The New American Dream

Outdoor adventure enthusiasts take life to the road

By Michele Lamelin

Freedom Vans founder Tom Doran and partner, Kyleigh Rogers, take life to the road in their Sprinter van with pups, Cleo and Moby (Devon Balet Photography).

Freedom Vans founder Tom Doran and partner, Kyleigh Rogers, take life to the road in their Sprinter van with pups, Cleo and Moby (Devon Balet Photography).

Living life on the road is nothing new for adventure enthusiasts. Climbers have been doing it for decades, living out of their vans, often out of economic necessity in order to pursue their passion. Although a popular way of life among the climbing community, living on the road didn’t go mainstream until fairly recently when “the van life” caught on with individuals, couples and families alike. An explosion in mountain biking has been accompanied by a greater pursuit of this alternative lifestyle.

Tom Doran, founder of Freedom Vans explains, “The van life is all about minimizing costs and maximizing versatility. A stealth camper lets you take home with you anywhere you go. From the outside, people just see a van. Inside, you have everything you need to succeed.” Doran came upon the full time van life unintentionally, after being unable to find affordable housing in California. A mountain bike pro racer, he had already been traveling to and from races in a van. He outfitted it for off-grid life on the road and found the set up to be more than sufficient to live out of, with the added benefit of freeing himself of bills and debt. His experience led him to discover a passion for making it possible for others to follow in his tread and, with the assistance of partner Kyleigh Rogers, now converts vans to living spaces for like-minded people.

The van life isn’t the only option for living on the road. Boasting plenty of space and all the comforts of home, RVs and travel trailers are the ideal choice for many. Others prefer a more primitive set up, such as a Tepui tent. Solar panels are easily integrated, as are other ways to reduce the carbon footprint.

Whether a full-time lifestyle or part-time adventure, living with less “stuff” and spending more time exploring exciting places brings a new level of satisfaction to people of all walks of life.


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R-Pod Travel Trailer
Michele Lamelin: Adventure Sports Journal

AD_IMG_4754My dream of living on the road sparked when we were laying out an ASJ article on climber Alex Honnold. The article described his simple lifestyle of living in a van to help reduce his carbon footprint and provide more freedom to pursue his passion for climbing. I remember thinking how liberating that would feel – to downsize, get rid of “stuff” and ditch the mortgage I had become a slave to. I didn’t believe this way of life could become a reality for me until I met Tom Doran of Freedom Vans who was living the van lifestyle and helping others live it too. Seeing as I was a recent empty-nester, plus an editor with ASJ and co-founder of the California Enduro Series, it made perfect sense to pursue a nomadic lifestyle. I sold my house and purchased an 18-foot travel trailer that I tow with my small truck, traveling around the western states with my dog Seabee. I’ve learned to live with so much less than before, and am implementing new ways to reduce my carbon footprint while maintaining this lifestyle. Best part of living on the road? My backyard has no limits!


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Van & Tepui Tent
Cedar Kyes: Kali Protectives

AD-Cedar2As the Kali Road Warrior of Kali Protectives’ race support program, I travel up and down the west coast to various cycling events providing racers and attendees the opportunity to exchange their damaged helmets for brand new Kali lids at no charge.

As if the Kali gig doesn’t keep me busy enough, I also run the Lupine Lights Demo Nightride Tour and Advocate Cycles demo bike program, so you can imagine all the gear I haul around in the van from Bellingham, Washington to Big Bear, California and back again … on repeat! My little van setup gets me from one event to the next and allows me to live comfortably on the road in between. Of course, I take many detours along the way and I can stay wherever I want for as long as I want. It’s pure freedom.

The Tepui Tent is a new addition to my set up this year, and it allows me to pack more stuff in the van for long work weekends and still have a comfortable place to sleep. Plus, the star gazing, mosquito mesh, and cool breeze flowing through makes it a wonderful experience. It feels kind of like a tree fort!


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Toy Hauler RV
Clair Marie: Pro BASE Jumper, Model, Entrepreneur

IMG_5019Living in an RV is something that I had dreamt about since I was young. I am a traveler at heart and spent a good portion of my life on the road, living out of my car, exploring as much as I could. Once I started mountain bike racing, I was traveling even more than I already was. The stress of packing and unpacking for trips started to get really old. Plus it was so frustrating to get to an amazing location for mountain bike riding and notice all the amazing rock climbing or BASE jumping that was nearby, yet not having all of my gear with me.

Moving full time into an RV seemed like the most logical, cost-effective and environmentally friendly thing to do. Now, with my 37-foot toy hauler that has an incredible 10-foot garage in the back, I get to travel and have all the comforts of home with me where ever I go. It’s the best thing ever.


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Ford Transit
Lauren Gregg: Turn Loose

AD_turnloose2I realized this year that living full-time in my Ford Transit van made way more sense than renting an apartment somewhere and having it sit as a storage unit while I travelled on the mountain bike race circuit all summer.

The freedom of a home on wheels has been a truly life-changing experience. I’ve been able to ride in some amazing places and meet lots of new people along the way. Life on the road has given me a chance to slow down and learn more about myself and about this beautiful world we live in.

Running my new business Turn Loose and training out of the van was a challenge at first, but I’m learning new ways to make life in the van easier and more productive. Any small sacrifices are 100% worth this chance to follow the trails and experience life on the road.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. BASE Girl | Adventure Sports Journal - […] We caught up with this lovely dynamo as she tours the west with her boyfriend, Alex. P.S. Be sure …

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