Salt Lake City, UT

Couple builds house in the mountains after 3 years in a van: "Never too late to live outside the box"

Amy Christie

Trent, 35, and Allie, 31, decided to take a short trip in their van, but that soon converted into three exciting years on the road. Their van life took them to 16 countries, and they made unique memories as they fell in love with a minimalist way of life.

As they decided to settle down and have a family, they bought a piece of land in Utah and set out to build their own cabin in the woods.

They meant to finish the project right before they welcomed their first baby.

What are the details?

"We found that forcing yourself to scale down physical items lets you focus more on the communities, cultures, cuisines, and beautiful landscapes. We knew we wouldn't be able to travel permanently and that we needed to take a leap of faith if we wanted to explore," they shared with The Epoch Times.

Allie and Trent took the decision to start a van life after visiting Mexico with friends. So, they drove all the way to the end of the Pan-American Highway for 18 months, and they reached Ushuaia.

"We traveled through 16 countries, learning Spanish along the way, making some of the best friends, navigating rules as we transported our dog, Frank, with us, and even stuffing our van into a shipping container from Panama to South America to continue exploring," they recalled.

While traveling together, they understood it's essential to rely on each other, and they made it through several border crossings, flat tires, or races to fill up water jugs in the mountains. They also made a promise that if either one of them wanted to go back home, the other would respect that decision.

However, none of them felt like they needed to return, and they got the chance to experience many wonderful things.

"You learn how to choreograph your life with the other person and tango together, rather than step on each other's toes. Our relationship was strong before, but this intense and high-consequence travel brought us closer together," Allie said.

Living in a van for an extended time made them evaluate their relationship, and their connection got stronger as time passed.

The two hiked up the volcanoes in Nicaragua and Chile, went kayaking in Mexico, swam with the turtles in Belize, and tried out salsa in Colombia.

After they went to visit several archeological sites in Central America, Trent asked Allie to marry him. The proposal took place in Tikal, northern Guatemala, on top of a Mayan pyramid.

As the restrictions started, the couple made the decision to get a return flight and let go of their house on wheels.

During their travels, they had taken occasional trips to Utah to see their family, so that was where they planned to build their home.

They bought a plot of land once they returned, but they had to move faster than foreseen. They also got married in an intimate ceremony with family and friends.

Allie and Trent hired a company to excavate and pour the foundation, and then they started building their house themselves.

Allie revealed that they managed to save a lot of money since most of the prospective quotes they got came close to a total of $420,000.

Since they had loved their van life, keeping up the connection with the outdoors was essential for them.

"We started wanting a tiny home with an open layout concept and minimal infrastructure. Due to the intense climate where our property is at about 8,000 feet elevation, engineers required us to reinforce the house to accommodate the average yearly snow load. It worked out well in the end. We have an energy-efficient house through the open floorplan, a wood-burning stove, and have diligently insulated the interior walls and exterior of the house," they said.

Their project certainly came with plenty of challenges, the biggest being learning skills from scratch and keeping high-quality standards for every part of the building.

"We had to plumb the entire house 2.5 times," Allie said, also remembering how hard it was for delivery trucks to gain access to the roads in winter.

However, they didn't give up and kept working on the house they dreamed of.

"After a year of multiple attempts to learn and re-learn each trade, eloping, adding a puppy to our family, living in a trailer on our property through 8 feet of snow, and becoming pregnant, we passed every single inspection."

The couple found out they would have their first baby while the construction work was at its highest intensity, and they got their occupancy certificate one week after their son was born.

"He made his appearance early. It was my birthday, and we were finishing a delicious dinner, and getting ready for bed, when I started to feel consistent contractions. The next day, at 3.26 p.m., our son was born," Allie said.
"I believe he decided to show up a few weeks early to be there for the final inspection on the house, to share that incredible moment with us!" she added.

The couple posts updates on their lifestyle on social media and interacts with people who love nature and DIY projects.

Their purpose is to bring different parts of the world closer to those who can't travel or are still doubting whether to take that step and do it. They also wish to reveal the humanity, love, and kindness found across all cultures.

"Now we're stationary, but our goal is still the same: to show humanity and love and that it's never too late to live outside the box, follow your dreams, and try something new," they concluded.


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Amy Christie is a passionate writer and journalist, always striving to bring out the positive and create meaningful connections.

Dallas, TX

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