Life On The Road: Aubry Matney

Sarah NelsonAugust 18, 2018

Life On The Road: Aubry Matney

Aubry and her partner, Christian, were living and working in San Antonio when they decidedsomewhat spontaneouslyto buy a van and set out on the road together. A year and a half later, they are staples in the vanlife community, hosting meetups for fellow van-dwellers and sharing their insights on re-renovating their van on social media.

Aubry gave us some insights into their life on the road together. Follow along on their journey @mnmlmillennials.

Year, make, and model?

2007 Mercedes Sprinter (high roof, 170-inch wheelbase)

When did you first become interested in vanlife?

“Christian and I were working full time in San Antonio, and he was kind of sick of it. One day, we came up with the idea to buy a van and drive all over the country. That was a year and a half ago. We decided to buy a van two weeks later and started building it out.”

You recently re-renovated your van. Why?

“Initially, we kind of just wanted to get on the road as fast as possible. We threw our friend who builds out vans some money, and we didn’t have much to do with the original build. We realized there were a lot of things we missedwe didn’t have a place to sit down or work or hang out and have dinner.”

“Seeing other people doing something really cool with their van helped us understand what’s possible. You really can have a full-on home with a full-on kitchen, dining room and everything you want. So we redid ours. It’s the same kind of layout, but now we have some added comforts and can sit down and enjoy time in our home.”

What does your work life look like?

“I was working remotely by the time we started on the road, and Christian was doing contract work for the company we worked for. In February, we both quit our jobs for good. [Now] our social media brand pays most of our bills.”

You recently hosted a meetup for other vanlifers. Can you tell us more about that?

“We hosted the meetup in Portland with our friends who also live in a Sprinter. There was a huge turnout of about 150 people and 40 vans. It was so cool to see that every single [van] was different, and everyone has different priorities based on what they use their vans for and what they do in it. It was awesome to see that the community is growing so quickly.”

Favorite basecamp?

“We really enjoyed Mexico, and our favorite part was Oaxaca. It feels so undiscovered and there are very few tourists there. We met up with two other couplesone in a bus and one in a vanand found an awesome hidden beach and stayed there for a few days surfing, hanging out, and swimming.”

What does a typical day look like in the van?

“Right now, Christian is working full-time, so he needs to be plugged in during office hours. Once he’s done around 2 or 3, we get our exploring in. We love cities, so tend to spend a lot of time in them. We reach out to our followers on Instagram and ask where to go and what to eat. On weekends, we get to do something interesting usually, like two-day camping trips, putting a lot of time into creating a video, or something else fun.”

What’s the best part of your van?

“Now, I like being able to spend time in it, so I love sitting down and enjoying a meal or sitting down and just hanging out in it. In the first build, we thought it would get claustrophobic, but that hasn’t been the case in the second build.”

How do you balance work and traveling?

“The nice thing about what we do [for work] is that a lot of the time, we’re doing these things in our daily lives that produce better content. We both enjoy working a lot, but we try to give ourselves time to shut off, like hikes where we don’t bring our phones along. But our lifestyle lends itself well to thatwe can physically drive away from the hustle and bustle of a city and force ourselves to be in the moment and really present.”

Can you tell us more about your focus on minimalism?

“We got really interested in minimalism when we moved into our first apartment together. We had a bunch of stuff that we packed into our cars and didn’t know why we were bringing it, and realized we never use over half of it. For us, it’s not necessarily having less stuff; it’s having the things that add value to our lives. That’s the filter we put everything through. Once we moved into the van, we didn’t have to get rid of really anything except our furniture. We were trying to be intentional about it.”

Best moment in the van thus far?

“I don’t know that there’s necessarily a moment, but the times I felt the most fulfilled is when we’re challenging ourselves to get outside our comfort zone. Mexico is a great example! Everyone we know told us not to go there [due to safety concerns]. Once we got there, that was the safest I’ve ever felt in a lot of ways. The people were so hospitable, and we just loved it.”

Any tips for affording to live on the road long-term?

“If you’re working for a company, make yourself really indispensable to the company so you can be remote. We also always say “build your skills”learn to design, learn to write well, and become a freelancer. It doesn’t take that much money day-to-day to live in a van.

I would caution people, though, that the reality of vanlife is that living in a vehicle means it can very easily break down. People tend to be stopped mid-journey because all of their savings has to go to one repair. Be very mindful of that; have an emergency fund.

What’s the biggest challenge you face with vanlife?

“All the little things take a lot longer. We do laundry once every two weeks, so we have to plan it out. We also have to think about our water tanks; it’s tedious to fill up and dump out. Trash is the same way. Amenities you usually have in a house that can be easy become a lot more difficult in a van.”

Anything you would tell your past self about vanlife that you know now?

“I didn’t know how amazing the [vanlife] community is, and how easy it is to tap into. When you live in a van, there are some aspects you just understand about everyone else who lives in a van, and plenty of other people making that leap. You have a support system, even though it can feel really scary initially.”

Rapid Fire Q&A

Favorite food?

“Pad Thai”

Mountains or ocean?

“Both, for sure”

Books or movies?


Favorite part of your morning?

“Waking up”

Best view you’ve seen in the past week?

“We went on a hike near Pacific City on the Oregon Coast. It was super foggy, and we could see the cliffs dropping into the ocean and birds flying beneath.”

Sarah Nelson, Outdoorsy Author

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