These Van Life Experts Teach You To Make A Home On The Open Road

While we've long romanticised the open road, very few of us would want to live on it.

But then consider the Schannep family: Robin, Robert and their four kids, all under the age of 10. Until recently, Robin was a stay-at-home mum, and Rob worked long hours as a financial planner in Orange County, California.

"Working at a very good office, very good people. We owned a home... We were normal," Robin laughed.

"We kind of started questioning the mentality that just because you have kids everything is put on hold. We love to travel, and we thought, 'Well, why can't we just bring our kids with us?'"

Now the family of six eats, sleeps, and lives in a converted school bus -- 250 square feet of home sweet home, in which you can just barely stand up.

The home of the Schannep family - Robin, Robert, and their four children – is a refitted school bus. Photo: CBS NEWS

CBS correspondent Tony Dokoupil caught up with them in rural Tennessee.

"We see what we're doing, too, as a large part of our kids' education," said Robin.

"I mean, they're pretty young. And they've seen the Declaration of Independence. They've seen the Bill of Rights. They've seen the Lincoln Memorial. They've seen a lot."

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Robin home-schools the kids, and Rob is still a financial planner.

Dokoupil asked, "Do you ever have clients say, 'I don't wanna take money advice from a guy living in a bus'?"

"Yes, a few," Robert laughed. "And then they became clients."

It is, they note, a lifestyle choice, not a consequence.

Robin and Robert Schannep with Tony Dokoupil. CBS NEWS

Jessica Bruder, who chronicled van life in her recent book, "Nomadland," said that the movement accelerated during the housing crisis of 2008, and hasn't stopped a decade later.

"I consider a lot of these people conscientious objectors to the culture we're in right now, which is really, 'Get on this work treadmill with no guarantee of any sort of safety net and yet you should still pledge allegiance to the culture of the endless work week,'" she said.

"The millennials I met on the road said, 'Look at this, I can't pay back my student debt or I don't want to go into debt. I can afford to do this, I should do it while I'm healthy and spry,' and they're out there doing it."

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And these days, either by choice or circumstance, more and more people are making America's highways and scenic byways "home".

The first night Wells slept in his van, he felt like a loser.

"I had just gotten a divorce, something I swore I would never do. We were fighting over the kids. I faced losing them. And now I'm living in a van."

But as the months rolled by, he said, "Every step of the way, you just answer every problem as it comes up."

Bob Wells welcomes Tony Dokoupil into his home on wheels. CBS NEWS

Wells started to feel less lost, and more like a man who had found a road map to happiness -- and 20 years later, he's sure of it

He says although he has enough money to live in a home today, "Why would I torture myself? Why would I make myself miserable?"

"I do miss my recliner! But it's not worth the sacrifice."

This former grocery store clerk from Alaska now runs a website,, and more recently a Youtube channel, to spread the gospel of van dwelling -- equal parts frugality, simplicity and freedom. Wells' videos are approaching 50 million views.

Wells says today's van dwellers are a little different from the retirees that have long spent their golden years in RVs.

"I see van dwellers as rejecting, to some degree, something about society," he said.

"It could be the nine-to-five grind. Whatever it is, it's not just the transfer of the same life they've always lived with the last 50 years into a different home, shape, on wheels. It's a rejection of some element of it."

And speaking of wheels, a rolling home can be as varied as any other home, from the cosy to the contemporary. One old airport shuttle has its own music studio. Clearly living in a van does not have to mean what it used to.