Dave and special guests James and Anna talk about the joys of van cats, crappy bathroom situations, and living with a partner on the road. Anna and James’ company; Leave the Map™ is all about leaving your comfort zone or stepping off the beaten path and living a life of adventure and total freedom. In 2019 they took a major leap and left their 9-5 jobs to pursue a life of full-time travel. They bought a van, converted it into their home, and have spent the last year exploring National Parks and hidden gems around the US and Canada. They believe that the best adventures happen when you least expect it. They are all about saying YES. Yes to the unknown, yes to new opportunities, and yes to adventure whenever possible.

Find Anna and James here:
Instagram: @LeaveTheMap
TikTok: @LeaveTheMap
Youtube: www.YouTube.Com/c/LeaveTheMap
Website: https://leavethemaptravel.com/
Van Life E-Book: https://leavethemaptravel.com/vanlife-guide-ebook
"They're Little Dumpster Pirates!"
"It poured rain for a solid five days and it flooded... Everything in the van was soggy and wet. The bed was wet. It was hot and humid. There was mud coming into the van. Everything is getting wet and muddy. And you're like, I have to eat in this space. I have to sleep in this space. I have to like get changed. I have to start my day. I have to do my work, everything in this 10 foot box and it's wet and covered in mud. It was pretty rough."
Anna and James’ Rapid Fire Questions and Answers:

How did you stay clean on the road?
We have our little solar shower, which is what we use to shower when we're not in an actual campground where they have hot showers. I use dude wipes. Yeah, lots of like baby wipes and everything for every part of the body. Yeah. Sponge baths are actually pretty common. Like when you can't get to a shower, but you feel like you've been hiking all day or you're sweaty. Like you don't want to get in bed like that then wiping your whole body down with some clean wipes is a kind of quick fix. Yeah. Never pass up an opportunity to shower at a friend's house or at a campground that actually has a shower. Cause you never really know the next time you're going to be able to get one.

What do you consider van life essentials?
Lanterns with magnetic hooks, blackout curtains, Mr. Buddy heater, propane, Coleman stove, a good skillet, and toilet paper!

What is your favorite driving song?
Higher Love by Steve Winwood, or anything Tracy Chapman or Dave Matthews.

What was your favorite place you visited?
Glacier National Park in Montana. Montana and Wyoming are pretty special.

What is one thing everyone should know before they live out of a van?
Their poop schedule! And how to read a road atlas.

What would you tell someone who doesn't understand the appeal of van life?
I would say think of a time when you've been in nature where you felt truly immersed in it, and maybe you saw a beautiful sunset or sunrise, or you looked out over the ocean and you felt this feeling of like, this is it. I'm in touch with myself. I'm in touch with everything. I'm in touch with the earth and my soul. And you know, it's metaphysical as it sounds and whatnot, like really having this epiphany. And I feel like almost everyone who has spent time in nature may have felt those feelings. And I would say if you've experienced that, that's how vanlife feels almost every single day, as long as nothing's really going wrong. When we have those moments of like, this is it, this is the freedom. This is the life that I chose. This is like all that I've ever wanted. And that's really like what wraps it up in a bow.

What's your favorite book you either read on the road or that inspired you to try it?
Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer, Wild by Cheryl Strayed, Ranger Confidential: Living, Working, and Dying in the National Parks by Andrea Lankford, and Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey

What advice do you give to someone who is thinking about getting into van life?
I would say weigh the pros and cons in your own mind and decide if you're going to be doing it solo or with somebody else, if it's going to be with a friend or a companion, because I think that kinda dictates how you go about either building the van or buying a van. Then, I would say the second part of it is do your research, but don't overthink it like to a point you have to just decide and make a decision and you can, you know, do research for a year without actually going, you know, making the actual jump. But I think enough research to feel confident, but then eventually just jump in and, you know, kind of learn as you go. Yeah. And I highly recommend renting something first for a short amount of time, especially if you've never camped before to just see if it's right.

A Clean Escape is presented by Jack Frost, a company on a mission to make life on the road more comfortable, inspiring people to see the world and remember that it’s worth saving along the way. Jack Frost is a minimal, use-everywhere body powder that’s so effective you’ll convince your mom you showered. Are you ready to be a cleaner dirtbag?
Full Episode Transcript:

Anna and James: And I looked to my right and these two raccoons are standing within two feet from me, just like standing on the campground table. And I'm like, what's that? And it scared the shit out of me. And I freaked out. I ran back in the van...

