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This couple shunned traditional vacations for traveling the country in a converted van — here’s how they made it work on $30 a day

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via the van dwelling 8Via the Van

Millennials take vacations differently from any other generation. They skip tourist traps for unique experiences, creating picture-perfect memories that will later be on their Instagram feeds.

A year ago, Lucas and Willa Via decided to shun traditional vacations and become road warriors. They bought a van on Craigslist, remodeled it with bohemian-chic interiors, and left New York for wide open spaces. The couple drove across 14 US states over four months.

Between filling up the tank and eating out, they spent less than $35 a day on the essentials.

“If we flew by a teeny tiny log cabin cafe that looked straight out of ‘Hansel and Gretel,’ we’d make room in our budget to turn right around and give it a try. This goes for signs that said, ‘world’s best donuts.’ There are a lot of those,” Willa told Business Insider.

Real life has picked back up for the Vias, who live in San Francisco now. But they plan to take the van out for weekend getaways as a way to vacation more frequently and affordably.

Lucas and Willa shared some photos of their adventures with us. Follow them on Instagram for more snapshots of their #vanlife.

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Lucas and Willa Via are living their most Instagrammable lives.

Lucas and Willa Via are living their most Instagrammable lives.

Via the Van

They were inspired to vacation in a converted van-dwelling after seeing the unmissable hashtag on social media. (There are over 2.3 million Instagram posts tagged #vanlife).

They were inspired to vacation in a converted van-dwelling after seeing the unmissable hashtag on social media. (There are over 2.3 million Instagram posts tagged #vanlife).

Via the Van

Source: Instagram

Van dwelling is an increasingly popular lifestyle choice among creatives and tech workers, as a way to live in urban centers without spending half of income on rent.

Lucas and Willa started planning their great escape shortly after getting married in 2016. “Being New Yorkers, in our twenties, we weren’t rolling in cash by any means,” Lucas said.

Lucas and Willa started planning their great escape shortly after getting married in 2016. "Being New Yorkers, in our twenties, we weren't rolling in cash by any means," Lucas said.

Via the Van

The van, which they named Roosevelt, cost $3,500 and had 250,000 miles on it. It was once owned by a construction crew that unloaded tools, glue, and cement into the back.

A friend offered to keep the van in his driveway upstate. Lucas, who grew up building skateboard ramps and fixing stuff with his dad, spent every weekend working on the van.

With help from Willa’s stepdad, Ron, they outfitted the van with a U-shaped bench that serves as storage, seating for lounging around, and a platform for a memory-foam mattress.

With a fresh coat of white paint and some shiplap, the van was transformed.

With a fresh coat of white paint and some shiplap, the van was transformed.

Via the Van

Willa, a grade school teacher, took a sabbatical before starting a new job in San Francisco. Lucas, who works as an account manager for an analytics company, could work remotely. They charted a course that would bring them to friends and family along the way.

Most weekdays, they camped outside coffee shops and public spaces with WiFi so that Lucas could work from his “home office.” Willa explored new terrain and blogged.

Most weekdays, they camped outside coffee shops and public spaces with WiFi so that Lucas could work from his "home office." Willa explored new terrain and blogged.

Via the Van

Check out Lucas and Willa’s blog »

By night, they set out to find dive bars — the best place to meet locals. (A waiter recommended this hidden gem of a campground on Green River in Utah.)

They parked and slept in campgrounds and WalMart parking lots.

Living in a van created a “fairy tale experience where you can live outdoors,” Willa said.

Living in a van created a "fairy tale experience where you can live outdoors," Willa said.

Via the Van

The weekend road warriors discovered national parks and natural wonders.

The weekend road warriors discovered national parks and natural wonders.

Via the Van

The van made it through blazing temperatures in Arizona and rain storms in Oklahoma.

The van made it through blazing temperatures in Arizona and rain storms in Oklahoma.

Via the Van

Though they avoided paying for motels, Lucas said they racked up serious expenses on their vacation by stopping every few hours to eat out, visit a local museum, or see a band play.

Though they avoided paying for motels, Lucas said they racked up serious expenses on their vacation by stopping every few hours to eat out, visit a local museum, or see a band play.

Via the Van

He estimates they filled the tank — which cost about $60 — roughly 33 times during the trip.

Lucas and Willa made it to their home state of California earlier this fall and settled in San Francisco, one of the most expensive housing markets in America. They’re selling the van.

The couple is asking $40,000 for the mobile home.

But they already have plans to remodel a new van. This time around, they want a smaller vehicle with a platform bed that they don’t have to disassemble every morning.

With her best friend at her side, Willa said, “You feel like you’re in the childhood fort of your dreams.”

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