Newlyweds convert van to go on epic US road trip. Picture: Media Drum World/australscope
Newlyweds convert van to go on epic US road trip. Picture: Media Drum World/australscope

Newlyweds living your dream: One van, 50 states of USA

A MARRIED couple who packed their life into a van and hit the road before their first wedding anniversary are planning to complete all 50 US states next year.

Mike and Jessica Shisler, from Baltimore, Maryland, US, were backpacking in Grand Teton National Park when they noticed a converted Sprinter van for sale on the side of the road, The Sun reports.

Mike, 34, and Jessica, 33, were backpacking in Grand Teton National Park when they noticed a converted Sprinter van for sale. Picture: Media Drum World/australscope
Mike, 34, and Jessica, 33, were backpacking in Grand Teton National Park when they noticed a converted Sprinter van for sale. Picture: Media Drum World/australscope

Despite being out of their price range, a seed had been planted in their minds and two months later they bought their own 2013 Mercedes Sprinter to convert themselves, at a cost of $19,500 over five months.

The adventurous couple are currently in south Florida, having driven 29,000km through 38 US states and part of Canada. They aim to complete all 50 states by next summer after a trip to Alaska.

Ms Shisler said: "We love that everywhere we go we are at home - every day is a new adventure and a new experience.

"We also enjoy the financial freedom that comes from not paying a mortgage and the emotional and physical freedom from not working the standard 40+ hour week.

Two months later the couple bought their own 2013 Mercedes Sprinter to convert themselves. Picture: Media Drum World/australscope
Two months later the couple bought their own 2013 Mercedes Sprinter to convert themselves. Picture: Media Drum World/australscope

"A big part of van life for us is about being present in the moment and trying not to plan out every next step.

"We are really enjoying this lifestyle but do keep mental notes of the places we could see ourselves living in the future."

The couple are able to fund their nomadic lifestyle by working on their travels.

Mr Shisler is an architect turned artist who keeps a sketchbook and draws every day the places they go.

Mike often worked in the dark and cold of a US Northeast winter to convert the van. Picture: Media Drum World/australscope
Mike often worked in the dark and cold of a US Northeast winter to convert the van. Picture: Media Drum World/australscope

Through his Instagram account and Etsy he sells his artwork to a growing number of people.

Meanwhile, Ms Shisler is a scientist who got frustrated with the lack of communication and outreach in medical research and now helps translate technical information for public consumption.

Despite their love of the lifestyle and somewhat steady income, it hasn't all being plain sailing for the pair.

Ms Shisler said: "Living in a city like Baltimore made it difficult to build out the van."

"Our urban neighbourhood had little parking and certainly no place for a large cargo van. The solution was to park the van at a nearby storage unit and Mike would bike to the lot every night after work to build the van.

"All of our build materials were kept in a rented storage unit, all of our tools had to be battery powered. He often worked in the dark and cold of a Northeast winter, preparing for our departure date in the late spring.

Jess is a scientist who now helps translate technical information for public consumption. Picture: Media Drum World/australscope
Jess is a scientist who now helps translate technical information for public consumption. Picture: Media Drum World/australscope

"The biggest problem we've had on the road was when we were rear ended in a hit-and-run accident on the side of the road while we were sleeping in San Francisco.

"After the other driver fled the scene, we were left with a crumpled rear door and bumper that needed four weeks in the shop to be fixed."

The couple don't want to deter anyone thinking about following suit though.

Ms Shisler said: "When we first started throwing around the idea of quitting our jobs and moving into a van, we were terrified of how everything would turn out and how people would react to our decision to live an unconventional life.

Mike is an architect turned artist who keeps a sketchbook and draws every day the places they go, then sells the pieces to make money for travelling. Picture: Media Drum World/australscope
Mike is an architect turned artist who keeps a sketchbook and draws every day the places they go, then sells the pieces to make money for travelling. Picture: Media Drum World/australscope

"During this time, two friends of ours who had already made that transition told us, 'If it's a dream you both share, make it happen.'

"It was the little extra spark of confidence that propelled us to commit to making the jump. So if it's in your heart, you can make it happen."

This article originally appeared in The Sun and was reproduced with permission.


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