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#Vanlife 59 National Parks Trip U.S.A

#Vanlife – Is It Worth The hype?

It’s so trendy at the moment to leave behind the mundane 9-5 and hit the road #vanlife style. I am using the hashtag instead of writing ‘van life’ because the word simply didn’t exist before social media (mostly Instagram) made it a craze. People have been living and adventuring in their vans since the 50’s, but the last few years have seen a massive spike in younger generations wanting to give the nomadic lifestyle a try.

Van Life Lone Rock - Renee Roaming

One month ago, my husband and I hit the road in a Volkswagen Westfalia camper, named Ruby. We are on a 7-month road trip to all 59 US National Parks, partnering with Drink Evolve and Go Westy Campers. The trip involves visiting 39 states, 2 US territories, taking 26 flights and driving roughly 25,000 miles.

So far we have covered about 4200 miles, hit up 13 National Parks, and visited numerous State Parks and Monuments. Do we love #vanlife? YES! Do we recommend it? Well that depends…

Grand Canyon - Renee Roaming

Why we love #vanlife 

There are so many things we love about living in the van. Freedom and being closer to nature on a daily basis are probably the top two advantages. My husband, Matthew, and I are both freelance photographers, so being able to work remotely from the van is incredible. Plus it is such a liberating feeling waking up each day in a new place, ready to start another day of adventuring.

I would much rather look out my “office” window to a mountain than a concrete jungle.

In the van we have desk space, a means to charge our gear, and endless amounts of inspiration from the road. Staying healthy on the road is also reasonably easy due to our fridge, stove, sink and ample pantry space. We find #vanlife to be comfortable, peaceful, and the perfect way to spend quality time together.

#vanlife Renee Roaming

What sucks about #vanlife?

Despite having adequate storage and living space in the van, it can still feel cramped somedays. Our bed is the size of a small double, and our “sofa” isn’t exactly roomy.

Some days we do crave alone time after spending what feels like every waking minute with each other…

Other downsides of the van are limited off-roading capabilities and slower driving times. She’s a finicky gal, old Ruby, and likes to give us a good testing. Some things she has kindly taught us is that she doesn’t much like high altitudes and too hot or cold conditions. Oh and she doesn’t care for going above 65 miles on the highways. But we love her.

Van Life Grand Canyon - Renee Roaming

So is #vanlife worth the hype?

We think so.

Prior to this trip we swore by “Frankie”, our Toyota 4Runner with her study roof top tent and off-roading capabilities. We still miss Frankie but feel like Ruby might be our new bae. It’s just so nice being able to cook in the camper, sleep completely inside and easily access all of our belongings. We love the freedom #vanlife gives us in terms of “stealth-camping” and the privacy of being able to shut all the curtains, turn on our fairy lights and feel instantly at home.

Van Life Capitol Reef - Renee Roaming

Will our opinion change?

Maybe! If Ruby breaks down enough times this trip, then I am sure we will second guess our love for #vanlife… or maybe that will just be part of the adventure?

Stay tuned.  

Van Life Monument Valley - Renee Roaming

Follow our road trip!

Instagram@reneeroaming, @matthewhahnel, @thehahnels

FacebookRenee Roaming, Matthew Hahnel Photography


In the coming weeks our guides to each National Park will start going live on the Drink Evolve website! Be sure to follow along via their social media channels: Instagram, Twitter & Facebook

Go Westy are also following our journey via their Instagram, Twitter & Facebook.

#vanlife Observation Point - Renee Roaming



#Vanlife Renee Roaming

Disclaimer – Matthew and I are partnering with Drink Evolve & Go Westy for this road trip. All opinions are of course unbiased and honest. All photographs were taken by and are owned by Renee & Matthew Hahnel.

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Comments (51)

  1. This is so exciting Renee! I’ve been following your trip on Instagram and I’m loving the photos! I’ve been wanting to do this before with my husband but never really had the guts to do so. Maybe we’ll try a short one, just around Utah. Can’t wait to see more! <3
    Janna recently posted…First Timer’s Guide to OahuMy Profile

  2. Beautiful post Renee 🙂 It looks like you guys are having the most epic adventure ! My fiancée and I are thinking of road tripping the west coast of the USA this summer and are really considering renting a van – how much would you say it costs per night?! I know the national park camp grounds can be pricey !

