> Heather <
Assistant Professor of Media Communication and Photo Journalism at Asbury University. Loves Coke in a can, hiking, and taking it easy.

> Jesse <
Stay at home dad. Background in Audio/Video/Automation, construction, and automobile mechanics. Loves playing drums, music, HiFi, and caramel donut's.

> Emery <
Has endless energy but hyper focused. Loves LEGO's, reading, Minecraft, and anything made of sugar.

> Ollie <
Very content and laid back. Loves Spider-Man, sharks, reptiles, and chips. 

> <
Tiny Home life didn’t begin for us overnight.  We don’t have the experience like others of being dissatisfied with our jobs or seek this lifestyle out of passion for the environment.  Jesse and I have watched countless videos of other tiny home owners, bus conversions and van dwellers.  At first it seemed to be a ritual of vicariously living through these young couples and singles.  However, after educating ourselves, the voyage became more possible with a family along with careful planning and strategies.  So here we are, not in a 150 square foot house, or a 400 square foot bus, but a measly 65 square feet with four people!  Yes, that is exactly 16.25 square feet per person. Before you decide this idea is totally miserable, hear me out.  For one, it isn’t for everyone.  We have designed the van, our tour and the amenities to fit our needs.  Even between the four of us, we are all different and therefore have various prerogatives for a successful adventure.

In order to give context to how we landed on traveling in a van, let me give you a little backstory.  We have always loved tiny homes and we seriously looked into purchasing one or building one.  Zoning and laws are a bit tricky for many areas of the country in regards to tiny home living.  We decided to put it on hold and begin a project building a micro shelter on a 6x10 flat bed trailer.  It was such a fun project and turned out beautiful but we quickly realized how unfriendly it would be to pull long-distance as frequent travel slowly became more important to us. We came across our van on Craigslist which was partially converted.  The seller happened to be looking for the exact set up of our camper and SUV so we made a very reasonable trade.

The entire Ford Transit van conversion (V1 & V2 combined) was built by Jesse "with my assistance for around $10,000 (not including the vehicle itself) in about three weeks. Before the purchase and build, we decided what was most important to us.  We chose a van over a bus or tiny home due to parking.  The research we’ve done shows a pattern of any vehicle fitting within a normal parking spot exhibits less struggle.  In order for us to have an element of spontaneity, we chose to purchase the largest vehicle that will fit into a normal parking spot. After several weeks on the road, this has been a huge advantage.  So we sacrificed space for mobility.  I mean, if you are going to live in a small space, you may as well go a little smaller to increase your mobility.  That’s the whole point, right? Another important factor that gives us increased presence in places we want to go is the stealth camping ability.  Stealth camping means we can park anywhere and no one suspects anyone is sleeping or living in the van.  On the outside, the van looks like any other work van, so we’ve parked on the streets of Chicago to meet friends, took a nap and ate lunch at public parking lots, all while remaining incredibly private and safe.  Another huge decision we made that affects our tour and lifestyle is opting out of a shower/bathroom area.  Many van builds have a shower area.  However, there was significant evidence that the area wasn’t used as often, drained the water source, required a larger grey water tank (which also takes up space) and took up a lot of useable space.  Because we have two kiddos with us, we just couldn’t afford to have it.  Showers usually come by way of campsites, but sometimes a nice dip in the pool will get us by for a few days.

Before this year, traveling full-time as a family wasn’t possible due to my career.  I am a full-time Professor at a small Christian school, Asbury University located in Wilmore, KY.  I proposed the idea of teaching online as well as returning to campus six times a year.  The faculty, Dean and Provost have been extremely supportive and have allowed me to do so.  You can see more details about what I teach and how I teach on the road on our website.  Jesse has worked as a technician and even business owner in the audio/video/automation industry for several years and his skills primarily involve very hands on tasks like construction. Because van life is relatively affordable, we were able to sell our big house and free up quite a bit of expenses so he didn't have to work during our full time travel.  We homeschooled our boys while we were out full time with me designing the curriculum and Jesse implementing it.  Jesse is also in charge of maintaining the van and caring for the boys while I work. We were able to see 34 states during our 2019 adventures and had planned on seeing more beginning March 2020, but little did we know what was just around the corner. The events of 2020 resulted in us home-basing in Tennessee and ultimately purchasing and living in our very own tiny home in Jackson, TN.  As the pandemic began to wind down (or so we thought) we felt it was time to relocate back to Kentucky.  We are currently residing in Lexington, KY and take advantage of every opportunity to continue traveling. 

I am naturally a planner.  I love to have short-term and long-term goals.  However, with this experience, having long-term goals isn’t reasonable just yet.  This type of lifestyle yields the need for flexibility and experimentation.  Therefore, I can’t tell you if anything we are attempting to do is going to last two weeks or two years.  It’s a bit difficult to explain to people, but I believe giving room for unknown conclusions is the healthiest approach, especially when you mix in small children.  Please continue to follow our journey and feel free to ask questions as we adventure. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​


Heather Hornbeak
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