Dave: Welcome to A Clean Escape, a podcast that lets you climb under the hood of life in a van with the stories that don’t make it onto Instagram: mishap and misfortune, setbacks and bad luck, near-calamity and clean escapes, and why, despite all of that, van lifers keep getting out there to explore this big, beautiful world of ours.

A Clean Escape is presented by Jack Frost, a company on a mission to make life on the road more comfortable, inspiring people to see the world and remember that it’s worth saving along the way. Jack Frost is a minimal, use-everywhere body powder that’s so effective you’ll convince your mom you showered. Are you ready to be a cleaner dirtbag? Learn more at JackFrost.Earth.

Anna and James: Hello everybody. Thanks for having us on here. Amazing intro. Yeah.

Dave: Super, super glad to have you here. We're thrilled and let's jump right into it. What is a time where you really regretted your decision to live in a van?

Anna and James: We were down in South Carolina for a job and it was supposed to be us documenting how beautiful South Carolina is, the scenery and the different places. And it poured rain for a solid five days and it flooded. And the showers there were atrocious. Like it was just the worst week and everything in the van was soggy and wet. And like the bed was wet and it was hot and humid. And that was when I was like, I don't know if I can curse on this, but like, F this, I am done. I am giving van life again, like we're driving home back to my parents right now. And we did, we packed up and we drove from South Carolina to Pennsylvania and we're like, let's take a little break for awhile. We, we kind of like, you do get, um, van fatigue. There's such a thing. And this was the last job that we had. And like Anna said, it was pretty frustrating because the whole goal that we were getting paid to be there was to document how beautiful this place was. And it just was like a hurricane for five days. Yeah. And there was just like mud coming into the van. And I was like, okay, we have to take our shoes off. Then we have to sweep. And then we have to wipe the floor. And, you know, you can't really be like that when you live in a van, but it's hard not to when everything is getting wet and muddy. And you're like, I have to eat in this space. I have to sleep in this space. I have to like get changed. I have to start my day. I have to do my work, everything in this 10 foot box and it's wet and covered in mud. It was pretty rough. I'm usually glass half full optimist in most situations, and even I was getting pretty frustrated.

Dave: So, by the way, um, I'm hoping to see to someday see a promotional video for South Carolina hurricanes and mud, the greatest state of bad weather.

Anna and James: Yes, forreal, And of course, the day we leave or the day after we leave just gorgeous sunny weather. Yeah. It's kind of this Murphy's law thing. And, and, uh, you know, we've, we've had experiences where we get to a place and it's the day after that the weather is good or the sunrise was the day before, or, um, but we have had moments where it's worked in our favor as well.

Dave: So let's take a split second and introduce you guys. We know you have a lot of great stories to share. Who are you? What are you either passionate about or spend your time doing? And what made you get into van life?

Anna and James: So, uh, my name is James and I'll start with everything about me, um, before going to my wife Anna. We, um, got into van life, one for the freedom of kind of making our own schedule and we both love to travel. Um, it was something that when we first met about seven years ago, um, I had a big map on my wall, in my apartment in California. And we would always like pinpoint my roommates and I would pinpoint places that we had been wanting to go. And, and when Anna came into my apartment, she had pointed out like, Oh, who's from New Jersey. And, and, uh, so our first kind of conversation ever started with a map and started around travel, um, and photography. We both realized that we were interested in photography. Um, I went to film school and pursued a career for a little while in, uh, the TV side and video production and, and worked in LA for about six years doing that full-time. And once we kind of started dating more seriously, we always realized that anytime we could get out of Los Angeles, which is where we were living, we would always just want to take trips and document those trips.

And when we came back to LA, we were always super upset and sad to just be back in the city. And so we kind of started putting the wheels in, or the, whatever the saying is wheels in motion turning. And, um, when we got married, um, back on the East coast in 2018, um, our honeymoon, we called it kind of a mini-moon. We rented a van and drove that van across the country and stopped off at, uh, various national parks and, and started to really like, take our photography seriously and make it more than just this like travel couple. We really wanted to make it, um, make it something we could do full time. And I remember getting back to LA and we parked the van and both of us just broke down and we're like, this is not what we're meant to do.

