Nomadic Story: Rosenes on the Road

February 13, 2019 · 16 minute read

This week we are pleased to introduce, The Rosenes Family. Travis & Lexi are living in their 86 sq ft Sprinter van with their two children, Finley & Zealand. They've given up the comforts of a traditional lifestyle to spend more time with their family and experience life together.

Follow the Rosenes family's journey: @rosenesontheroad

To start, tell us a little about yourselves! Who are you & what is your background?

Hey there, we are the Rosene Family, Travis, Lexi, Finley (4.5 years old) and Zealand (1.5 year old). We are a young active family from Southern California. Travis and I are high school sweethearts, we started dating at the age of 15! At the young age of 17, we bought a 1971 VW bus for $600 and fully restored it! That was the start of falling in love with Van Life for us! We putted all over So Cal in our van, chasing waves and sunsets. We learned early on that life in the slow lane is the life for us!

We each did a semester or 2 of college (Travis made it 2 weeks) and we both realized it was not for us. I have a background in teaching preschool, as well as a nanny. Travis has a background in Design, Marketing, and Photography. Together, Travis and I started multiple businesses, the most recent one being a Landscape construction business and Retail store in Northern California. In the last year and a half we decided to make a major lifestyle change for our family by closing the doors of our business, selling and giving away all of our belongings, transitioning back to Southern California, self-converted a Mercedes Sprinter Van in 7 months, and are gearing up to live, work and travel full-time in our van as a family! We're still a few months away from being real digital nomads, as we till spend a few days working in an office.

Zealand enjoying the Van Life!

What do you do for a living now? Did you have to change careers to make the transition? 

Since leaving our business, Travis has gone back to his roots and we started an in-house Marketing, design, branding, photography, video, website design and maintenance company. We work hands-on with small businesses and truly love what we do. The goal is to be able to work from wherever since our passion is to travel. The part of our story that we're working on currently is Travis still works an office job (Marketing, 2-3 days a week). This is mainly for security while we gain more clients for our Marketing business. Then we will be able to go full-time. We're trying to enjoy the process of our journey and this time that we're staying part-time with family. We didn't necessarily have to change careers, we just went back to our roots and passion! 

How did you get turned on to the digital nomadic lifestyle? Was it someone you knew personally, social media, a book you read, etc.? 

We have always been attracted to the minimalistic lifestyle. We frequently talked about how we should "one day" sell everything and just go! One day, as life was preparing us for some major changes, the discussion came up again. We talked about how it was pretty much the perfect time in our lives to actually live out our dream. Sure, we have two children at this point, a beautiful home, nice cars, shiny 'stuff', and simplifying would take a lot of work. We were used to hard work, we were willing to put in the time and effort to minimize and simplify our life, so we can actually start enjoying it. We were going down a path that we knew was leading us to a place we did not want to go. Days apart from each other, exhaustion and disconnection. 

We've never known anybody who has lived the digital nomadic lifestyle, we didn't really even know it was a thing until once we had started our van build and were doing hours upon hours of research, we realized that this was actually a movement! Now we have met so many new friends on the road and through social media who live the digital nomadic lifestyle, it is incredible!

Why did you decide to take the leap towards becoming nomadic?

The driving force behind our family choosing to live the nomadic lifestyle is, many things, but what it comes down to is TIME. Time to be a family, freedom to go where we want to go, see what we want to see, be intentional with this life we live-after all we only get one shot at it! We're aware that people think we're crazy to want to live in such a small space, but the reality is that we spend so much of our time outside. We're passionate about our kids learning through experience, and I can confidently tell you that my kids are learning way more knee deep in coral reef tide pools holding octopus and sea slugs than reading about them in a textbook. They get to encounter different species of wild animals and touch and feel different trees and bark. They get to experience life, not just read about it! 

How long have you been nomadic? 

We're still working toward becoming 100% nomadic. We say we're about 70% nomadic, the other 30% were with family who graciously lets us crash their place with our crazy kids. We finished our van build in August 2018 and have been going on extended trips since then.   

How did you transition to this kind of lifestyle & how long did it take? What were some of the steps you took to turn your vision of life as a digital nomad, into a reality?

