Young couple finds it 'freeing' to travel the country in a converted van

PHOTO: Pete Thuli and Taylor Bucher spent five months transforming a van they bought on Craigslist into a home they could take on the road. PlayCourtesy Taylor Bucher and Pete Thuli
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Graduating from college typically comes with the expectation of either finding a full-time job or going on to postgraduate education.

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Pete Thuli and Taylor Bucher are bucking those expectations.

The young couple who graduated last year from the University of Wisconsin are traveling the country in a converted van and documenting their adventures on social media.

“Back in college, we took a year off and we went backpacking through Southeast Asia,” Bucher, 23, said. “And that way of life really resonated with us. We liked that nomadic way of living.”

After graduating, the pair, who both majored in business, bought a van for $4,500 off Craigslist, moved in with Thuli’s parents, and began to renovate the vehicle. For five months, they worked full-time jobs during the day and spent their evenings converting the van into what would become their home on the road.

PHOTO: The van, which the couple bought for $4,500, has about 80 square feet of space on the inside.Courtesy Taylor Bucher and Pete Thuli
The van, which the couple bought for $4,500, has about 80 square feet of space on the inside.

“It was not a very social life during those five months,” Thuli, 24, said. “But it paid off, though, in the end.”

PHOTO: Thuli and Bucher did all the woodworking and manual labor themselves, with guidance from Thulis father.Courtesy Taylor Bucher and Pete Thuli
Thuli and Bucher did all the woodworking and manual labor themselves, with guidance from Thuli's father.

To keep the conversion of the van as inexpensive as possible, Thuli and Bucher built the kitchen units, bed, benches, dressers and cabinets themselves, with Thuli’s father -- an experienced woodworker -- giving guidance. They spent about $5,000 altogether on the renovation.

PHOTO: Thuli said the building experience was much more unique than creating cabinets and benches in a home, where everything is level.Courtesy Taylor Bucher and Pete Thuli
Thuli said the building experience was much more unique than creating cabinets and benches in a home, where everything is level.

“Building in a van is way different than doing it in a home where everything is level,” Thuli said. “It was a fun experience.”

PHOTO: Once the van was completed two months ago, Bucher and Thuli took off from Wisconsin for warmer weather.Courtesy Taylor Bucher and Pete Thuli
Once the van was completed two months ago, Bucher and Thuli took off from Wisconsin for warmer weather.

The couple took off two months ago and have already hit areas from Asheville, North Carolina, to San Diego, California. Most recently, they’ve been spending time in Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California.

“We kind of booked it for warmer weather,” Bucher said. “We’ve spent lots of time on the West Coast and we’ve loved it.”

Thuli and Bucher are sustaining themselves on the money they saved while working during the van conversion, and Bucher has a side job for an online tutoring company's writing lab. The two also got long-term projects in the works to bring in additional income.

“There can be some judgment when you say you’re living in a van,” Thuli said, adding that some people assume they’re being lazy.

PHOTO: The couple says visitors are always surprised at how large and comfortable the interior of the van is. Courtesy Taylor Bucher and Pete Thuli
The couple says visitors are always surprised at how large and comfortable the interior of the van is.

“The worst is when people assume you’re ‘trust fund babies,’” Bucher said. “We work very hard to live this lifestyle.”

The pair said despite such judgmental attitudes by some people, they’ve found a supportive and welcoming community who are living the same lifestyle.

“There are a ton of people out here doing something similar,” Thuli said. “It’s just a great community of people.”

Thuli said their nomadic life leads them to be very conscious of how they spend their time.

PHOTO: Bucher said the lifestyle allows them to have the freedom to work on blogging, creative writing and other long-term projects while they travel country.Courtesy Taylor Bucher and Pete Thuli
Bucher said the lifestyle allows them to have the freedom to work on blogging, creative writing and other long-term projects while they travel country.

“It’s a really freeing experience. You’re kind of taking charge of where you are,” he said. “We spend our time a lot more intentionally, rather than turning on the TV and watching four hours of Netflix.”

Bucher said life on the road has allowed them to focus on their interests, such as blogging and creative writing. The couple runs an Instagram account and blog documenting their travels, and also plans to release an e-book in the coming weeks about the process of the van conversion.

PHOTO: In the past two months, the couple has visited places from San Diego, California to Asheville, North Carolina.Courtesy Taylor Bucher and Pete Thuli
In the past two months, the couple has visited places from San Diego, California to Asheville, North Carolina.

Bucher said the spontaneity of their lifestyle is a big perk. They never quite know where they’ll end up next.

“You can … start driving with a place in mind, but realistically we can go anywhere,” she said. “And that’s kind of awesome.”

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