We need to, to try to do everything we can to like, do this full-time. Yeah. And I think from there ended up being about a year. Yeah. Cause that was 2018. And we said, okay, in one year we want to be in a van of our own. We can't keep living like this in LA. And James was working a corporate job. He was the video producer at Verizon. And I had recently quit my job. I was working for a dental company as their in-house graphic designer. And that was just, you know, working in a cubicle and I, so I quit to start my own company. And, um, I am a Photoshop artist and graphic designer and kind of digital artist. And so I started doing that and doing kind of some Instagram stuff and teaching people how to grow their Instagram. And I realized that all I had done was created a nine to five job with yes, myself as a boss, but myself being like a very driven boss and making myself work harder than I was working before.

And so I was miserable working for myself at home. And James was doing really well at his job but wanting more. And more travel time. So we were just like, how can we make this happen and how can we make this a reality. So we started looking for vans online. And looking on craigslist and checking some out and we started figuring out how much money do we realistically need. And can we put a loan on this van. You know all the little details. And I picked up like 5 different vanlife e books and started learning about everything that we would do for insurance and car insurance. All the little details. And I of course made a big vision board that hung on the wall that had pictures of van life.

Dave: Yes. You got to have a vision board.

Anna and James: Exactly. And James would come home from work and I would have like magazines torn up and papers everywhere. He's like, what are you doing? And I'm like adding to the vision board. I know that at the end of the year, we're going to have this, this, this, this. It was like a beautiful mind in our apartment for the last couple of months we were there. Oh my God, what is happening? But I got on board with that too, just because I saw it every day, too, for those that live in California, you know, how expensive it is to live there. And so we were albeit, you know, had good paying jobs. It was sort of like our jobs are just tying us to this place. And if we could get rid of the job and the apartment, then we'd at least be kind of back to even. And we were already freelancing at that point. We were making enough as freelancers to maybe not support the rent that we were paying in LA, but we could support ourselves for a van payment at the very least and, and some, you know, road expenses. So that's kind of how we tip the scale and decided, all right, like let's, let's just pull the cord and do it. Yeah.

Dave: I think it's important to take a moment to have you tell us a little bit about Lucy.

Anna and James: We could talk about Lucy all day long. We could spend the whole podcast talking about Lucy. Our cat Lucy is, um, 11 years old and she's our little travel buddy and we weren't sure how she would do it travel life. And when we moved across the country to pick up the van and moved back to the East coast, um, we had her in the car and she was loving it. She would cry if she was in her cage, but happy as a little clam, if she could just sit on the seat and look out and eat her food and do whatever she wanted. And so, um, we tried her out in the van for the first time on a little trip up to Maine and she just was travel, a travel natural. She's almost like she's more like a dog than a cat. Most of the time she acts just like a dog and follows us around. And it's, uh, we get a lot of questions of how we actually travel in a van with a cat. And it's, it's really not that hard with her because she's so easy to deal with minus the late nights at like three in the morning when she wants food and is just crying and we have nowhere to go. But, um, but for the most part, she's just a joy to have as a little travel companion and makes the long drives, uh, not so, uh, torturous, I guess. And she usually sits on my lap in the front seat, the entire drive. Yeah. She's funny.

Dave: In case anyone was looking for a reason to follow Anna and James on Instagram, there's always Lucy.
Anna and James: There's always the pet. You gotta have the pet in there.

Dave: So I'm sure going to the bathroom was always really easy. And I'm wondering if you have any stories about that.

Anna and James: Definitely. Yeah. Go into the bathroom. Well, so I'll just start. We were in, um, the Grand Tetons and we were looking for a campsite and we couldn't find any campgrounds that were available. Fortunately, uh, Anna's cousins’ family have a house right outside of Driggs. And as like a last ditch effort where like, Hey, do you think we could maybe stay in their driveway? They weren't home. And immediately they're like, yeah, here's the address like drive, um, down this long dirt road into Driggs and you can park wherever you want. We're like, great. Um, sweet. So we pulled in and we parked in this long driveway and there's nobody else around. And, um, the second we get there, we're now like 40 minutes from any town with a bathroom. I'm like, Oh no sagebrush out there. So there's no trees, there's nowhere to hide. If a UPS guy comes down the driveway, you're going to be, you're going to be on full display.

