female Urinary Device (this one to be exact).

What if something happens to you?
Then something happens. Kidding, but I mean…not really. We are prepared as anyone can be: stocked outdoors first-aid kit, knowledge of poisonous snakes and insects and what to do in the event of a bite, and ability to stay calm in emergencies. Sure, we’ll probably get a satellite phone one day or another, but we take precautions before any hike or ride out to desolate areas. Like checking the van completely, stocking up on water, food, and emergency supplies. As far as a person bothering/hurting us…well, we just don’t see the point in worrying about someone driving down windy roads with endless turnoffs, looking for people in the wilderness to kill, because that seems a bit unrealistic.

What if something happens to the van?
With all the driving we do, van trouble is bound to happen! From big to small, cheap to expensive, it can and will happen. We’ve had a flat tire in a small town on a Sunday night to leaking antifreeze inside the van from a busted Heater Core. One time our brand new battery just stopped working at a gas station. We are pretty faithful to Pep Boys, so if we have a problem we try to make it to them. If we are out in the middle of nowhere, I have a copy of the Haynes Manual for the van (get yours here) and a full tool box so I can at least patch us up to get us to service for a tow or better, a mechanic. The key is to not freak out in the moment, but of course that’s easier said than done. Time has taught us that van troubles turn a trip into an adventure, and when you have that mindset, it’s hard to get frustrated in those moments.

How do you shower?
……..we don’t. In the past 65 days, we have showered 3 times, all 3 times we had a hotel room for the night and it would have been crazy for us not to shower. No shower, no shaving, no problems.

What if Rufio gets dirty or smelly?
Chances are if he’s smelly + dirty, then we are far worst so what does it matter? There’s dirt and sand and mud every where all the time and it makes us so happy. A month ago, Rufio rolled in what we assumed was mountain lion pee and oh-my-god did he stink, which made our blankets stink and us and it was, BAD. So the next rainy day, we found a pet store with a self wash station and had a BLAST (not Rufio)! More recently, he hardcore rolled in fresh coyote poop and quite literally mashed it into his fur and smelled like…poop. We were in the middle of the desert boondocking, so we just kind of washed off what we could and tried to forget what happened by the nighttime when we had to share a bed with him.

How long do you plan on doing this?
Ten weeks in, we feel more confident then ever about our decision to move into our van. To be honest, we don’t see an end in sight, or even how we could go back to living in “normal society”. We will of course have to stop to work from time to time and we are stoked at the thought of all the cool and unique jobs we will get to experience, but we think we will always be vagabonds of some sort. However, our favorite part about this new lifestyle is how quickly things change and plans get thrown out the window, so we try not to plan too far ahead or predict where we may be a year from now. Right now, all we know is that we want more travel and more adventure, and we plan on leaving ourselves open to experience both in any capacity!

We hope you enjoyed reading the answers to our most frequently asked questions and remember you can comment your question below if you didn’t see yours above. No question is off limits, so shoot!

Make sure to check back on Wednesday for a full blog on question #10: What are your plans for the future?

Last week, we left Flagstaff in search of a BLM area in the middle of Arizona that we found on a map that promised over 100 miles of non-motorized trails. We weren’t quite sure what to expect, but a few miles away from where the GPS was taking us, we were met with signs warning of mountainous, unmaintained roads ahead. We looked at each other with the biggest grins, stoked at the thought of what was ahead.

It was afternoon when we arrived and we only saw 1 other camper around, it was like we had the place to ourselves. We posted up in the main staging area (basically a big open area with a couple of fire pits for those spending the night), and found the first trail on their list: Trail A. We quickly lost the trail (typical) and decided to turn back to make dinner (also typical). By morning, there were a couple of horse trailers that had pulled in overnight and had generators running, so we decided to further explore and find a place to park a little off-the-beaten-path.

During our exploring, we found a small dirt trail off the road equipped with a fire ring, not sure if it kept going, we walked on foot to see where it led. To our excitement, it was a dead-end about 1/4 mile further and had another firepit and a flat, open space for a tent. We decided straight away that we would pitch the tent, and maneuver the van to block the road and keep anyone else from finding us or this magical spot. After coming off a week posted up because of rain and mechanical issues, we were so happy to have the fresh air and open space that comes with sleeping in the tent. It took a few trips from the van to the campsite to get all of our gear there, but once it was all setup we still wanted to explore and went back to walk Trail A. We lasted an hour and realized we forgot to bring enough water (rookies) and headed back to camp. On our walk back up the road, a truck pulled over, rolled the window down and out yells, “Hey! I follow you on Instagram!” and it was no other than fellow traveler, @Wheres.Mal.Now, what a small world!

