The fantasy of hitting the open road and exploring the world (or at least your corner of it) in a van has probably been around from the moment the first van rolled off the assembly line. But in 2020, the pandemic kicked that interest up to a whole new level, capitalizing on the already-strong van life community and inspiring a new flock of adventurers to leave it all behind. Exploring the #vanlife is proof that it’s not a one-size-fits-all world; these van-life influencers are living in everything from a Honda Civic to a school bus.
Thanks to social media, van-life enthusiasts are offering survival tips, sharing their adventures, and documenting the freedom (and challenges) of living on four wheels. Here’s a look at seven of the top van-life influencers who are taking us along for the ride.
Van-life influencers sharing their adventures
Jenelle Eliana (@jennelle.eliana)
Jenelle Eliana has been posting videos about her life in a van since 2019, when she struck out in a refurbished 1995 camper van. The Californian’s YouTube videos answer a lot of questions people have about van life, such as how to stay healthy, how to shower when you live in a van, and — the big one — what made her want to do this in the first place. She’s picked up nearly 2.5 million subscribers to the channel in just two years, thanks to her fun, friendly videos. And in case you’re worried about her rolling through life all alone, don’t worry; she’s traveling with her pet snake, Alfredo, who makes appearances in her videos every now and then.
Daniel Young (@danmaniel)
With 2.4 million followers on TikTok, Daniel Young is showing others how it’s done. Young has converted a school bus into a tiny home and shows step-by-step how he managed this impressive bus buildout. His instructions include things like converting doors, paneling the inside, and even building drawers and a wine rack. His adventure began on his popular YouTube channel, and now he’s using Instagram to document his travels.
Courtnie Hamel and Nate Cotton (@courtandnate)
After losing their jobs during the pandemic, Courtnie and Nate decided to live in a van. One random post on TikTok quickly turned into 1.6 million followers who are treated to their adventures, which has included getting a dog to accompany them on their journey. They share tips on where to find great parking spots and places to camp, where to find other free resources essential to life on the road, and other important topics to help van lifers enjoy themselves responsibly.
Kombi Life (@kombilifeadventures)
Living in a converted 1973 Volkswagen bus, Ben Jamin, his partner, Leah, and his dog, Alaska, have embraced world travel for years and documented it for their YouTube audience. Some 545,000 subscribers follow their adventures, which also have a number of guests joining them along the way. During 2020, they adjusted operations and documented the struggles of staying off the grid and on the go amid the challenges of lockdowns, shortages, and other realities of a global pandemic.
Alexandria Tejas (@hoboahle)
Living her best life on four wheels, Alexandria Tejas has lived under the Hobo Ahle moniker since 2013, when she left her job to live a nomadic lifestyle. Setting out in a Dodge Ram van, she has moved on to other mobile housing options, including the unlikely Honda Civic. She’s grown her YouTube following to 355,000 subscribers, and her fun but informative videos cover a wide range of topics that might not occur to someone until they’re on the road — such as how to do laundry, taking care or your health on the road, and even how to shower in a Honda Civic.
Joe and Kait Russo (@weretherussos)
In 2015, this couple quit their jobs and hit the road in an RV. They’ve shared that adventure, mile after mile, on their popular YouTube channel, which has 206,000 subscribers, and through their Instagram account, which is filled with beautiful shots from their time on the road. This summer, they upped the ante by taking Russo’s mom and dog, Charley, along — giving viewers even more reasons to tune in.
The Matneys (@thematneys_)
Since 2017, Aubry and Nicholas Matney have been living and breathing the van life, and they’ve consistently posted their adventures on YouTube every Saturday. Their 134,000 subscribers tune in not just to learn more about their adventures, but to check out their informative videos that include van tours and van conversion builds. They even share what it was like to be trapped in their van in Argentina for 60-plus days during the pandemic.