A #vanlife couples story, inspiring you to find your happiness

kavestory.jpgI most often write about places I’ve been, mountains I’ve hiked, and helpful tips to help my readers plan their future travels.  But I also occasionally like to write about my personal journey of finding true happiness, hoping to inspire you all to also make choices that make YOU happy.  Regardless of what I write, I feel that in order to connect with my readers, it is important for you to understand who I am as a person, as Kelly, and that I’m not just words behind a computer screen.  That being said, this post is about my personal relationship with Dave.  If you follow me on my Instagram, you’ve probably seen him in my stories quite often.. and next year (2019) we’ll be building out another van to live in together, so I want to share our story about who we are.  Our relationship is one that has made me the happiest in my life by far, but it has definitely come with sacrifices to make our happiness goals come to life.  One such sacrifice is being long-distance for periods of over a month at a time. But let’s start from the beginning…..


Meet us! Kelly & Dave.. this photo is from hiking in Switzerland this year

SO much can change in a year. Back in the beginning of January of this year (2018), I was single and ridiculously swiping through dating apps like Bumble and Tinder… probably way more often than I should have been.  I was recently divorced (gasp! what? … yes, I am divorced) so did not have high expectations, and certainly was not in a rush to be with anybody that didn’t have the same interests in life as me.  If I had learned anything from my failed marriage, it is that you need to feel HAPPY together.  For me, that meant I needed to be with somebody that had similar interests in life as myself (aka, traveling.. a lot). Anyway, I was messaged by a few creepy guys, had to block one person who stalked me anywhere he could find me, arranged a date with a guy that was not what I was expecting in person so I turned around and left when I saw his face, and met a handful of good guys that just didn’t work out for small reasons.  Just like anything else in life, patience was a virtue.  BUT, on January 16, 2018, I met Dave. (yes, I met him online! So don’t give up hope single people!)

I actually messaged him first. He replied, and then after an exchange of only about 5 messages, I was asked to go out sometime.  I appreciated him asking to meet up so quickly, because exchanging messages with someone for weeks before meeting them is exhausting.  And then if you don’t ‘click’ in person, all those “get to know you” messages were a complete waste of time… so to me, meeting so soon was perfect.

The worrisome part. I’m American, and he was from England just temporarily working in the US.  I was honestly a bit worried about wasting my time with someone that wasn’t even from the same country.. because how on earth would that work out? But at the same time, my little American girl mind was excited to meet a guy with an accent.  It seemed so exotic and exciting, so I decided to give it a chance.. but without high expectations. (Example of me not letting fear, doubt, or worry win).  When I met him I definitely swooned over his accent.. but also his dimples, his outfit, his outlook on life, his goals, and definitely his talk about all the places he had traveled before.  We clicked right away that night and ended up in shitty local pubs until 2am chatting away… on a week night.


that first tinder date led us to places like this.. hiking in Italy

One thing that I had brought up to him was my dream to live in a van one day, in order to make traveling more feasible on a budget.  Most people always raised an eyebrow at me when I said that, or said I was weird or crazy.  But I remember very clearly the day I told Dave my van life dreams, and his response wasn’t the negativity that I usually received.  He said “I’ve always wanted to live in a van too!”-  Like I mentioned earlier, one of the most important things to me was meeting someone with similar interests and goals in life.. so this was huge.  From that point on, there was no turning back. We hungout nearly everyday for the first few months of knowing each other… including renting an RV for a week, road tripping and boating the Everglades for a weekend, spontaneously flying to New York City for no reason, and meeting in the Bahamas to snorkel and relax.  That was just in our first 2 months of knowing each other.. so there was no question in my mind his sense of adventure was similar to mine.


our trip to the Everglades

Because of this, we mutually agreed that we should pursue our van dreams sooner rather than later.  After 4 months of knowing each other, we gave our bosses the notice we would be quitting and shared the news with our families.  This was absolutely terrifying to both of us, yet so exciting at the same time. The unknown was scary.  Not knowing if we would be successful in van life, if the lifestyle would live up to our expectations, or honestly not knowing if we’d even still like each other after jumping into living together so soon.  But we knew we would never know unless we tried.. so we did. (Another example of me not letting doubts, fear, or worry win).