Thursday morning, bound and determined, we loaded up the pack and hit Trail A for the 3rd time and GUARANTEED to be the time we actually hike the simple 7.1 miles. We decided we would outsmart ourselves and the portion of trail that was hiding from us, by starting at the opposite side. 3 miles in, a PRIVATE PROPERTY sign made us realized that we were no where near the trail and in fact, we had never been on it. HAHA! Confused, we turned around and had lunch next to a horse trailer in the staging area before walking up the hill to our site.

The next morning we woke up and decided to drive down the dirt road and see where all the cars were coming and going from. As far as Google Maps was concerned, there was nothing down there, so our curiosities were piqued. During the 5 mile drive, we speculated wildly, “maybe it’s the Illuminati”….”maybe it’s some weird cult”…”maybe it’s some weird hunting gangbang” (idk)….turns out, 5 miles down the road was a hotel. The road you would normally take to get to the hotel currently had a river flowing straight across it, which we came to, and said “oh that makes sense” and then turned around. We decided to head into the local town of Wickenburg, to explore, get supplies to hold us over for a few days in case the forecasted rain came and stranded us a for a day or so. At some point on the road back out, we found this massive skeleton about 25 yards off the road and pulled over to examine it, looked like a javelina but not sure. Once we got back to the site, Rufio started acting really weird. We found him sitting at the edge of the road, staring off into the distance, when we inspected further, we found a massive steer grazing across the road! We were really impressed with how calm Rufio was, some guard dog.

Saturday was calling for rain all week, but that morning, the forecast had changed and said 0%. “This is it. This is our time.” we thought as we once again loaded up the pack to hike Trail A. The weather was perfect, cloud coverage kept the heat at bay, and we found the section of the trail that eluded us all these days. About 2 miles in, we felt a few raindrops, and after another .5 mile it was raining pretty steady. We were determined to not let it stop us and we carried on until we were hungry for lunch. As we looked for shelter for lunch, the rain picked up and began what one could describe as, pouring. We ate wet sandwiches, laughed, and decided to turn back. We took a shortcut, and got back to the van in just enough time for the rain to stop and the clouds to open to blue bird skies. HAHA. At dinner, it was decided on that Sunday would be a lounge around and relax day, Trail A would have to wait.

Monday we spent the day cleaning the van and stocking up on ice, water, and food to get ready for @TheOffGridSkoolie to come by to film Bernie for his YouTube Channel @TinyHomeTours. We tried to act cool and unbothered but we both were mega stoked to show off our home for the first time.

4:17AM on Tuesday is when Ashley woke up with excitement, which kind of meant that all 3 of us were up. We made a nice breakfast, tried to work out the nerves, and waited for Chris to come at 10AM with his camera and drone to film our home. When he arrived in his converted school bus, he gave us a tour and we laughed at how completely opposites our rigs were from one another- the beauty of #vanlife! Chris mic’d us up and started rolling and everything felt super natural, we were impressed with ourselves! That faded as fast as it took him to get out of sight, because we spent the rest of the evening intensely anxious and overly aware of ourselves. It feels really intimate to show someone your home, we had to remind ourselves that, that isn’t quite necessarily, a normal thing for people to do, so we forgive ourselves for any awkwardness.

For dinner, we made BBQ Chicken Quesadillas for the first time as a little reward for our hard work and social interaction. As Sean went to cleanup and do dishes, he heard something in the brush. We froze. The sound was loud and heavy and coming from a few different directions. Sean backs up and quietly says “should we be worried?” and unzipped the tent so we can dive in. The noise was getting louder and closer, probably less than 10 yards and it’s so dark we couldn’t see but 5 feet in front of us. Then it dawns on me, it’s probably those damn cows again! Back to graze on the blooming bushes. I call for Rufio and have him bark a few times to scare off any visitors and that must have worked or as we joked they just stood frozen in place, damn near scared half to death. Never a dull moment.

Time has flown, and we have been at the site for a week already and planning on staying through the weekend until the rain comes on Monday. If we make it to Monday, it will be a full 13 days camping in the same spot, a first for us! There is so much to see and do around here, it feels like we are running out of time to explore it all, especially considering it will take 6 different attempts to hike one dang trail, but with no schedule or place to be, it doesn’t matter how long it takes to hike it, as long as we are hiking (+laughing) together.

Thanks for reading about our week camping! If you’re on Instagram, make sure to follow us at @TheBeirnes to see all of our daily antics.

“What Do You Do All Day?”

