Meet Leatherman Ambassadors, The Van Project
Meet Leatherman Ambassadors, The Van Project

When Matt and I told our friends and family about our idea to buy, convert and move into a campervan full-time and out of our San Francisco apartment most of them were skeptical. One of our roommates even called it “a recipe for disaster."

But, adventure has been built into our relationship ever since the beginning. While Matt and I actually attended the same high school in suburban Connecticut, our paths diverged and we lost touch. Through career and life changes, we both ended up heeding the call of the west: Matt to Colorado and Los Angeles, and me to San Francisco. I was working in digital marketing at one of the biggest tech companies in the world, and Matt was making his way as a freelance photographer.

It wasn’t until 2014 that our paths intersected again. We both ended up at the ephemeral Black Rock City (i.e. Burning Man), in the middle of an extremely hot and extremely dry lakebed in Nevada, where 70,000 other creative (and insane) builders and doers gather every year. One evening, a bit past dusk, we recognized each other at an art installation in the middle of the open playa. We squirmed up the trunk of the 20-foot climbable tree art and sat on top watching the thousands of lights and humans buzz by, catching up on each other’s lives. And then we parted ways again.

But our paths had intertwined. One of the engineering teams I worked with was based in LA, so I traveled there once in a while, and made a point of it to get in touch with Matt the next time I was there. We went for an afternoon hike around the Malibu Hills and dreamed about adventures we wanted to accomplish and places we wanted to travel. I wouldn’t call our lives unhappy, but we were both feeling restless. The following year, we both went back to Burning Man and ended up hitting it off as more than friends. I was laid off (which ended up being a blessing in disguise) and burnt out on San Francisco. On a whim, I invited Matt to travel with me to South America. He said yes. We bought one-way tickets to Ecuador, and lived out of our backpacks, traveling from Ecuador to Peru to Chile and Patagonia. We climbed and hiked and gave our souls time to roam and heal and fall in love.

After our journey, we were both changed.

We understood and appreciated minimalism. Once you live out of a backpack for four months, and once you’re forced to carry everything you own, and feel the weight of it daily, you realize how little you need to survive and even thrive

We also renewed our passion for environmental activism. Our time in South America, exposed us both to the damage that humans can wreak on these beautiful habitats and landscapes. We took a river barge to Iquitos, Peru, a city only reachable by boat or plane, deep in the Peruvian Amazon, where you can see jaguars, monkeys, snakes, tarantulas and hundreds of other species in their natural habitats. It’s some of the deepest, most remote nature we’ve been to. At the same time, we saw people throwing baby diapers off the barge, plastic bags and debris washed up along shore. It was then that we felt called to adventure consciously and dedicate part of our creative selves to environmental activism.

And finally, we knew we wanted to continue on the same path together.

We tried our hand at living in San Francisco together for almost eight months, but it didn’t feel right. So, when we finally decided to move into a van together, it wasn’t to uproot our lives or spite our friends and family. It just felt like the thing for us to do much like Tim Leatherman who came upon his idea to combine pliers with a pocket-knife while road tripping in Europe, and then steadfastly pursued that through three years of product design. We were called to it, and despite anxiety about going off on a path so foreign to those we knew and loved we listened to the voices in our own heads telling us that if we didn’t try it we would regret it for the rest of our lives.

We’re Amanda and Matt and our 6-month-old puppy Royal. Adventurers, environmental activists, minimalists, DIYers, vanlifers, and we can’t wait to see where our paths lead next.

Follow along with our adventures at www.thevanproject.com www.instagram.com/van.project, and www.youtube.com/thevanproject