Sarah, 27, is a traveling Occupational Therapist and full-time van lifer. She is originally from New Jersey and currently on assignment in Alaska. She has also lived in Connecticut, Maryland, Texas, Arizona, and different parts of California. She has been traveling since graduating in January 2013. She made the decision to convert a van and live in it May 2016, and hasn’t regretted it yet!
You live an amazing life full of adventure, and all out of your converted camper van. Can you tell us what fueled the desire to live the van life and how it changed your life?
When I first started working as a travel Occupational Therapist, I quickly learned how much I loathed the process of packing and unpacking. I traveled every 13 weeks for work and having to move each and every time was definitely my least favorite part of traveling full time. When you are a traveling healthcare professional, you typically require short term, furnished housing. Fun fact about short term housing- it is EXPENSIVE. One day I actually took a good hard look at my student loans and it was overwhelming; how much I owed, how much I would pay interest, and how long it would take me to pay them off. I decided that I really did not want to keep these loans around forever. So, to answer your question the main reasons fueled behind van life was to: 1. make moving easier and 2. to save money and to start paying down my student loans faster (I paid one off so far, woo!). My decision started with a travel trailer and evolved to a tiny van. For more details, you can read my post Why I Decided to Live in a Van.
As a Travel Occupational Therapist, you get to have the flexibility to travel and experience many different parts of the country. Where has this career path taken you and what advice would you give to people interested in a travel healthcare professional career path?
Deciding to be an Occupational Therapist was a good decision; deciding to be a traveling occupational therapist was the best decision. This career path has taken me to nursing homes on the East Coast, facilities in rural Texas and even a hospital in a small fishing town in Alaska. I was a permanent OT for a year and a half in LA and I was literally counting down the days until I could travel again. For anyone interested, it’s definitely not for everyone you have to be very flexible and independent in most settings. It has to be remembered that if a company is seeking out travelers it means for whatever reason they can’t get permanent staff. This may be because it’s not the best company or not the most popular location. I think if you are looking for an adventure and are willing to be flexible it could be an absolutely amazing experience, as it has been for me.
Where are you located right now? What are your favorite spots for adventures?
Right now I am currently on assignment in Anchorage, Alaska. Alaska has literally blown me away; it’s absolutely amazing. I was only supposed to be here for 3 months but ended up staying for 12 months. I will definitely miss this place and will be back! My favorite adventure spots in Alaska would have to be exit glacier, Homer and Hope. I just hiked resurrection pass this past weekend, a 39 mile hike from Hope to Cooper Landing. It was equally difficult (rain and snow) as it was awesome! I have plans to explore more parts of Alaska this summer!
Who do you look up to and how do they influence your sense of adventure?
I have always looked up to the women in my family. I don’t think there is any other group of women I know that are more independent or more stubborn. They have a perfect balance of tough love and never ending support. I could write about how each one inspires me and influences my sense of adventure.However, ironically, the day you sent this to me I had called my Aunt Rita in Florida. She might not remember this but she told me once to not wait until I was retired and old to travel. She has traveled all over the place in the past few years! I always have admired her travels and took the advice to heart to not wait until retirement to travel.
What are your most memorable adventures?
Oh man, I’m feeling really lucky that I have to think about which one I want to describe. This past year I drove from Los Angeles to Alaska on my own. It took 10 days while only stopping for two days. It was also the first trip with my tiny van home. It was a lot to take on all at once. I had driven long distances by myself but this was on a whole new level. I would go a whole day without seeing another car, and gas and food were sometimes sparse. I spent time exploring parts of the country I might not have ever gone to such as Idaho and Montana. I spent two days exploring Banff National Park in Alberta and it was unreal. I feel like it’s one of those places you always see in photographs but don’t actually think you are going to visit. I remember getting to Lake Moraine and frolicking around the lake, touching the bright blue glacier lake and I could not stop smiling. I had to pinch myself. Traveling with other people is awesome but there is something very special about doing some solo travel.
What would your advice be for someone who wants to live fearlessly and pursue their wildest dreams?
Where is your next big adventure?
I will be working in Alaska until July, then I will be driving back down to the lower 48. This time, however, I am taking my time! My boyfriend is joining me and we plan to check out other parts of Alaska such as Denali NP, Valdez and explore beautiful British Columbia. I am also hoping to get a travel job in Hawaii next winter!
Check out her blog: www.tinyvanbigliving.com
Follow her on Instagram: @tinyvan.bigliving
At This Adventure Life we celebrate the lives and stories of the people who live life fearlessly. #livefearlessly