And, uh, and we had just bought these, you know, like disposable poop bags. So I'm like, well, I guess now is a better, better time to try this. And I just couldn't really wait any longer. And, uh, so I took the porta-potty that we have out and I just like set myself up in the middle of the driveway. And if they have any video cameras, then they got a pretty, pretty good show. Um, but I made sure to tell Anna, I'm like, please, like, I know we live in close quarters, but just like, don't turn around for five. Cause this just ruins my manhood. And uh, and so we ended up, you know, doing that. And then that evening we went, uh, we drove back into town. Um, if you guys are ever, or if anyone's listening is ever in Driggs, there's this really cool old school movie theater called the Spud drive in. And so on Friday, Thursday and Friday nights, they do these old movies. And so we took the van and we opened the back of the door and we had nowhere to dispose of this. So we just threw it in the Spud drive and Dumpsters. So now this movie theater known as the place that I dumped my waste.

Dave: After, uh, after recommending it to our listeners,

Anna and James: It's a great establishment. Just, you know, don't go digging through the trash.

Dave: That's a great picture. Um, for whatever reason, when we hold this story about setting up the porta-potty in the middle of the driveway, I pictured, um, the way like somehow dogs always seem to like look at their owners when they're pooping, but I kinda just picked you like looking back. I don’t know if it is out of shame or what.

Anna and James: Yeah. Like don't look at me. So shame. Um, so yeah, the bathroom thing is definitely, is definitely a challenge. Yeah. And then, uh, I ended up getting really constipated whenever we travel, because I get nervous about the bathroom situation. So, um, because I'm like, okay, I don't know when there's going to be a bathroom available or where we're staying tonight. And if I'm going to have to dig a hole in the middle of the night or what's going to happen, so my body just like shuts down and then, uh, and then I have lots of issues with that. So for like, I feel like every time we start traveling again, it's like a week or two before you can really use the bathrooms. Yeah. It's torture. Not me. Yeah. So, and luckily like, you know, laxatives help and everything, but you have to time it, right.

You have to be like, where are we going to be tonight? And how long is this going to take to work? Are we going to be in the desert somewhere where like, I'm going to have to be, you know, as a female, that's really not something I want to be doing. James might be able to do it, but, but it's, you, you have to just get over this, like whether you're comfortable, you know, going to the bathroom and other places or not, if you're going to live in a van, you just have to shed that, that cloak, because you cannot feel uncomfortable, like using a bathroom in Walmart or McDonald's or a rest area. Like you're, that's just what, you're what you're going to have to do, unless you, unless you plan on building a full, like a fully functioning bathroom in your van.

Dave: Yeah. And there would be no room for Lucy if you did that..

Anna and James: Exactly. Yeah Lucy would be kinda screwed.

Dave: Uh, although you could always like cover the toilet and make a little cat, you know, nest in there.

Anna and James: The way we actually have it set up now. So we built, we have her litter box that we built, um, a new kind of area for, um, over the spring, um, when COVID hit and we had some time at home, so we built her little litter box with a bench on top, and then we have our toilet with a bench on top. So we basically have like, our toilets are facing each other.

Dave: How romantic!

Anna and James: I know. One big happy family. We've had mice problems in the van, like since we've had it, um, because when it's sitting, when we're not actually on the road, it's sitting, um, where we're at now. Um, and there's a lot of, we're just a lot of land and a lot of reason for them to want to spend time in the van and the winter. And, um, we thought we took care of a mouse problem we had, and we were camping there for a few days.

And in the middle of the night, we just hear this kind of like, like *mouse noise* throughout the van. And we knew it wasn't Lucy. And I'm like, Oh my God. And we both got woken up out of our deep sleep. And, Anna was like, Oh, there's mice in here. And for the next like week and a half, we set traps all over the van. We tried to kind of clear stuff out and we could not catch these guys. Or I think it was two of them. Right. And, uh, so every night we'd go to bed and then it would be really quiet and we'd just hear them eating, whatever they were trying to nibble on in the van. And it got so annoying. And we finally, um, set some peanut butter underneath the, the, uh, pedal of, uh, of the driver's seat. And in the middle of the night we heard the snap and both of us like woke up out of our sleep , like high five each other, like, yes. Finally, we can like actually sleep, but we've, uh, they just continue to keep coming back and hanging around and we keep having to try to find ways to get them out.

So there’s been multiple little mini-catastrophes if you will, if we're going to be using that word. But, um, last, I guess two years ago, we were driving across the country through Montana to go to a job in Washington. This is a good one. And, um, and the van, um, you know, we, we've since learned like when to kind of shut off and stop for the night. We, I think we were pretty ambitious when we first started driving like, Oh, we can do 10 hours today to get to this place. And we've, since now just decided, let's just try to relax a little bit and camp and stay in one place. But we were pushing to get to a job, uh, that we had out in Washington. So we stopped in billings Montana for a quick bite to eat before driving to Butte. And our goal was to find a place to camp within about six hours from our final destination, because we had this job and Butte was that, that good point.