The transition into this lifestyle took some time, close to a year to be honest. We moved out of our home, put all of our stuff into a storage unit, held 4 garage sales over a span of a few months, and continued to sell things from our storage unit, things we had posted on Craigslist and Offer Up. 11 months later we were able to get rid of our storage unit and put the sentimental things we wanted to keep at our families place. It was a huge transition and a whole new way of thinking for us. At first, it was hard for me to see my stuff selling for close to nothing to complete strangers, but after already going months without all of that 'stuff' we realized that it was just that, 'stuff' that is almost always replaceable. We were never ones to have a whole lot. Sure I was guilty of being your typical suburban mom who made $200 Target trips weekly at one point because I could. But letting go of that and becoming mindful of the things I was purchasing because we now have 80 square feet to live in, it definitely changes your mindset on what you spend your money on!

Another change I had to make for myself was minimizing my wardrobe! For a girl who likes clothes, that was a new challenge for me, but it definitely makes getting dressed in the morning easier. I rarely spend money on myself, if you're a mom you understand this. Your kids look like they're out of a catalog and mom is rocking those workout clothes! We've grown a lot in this area such as purchasing things that will last a long time and we usually try our best to support small businesses. 

View from out the back doors of the Van.

Describe what you call "home"? Why did you end up choosing that over something else? 

"Home" to us is our 2017 Mercedes Sprinter Van 3500 170 wheelbase. We ended up choosing this vehicle over others because when we owned our Construction Company we purchased the van for construction use, as well as to use on the weekends for camping. It was an empty hollow cargo van while we were in business. When we decided to transition away from construction, the only thing we kept is the van, with plans to self convert it to live and travel in. We chose this vehicle because it was multi-functional for us in the beginning, but I'm certain we would have chosen this van regardless of using it for business or not. 

View of the Sprinter van's custom kitchen.

What were some of the biggest challenges during the transition?

Some of the biggest challenges for our family during the transition of living in a 1400 square foot home on property in Northern California, to living part-time with family and part-time in our 86 sq ft van was; getting used to being verrry close to each other all the time. We had to learn a new dance of understanding each other's needs and moods. We recognize when one of us needs a breather or alone time and allow each other space. 

What's been the greatest aspect or benefit of living nomadically?

The greatest aspect of living this lifestyle is the time we have together to just be. To be present and relish in our kids childhood. To fully know our children and grow together. To see new places as a family and meet new friends along the way. We're giving the gift of time to our kids and a rich childhood, one that we hope shapes them into adults who care for and respect our Earth, their loved ones, and strangers alike. By all means, this lifestyle is not easy whatsoever and is definitely not for everyone, but the good far outweighs the hardships. We know this nomadic lifestyle is temporary for our family so we are really soaking in this season.

What's been the biggest challenges you've faced living in this way?

The biggest challenge we face living this way is sometimes not knowing where we're going to park for the night, as well as really cutting down our water use. We have a 23-gallon water tank (which is actually quite large for a van). Depending if we're off the grid or not we are very particular in our water use. Off the grid, we can last 4-5 days. When we know we have access to water and do more dishes and longer showers we fill up about every 2 days. But it is a major mind shift when you've gone your whole life turning on the faucet to wash your face and can take your sweet old time doing the constant dishes that comes with growing hungry kiddos. 

Besides the parking and water, I'd say another big challenge is getting used to the little tedious things that must be done constantly. You cannot be lazy and live the nomadic lifestyle. For example, for us and the layout of our van, we have to put away our beds the second we wake up in order to start making breakfast. We have to unlatch our kid's car seats a lot and shuffle and move things around. That's just what comes with the territory of kids...more stuff. You must put everything back in its exact spot because if you don't your small space becomes even smaller quickly! You have to get good at this. So now, a long private shower and being able to lay in a bed with coffee a little longer in the morning feels like a luxury! 

Finley taking pictures!

How has being nomadic influenced your life?

I think all of the things I've talked about above about our lifestyle change, starting by getting rid of all of our belongings, completely minimizing our life, becoming mindful of the things we buy, getting good at making new friends and being extremely conscious of our water use as well as electricity use has been life-changing. Before this, I didn't really think twice of these things. Now we know how many amps everything pulls because we can see on our inverter. All of our power comes from the sun, we have never once plugged into shore power. We can thank Southern California for the 359 days of sunshine for that! It feels good to be leaving a smaller carbon footprint. We know our future will always include tiny living.

Would you go back to a conventional lifestyle after this, or do you see this as a long-term lifestyle?

