We came across the duo that make Exploring Alternatives on YouTube and found it interesting listening to all the stories of people all over the world who made the decision to live simply and independently/sustainably.
We decided to find out more about the couple, Mat and Danielle to find out why they too decided to live life on the road and in turn, how and why they started their business, Exploring Alternatives.
KNEWYU: WHAT ARE YOUR NAMES AND WHERE ARE YOU FROM? HOW DID YOU BOTH MEET AND WHAT INSPIRED YOU BOTH TO LIVE LIFE ON THE ROAD?
DANIELLE: We’re Mat and Danielle. We met when I was working as a cashier at a health food store, and Mat was a customer there for years before we finally went on a date together. We talked a lot about travel on that first night, and spent hours flipping through Lloyd Kahn’s Home Work book about handmade shelters.
We were together for almost 6 years before we decided to sell our house, quit our jobs and try living a minimalist, nomadic lifestyle. It was scary at first, but we were unhappy with our situation at the time (we didn’t like our jobs, we felt overwhelmed by our mortgage, etc.) so it felt like we had nothing to lose.
K: WALK US THROUGH THE STEPS FROM PLANNING YOUR “TRIP” TO BUYING YOUR VAN, MODIFYING IT ETC.
D: We spent the money we made from selling our house, as well as some of our savings, to travel for almost a year. We went backpacking in Australia, Costa Rica, Thailand and in the US, and we did a couple of house sitting jobs to save money on accommodation.
When we got home, we knew that we weren’t done travelling, so we got 2 jobs each, and worked out butts off for 6 months to save up money for a second adventure, which ended up being a summer artist residency tour. We spent 1 month at each residency, in Toronto, Iceland, Berlin and Barcelona. Mat would work on sculptures and paintings, and I would work my location independent “office” job from my laptop wherever we were.
After that trip was done, we wanted to try something new, so we bought a van and turned it into a campervan which we used to travel across the US and Canada. We love spending time in our campervan and we’re hoping to continue living in it whenever the weather is warm enough.
K: WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO CREATE THE WEBSITE AND YOUTUBE CHANNEL, EXPLORING ALTERNATIVES? WHAT DOES #VANLIFE MEAN TO YOU BOTH?
D: We’ve been inspired by bloggers like The Minimalists, Married with Luggage, and the Professional Hobo, and we learned a lot from them. We also learned a lot about living simply through our own adventures and that’s why we started the Exploring Alternatives project – to share what we were doing.
For us, #vanlife is an easy way to unite our passion for simple living, small spaces, and travel. It’s like a home on wheels, so we can explore new places each day, but sleep in our own bed at night.
K: WHAT IS A NORMAL DAY LIKE IN THE LIFE OF DANIELLE AND MAT?
D: Our day-to-day life changes depending on whether we’re in the van, or house sitting, or backpacking. When we’re in the van, we usually wake up in a Walmart parking lot and do some stretches in the van, freshen up with wet wipes, and then get dressed & ready for the day. We’ll check our emails and then drive to a park to eat breakfast and go for a walk. After that, we’re usually meeting with someone to film a video about their alternative lifestyle, or we’re editing videos on our laptops anywhere we want – in the van, in a cafe, etc.
After our workday, we do whatever we want – visit with friends & family if they’re around, or we’ll just cook ourselves a simple dinner and relax in the evening. We’re pretty low key.
K: I KNOW THAT THIS LIFESTYLE ISN’T ALWAYS EASY, SO CAN YOU SHARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES THAT YOU BOTH HAVE COME ACROSS AND HOW DID YOU WORK AROUND OR SOLVE THEM?
D: Living in a van is full of challenges, and we’ve had learned to either solve them, or accept them.
Weather is a huge challenge, as we’re usually either too hot, or too cold in the van. We make sure to pack warm blankets when it’s cold out, and we installed a roof vent to suck hot air out of the van when it’s hot out.
We also struggled with finding good WiFi on the road to work long days, and we’ve gotten pretty good at using a combination of public libraries, cafes, and parking lots with public WiFi signals – sometimes we’ll use all 3 options in one work day.
K: WHERE ARE YOU CAMPED NOW AND WHERE ARE YOU HEADED?
D: We just finished a 3 week road trip around Ontario, Canada, to interview people who are either living or building alternative structures, like tiny houses and earthships and every single project was incredibly inspiring. We’re attempting to post a new video each week on our YouTube channel, but they’re sometimes a couple of days late since our filming schedule is pretty hectic right now. We’re also planning to travel throughout Quebec and the Atlantic provinces for the rest of the summer and into the fall.
K: WHERE HAS BEEN YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE TO CAMP SO FAR?
D: Our favourite place to camp so far was a crown land (public land) campsite near Nakusp, BC. We were able to park on a beautiful beach for a few nights and we went swimming in it every day, and fell asleep to the sound of the waves every night. It was paradise.
K; WHAT TIPS CAN YOU GIVE TO ANYONE WHO WANTS TO BUY A VAN? WHAT TIPS CAN YOU GIVE TO AN ASPIRING TRAVELLER AND VIDEOGRAPHER?
D: We get tons of emails each week from people asking which van they should buy, how to shower in a van, where to get WiFi on the road, and we’ve done our best to answer all of them but it was starting to get a bit crazy since I’d spend my whole day answering emails. So I decided to write an eBook with every piece of #vanlife advice I could think of and we’re hoping it’s going to be available by July, so stay tuned for that!
In the meantime, I would say that flexibility and reasonable expectations are two qualities that any aspiring van dweller should have. It’s not an easy lifestyle, so we need to be open to changing plans, to figuring things out when problems arise, and realizing that not every day in a van is going to look like a picture perfect Instagram snapshot (but the days when it does are priceless!).
Thank you Danielle and Mat!