April was the last full month at our jobs, which was also our first experience being in a long-distance relationship. Not down the road, not in another state, but across the globe on different continents. Dave worked in Europe, while I finished up working in the USA.  This was a mentally trying time, and a time that seemed to sluggishly drag by.  It was honestly really hard for me.  I often questioned what I had gotten myself into, because long-distance is NOT something I was interested in doing.  But at the same time, I knew it was temporary and that I had to take this giant leap in order to do something I had always wanted to do.  (This is also the month that I packed up my apartment, put my stuff into storage bins, and prepared for van life with him.. to read more about how to prepare to live minimally, click here). A lot of crazy choices all at once eh?


the first day we lived in the van together, in England

In May I was on a one-way flight across the world to Europe.. now jobless, homeless, and ready to travel full-time with the man I had just met 5 months prior.  If that’s not a giant step toward doing what makes me happy, I don’t know what is!  (*Remember to not let excuses get in the way of doing what you want.. jobs, money, kids, physical ability, etc*).

From May until October 2018, we did it.  We bought, built, lived in, and traveled in a van all around Europe (if you are interested in how we built out our van, click here).  We summited so many mountains in the Alps, the Dolomites, and the Pyrenees. We layed on beaches all along the Mediterranean Sea and English Channel. We drove through 10 different countries, surrounded by a myriad of languages, cultures, and new ways of life.  We took freezing cold showers outdoors and shit in the woods more times than I could count.  We argued about little things and forcibly learned to get over it quickly since living in such a confined space together. It was the most challenging, life-changing, and rewarding 6 months of my life.  The very thing I was dreamt about and longed for, actually came to life.  Every doubt, fear, worry, challenge, crazy choice, negative opinions from others, and having no idea what I was doing was 100% worth it… and it never would have happened if I hadn’t met Dave.


what dinner time looks like for us, this night was in Germany

However, this newfound happiness and love I found with Dave, still comes with the sacrifice of long-distance.  We are not rich, and don’t pretend to be on social media. Nothing is given to us, so the full-time travel thing is a bit hard without working. Despite living minimally, nothing is free, and every few months we have to put our traveling on hold to get our finances back in order.  I have dreams and goals to work online so we can live in a van without taking break from it, and am actively working so hard on doing so.. But for now, this sacrifice has to be made.  As mentioned before, we were apart the month of April to work.. then again in August, Dave worked in France for a month while I explored England. Now currently he is working in Italy while I work in Florida for the month of November.  It is without a doubt, super hard for me. So if you have any sneaky advice about getting through long-distance times, shoot me a message with encouragement or ideas! 🙂

Our relationship is different from most not only because we’re from 2 different parts of the world (UK+US), which we have managed to make work, but we also are either together 24/7 living and traveling together, or not together at all for a month at a time. BUT I WOULDN’T TRADE IT FOR THE WORLD.  I am finally happy in life.  Happiness sometimes comes with sacrifices, and that’s just part of life.


on a sand dune in France

I like to say that a tough journey to happiness is better than a pitiful acceptance of unhappiness. Remember that. I am sharing this part of my life with the world to remind you of that fact.  If you are unhappy with any aspect of your life, whether that be a relationship, a job, a home, your weight, your goals.. put your fears aside and take a leap of faith to change it.  If I hadn’t put myself back out there to meet someone new, and if I hadn’t risen above my fears that he wasn’t from the US, I wouldn’t have met someone with the same interests as myself.  If I hadn’t quit my full-time job and packed up or sold all my belongings, I wouldn’t have gotten to live and travel in a van around the world with him. Point is, ACT on what you want.  Face a fear, accept a challenge, and just do whatever it is you’ve been wanting to. Sometimes you don’t realize how miserable you actually are with something or someone until you aren’t miserable anymore. You never know the happiness you will find! And I hope you ALL find the type of happiness that I found with Dave ♥IMG_1229

What’s next ⇒ The van life lifestyle has changed our outlook on life so much, that we want to make it more permanent. 2019 should be an amazing year for us. We have just sold our first van, and we will soon be building out another van to live in and continue exploring this beautiful earth together. It will be yet another challenge we are ready to face and conquer, together. Continue to follow our journey on Instagram @KellyNicoleTravel  … 2019, we’re coming for you.


-Kelly (& Dave)


5 replies »

  1. Wow what an amazing story Kelly!! I can only said wow !!! You guys deserve to be happy and to explore the world, I know I will learn something from your story


  2. Lovely story, glad you are making it work. I travelled on a bicycle with my new wife back in the 90s in Europe and Africa and now I am really looking at this Van life. Thanks for sharing so personally and especially your build information. You guys are definitely an inspiration.


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