We see Van Life as a temporary lifestyle for us during this season of transition. We see it as a special time with our young kids to travel around and enjoy each other. It is the norm for parents to go separate ways during the day to different jobs and the kids go to school or daycare all day. We're passionate about a solid marriage and parenting together and being a full-time family. I think our lifestyle will always be unconventional in the fact that we plan to homeschool our children and make family and travel a priority.

Van life on the beach.

How has this lifestyle affected your expenses and/or financial situation?

The nomadic lifestyle has affected our expenses in a positive way. The initial cost of converting our van has been the only investment. We knew we wanted to make our van feel like home and make it last, so we spent more than most van builds probably do. Besides the cost of conversion and the monthly payment and Diesel, we splurge on campsites on the beach a lot. I'd say that's much better than high rent or mortgage, electricity/water/gas bills. Winning!

If you live this lifestyle with a partner, family, or pets, how does this impact your lifestyle? What kind of considerations and choices have you made to accommodate everyone involved?

A lot of thought and consideration goes into living the nomadic lifestyle with multiple children. Space, safety, schooling, day-to-day activities, storage for clothes, shoes, food, toys, etc. and all of our overall well-being. Everything must be thought out. When considering this, we put our kids at the forefront. We re-evaluate often and will continue to make sure they are thriving and it is still working for us as a family unit as well as individually. We're 100% doing this for ourselves, getting out of our comfort zone, learning a lot, seeing a lot, growing and stretching in new ways, spending more time together. It simply works for us and makes us happy for the time being!

How do you spend your free time?

We spend our free time at the beach surfing, playing in the sand and waves, educating our kids through experience, free diving, spear fishing, rock climbing, cooking, hiking, creating, taking photos, and hanging out with our friends and family. We play during the day and usually work a couple hours after we put our kids to bed. It's a balance we're still learning! Anything outdoors is our jam!

Getting ready to go surfing.

What are your go-to resources/apps/gear that you can't live without or that have been pivotal with this kind of lifestyle?

We could talk all day about favorite gear! We're particular on our purchases so when we find something we love, we stick to it for a very long time! Our favorite gear would be our HydroFlask's to keep us hydrated wherever we are. For our Van, our favorite gear has been our Aluminess set up, everything added on the exterior of our van is from them. It has allowed us so much extra storage for gear! And lastly, our Dometic oven! Having a stove and oven in your rolling home is a game changer. Coffee and fresh baked cookies in the middle of the desert anyone?

What do you wish you had known before starting the journey to becoming a digital nomad?

We're technically not legitimate digital nomads quite yet, we're working towards it. But I wish I would have known that it takes a lot of hard work and it obviously does not happen overnight. I assume it'd be a bit easier for a single dirtbag dude to just jump into it, but for us, we have to #adult for apparent reasons. It's hard, our pre-parent selves want to dive in head first. But we have two little ones who get sick and brake bones and need good insurance. Soon! 

Do you have a favorite moment thus far? 

I have a million favorite little moments that I can think of off the top of my head. As well as many big moments, I can remember where we were when our son started walking when our daughter ropelled for the first time on a 60 foot wall the week after she turned 4. She was afraid but overcame her fear and did it 5 more times. Nursing my son on a hot day in Zion National Park in the middle of a stream, his eyes locked on mine and my eyes shifting from the heaven-sent red rock formations to his green peepers that pierce my soul with each glance. Slow mornings, watching our kids run wild and free while I sip my coffee next to the man I love. Starting and ending our day near the sea. I have watched more sunsets in the last few months than I have in my entire life! 

Any exciting plans or changes planned for the future, pertaining to this lifestyle? 

Well, we do plan to go full time when we can, but we also plan to travel overseas next year. Our top destinations are Bali, New Zealand and Australia (and many many more countries!). 

What is one piece of valuable advice or wisdom you'd like to share with others that are hoping to embark on this lifestyle?

If I were to give someone advice who hopes to embark on the nomadic lifestyle, I would say, be confident in yourself. Trust your gut when you get those feelings of 'what if'. Be it a good or bad gut feeling, listen to it. If you feel like you should park somewhere else, just park somewhere else. If you wake up with a really great business idea but are nervous or fearful, just ACT ON IT. If you feel like you're being drawn and called to this lifestyle, Go for it! What would you regret more, trying it and realizing it's not for you, or ignoring that gut whisper and missing out on a life you think you could only dream up! Oh, and lastly, lower your standards of cleanliness! Baby wipes and dry shampoo will be your greatest friend! 

Where can people find out more about you & your lifestyle?