Photos provided by Matt
For many of us, it is solely a dream to leave the monotony of our day-to-day lives and travel in a van, but for Matt and Amanda, it has become a reality. Both born and raised in Southern Connecticut, the two were mere acquaintances in high school, only to fall out of touch after graduation. However, as fate had it, after nearly ten years without communication, the two crossed paths at Burning Man, rekindling their acquaintanceship and allowing it to quickly blossom into a friendship, and eventually love.
For both partners in the relationship, making the decision to leave everything they knew behind in exchange for a micro-studio on wheels wasn’t exactly an easy choice. On one hand, Matt knew that leaving the bustling, repetitive city life was exactly what he needed. “I’m kind of a risk taker”, he tells me, explaining how he knew van life was the right choice for him. “Sometimes you just have to say yes. My path in life was changing and I just looked at this situation as an amazing opportunity. I had a blank slate ahead of me”. For him, leaving Los Angeles to pursue his passion for freelance photography and travel with a woman he loved was a no-brainer.
For Amanda, however, the decision was much more frightening. “I worked for YouTube and Google in San Francisco”, she explains, “and for a lot of people, that’s where they want to go and stay for a long time. But after a few years, I started feeling like things were stagnant”. Even so, and despite feeling burnt out and restless, Amanda was still hesitant to leave her life behind. “I had decided to do something different”, she says, “and for me that meant, for the first time in my life, not having something lined up. It was terrifying and everyone was trying to talk me out of it, and it was just really, really scary”. Despite her fear, however, Amanda, too, knew it was the right choice for the lifestyle she wanted.
Ultimately, the decision to completely redesign their lives has been nothing short of incredible. Blessed with support of their friends and families, Matt and Amanda find that, despite minor challenges, the most difficult aspect of van life is remembering not to have too much fun. “Living in a van is pretty easy when you come down to the basics of it”, says Matt. “You adapt and it’s not challenging at all. It’s more challenging to make it sustainable”. Ensuring that they take breaks from their nomadic lifestyle to grow their personal brand and generate enough revenue through their business to sustain them has been the most testing component of their lifestyle. “We needed to find a balance”, Amanda adds, “Time to come back and interact with clients, but also remote places that we could go and park. We have all this freedom to go where we want and do what we want, and being your own boss is figuring out where to go and when to work”.
But despite their occasional difficulty in finding the motivation or discipline to pause their adventures and resume their roles in the workforce, Amanda and Matt say that living in a kitchen that doubles as a bedroom is not actually as difficult as it might sound. “We don’t have fights”, explains Amanda, laughing slightly. “Our biggest fights are over really small things. If you live in a small place, you have to learn how to communicate”. Plus, they mention, they get to meet a lot of really cool people on the road. “A lot of the people you meet along the way, you connect with easily, just because you have a lot of the same experiences”, Amanda says. Plus, she explains, the connections you make with people are much more personal, especially since you invite them into your bedroom when they come over for dinner, she jokes. “Everybody does it differently”, they add, “but you figure out the [logistics] very quickly. We’ve made some very strong connections”.
Surprisingly, however, their profound connection with nature and disconnect from their busy city lives have not limited their use of social media in any way. “[Social media is] much more of a business tool for us,” Matt describes, “whereas for a lot of people, it’s kind of a pastime or a filler. And it’s a way for us to connect with other people who are doing similar things. Sometimes we even develop these relationships online before we meet them in person”.
Interestingly, social media is how Matt and Amanda discovered DMOS. “One of our friends from van life knew about DMOS and recommended that we connect”, they explain. The couple says they’ve had the shovel for a short amount of time, but from what they’ve seen so far, they’re impressed. “I think the form factor is beautiful, and there’s no prettier shovel that I’ve ever owned”, chuckles Matt. “As far as actual function, having the [shaft] that expands all the way is great for leverage, and is definitely one of the advantages”. Even more, he adds, though he was initially skeptical that the aluminum would bend or break during usage on rocks, dirt and sand, he’s been overall impressed by the strength and it has performed beautifully.
Amanda and Matt are keen to continue testing the limits of their Stealth Shovel as they proceed on their journey to discover new places and meet new people. Even more, however, the pair is eager to continue to grow as individuals. “As pretty much anyone would attest to, the adult self you grow into is a lot different than who you are in high school”, Amanda says, comparing her relationship with Matt now to that of ten years ago. “Take advice, but make your own choices”, she suggests, “because at the end of the day, you’re the one that will feel the repercussions”. So, DMOS followers, push yourself to your limits, challenge your personal boundaries, and get out there and pursue your passions, because you only have one life, and it’s your choice how you live it.
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