So we left dinner, drove about three and a half hours through the snow and through the mountains, which was sketchy enough and in our pro master. And we finally get to the Walmart parking lot, which was the only place we could really stay and freezing, freezing cold. It was like in the maybe like single digits or negative degrees. And we go to close up and put our blackout curtains up and really close the van. It was about like one in the morning, I think at this point, and we're ready to go to sleep and wake up early in the morning. And Anna goes to look in the front seat and her wallet isn't there and nothing is there. Her whole backpack that she had her passport in and her IDs, everything was in this backpack. And we realized that she had left it three and a half hours back the other way at this restaurant.

And the restaurant was closed by this point. And we had to get to this job that we were basically paid for to go out there for the next day. And it was a nightmare. We, we, uh, opted to actually leave. We couldn't sleep. So you have to leave at about 6:30 in the morning and drive three and a half hours back the other way, the snow, again, not even knowing whether it was going to be there or not. Cause the restaurant didn't open until nine o'clock. And, uh, they called us about 30 minutes outside and said that they had it thankfully. So we were able to pick it up and I said, Oh, we're on our way back. We'll be there in 30 minutes. And the woman said, Oh, well, we could have shipped it to you. No problem!

So we get the bag thankfully. And then we ended up driving 14, almost 16 hours, uh, to get to our destination in time. And then we worked another 15 hours the following day. So there was, there was a couple of days in there where we were just exhausted and like sleep deprived and frustrated. At night too when we arrived, you know, we had to schmooze with the clients and have wine and, and food and everything. And it was like, I don't know, we were up till three in the morning or something. And then Lucy, we ended up sleeping inside this person's house and they had a dog. And so we went into the room and locked everything up. And Lucy had a fit that night. She was just like screaming crying all night, long nonstop. So around like, I don't know, six in the morning we took her and her things out to the van slept there for like half an hour or so, and then had to like hit the pavement the next morning with just like working all day long.

Dave: I’m wondering about memorable interactions with animals? Especially for the negative.
Anna and James: Well, so James is Terrified of raccoons. I can, so I don't know why. I mean, I know they're fine, but I just like hate raccoons. So sorry if you guys like raccoons.

Dave: It’s cause the bandit eye patches?

Anna and James: Cause they're just like pirates, they're little dumpster pirates. And uh, we were in Indiana and we were parked kind of on the edge of the campground. So we were, we butted right up against the woods and uh, the garbage was kind of like wrapped around the corner. So they were of course hanging out around there and it had just gotten dark out. And we were about to hop in the van after making dinner. And I go to the back of our van and we have a little led light on and off light in the back. So when it's dark, you can see what you're doing in the garage. And I turned the light on and I looked to my right and these two raccoons are standing like within two feet from me, just like standing on the campground like table. And I'm like, what's that? And it scared the shit out of me. And I freaked out. I ran back in the van and I'm like, you know, try to be manly man. But, And I was like, what's wrong? What's wrong. I'm like, there's Two raccoons back there. I'm not going back outside. And I’m like are you kidding me. All night James is like peeking out with a flashlight. He's like, I see their eyes. I can see that there were probably 50 raccoons in the tree staring at our van. Like they knew they were like, Ooh, we're going to get that guy. He's he's the target. And uh, so ever since then, I've just been Nope. Like if I see raccoon, I always have these fears when I'm dumping garbage at night or something. When I open the dumpster that one's just going to come out and grab me.

Dave: And out of curiosity, James, when you say they're going to get you... what's going to happen?

Anna and James: Oh yeah, that's an illogical fear that I have. I'm like, Oh, everyone has rabies. Everyone's going to attack me and like rip my face off. It's just a thing and I'm getting over it. Um, I used to be scared of dogs growing up my whole life. I was attacked when I was pretty young. I'm no longer afraid of dogs, but I apparently raccoons have replaced that.

Dave: What, what would you tell yourselves, the pre van life version of yourselves who, as you look back on this experience, like, what did you wish you knew when you were working those corporate jobs? Or how did you relate to that person at this point in your life?

