Van Life: Noami Grevemberg
Noami Grevemberg and her partner Dustin (and German Shephard Amara) are the trio behind the vanlife account @irietoaurora, though Noami is decidedly the visionary behind it all. The founder of podcast Nomads at the Intersectionand the platform Diversify Vanlife, Noami has channeled her passion for traveling into advocating and creating space for BIPOC and other marginalized groups within the nomad community.
Name: Noami Grevemberg
Vehicle type: 1985 Volkswagen Vanagon
Time spent in van: 5 years
Hometown: Guayaguayare Village, Trinidad, West Indies; Homebase: New Orleans
Average monthly expenses: It varies depending on how slow we travel.
What made you decide to move into a van?
Noami: When Dustin and I first met, we talked about the idea of traveling the country in a van and visiting all the national parks. Nearly 5 years later, we decided to reevaluate our life's trajectory and dig up that old dream. At the time we didn’t know #vanlife was a thing, we only discovered it when we started preparing for life on the road. Turns out, it was a full-blown movement.
What were you doing before that?
Noami: Before vanlife I was an environmental scientist working in the Gulf coast region. While I loved the opportunity to work in the field—in the swamps and marshes of Louisiana—the job also came with the typical bureaucracy and office politics. Eventually, I listened to that little voice inside me crying out for more. That's when my partner and I chose to embrace a life of travel.
What was the hardest thing to let go of when making the move from apartment/house to a van?
Noami: The hardest thing was leaving behind an oven and a full kitchen. I love to cook and adjusting to a tiny kitchen was a learning curve. That and my record player.
Where are you living right now?
Noami: We're currently in the van and traveling full-time, so we aren't actually living in one place. Home is wherever we are, home is everywhere.
How do you shower?
Noami: With water... j/k. My typical shower consists of a post-workout bowl shower or a cold dip in a natural water source. We also have a homemade roadshower on our van for emergencies. When we need a full shower (typically once every couple weeks) we utilize public showers in the nearest town or city—gyms, campgrounds/RV parks or truck stops are pretty common.
How do you make a living?
Noami: My partner Dustin and I are digital nomads and we make a living in many different ways. Freelance consulting, social media influencing, and photography & writing are our main sources of income. "Digital nomad" was another term we had never heard before life on the road, so we had to figure it out the hard way, through lots of trial and error. Now, through our website irietoaurora.com we share what we've learned in our 5+ years on the road with vanlife & digital nomad coaching, ebooks and webinars.
What’s something that surprised you about living this lifestyle?
Noami: One of the biggest misconceptions about this lifestyle is that it's expensive. The biggest surprise for me was that this can be an incredibly affordable lifestyle.
What are some of the ups and downs of van life?
Noami: Breakdowns are inevitable, especially if you live in a classic rig like mine. Be prepared with proper tools and basic mechanic skills (having an AAA membership is also a good idea).
What are some elements you added to your van that are unique or that you personally wanted?
Noami: As I mentioned, my partner and I are digital nomads. So we've upgraded our solar and battery setup to include 400W of solar and 200AH lithium batteries in order to sustain our work life on the road.
What kind of small touches have you added to make it feel more like home?
Noami: We've added several things to keep us comfortable, including a marine fridge/freezer combo and a retractable awning that expands our living space. I've also decorated our van with things that remind me of my home country of Trinidad—lots of bright colors and fragrant scents.
What’s one of your favorite spots you’ve camped in your van?
Noami: Anywhere in Baja. The landscape is otherworldly, and camping is open and free or inexpensive practically everywhere.
What are your favorite outdoor activities?
Noami: My favorite outdoor activity is hiking. And since we've added a new member to our pack, Amara the German Shepherd, I have a new hiking buddy who's always ready to go.
Tell me about starting Diversify Vanlife?
Noami: I started Diversify Vanlife in 2019 in response to the lack of representation of BIPOC in the vanlife & road travel community. Since then, our community of BIPOC vanlifers and road travelers continues to grow and take up space. Diversify Vanlife is a place of safety, created to intentionally celebrate and empower road travelers and outdoorists living at the intersections and taking up space in the margins.
When did you start the Nomads at the Intersection podcast? How do you find your subjects?
Noami: Nomads at the Intersections podcast started in the fall of 2020. In season one, we aired 6 full episodes and 4 mini-episodes. To be honest, there are so many incredible and inspiring modern-day nomads living at the intersections, that we could do hundreds of interviews and never run out of subjects. I can't wait for season 2, we have a lot of fun things in store.
Is it hard to be eco-conscious while vanlifing? What are some tips you’ve learned over the years for vanlifers aspiring to be more eco conscious?
Noami: Honestly, being eco-conscious while vanlifing is not hard. Like anything else it requires a bit of intentionality.
A few tips:
- Plan your grocery shopping trips, use up all perishable foods before buying more to prevent food waste.
- Unpaper your van - use cloth napkins and dish cloths for wiping up.
- If you're a menstruator, try menstrual cups and period underwear rather than tampons and pads.
- Try low waste living, opt for reusables over disposables.
For more information on Noami and life on the road, visit www.irietoaurora.com.