Why We Went Mobile: An Interview With Man Man Van

June is Great Outdoors Month! And what better way to celebrate than to feature those who are connecting with the great outdoors in its greatest. Man Man Van is the moniker for OTR (on the road) design duo, Jesse Morrow and Elliot Snyder. As more and more people are taking to the road to take advantage of Mother Nature as their living room, we had to ask Elliott and Jesse what led to the switch in their lives, and how the hell is it going so far?

Hipcamp: What was the a-ha moment that led you to the decision to go mobile? Was there one?

MMV: There is actually a moment that stands out! In January the two of us were working at my house and first started talking about the idea of a trip across the country. After a few hours and a few beers we had the idea: no rent, live on the road, make money doing graphic design, meet interesting people, experience America.

Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah

Hipcamp: How long did it take you to plan the whole shindig, and what happens to your home base when you’re on the road?

MMV: Our plan is ever-changing! Which we’re finding is both freeing and a bit of a headache as we’re rolling into Las Vegas last minute trying to find a place to stay. Before leaving, we really tried to strategize the first two months of the trip before taking off from Seattle, with a loose idea of where we’d like to travel for the rest of the year. Some of the general stops like the Bonneville Salt Flats, and Arches National Park haven’t changed while others like Canyonlands and Bryce Canyon just didn’t end up working out.

We both think it’s important to give some deadlines or timelines so we’re not wandering aimlessly, but keeping things flexible in between as helped keep things sporadic.

Elliott vacated any sort of housing back in Seattle while I am still renting a place. Since we’re planning to head back to Washington for a bit in July, it will come in handy but after that I may have to find a replacement to take my room.

Hipcamp: How did you choose what comes on the road with you?

MMV: Once we found our matching CT-70’s and they fit in the van (without any seats) we knew those would be coming along. After that we each filled an Action Packer with essentials like hiking boots and camp gear. Then we each got a small suitcase for clothes and a backpack for our computers and work things.

We knew we’d be doing a fair bit of camping so bringing along outdoor gear was a no-brainer.

Hipcamp: Describe your whip. Does she have a name? It’s not your usual camper van with all the bells & whistles of a kitchen sink, fold-out bed, and oodles of room. How do you get a good night’s sleep?

MMV: We’re cruising in a blue 2002 Toyota Sienna with two Honda Ct-70 motorbikes in the back. Come to think of it none of our rides have names, its just “The Van” and “The Bikes”. We’ll be giving it some thought.

Its certainly not a camper van but without the seats the back can be quite roomie. Typically if we’re sleeping in the van we’ll unload the bikes, move some bags to the front seats and stack the Action Packer chests on top of each other. This gives us enough room to roll out our sleeping mats and keep a little barrier between us so I don’t wake up with Elliott’s feet in my face (which he insists to sleep with outside of his polar napsack).

The van can get a little bouncy if one of us is tossing and turning but otherwise its waterproof and not a bad place to sleep.

Hipcamp: How accessible is it to find a place to stay for the night along the west coast? If you could do anything to make it easier to find a place to crash, what would you change?

MMV: We’ve been extremely fortunate to have stayed with some pretty amazing people so far on this trip. Our hosts have ranged from close friends to ones we sort of know, and even complete strangers who we met at a very odd restaurant outside of Zion. We also recently used Couchsurfing to find a host in Las Vegas – he even cooked a rack of ribs for us. Its almost hard to believe that people could be so nice! In most cases I think we feel like an inconvenience to others, but the reality is some people have love for hosting and enjoy the company. We just have to be sure we don’t overstay our welcome.

Camping at Valley of the Gods, Southern Utah

Anonymous campsite, Lake Powell, Arizona

Hidden Valley Campground, Joshua Tree National Park

Hipcamp: Your tour kicked off in April of 2015. What is one of the biggest things you’ve learned so far from life on the road?

MMV: One of the biggest challenges of spending time on the road with a more flexible schedule is indecision. Since we’re both easy going it can be a bit frustrating to actually try to decide on where to go or what to eat or who’s right. Learning how to exist in a van with another human is a process that probably will continue the duration of the trip.

Hipcamp: What would you say to others who are also considering going mobile for a period of time?

MMV: DO IT. Several times on our longer drives Elliott and I have talked about why we’re doing it, what our expectations are, and what happens if something goes wrong. In the end, if we run out of money or the van breaks down or something happens to prevent us from continuing, we can simply go back to Seattle. The scariest part is the first leap into the unknown, after that you’ll probably start to embrace it.

Hipcamp: What happens when the ‘tour’ ends? Is there an end?

MMV: It’s really hard to say! I think we both have plans to do more traveling and hopefully be able to go somewhere outside of the US for a bit. I’m sure we’ll figure it out a day or two before.

Hipcamp: Best noms for the road?

MMV: Its actually been hard to eat healthy although sometimes we try. Chipotle is common is bigger cities and we’ve had our fair share of cliff bars. One of our weakest spots has been the dried mango from Trader Joe’s. If we open a package of mango, they’re gone before we get to our destination.

Hipcamp: Best song for cruisin’?

MMV: For whatever reason I think we’ve listened to John Denver’s Country Road quite a few times during the trip. Its a good one for cruisin’. 🙂

Check out more of Man Man Van’s adventures on their site. You can also find Jesse Morrow and Elliot Snyder on Instagram!

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