Anna and James: Like me personally, um, I'm a much different person than I was even two years ago. And so I kind of had this psychology flip when we left because Anna was already in the mindset of going day to day and just like sort of seeing the pieces fall and, and feeling comfortable with uncertainty. And I wasn't quite there yet. And um, so when we got back here to the East coast, after this long trip, I remember having a pretty big breakdown of like, well now everything is settled. We don't have any work coming in. What are we going to do? I'm never going to make money. All these self-doubts that I started projecting. And, um, and Anna really helped to kind of silence those doubts and it took some time to get over that hump of the reason we decided to take this vanlife as a career path is so that we're able to make our own schedule.
It is so that we have the freedom and the luxury to do what we want when we want and not have to work nine to five, but work on the things that we want to do. It's kind of like the ideal dream, being able to do what you love and get paid for it. Um, and I had to just, I think I would tell my, my two year ago self that, um, you've learned a lot in that time and it's okay to feel uncomfortable with uncertainty, but embrace it and just take every day as it comes. Yeah. Yeah. And I would say kind of going off of that, like I have always been very goal oriented if he can tell from my vision board and idea of being in a van very quickly. But, um, when I was working for myself, I was really like forcing a lot of things and really focused on how much money I was making and like corporate life and life of working for myself versus where I'm at now.

I think now I've much more settled into like I'm going to do this work and this job or whatever I'm doing because I enjoy it. And because I want to do it and getting out in nature makes me happy. And if I'm making money great as a side effect, that's awesome. And if I'm not at the time, I'm going to just like keep doing what we're doing and, and keep plugging away at our passions. Because I found that when kind of, as James said, like settling into the, in certainty, but also settling into just where you're at in life and, and being okay with like the hardships in a van or that the tough times, or like just being like, what the fuck am I doing with my life? Um, those are the times when you kind of, you discover something new. We really try to cherish those moments where we're at a campground or we're driving with no specific destination in mind just to really enjoy being on the road and, you know, enjoying each other's company.

Dave: I think we can all relate to that feeling of being really busy with kind of the life that in some ways we're required to live, to make ends meet and then having, in some ways, some existential distress, you know, that feeling in the quiet moments of life slipping by and, um, facing either facing that fear or, or suppressing that fear. Uh, and it's really interesting the way when you face that that scarcity plays a role because I always found when I was making fine money, but paying hefty red, and that was in the Bay area at the time that it really inhibits your feeling of freedom to go wherever you want, because there's a sunk cost of like the high cost of paying to be where I am, but where I am is not feeding the spirit of adventure and kind of fulfilling life. So it's a, it's a vicious trap in that way. We all have our own relationship with scarcity, but it's fascinating to see you work through that. And in some ways, when I think about what's so appealing about van life, why do so many people who don't do it follow it? Um, because the equivalent number don't follow, you know, fly fishing for example. And they follow that because they live vicariously through the people who are brave enough to go grab life and live it to its fullest.

Anna and James: I love that you hit the nail on the head. Totally. I love, I love everything you just said because I think it's so spot on with, um, even a realization I had now being able to look at what you just said and feel fully confident that we made the right decision and that we're continuing to, um, make decisions based on our passions and our desires and things like we, don't our biggest goal in life really is to not let it pass us by and to make sure that we're taking advantage of every moment we possibly can. And I think, I think everybody has that same idea and wants that, but it's a matter of going out and getting it, even if it means taking a pay cut or feeling uncomfortable, not being able to know where your next paycheck's coming from, or just feeling uncomfortable in a situation that you don't know. Um, but the reward is so much bigger than, than, you know, what the fear is behind it.

Dave: Okay. Shifting gears here to some rapid fire questions. My first question for you is, would you, what advice would you give to someone who's thinking about getting into it?

Anna and James: Um, I would say, uh, you know, kind of weigh the pros and cons in your own mind and decide one, if you're going to be doing it solo or with, uh, with somebody else, if it's going to be with a friend or a companion, because I think that kinda dictates, uh, how you go about either building the van or buying a van. Um, and then, you know, I would say like the second part of it is do your research, but don't overthink it like to a point you have to just decide and make a decision and you can, you know, do research for a year without actually pulling, you know, making the actual jump. But I think enough research to feel confident, but then eventually just jump in and, uh, you know, kind of learn as you go. Yeah. And I highly recommend renting something first for a short amount of time, if you, especially if you've never camped before to just see if it's right, you know, you see people, um, obviously seeing the beautiful van life glamour side and being like, I want to do that too, but they've never camped a day in their lives. And that's where the, uh, obviously as we know from this podcast, like that's where the struggle comes in. Right.

