It’s possible to lead a life of freedom, flexibility, and adventure, all while saving lives as travel nurses! We’re excited to share Patrick and Mandy’s story today on Humans of Vanlife. They share how their experiences have changed them for the better, taught them how to be more self-sufficient, and opened their eyes to a whole new way of living. Without further ado, we share Patrick, Mandy’s (and Jake, the dog’s) Vanlife story!
Let’s start! What brought you to Vanlife, and what was your life like before traveling in your van?
We’ve lived in Central Florida since we were young and didn’t travel much growing up. We both wanted to explore more of the country, and that’s how travel nursing came to mind, as we’re both nurses! Travel nursing allows us a good amount of time to explore, live in a place, and then move to another location. Usually, we’re given 3-month assignments. Most people try to find furnished housing, but we have our dog, Jake, which makes options limited.
Initially, we thought about RVs and bigger campers, but when we discovered B-Vans, we realized it’d be the most flexible option. The size was also a huge factor. We didn’t want to limit ourselves to a giant vehicle, so our van felt just right for the three of us.
When the pandemic hit, we both finished school, we were working and finally in a good financial place, ready for international travel, but then the world shut down. Instead, we started visiting places in the U.S. – especially the National Parks. We didn’t realize how much joy we’d find in hiking and being outside. It’s genuinely changed our lives. That’s when we realized we needed the flexibility of a van. It’s so easy to pack up and take off when you’re working three days a week and you’re off for four! We don’t need to plan weeks ahead. It’s so cool to have all the flexibility.
How common is it to be a travel nurse? Is it difficult to find these positions?
It became much more common after the pandemic because nurses’ demand increased tenfold. If you’re flexible with your timing and location, there are positions available all over the country!
Are you selective about where you choose to go?
Florida is part of something called “The Travel Nursing Compact States.” The compact states means there’s a multi-licensure, and there are almost 40 states we’re accepted to work in with a Florida license. We went through a nursing agency, and they usually pay for the license and take care of it, so it’s much less stressful to plan. We wanted to be on the West Coast, so Patrick applied for Oregon, Washington, and California, and the first place he was accepted to was Oregon. He accepted one in Boston this last September, and it was our first time experiencing fall foliage!
So you travel and stay in the same place for three months?
The standard assignment is 13 weeks. We like to travel, explore, and take it slow. We usually work three days in a row, with four days off. When we were in Oregon, we drove down the coast to California and saw the Red Woods and Crater Lake National Park. It was truly breathtaking!
That sounds like a great balance! What outdoor activities do you love?
Mostly hiking! We love hiking, and we love food. We love being active and finding the best local restaurants in the area, especially breweries, wineries, and diners. It’s all about balance, right? We love to try local specialties and things we can only find in the region.
What’s it like working in the van?
I’ve been in school online, working in the van while Patrick is doing his nursing assignments, and working mainly in local coffee shops. Now that Starlink is catching on, we’ll probably invest in one of those. It’d be great because I need to do assignments sometimes when we’re off-grid. Sometimes we would have to plan around assignments as we didn’t have Wi-Fi or Starlink. It’ll be nice to have the flexibility of satellite internet, and we plan on installing it next time we visit Bemyvan headquarters in Las Vegas!
How did you make the transition to Vanlife?
Patrick’s first nursing assignment was in Oregon. It all happened so fast. We found the ad for a van for sale from Bemyvan and got in touch with the Sales Manager, Don. We flew to Vegas and drove straight to Oregon with whatever we could fit in our suitcases.
Honestly, though, it added to our experience! I think one of the first things we did was go to Ikea for small space solutions when we got to Portland. Then I flew back to Florida to pick up our dog Jake, who can’t fly on planes. I drove to Oregon with my Dad to meet Patrick. It was a huge adventure. We also sold our house in Florida after realizing we wanted to be on the road for a bit. We went ALL IN.
What else have you learned on the journey?
Vanlife kind of brought us into Minimalism and made us realize what we actually need. We now have so much more time, and we value experiences over things. It’s made us realize how valuable memories are over a bunch of stuff that sits in your house that you never use. It’s eye-opening. Our experience has made it so much easier to let go of material stuff. We’ve seen more and been to more places in our first seven months with the van than in our entire lives combined.
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What are your Vanlife highlights?
When we first went to pick the van up, we stayed in Alabama Hills in the Sierras of California. We woke up in the mountain range with the rocky terrain outside our window. It was such a giant leap from Florida, which made it sink in that this would be a life-altering, beautiful experience! And we get to do it for free. And come back as much as we want.
