By Fiona Jackson via SWNS
Meet the empty-nester who ditched her home to live full-time in her twee campervan - using dating apps to plot her route around America.
Beverly Brown, 59, spends her days hiking and doing wild swims, swiping on the apps and setting up dates as she goes.
She bought her van, 'Jennifer Vaniston' from a friend for just $1,500 and has explored all four corners of the United States.
The spa owner lives a minimalist life, with just two drawers of clothes, but her van is homely with lace and fluffy cushions.
Beverly, from Pearland, Texas, said: "My clothes fit in two drawers, when I look at closets packed full of clothes and shoes I wonder to myself ‘what’s the point of all this stuff?’
“I think about the beach houses that people have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on and I currently have the same view for free.
“I love the idea that I can wake up in the van and the view is different each time I move."
Far from lonely, she talks on the phone with friends and family daily, and looks for 'van life' meet-ups to find like-minded people.
Beverly stays between a single night and two weeks at each location before moving on, and has been doing so for over a year.
She said: “I began van life at 58 years old - I believe this is a time for people, especially women to reinvent themselves.
“Once the kids are grown, for some of us it is the first time in our lives that we get to ask ourselves ‘What do I want to do?’"
Beverly grew up in poverty and became a single mother at 18, so never felt like she had the time to travel.
"I remember when my daughter was in the fourth grade she had an assignment to draw her ‘Family Shield’," she said.
"In a box she was supposed to draw a picture of some place she’d traveled or visited with her family.
"She just drew a question mark in that box because we’d really never traveled anywhere."
Beverly bought her 2004 Chevy Express 1500 van from a friend in November 2019 after a camping trip to Lloyd Park in Grand Prairie.
She said: “I immediately fell in love. I woke up smiling.
“I wrote her a cheque for $5,500 and I was a van owner.
“I’ve never had a vehicle that I bonded with like I have my van, she truly has become my tiny house on wheels."
The van had the basics, but Beverly knew she wanted room for two so replaced the twin bed with a full-size one, that had storage space underneath.
She also added a car fridge, fan, stove and a 500-watt battery for about $1,500.
She said: “I think it’s smart to start off with an inexpensive build just to see even you’re even going to like doing the van thing.
“I did a few short trips and decided that I loved ‘the van thing’.”
With the help of her real estate agent daughter Misty Brown, 40, in January 2020 Beverly purchased a 33-acre campground in Fredericktown, Missouri.
The mother and daughter spent the summer clearing it up with the view to run their own ‘glamping’ campsite, and Beverly found herself meeting with full-time van residents.
“Seeing someone else do it makes it seem possible,” she said.
She then spent another $15,000 on upgrades, including air conditioning and a kitchen with running water, to make her new home liveable before moving in with no plans to move out.
She took off in November 2020 in search of warmer weather in Midlothian, Texas, but it wasn’t all smooth sailing.
She said: “I had way too much stuff, it felt like every time I needed something I had to dig it out.
“I had the food stored under the bed and had to exit the van to access it, everything felt awkward and challenging.
“I laughed at myself and knew there had to be a better way.
“Now, I have everything I need at my fingertips inside the van and it is very well organized and I love it.”
For over a year now, Beverly has been hiking, swimming and visiting friends on her indefinite solo trip around all four corners of the States.
She said: “I traveled to wherever the wind blew me.
“I learned to love the art of meandering. I loved having the time to go back and take a photo of something that I would normally drive on by.”
She still owns her property in Pearland, Texas which is next to the day spa that she has owned for 26 years, providing her a stream of income, but her preferred home is her van.
“It fed my soul to be out adventuring. I experienced the beauty of taking the longer route,” she said.
She started out exploring her home state of Texas but has since ventured as far as Arizona, Nevada and Florida, using apps to discover campsites and car parks she could stay in.
She said: “I went as far south as Key West, spent time in Beverly Beach because my name is Beverly and I thought I should visit there.
“I met some amazing people and began collecting new friends along the way.
“I’m never the oldest one at van life meet-ups, they are such a diverse group of people of all ages.
“My spirit is young so even if I were the oldest I wouldn’t care, I know that I contribute to conversations.
“In some ways being in the van brings back some childlike qualities, like when a child goes up to another child and says ‘Hey, do you want to be my friend?”
She has had bumps in the road with fuel leaks, flat tires and the AC breaking down, but thrifty Beverly tries to live frugally so there’s always money available for emergencies.
She only has hot water when she heats it up on the stove and must remember to empty her travel toilet.
But the main challenge for the single woman is dating.
She said: “I have met a few sweet souls on the road.
“I did date another van lifer for a few months - we have five dates in five different states.
“If I’m going to be somewhere for a week or two I might take a look on one of the dating apps like Tinder, Bumble, or Hinge.
“It’s always interesting when you show up for a date with your house with you!”
Beverly's dates sometimes lead back to her van, which she says isn't always the most romantic spot.
She said: "One time, just as a date leaned in to kiss me a train came roaring by, blowing its whistle really loud rattling the van.
"I leaned back and said, ‘Cue the train.’ We both got a huge laugh out of it!"
She also started up her own YouTube Channel, Becoming Bev, to document her adventures and educate others on full-time van life, and spends her evenings editing her videos.
She said: “Some people are baffled that I chose this lifestyle and to live in such a small space.
“I look at my travels and the adventures I’ve been on and feel like I live in a large space.
“My backyard is the places I’ve been and they’ve been grand.
“I think that right now sitting still and not traveling would feel like being a bird in a cage.
“I feel like this is my time to see the world and as I said at this point it is now or never."
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