Dave: I believe that what you said was do it, it doesn't matter. Figure it out. It's going to be awesome.

Anna and James: More or less. Yes.

Dave: Yeah, no, I love the, I love the intentionality of the approach you're talking about so important. And that's kind of one of the fun parts of this podcast too, is that it's so easy to think about how glamorous the light will be in the sunsets like you guys talk about and everything is just a beautiful photo. And then there's so much that goes into getting to that point. And I do think it's worthwhile to listen to those kinds of experiences and then weigh like sort of your own fortitude to say, is this really something I'm interested in because for those people who can hear that and still say, it's a big, yes, they're meant for van life.

Anna and James: Totally. Yeah. And there's so many resources out there now. I mean podcasts like this and other van life communities and forums and groups, and I mean, it's, it's abundant to the amount of, uh, knowledge that you can gain just from listening to other people's experiences. So I would say, you know, take the time to really, um, kind of build your own community out and talk to people before you actually decide if it's right for you.

Dave: Totally. And so understanding that this next question is relative, how do you stay clean on the road?

Anna and James: That's such a good one. That's a great one. Do you want to start that? Yeah, sure. Um, well, one, uh, we have our little solar shower, which is what we use to shower when we're not in an actual campground where they have hot showers. Um, and we also have, let's see, we have like a, our little, I have a little like travel the bidet thing that I sometimes use. Not really that often I use dude wipes. Oh yeah. Dude wipes. Um, lots of like baby wipes and everything for every part of the body. Yeah. Sponge baths are actually pretty common. Like when you can't get to a shower, but you feel like you've been hiking all day or you're sweaty. Like you don't want to get in bed like that then wiping your whole body down with some clean wipes is a kind of quick fix. Yeah. Never pass up an opportunity to shower, um, at a friend's house or at a campground that actually has a shower. Cause you never really know the next time you're going to be able to get one.

Dave: That's awesome. Um, Alrighty. What do you consider van life essentials?

Anna and James: A lantern, a couple of little lanterns. We always use those with, um, magnetic hooks. So I don't know if I'd call those essentials, but they're really helpful for hanging lantern on the outside when we're cooking and having money inside. They're great for everything because whether it's decorative or yeah, like hanging a lantern on the outside for cooking, we also hold our solar shower up with them. Like they're amazing. Get them on Amazon for super cheap. Um, I would say blackout curtains are definitely essential. Anna and her mom, uh, sowed their own, uh, curtains a couple of years ago. And we have a video on our YouTube channel that kind of walks you through how to do it. Um, and then Mr. Buddy, the little heater comes in handy cause we don't actually have a heat system in the van. So that is an essential, um, for if it gets a little chilly at night, um, propane, um, propane probably should have been the first one cause we use propane for that heater. Um, and for cooking. So we have a Coleman stove. That's how we cook all of our meals. So if you don't have a kitchen that's like built in or a stove in the van and Coleman's a great option. So I would say that's an essential and a really good skillet. So we have a couple of different size cast irons that we can cook over the fire. Or we, we use that on the coalmine and toilet paper, toilet paper. Yeah. Bring toilet paper, um, that you like, because you're never going to find toilet paper that doesn't feel like sandpaper when you're on the road. So like find toilet paper that feels good for you. Yeah. I'd say those would probably be the essentials off the top of our head.

Dave: What's your favorite driving song?

Anna and James: Oh,I mean, I'm really like a higher love Steve Winwood. That's the one that I was starting to be like. I think anything Tracy Chapman, we're usually jamming out to Tracy Chapman or Dave Matthews.

Dave: What's your favorite place you each visited?

Anna and James: Yeah, if we were going to say our favorite place, it would probably be Glacier. Montana and Wyoming are just, are pretty special.

Dave: What one thing hould everyone know before they live out of a van?

Anna and James: Hmm. One thing that everyone should know before living out of a van, um, their poop schedule.

Uh, yeah, that's pretty good. I would say one thing everyone should know is how to read a road atlas and a map. That's a good one.We always carry a road Atlas with us. Um, because you know, 50% of the time, you're not going to have service to tell you where you are. And sometimes the maps are just a little finicky or the, uh, you know, Google maps or Apple maps or whatever you're using. So the road Atlas not only helps you in those situations when you're off the grid a little bit, but it's a really just great way to familiarize yourself with the geography and the landscape of wherever you're traveling.

