Watch CBS News

Remote work and high rents prompt local woman to try #VanLife

Remote work and high rents prompt local Woman to try #VanLife
Remote work and high rents prompt local woman to try #VanLife 02:59

AGAWAM -- As many of us pack up for summer vacations, Cori Geiger is packing up her entire life to hit the road – in a van.

The Agawam native bought a stripped-down Ford Transit van last year and transformed it into a tiny house on wheels. This 30-something marketing specialist didn't have a ton of carpentry or electrical skills, but she managed to do it all on her own.

The sliding side door opens to a kitchen with a full-size sink. The faucet can swivel outside the van to double as an outside shower. There's a tiny fridge and a single-burning stove that she keeps in a drawer until it's time to cook. "I actually cook more now than I did in an apartment," she said.

The living room/office converts to a bedroom in minutes when she removes her desk and pulls a Murphy bed down over the L-shaped sofa. She also recently added a much-needed amenity: a composting toilet that pulls out from under a cabinet.

"I guess it all starts with the pandemic," she replied when asked what inspired her to try van life.

When the world shut down due to COVID, Cori said she returned to Massachusetts from Seattle. She started a remote Boston-based job and started apartment hunting. "The rent prices were astronomical," she said stating a common complaint by anyone looking for housing in Boston. "I was looking for really minimal things, a studio apartment that would allow a large dog and it was hard to find anything that was under $3,000."

That's when she started researching #Vanlife. "I could work from anywhere. I could travel, meet people. It was the only thing that made sense for me."

It's a lifestyle that has been growing in popularity even before the pandemic. In 2019, the Census Bureau reported more than 140,000 people in the US were living in vans, boats or other recreational vehicles. That was up 36% from 2016.

Cori set out last September and traveled all the way down the East Coast, across the Gulf Coast, and through the plains to California.

While her photos certainly make it look like an idyllic way to live, she says it can have its challenges. "I think I wasn't expecting how much work it is to coordinate things like, where are you sleeping, where to get water and what to park safely. Nothing is guaranteed."

The van life community shares its tricks. There are apps to help you find clean water, dump your dirty water, and point out the Walmart Stores that will allow you to park overnight in a pinch. There's advice like buy a Planet Fitness membership so you can find a hot shower in just about every city.

"Is it safe? Absolutely it's safe," she told us when we asked about traveling alone with her two dogs. But Cori admitted she didn't always feel that way. "I will say for the first couple of months, especially as a solo female traveler, I was very scared. Probably more scared than I have ever been in my life," she said.

But the longer she traveled, the more comfortable she became. She made friends on the road that she would run into periodically. She also fell in love with our country. "When I was in Arizona, I was parked on this beautiful hill overlooking all of these cacti and you just feel so free."

Cori spent $60,000 on the van. She said rising gas prices have made it much more expensive for van lifers, but she said she's still saving money. She recently spent a few weeks in Agawam with her parents and plans to hit the road again after the 4th of July holiday. This time she's heading north to travel across Canada.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.