On the face of it Jake and Gianna Bachowski were living the American dream. Both had successful jobs, a comfortable four-bedroomed house and two cars parked on the driveway.
But while basking in the Sunshine State of Florida might seem idyllic, the 32-year-old couple felt the pressure of maintaining their lifestyle. It meant they had little time to spend with their toddler daughter Luna, and they’d become ships that pass in the night.
Then, in 2018, they stumbled across an online community of families who had ditched the nine to five to live, work and travel in camper vans.
‘We didn’t think our daughter needed a whole room full of toys – it was more important to us that she should see the world and learn about other cultures.
‘We’d been talking for a long time about what our dream life looked like, and both agreed it included unlimited family time, travel and adventures,’ said Jake.
Undaunted by the idea of swapping a 1,400sq ft home for a 90sq ft van, they decided to give it a go. Sold up everything and bought a second-hand Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Van. Then with the help of YouTube tutorials, set about converting it into their home.
‘Getting rid of our possessions was surprisingly freeing,’ says Jake.
In late 2018, with no real plan in mind, they set off and travelled through Tennessee, Arkansas, Iowa, Colorado and Utah, before ending up in California.
Jake had a particular soft spot for Utah. ‘It’s the most indescribably beautiful place, untouched nature for miles and miles. We could wake up and watch the sunrise over the mountains with no-one else around. Feeling so connected to our natural surroundings was amazing’.
So inspired were they by their travels that in June last year the couple decided to set up their own lifestyle consultancy business and now help other couples’ transition to a more nomadic lifestyle.
But in late 2019, Gianna discovered she was pregnant which was going to present its own challenges, not least the need for a bigger van.
They shopped around but many of the vans were $55,000 to $70,000, way beyond their now limited budget. Then they spotted an old school bus and snapped it up for just $4,800 (£3,542).
A hectic summer ensued as they worked frantically to get the van converted before baby number two arrived.
‘We parked up outside the home of some family in Florida, who kindly let us use their facilities while we got everything sorted.
‘We did about 75 per cent ourselves, then got some help with the carpentry. Now, the bus has beds, a wet room and toilet, an oven, a stove, heating, solar panels – it really is a fully-functioning home.’
Baby Capri was born on the road in July 2020.
The couple, who post regular updates’ to their 52,000 followers on Instagram, admit life is not without its challenges, the same as for any parents.
‘We frequently get messages every day from people asking us how we do things like keep a routine for the children, tackle bills, organise our finances – and even maintain an intimate relationship in such a small space.
‘Of course there are challenges, but to us, there’s nothing like this lifestyle. We wouldn’t change it for the world.’
For now the family are in Florida and plan to continue travelling The Bachowski family are still Florida for now but the couple plan to continue travelling around the USA. Then, depending on the pandemic restrictions, hope to tour further afield, including Europe.
In the mean-time the family hope to buy some land for a more permanent base for when the girls reach school age, but have vowed to keep the bus so they can travel freely in their spare time.
Jake said: ‘The girls are exposed to all sorts of different cultures, languages, religions and so on. We hope it’s teaching them that the world is vast and you must treat everybody you meet with kindness and respect.
‘They are such happy children. We take them to a different playground every single day, and seeing their joyful faces is one of the best things about this life.
‘People sometimes think it’s an isolated life and ask how we make sure the girls are socialising, but there is such a friendly community of other van families.
‘We’ve made lots of friends and found a sense of community that we never really had before.
‘People can search their entire lives to find a sense of belonging – and here, we have it.’
Jake believes the pandemic will have changed many people’s perspectives.
‘I think people yearn for natural beauty and to get away from cities. We’re so fortunate, we are self-contained in the van and there’s no better feeling than waking up to our natural environment.
‘There are days that feel challenging, like when we have to hunt for water or find somewhere that’s safe to park up without risking a knock on the window from someone telling us to move along.
‘We feel incredibly lucky to have been able to follow our dreams’.