Dave: It's great to have a tangible representation of the places you've been. A well.

Anna and James: Totally. Yeah. Yeah. And you can keep little post-its on their notes and it's great. We love our road atlas.

Dave: What's your favorite book you either read on the road or that inspired you to travel?

Anna and James: Hmm, great question. Um, Into Thin Air is as mine. I just think I love Jon Krakauer and his writing and, um, books like that. Just kind of get me inspired to, you know, go off the beaten path and to travel and to like see the parts of the world that are out there. So that that's a book to me that kind of screams like adventure.

Um, I would say for me, uh, one of the books that inspired me to travel was Wild and, um, I read it kind of before it became a cliche book, but it was it's so good. Um, and really just got me thinking of being like the female solo traveler empowerment and everything. Um, and actually one of the books I read on the road, which was my favorite, not really inspiring me to travel for any reason, but just very entertaining was, um, it's called Ranger Confidential and it's all about like kind of the crazy gruesome stories and stuff that happened at these national parks and the rescues and terrible things that Rangers have to deal with. And the stories are so exciting and so terrible. It's a page turner.

Dave: Oh my God. What a perfect thing for this podcast.

Anna and James: Exactly. Ultimate catastrophe really is. I have another one too that I think really, um, kind of keeps me inspired and I, um, Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey, um, actually bought it at the arches visitor center, which is kind of where he spent a lot of his time in Utah. So books that I think we both enjoy getting books from the place or, or about a place that we visit. And then those books kind of keep us inspired to travel to other locations and learn about it.

Dave: Great point. Yeah. And I, I, I find that true for fiction and nonfiction. I love like fiction stories set in those landscapes. And of course there's obviously good nonfiction about the place as well. Alrighty, moving along. Great, great answers to those lists. Uh, last rapid fire question. What would you tell someone who doesn't understand the appeal of van life?

Anna and James: I would say to each their own, goodbye.

I think I would just say something along the lines of, um, that I would maybe something like think of a time when you've been in nature where you felt truly immersed in it, and maybe you saw a beautiful sunset or sunrise, or you looked out over the ocean and you felt this feeling of like, this is it. I'm in touch with myself. I'm in touch with everything I'm in touch with the earth and my soul. And you know, it's metaphysical as it sounds and whatnot, like really having this epiphany. And I feel like almost everyone who has spent time in nature may have felt those feelings. And I would say if you've experienced that, that's how Vanlife feels almost every single day, as long as nothing's really going wrong. When we have those moments of like, this is it, this is the freedom. This is the life that I chose. This is like all that I've ever wanted. And that's really like what wraps it up in a bow,

Dave: What a lovely way to wrap it up. A huge thanks to our guests and James, leave the map. Where can people find you, give them everything, Instagram, YouTube, whatever it is that they can learn more about you and your amazing adventures.

Anna and James: Yes. So you can find us on Instagram @leavethemap. You can find us on Tik [email protected] You can find us on YouTube, @leavethemap. Um, pretty much on every social media except for Twitter. We don't really do the Twitter thing, unfortunately, but, but yeah, we're, we're, uh, we're around and we're always available to help. Um, you know, we have a lot of free resources and some paid resources on our site to really help make the decision a little bit easier to, to kind of do that research that we were talking about earlier, where we're a good resource for that.

We also have a van life ebook all about getting started and some questions to ask yourself if you're thinking about doing band life and then with the ebook, we include email support and helping people out and everything. And as James said, we're of course we answer all of our DMs. We're always here to help people out.

Dave: It's been a real pleasure spending some time with you.

Anna and James: Thank you so much. It's been great to have you guys on here too. So fun. Yeah. This was a blast, Dave, thanks so much for having us and asking such thoughtful and uh, interesting questions. It was, yeah, it was a really great time.

Dave: This has been an episode of A Clean Escape, a podcast celebrating all the ways life on the road can get messy. Do you have an epic van life misadventure you’d like to share? Drop us a line at www.jackfrost.earth/a-clean-escape-podcast and your story could be featured on the show.

A Clean Escape is presented by Jack Frost, a do-everything powder on a mission to end single-use plastics everywhere. This podcast is a creation of Jack Frost, LLC and Oddball Media. It’s made possible by the extraordinary leadership of our co-founder Theresa Wallace and the brilliant work of Executive Producer Bella Mullen.

That’s all for now. May the road take you to amazing places, and whatever happens, may you make a clean escape.


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