    Kimmy x
    Kimmy recently posted…48 Hours in Siem ReapMy Profile

    1. Thanks Kimmy! If you are wondering what camping costs a night – well that depends. Sometimes we stealth camp for free (e.g. park in a pull-out or parking lot, one that doesn’t specifically say you can’t camp) and other times we stay in campgrounds. National Park campgrounds are fairly cheap ($10-30 a night) but RV parks can be more pricey ($40+)

  3. Hello! I was wondering what spot your are in while inside Ruby at the Grand Canyon. We started car camping and I would really like to go to that exact spot, thank you for your time and also so inspiring me to go to all these places 🙂

    1. Hi Sally! We camped in the National Park campground. That photo you are referring to was taken at sunrise from one of the pull outs along the South Rim. We got there about 15 mins before sunrise, set up, opened the back and enjoyed the view. You cannot camp in those pull-outs.

  4. Thanks for the beautiful photos, as always! I’m not going to lie haha, we’re really considering #vanlife and quitting our crazy jobs (9-9ish). One day maybe! 🙂

    1. Thank you Audrey. I hope you get the chance to #vanlife at some point. You definitely don’t need to quit your jobs and give up everything, maybe just try a short trip first? Good luck!

  5. This is SO amazing! I can’t even imagine visiting all the NP’s in 7 months. We’re currently converting a van into a camper and we’re so excited about all the trips we can take in it! We took it on it’s maiden voyage a couple weeks ago over to The Netherlands and it was so much fun (though it’s still a LONG way off being finished so it was more like camping in the back of a van haha). I can’t wait till it’s all finished though!
    I’m so excited to be following along on your trip!
    xo April | April Everyday
    April | April Everyday recently posted…Seeing The Spring Flowers at Keukenhof GardensMy Profile

  6. Interesting! We did a 4 month road trip in a small campervan (big car, basically) last year: 3 months in Australia, 1 month in New Zealand. Looking back, if was an awesome 4 months, and we loved the #vanlife! We sometimes miss it, and are dreaming of a similar European road trip. But if we’re honest, there were quite some “bad” times too. It was really small, sometimes way too hot, sometimes way too cold. We couldn’t sit comfortably on our bed and couldn’t cook our properly eat inside.
    Anyways, I believe there are up- and downsides to everything, just like the #vanlife. I also think that it’s not for every couple to try it. It can get really cramped and you’re way closer to each other ALL the time. It’s definitely a very different vacation from a road trip with a car while sleeping in hotels!

    1. I totally agree Birthe! We find that when we car camp in regular cars (like Frankie our 4×4), we feel much more cramped and find it difficult to cook & sleep. One of the reasons I love the vanagon is the ease of sleeping, cooking and being able to lounge around. It is so nice having the extra room!

    1. Hi Diana! We have a sink in the van so we are covered for face washing, teeth brushing and any emergency bathing situations haha. We shower at campground or book into the occasional hotel. We do our laundry in town or some campgrounds/RV parks have laundromats. I hope that answered your question!

  7. This is such a great post (with some obviously gorgeous photos – jel!) about a fad that I had no idea existed. I wonder if I’ll ever get to do something like this in the future 🙂

  8. I love the honesty on the not so glamorous side to #vanlife, but your pictures sure are gorgeous! I could definitely tell you guys are professional photographers before you mentioned it! 🙂

  9. What an incredible journey you both are on indeed! I’d love to visit so many of the US National Parks, and what better what than with a homey van! But like you say, is it worth it, I’d be curious if I could do it.
    Stephanie recently posted…Cinque Terre GuideMy Profile

    1. Thanks Stephanie! So far we are loving exploring in the van but I will definitely be sharing my thoughts at the end of the journey too. Thanks for following along 🙂

  10. Wow!!! So cool! I love your photos and am itching to try out #vanlife on our own as well. Maybe sometime next year we’ll rent one and just go on our merry way. Thanks for sharing!!

    1. I think you should totally give it a try. It’s one of those things that you don’t really know if you like it until you try it out! Thanks for reading 🙂

  11. You guys are seriously living the millennial dream and super jealous of both the project and the redic photos your bae is producing. Vans are the new bikini models…

    1. Thank you Rhiannon! I really hope you and your partner can make it work. It would be incredible to road trip around Australia – I hope to return home and do that one day!

  12. Your photos are amazing! National parks look so beautiful, it must be great to just be able to go wherever and have your whole life in the van. I look forward to following your adventures!

  13. Absolutely love your photos Renee!! Van life has definitely become a craze since social media but I love the idea of “stealthy camping”! Good luck on your journey!

  14. Thanks for sharing this Renee! We are moving to Australia later in the year and are considering buying a van to see the country while we’re there, so nice to have an honest opinion on van life!