Families — Parents — Kids

Live in a Van, Travel the World, Get Pregnant: The Story of The Trujillo Family

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sprinter life 001It's easy to assume anyone on a long-term trip around the world is just a trustafarian; living on the good tidings of a wealthy relative and lacking appreciation for real work. But I know better.

My time spent as a columnist on family adventure travel for Overland Journal put me in touch with nearly 100 families, all of them on the road for months or years. The truth about how to fund epic adventure travel is stark and down to earth.

Some examples?

The Higham family saved their dough for ten years then went around the world in 365 days, two parents, two kids. The Vogel family lived frugally on the nonplussing pay of school teachers, cashed in their savings, and dipped into the retirement fund to take care of business while they rode their bikes from Alaska to Argentina. Then there's the Jelinski family of five who had the good fortune of savings and a paterfamilias unit who managed work as they traveled. There are dozens more broods with the same undercurrent: hard work, determination, and sacrifices.

If the trustafarian meme is real, I have yet to meet one.

We realized that our "life" wasn’t back in the United States. It was right where we were . . . there was no need to return.Then there's Sprinter Life, a romance-charged chronicle by Tree and Stevie Trujillo as they drive around the world (and live in) a converted Mercedes Sprinter van. It'll draw you in. They've been on the road for over three years, and they aren't looking back. They've rafted the Colorado, puddle-jumped in sketchy Latin American single-engine airplanes, and canyoneered in the Venezuelan jungle. They've been living the ultimate lovers adventure trip for years, just the two of them. And it's easy to think, "Well, sure, they don't have kids or the responsibilities. Total trustafarians."

Not so fast. They have their story, which includes no great stash of cash. In fact, the opposite. It came harder than you think. While rock climbing in 2008, Tree took a grounder and spent the following 6 months in wheelchair. Stevie lost a lucrative sales job she hated, but paid enough to let them live in an apartment on Venice Beach. Both gone.

One more thing. Stevie wanted children but Tree had other ideas.

"I was always that guy who never wanted kids," Tree says. "I wanted to travel the world and rock climb and kayak and surf . . . no strings attached."

Who's not nodding their head right about now and going, "Oh yeah, and what did she think of that?"

Tree has an answer. "She made it clear from day one that she DID want kids. About 2 years into our relationship this issue came to a head and we actually broke up for four months."

These catalyzing events forced them to consider things . . . like life without each other — and love prevailed. Reunited, they formed a plan that included both of their desires. Ditch the daily grind for travel, then start the family.  "We would drive the Pan-American highway, allowing ourselves two years on the road. Then we’d go back to SoCal and start our family."

So they converted their Sprinter, sold off and gave away their possessions and hit the road. Tree runs his business, OutdoorPlay.com, remotely and Stevie writes. Everything they own is in the van and they quite happily call themselves homeless. Three years on the road together gave rise to some other significant events:

  1. They tied the knot on the beach in El Salvador
  2. They decided to finish the Pan-American Highway, then go around the globe
  3. They took a pregnancy test

And it was positive.

Yet returning to California to start a family didn't work out. Tree tells it like this:

We picked up two Brazilian street vendors in Cartagena, Colombia, Paula and Guillermo, and they traveled with us through Colombia and Venezuela. This was our highlight of 2011.

I still remember my conversation with Guillermo when I told him our grand plan of traveling through South America and how excited I was to return to the USA to have a baby. He laughed and said (in Spanish)…

“Tree, babies are born everywhere, in every country. Why would you leave your life to start a life? Let your baby come wherever you are.”

That was a game changer for us. The light went on. We realized that our “life” wasn’t back in the United States. It was right where we were, in that very moment. We were living it. There was no need to return.

Last month, on October 9th, their little daughter Soleil was born in Lima, Peru, and she's a beauty. Soleil is French for sun and Sol, as they call her, has dual citizenship in Peru and U.S.A. and therefore has to get two passports before they can continue on their mission around the world. And Tree? He's made a massive transition from "the guy who never wanted to have kids" to this guy who couldn't beam with more pride.

Their story is surely going to go on and on. All the way around the world, together.


Delight yourself in their travels and wild affection at sprinterlife.com

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tattoo of child's name on father's back

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+2 / 0
# Sara 2012-11-09 08:41
OMG that's the coolest story ever.
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+4 / 0
# Kelly 2012-11-09 14:12
The most amazing, authentic and beautiful family. With the dream story. Everyone should check out sprinterlife.co m. You'll fall in love with them too as they share the ongoing story of bliss.
Way cool!
I can't wait to meet beautiful Sol
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+4 / 0
# Amanda 2012-11-10 00:08
I've been sucked into their world. If I had any clue how we could feasibly pack up and camp our way around the world, we'd do it in a heartbeat. I cheat myself by being so pragmatic.
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+2 / 0
# Kathy 2012-11-10 06:12
I have been FB friends with Tree and Stevie for about a yr now and love them! Awesome people and so fun to be updated on the travels.
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+2 / 0
# Debby 2012-11-11 23:33
As Their Auntie, I can't tell you how proud I am to tell my friends about all their great adventures. They are an amazing family,I'm sure Sol will grow to have all the insight, compassion and love for life that her parents have. What a story (life) they are living!
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Travis Bays
+2 / 0
# Travis Bays 2012-11-13 13:25
I had the pleasure of connecting / hosting Stevie, Tree, and their Sprinter Van down in Costa Rica. Great people, wonderful hearts, full of love and an abundance of positive energy. Much love to you all from Pili, Trav, and baby Maya Paz. Please return one day to Costa Rica so Maya can meet Sol. Pura Vida!
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Dave Adair
+1 / 0
# Dave Adair 2012-11-13 13:45
I've been following SprinterLife for almost two years, and they're a blast. Even as a full-time traveler (mostly India and Europe) I still love to read about their adventures! I enjoyed this write-up. Thanks!

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Roger Steen
0 / 0
# Roger Steen 2015-04-11 12:37
I’ve been van camping for a year now, in the western U.S., and I wrote a book about putting my little camper together. I took a “casual” approach to the interior, so it’s not so much “house-like” as it is practical and reasonably priced:
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