If you’re craving a bit of van life inspiration, look no further than Kelly Laustsen and David Somach, the adventurers behind @gnrwgn and @humans.of.gnar.wagon. On the first account, the couple shares epic shots of their 2018 Winnebago Revel, dubbed Gnar Wagon, in scenic locations across North America. The account also offers an honest look at the technical side of van life, including details about the modifications they’ve made to their rig.
The second IG account is focused on the couple themselves and their travels, from undulating red canyons in Utah to otherworldly glaciers in Alaska. Along with the Instagram accounts, Kelly and David run a blog called Humans of Gnar Wagon, where you can enjoy personal accounts of their adventures as well as check out a helpful van life gear guide. Whether you’re more drawn to van details or beautiful natural locations, this dynamic duo has content for you.
We got the chance to interview Kelly and David about the trajectory of their van life journey, their favorite destinations in the U.S. and Canada, and tips for others who are curious about the lifestyle.
Photos By gnrwgn
Rec Van: Can you tell us a little bit about yourselves?
Kelly & David: Kelly is a transportation engineer, and David is a software developer. We both love adventuring in nature; biking, hiking, backpacking, and skiing! Our home base is in Portland, Oregon, but we make sure to get out and explore as much as possible.
RV: How did you get into van life?
K&D: We’d been planning on a yearlong camper-based trip for many years. We originally were planning on buying a truck camper, but after renting a smaller van decided that a van was more suited to our needs. We bought our van at the end of 2017 and have no plans to switch to anything else!
RV: What kind of van did you choose, and why?
K&D: We chose a Sprinter, mostly because at the time they were the only van you could buy with 4×4 from the factory. If we were shopping now we would definitely consider the AWD Transit, but we’ve been very happy with our van and have had 60K trouble-free miles of travel! The extra ground clearance of the 4×4 helps us get further out into the wilderness, and that’s something we’ve gotten used to so it would be tough to move to a less off-road-worthy platform.
RV: What is your favorite part of van life?
K&D: Our favorite thing about traveling in the van is feeling like we have our home with us. We never get homesick in the van or really get tired of being on the road since we are able to have all the creature comforts of home along with us! Now that we’re no longer living in it full-time, it’s still great to have a vehicle that’s set up to be always ready to go on an adventure at a moment’s notice.
RV: How do you navigate traveling and living in a small space together?
K&D: When we’re on the road, we’re mostly using the van as transportation and as a basecamp so we spend most of the time outdoors. Since we’re generally not hanging out inside the van unless the weather is really foul, we aren’t actually spending much time in close quarters. We tell people that we get along best when in the van since life is easy and our most difficult decisions generally revolve around figuring out where to travel next and what activities to do during the day!
RV: Do you have any tips for other couples who are curious about the lifestyle?
K&D: We’d definitely recommend renting a van or similar adventure vehicle because living in one for a few days will give you a pretty good idea of what life is like on the road! Outdoorsy is a good place to start. If you already have a trip you’re planning, renting a van is often cheaper than the cost of a rental car and accommodations.
RV: Tell us about one of your favorite travel memories.
K&D: One of the best segments of our full-time van experience was driving to Alaska last summer. It was pretty amazing to see the scenery change along the way and to fully understand just how far away Alaska is from the lower 48. Alaska itself is a great place to explore by van, and we found it to be very van-friendly!
RV: Have you noticed any differences between van travel in Canada and the U.S.?
K&D: Canada is generally easier to travel by van than the US. For the most part, the places we’ve visited in Canada have been more lax on where you’re allowed to camp overnight. The western US is generally quite van-friendly but we still found difficulties finding legal places to sleep, especially when visiting popular spots. We were quite impressed by Canada’s campgrounds and RV facilities in the parks, particularly in the Canadian Rockies!
RV: What are three of your favorite travel destinations?
K&D: It’s hard to pick just three! It’s difficult to beat the uniqueness of southern Utah, and there are many great options for national parks and other destinations to visit there. We loved our time in the Maritimes, particularly Prince Edward Island and Cape Breton Island. Finally, Alaska has so much wilderness to explore, and we’re hoping to get back up there another summer!
RV: What’s next for you?
K&D: We don’t have any specific future plans other than using the van for weekend adventuring and occasionally a week or so here and there. We have floated the idea of shipping the van to Europe for a year or so, so we’ll see if that ends up happening!
Follow the adventures of Kelly, David, and Gnar Wagon on IG @gnrwgn and @humans.of.gnar.wagon. Delve deeper on the Humans of Gnar Wagon blog.
Want to follow in this couple’s footsteps to the Great White North? Check out our “Van Travel in Canada” guide. If you’d like to follow Kelly and David’s lead by joining the van life movement in general, visit RecVan. We carry a variety of new and used camper van models, including the Winnebago Revel. Then take a look at “Tips for Cohabitating with your Partner in a Van” for more advice from real van life couples.