As we continue to shift into the “new normal” of living through a pandemic, on top of not being able to freely travel like we once could, many Black travelers are shifting their focus to more nature-based travel and living.

This movement and way of life is nothing new for us, but we are seeing it more and more with the current climate— and of course social media.

New Orleans-based couple, Tenaj and Faustino (Tino), were gearing up to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary this year with an amazing excursion through Europe while traveling by van. Unfortunately, COVID canceled that plan.

Courtesy of Tenaj and Tino

Instead, the couple decided to use the downtime to purchase their own van and build the house-on-wheels of their dreams.

“We purchased a 2014 high-roof Mercedes Benz 2500 170WB Sprinter, which is perfect for converting,” Tenaj told Travel Noire. “Our estimated build time will take 3 to 4 months. However, that time may be extended because many items needed for our build are on backorder,
due to Covid19.”

Tenaj and Tino are literally building this new home from the ground up. They have been watching YouTube videos to help aid the process. The plan is to make the van completely self-sufficient. It will be equipped with
two beds, solar panels, Wifi, a stove, oven, and bathroom complete with a toilet and shower.

Courtesy of Tenaj and Tino

The couple chose a van conversion over buying an RV for several reasons. One being, the overall cost to maintain and keep an RV while traveling.

“RV insurance can run close to $1,000 a month. You also have to pay for parking, and parking an RV can get really pricey.”

With the van conversion, the couple can customize it to their specific needs and stay within their own set budget. They also found that traveling by van is a bit less inconspicuous than an RV. They will be able to park it for free, and people won’t immediately notice that is being used as a place for someone to sleep like they would with an RV.

Courtesy of Tenaj and Tino

If you didn’t already know, van communities are becoming very popular not just abroad, but in the United States. There are entire social media pages and groups dedicated to those living the “van life” while serving as a connection hub and safe space for the community to meet and engage. Yes, there are even Black van life pages.

“Van life is a lifestyle that caters to all budget types and forces you to live more with less,” Tenaj said. “With the right mindset, van life could be a great way to cut your expenses, see the world, and refocus on the things that matter most. Van life isn’t just living in a van, it’s having the freedom to live as you please. For us, we’re not “living” in our van, we’ll be sleeping in our van and living in nature.”

According to Tenaj, there is typically not a fee to set up your van within a van community. However, there may be some paid apps that will help you find overnight parking with an amazing view.

Courtesy of Tenaj and Tino

Once the conversion is complete, they will test out their work with a short overnight trip. Once they have everything exactly to their liking, Tenaj and Tino plan to visit every state and National Park in the U.S., before taking “her” to South America.

To take the journey with Tenaj and Tino, you can subscribe to their Youtube, Tenaj & Tino. You can also find them on Instagram: @tenaj_tino_.

Related: How Outdoor Afro Is Bringing Visual Representation To Black People In Nature