Hiking 2/26/19

As we finish up on our second month on the road, we seem to be finding our rhythm. With the weather getting warmer and drier, there are more and more days to spend however we want. Friends and family frequently ask how exactly we spend our days, but our nephew, Cody, put it best when he asked recently, “So…what do you guys do all day….like hike and stuff?” So, we thought we would try to explain how we choose to spend our days (and why) in this post, hope you enjoy the insight!

One thing we realized pretty early on, is that it was important to cease the day from sunrise to sunset. Ashley is awake at 5AM on the dot without fail, and most days she can hold out on waking the van up until the sun starts to rise and she exclaims “oooh, it’s a good one!!”. Once we are all awake and ready to get up, we layer up and open the door, it’s about 6:30AM

Sunrise 3/1/19

First thing we do is take turns taking the shovel for a walk, if you catch our drift, (pooping, we mean pooping). Rufio usually spends 10 or so minutes walking around, sniffing for any signs of animals that passed by through the night. before barking at us to scratch him. Ashley sets the Coleman stove up and gets her morning coffee going. Once her cup is brewed, we take a morning stroll around for an hour or so, secretly hoping we’ll catch a coyote or a burro still awake from its night out. Only once have we been so lucky to see a coyote. By the time we get back to camp, it’s usually around 8:00AM and our stomachs all start to growl. Ashley gets Rufio’s breakfast ready while Sean fires up the stove. A typical breakfast for us is eggs + ground sausage in a tortilla; simple, filling, and really delicious.

By 9:00AM we are organizing the van and ourselves for the day; making the bed, draining the cooler, shaking the rug out, and putting our clothes away. Once the van is organized, we make our protein + greens shake, brush our teeth, and then finish up with our exercises and yoga.

It’s 10:00AM now and we are either packing up the site and hitting the road, or saving our spot and headed out for a day of exploring. Usually, we don’t have a set place we are headed, but instead check out some trails we have saved and drive by the seat of our pants. We prefer areas that have large networks of trails, with options ranging from easy to difficult terrain- we have learned over the years that the harder trails are always empty if there are easy trails nearby for the masses to take. If we are doing a hike longer than 7 miles, we will bring a couple of gallons of water, lunch, and plenty of trail snacks to help keep us from getting hangry, and if it’s an especially long day, we bring lunch for Rufio too.

Hiking 2/28/19

Hiking intentionally slow has helped us to really enjoy and take in our surrounding; frequently we catch a grazing rabbit, a busy bird, wild horses casually going about their day, we see nature, naturally. It’s a beautiful thing. Around 12:30PM we stop for lunch; Peanut Butter + Jelly w/ Chips. We hike another 3-7 miles before seeing Bernie in the distance and racing to be the first to say “I see the Tooo-Lee(Thule)!!”

We get back to our site between 3-5PM and relax for a little while by napping, laying in the sun, or reading before Rufio starts his whining to let us know he is hungry. He has become our dinner bell. While he’s eating, Sean gets our dinner organized, and picks a game for us to play before we start to cook. After Ashley wins the game (HA!), we get to work (HA again!). Ashley is the skilled firestarter and normally has a roaring fire to eat in front of by the time Sean has 1 of our 3 dinner meals ready (Steak Quesadilla, Hamburgers, or Kielbasa).

Sean making dinner 2/28/19

It’s 6:30PM and Rufio has already put himself to bed in the van, waking up for only a minute to see if there is any dinner scraps around for him. There aren’t. Back to bed he goes. Sean soaks the dishes while we sit by the fire and watch the last of the sunset. We talk about the day, our favorite parts, or if there are things (usually from our “old life”) that are weighing on our minds. We may play another game of Yahtzee, Sorry, Uno, or Battleship, or we may read- whatever we feel like.

8PM is here already. Sean does the dishes, and packs the site up, careful to not leave anything out to attract anything wild. There is a 10/10 chance that Ashley will be fast asleep by the time the dishes are done, so Sean grabs a book and reads for an hour before cracking the windows, locking the doors, and climbing into bed at 9:30PM, before turning the lantern off for the night.

As we talked about our average day, it became clear that our average day may sound relatively simple or boring. But we think by simplifying our life, we have been able to live more full and happy lives. We have not just simplified our house and possessions, but what we want out of a day too. Not every day looks like this either, there are plenty of days where we just putz around the site and spend the whole entire day lounging around, or difficult days where we don’t feel like hiking but can’t go indoors because we have Rufio. It’s all a balance, a delicate balance. But, you know what? We wouldn’t trade our worst days in #vanlife for our best days in our old life.

Hiking 2/3/19