“Advencha before Demencha!”
This is the motto both Kevin Arnold and Dani Dukes live by.
The Albuquerque natives make their living by traveling around the world – by van.
The couple then documents their experiences on their website, vankookz.com, as well as their YouTube channel.
The transition to van life was easy for the couple as the idea came up years ago while attending Burning Man.
“One of the camp mates came to Seattle and we had a small apartment,” Dukes says. “He was like, ‘How much do you pay? If you came to Australia you could live with me.’ We looked into it.”
“We took off on the adventure and haven’t stopped,” Dukes says.
While in Australia, Arnold and Dukes noticed the number of surfers living in vans and traveling around the country.
The couple was able to save money – and the beginning of their van life started.
“We bought the van in Australia and it was really expensive, and we were figuring out how to make it work,” Arnold says. “We found a van for $500. The guy that we lived with was an electrician and helped us out.”
When the couple got back to the United States, it was time for them to downsize.
“Simplifying is harder than it is to expand,” Dukes says. “We had a landlord who said, ‘People are like fish. As long as you have space, you will acquire things.’ ”
“We still pack the essentials,” Arnold chimes in.
Their current van has all the essentials, including outdoor equipment and kayaks.
Arnold says the van has a “pimped out” water filtration system that was installed just before the end of the year.
“The parents got reverse osmosis water on their sink,” Arnold says. “I wanted that same system in our van. Of course you need warm clothes and power is always nice. We have solar panels on the van, which helps to charge all of our gadgets.”
While the couple looks for a simple kind of life, there is room for a splurge at times.
“One of our biggest expenses is food,” Dukes says. “We treat ourselves well. I want good organic and pasteurized foods. We never go out to eat. When we get to a new town, we look up what farmers’ markets are around.”
Arnold continues and says the next splurge is on outdoor gear.
The couple has noticed more traffic on their website and YouTube channel since the pandemic started.
The couple has downloadable information on how to build your own van, as well as a travel guide to places like Baja California.
“A lot of people have made the jump into a more sustainable way of living,” Arnold says. “We’ve met a lot of people choosing to live out of their vehicles. We’ve been to festivals for nomadic life and it’s mind blowing to see how many people are shifting towards this new way of living.”
Arnold and Dukes enjoy their travels that take them far away from their hometown of Albuquerque.
They both went to Sandia High School.
“I grew up in New Mexico and it’s beautiful,” Duke says. “With all of our travels, it’s given us new eyes and appreciation for where we come from. We really love it now. There’s always somewhere to hike and be outdoors. It’s a special place.”
Arnold loves the challenge of figuring out the next stop of the adventure.
“We’re always looking for federal camping sites,” he says. “At the end of the day, we are often more tired because it takes so much work to plan it all out.”
Dukes enjoys reciting their motto “Advencha before Demencha.”
“Our outlook is that we have to do it while we can,” Dukes says. “We are 35 years old now and there is no way we can see ourselves waiting until 65 and retirement to do it.”