Van Lifers special feature explores the inspiring lives of the next-generation people living in vans. Daichi and Ryo Uchiyama (内山大地・涼) talk about their Tabiwalife philosophy (or "life of fun and travels") as they embark on their life-long honeymoon through vanlife.
Tell us how about your vanlife and how you got started.
Daichi: We've only been living the vanlife for like 3 months since the middle of March 2019, although we've been traveling together since June 2015 (so about 4 years now). I used to be a real estate broker in Hyogo and Ryo a nurse in Kyoto. We started dating in 2013 and somehow randomly got into the idea of traveling the world together. Being so disillusioned with our mundane lives, the idea really hit home and we decided to travel the world for our honeymoon. We saved 5 million yen (50K US dollars) in just a year and a half, then quit our jobs and traveled to 25 countries in four years.
That escalated quickly! Did you not have any second thoughts or worries about quitting your jobs?
Ryo: Actually, I had right when I was about to quit [laughs] but my thirst for more in life prevailed. Also, I would've been more intimidated if I had to do it all alone, but I was with Daichi, so it was a lot less scary. Anyway, we decided to first try backpacking around the world for about a year and then come back to Japan.
Lake Karum in Ethiopia. It was a white wonderland!
Such is the power of love! So, you stayed abroad since?
Daichi: Yeah, then we returned home in January 2018. That trip was a far cry from seeing the world; there were still a lot of countries we hadn't seen. After coming back to Japan, our desire grew ever more strongly and decided to embark on a permanent honeymoon where we travel until we die. Along the way we started experimenting on blogs, Instagram, and YouTube to create jobs for us. And now here we are.
It's amazing how you went from zero to Super Saiyan mode backpackers! Did you hear about the vanlife abroad?
Ryo: Yeah. When we were in the UK in May of 2017, we were on this "Workaway" arrangement where you work in exchange for food and lodging. Our lodging at that time was a towed camper called the "Trailer House."
Daichi: This "mobile house" was complete with a bed, a desk, and cabinets, and was very comfortable. It also forced us to wake up at sunrise and go to sleep after sunset, leading to a healthy lifestyle. Real vanlife is just freakin' awesome!
Ryo: And later when we moved to Australia, we found a lot more trailers there. We met an old couple living in a trailer (since they retired) and they camped in different trailer parks everyday all over Australia and had barbecue. Now that I think about it, I think this was the point when we seriously considered vanlife.
So, your vanlife started in March of 2019?
Daichi: That's right. We've been wanting to travel all over Japan for a long time and when we got back we heard about Ryo Osera (大瀬良亮), who's running a co-living service called "HafH(Home Away From Home)." We went to his HafH shop in Nagasaki and figured we might as well check out the surrounding prefectures if we're going to go all the way there. And so we rented a van and traveled around Kyushu. Never been so pumped to dip our toes into the vanlife!
The Nissan Caravan ("Polar Bear") we rented from Beacle, Inc.
Finally back in action in the homeland! Where did you get all the information about vanlife?
Ryo: We followed the "Watanabe Couple" on YouTube and read their blogs about their travels in Japan. And then there's Ryo Osera's event in Ibaraki called "Tsukuba Van Night 2019." I was like, "Vanlife is finally here in Japan!" We wasted no time and we drove all the way from Kyushu to Ibaraki for that event.
We camped in a Chums & Hymer collaboration RV!
I see, basically you get the information from other vanlifers. That's cool! Did you go back down to Kyushu after the event?
Daichi: We did, and we stayed there for a good three weeks. We didn't exactly plan the trip, we just let our online followers guide us where to go next each time. One of my favorites was definitely Saitobaru Burial Mounds in Miyazaki. I really dig the contrast between cherry blossoms and rape blossoms—it’s unlike any other in Japan! Also, hot springs are everywhere in Kyushu, which makes vanlife easy-peasy.
For some reason, coffee in the van tastes magical ♪
Vanlife + hot spring is the life! How do you describe your three weeks?
Ryo: Cooking and eating in the van felt satisfying and delightful. I always loved finding half-priced food in local grocery stores. They're cheap and luxurious at the same time! (Laughs)
What do you find is different about your vanlife now compared to backpacking around the world?
Daichi: I think the best thing about vanlife is you can go anywhere. When you're backpacking, you're literally hauling luggage with you, so your explorations are limited to the areas close to your hotel/hostel. But with vanlife, you drive around your luggage, not carrying stuff with you all the time. You're free to go to a place of interest during the day, then go somewhere else again at night. And that cozy little room in the back... man, life can't get any better.
You two are vanlifers by heart! Are you going to try vanlifing abroad?
Ryo: Actually, the plan is to go to Europe at the end of June. We're really sold on this whole vanlife thing and decided to take it to the next level and do it in Europe! There's also a pretty big vanlife scene there. In fact, we’ve already rented an RV from some Belgian people that we met on a Facebook group for Euro vanlifers.
There are still a lot of unexplored areas for us in Europe that we couldn't go to without a car when we're backpacking there, so this time we'll focus on the countryside.
The great Euro vanlife! I can't wait to hear from you again! Finally, what's your final message to our readers who might be interested in your unique vanlife/travel experiences abroad?
Daichi: I think you will always be worrying about something all the time. Like, in our case we were worried about quitting our jobs, setting off abroad, and jumping into vanlife. But don't run away from your fears. Face them and overcome them. That's how we achieve true happiness. And vanlife is the sh*t, people!
Ryo: I think we should pursue our happiness without worrying about what other people say. I want to be happy now everyday, so I don't daydream about a fun experience in the past. I live today and it's the best day ever. I guess that's self-indulgent, but I believe happiness can be found only when we recognize our own emotions.
Interviewee Profiles: Daichi and Ryo Uchiyama (Tabiwalife)
Honeymooners for life. YOLO wanderers who want to spend the rest of their lives together. Currently embarking on Euro vanlife.