It’s an incredible way to live. We’ve had at least 50 of those moments where time stood still. Picnicking in the van with a massive lake and mountains covered in snow right outside our door, fall foliage, so many places we’ve been where Patrick is outside getting the fire going, and I’m inside cooking for us while Jake is outside exploring.
There’s no price tag you can put on it. There are no luxury hotels that have those views. If you know where to look and how to find these places, you can find your own piece of paradise.
We meet the coolest people that admire nature and value exploring. We see families all the time, and it makes us excited to see what we can do with children of our own one day!
Once, we parked in front of the Lincoln Park zoo in Chicago while they were letting lions out into their den before the zoo was even open. Another time, we woke up and went on a run in Central Park after finding free street parking in the middle of NYC. Oh, and as foodies, all the restaurants we’ve been able to enjoy! The fact that you can explore both extremes in the exact same vehicle is fantastic.
What are your favorite features of the van?
We love the size of our water tanks. The power of the off-grid batteries and solar panels and being able to be more self-sufficient. We have 40 gallons of water and 40 of grey water, making it so much easier to use the indoor shower and wash up. You can tell by the craftsmanship that Bemyvan has put so much thought into what they’ve built.
If you want to stay in the big city for a couple of days, you can be self-sufficient because the bigger cities often don’t have places to fill up. We’ve saved so much money because of our off-grid capabilities. We can go wherever we want, and it’s such a cool freedom!
How has the van’s insulation been in the cold?
We’ve never dealt with that for more than a day at a time, but when we did, we ran the heat overnight, which was great. The AC and MaxxAir fan has been so helpful as well on hot days, especially with Jake, the dog as our precious cargo! It handles both hot and cold conditions beautifully.
How’s Jake the Dog on the road?
He loves it. He’s always been good with the van, even though we had our doubts at first! He gets to sleep in the bed with us, and he keeps us nice and warm on cold days. He’s an 8-year-old German Short Hair Pointer. We don’t have the heart to kick him off the bed! He loves taking in the scenery and has already been to 11 National Parks! Jake loves helping us find firewood, and we don’t have to deal with Airbnb and hotels anymore that don’t accept dogs. Traveling with pets is such a unique and joyous experience.
He loves hiking too. He was in a bad accident before we got the van. In a span of one day, he went from being a playful pup to being paralyzed. It took six months of therapy and rehab, but he’s back to running, hiking, and swimming now! He’s usually way ahead of us on the trail, but now he wears a little shoe on his right front foot to protect his paw.
Any cons to Vanlife?
There are cons, but everything gets outweighed by the pros. We love the flexibility, but sometimes that is stressful trying to find a place to park. Sometimes it can get tiring. It’s a lesson in teamwork and handling positive and negative stresses. Yes, it’s a huge change, but once you accept your new normal, you open up to all the beautiful experiences you gain from it.
“Be willing to try and experience something different! We’re better people for it. The small challenges make the big things not so stressful now. If you had told us that 10 years ago that this would be our lives, we wouldn’t believe you. We’ve learned to be more self-sufficient and have grown so much after being pushed out of our comfort zones.”
The cons are small. The pros are amazing big things! Sure, maybe you have to go to a laundromat when you’re not in the mood, or you have to stop by the grocery store a couple more times a week because of the smaller fridge, but those small things are worth it for the magic we get to experience on the road.
How do you connect with other people on the road?
When you’re staying in parks and campgrounds, it is so easy to meet people. The van itself is a conversation piece! So many people knock on the window to check out the van because they’re interested in buying one too.
Then we meet many others living a similar lifestyle – we’ve met such unique, exciting people. People are so helpful, and Vanlifers love meeting up. When we were in the Northeast, we got a Harvest Host membership and met many folks through that. You don’t realize how kind people are until you can put yourself in a situation where you can meet people from completely different walks of life. The van has been our little connecting piece.
What tools and resources do you use or recommend for other Vanlifers?
iOverlander has been amazing for us. Harvest Hosts has been helpful; we’ve stayed through farms and breweries. But iOverlander stands out in finding BLM camping and dispersed lands. Also, other Vanlifers on Social Media have shared their itinerary on their blogs and pages. There are tons of ways to find where to sleep overnight. Our favorite places to park are BLMS and less populated campgrounds.
Any tips for future Vanlifers?
If it’s something you’re thinking about – we don’t see how you’d regret it. If you’re genuinely considering Vanlife, you’ll explore and gain so much from it while you learn about yourself and see places most people will never get to in their lifetimes. You’ll get more quality time.
Just do it. Don’t hesitate.
We’d 1000% do it all over again, and we’re forever grateful that we did!