Eric Sauer and Colby Triolo quickly realized that the 9-5 corporate grind was not the life they wanted. Despite their love for their careers as engineers, they knew there had to be more to life than spending their days inside at work. They decided to take their life and their careers on the road by custom building a Ford Transit van into their tiny home on wheels, to live the life of spontaneity and adventure they had been dreaming of.
Meet Eric and Colby
While Eric and Colby love the life they’ve built in the Pacific Northwest where they quickly fell in love with the area and immediately knew that’s where they would call home, they both have roots in other parts of the country. Eric is from Wisconsin, on the rural south shore of Lake Superior, and he cherishes the memories he made while growing up there. Colby is originally from New Jersey and loves having east coast roots.
Now, between the Pacific Northwest rainy winters, hot summers, vast landscapes, and amazing people, there’s nowhere else they would rather be. They feel most at home at Mt. St. Helens where the access to different types of outdoor adventure is unparalleled.
Eric and Colby met a month before lockdowns started during the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite witnessing the tension and strain quarantine put on other relationships, they continued to thrive through the less-than-ideal circumstances. With many shared interests, including cooking, trail running, hiking, skiing, or any other outdoor activities, they always had something fun to do together. Amidst the present situation of the world, Eric and Colby’s relationship continued to blossom and they recently got engaged in the spring of 2022.
Becoming Engineers Who Van Life
In addition to their mutual love for adventure, Eric and Colby are both engineers who live for problem solving and finding better, more efficient ways to do just about anything. Colby is a Senior Software Engineer whose job is to combat big tech companies who use data to exploit consumers. She’s the brains behind the creative side of the duo and loves facing new challenges that require complex solutions. Eric is a Laser Applications Engineer whose work is focused on determining the best way to drill tiny holes in circuit boards. He helps Colby stay anchored to goals while still encouraging forward progress and is always teaching himself new things.
As young engineers, Eric and Colby were living a typical life of graduating college, settling down in an apartment, getting a stable corporate job, and working 9-5. After meeting one another, they realized that long-term, this wasn’t the life path they were looking for. They wanted to make more memories and have less things and began brainstorming how they could do that. Colby suggested they live in a van and, despite Eric initially thinking the idea was crazy, he eventually got on board.
They quickly got to work crafting the van that would allow them to pursue the life of their dreams. As engineers, one of the best parts of switching to van life was the design process. “Our brains really never shut off when it comes to building the most adventure-ready, efficient, and sound tiny home on wheels we possibly can.” Living in a van day to day, requires more time to do just about every daily task, so Eric and Colby worked hard designing a build that would maximize efficiency. These small design wins have made living in the van much more enjoyable for them and has allowed them to pick up on a whim and live more spontaneously.
Transitioning to Full-Time Travel
Following the completion of their van build, Eric and Colby decided they would move into the van full-time, stay in Oregon for the first year and then start traveling around the country. While this plan seemed perfect at the beginning, 5 months into van life, Eric and Colby realized how unhappy they were. “At the root of it all was that our dream was to see this country, live adventure every single day, scare ourselves, try new things, and live nomadically.” So, they took a leap, Eric left his job, and the couple began building a bigger and better van to make their full-time travel dream a reality.
One of the challenges of Eric and Colby’s new van build is learning how mobile internet set ups work on the road, to allow them to continue working full-time jobs. It’s imperative to have a reliable internet connection so that Eric and Colby can sustain their dream lifestyle. Additionally, Colby insists on planning out a functional workspace and schedule to help separate work hours from fun hours, especially while living in a tiny space. Living small is not for everyone, and Eric and Colby insist that the key to enjoying van life is not just about being an outdoor enthusiast, but about being content with less and committed to leaving a small environmental footprint.
For Eric and Colby, the thought of living a small, more sustainable lifestyle drives their passion for full-time van life. They can’t wait for the opportunity to be fully independent and self-sufficient in their new van. While they’re excited to finally be on the road, Eric and Colby are careful not to rush the build and are meticulous in their research and execution. As engineers the couple loves learning from other people’s creative solutions to the various challenges of van life. Through the building process, Eric and Colby have fallen in love with sharing their ideas and collaborating with people on social media. From attending expos to touring other vans, they’re able to stay up to date on the latest and greatest products.
Building Their Dream Van Powered by Battle Born Batteries
A key piece Eric and Colby knew was a must-have in their new van was a robust off-grid electrical system. They wanted something powerful, reliable, and low maintenance, and through their research they found a system that checked all of their boxes. “Our entire off-grid electrical system is from Battle Born Batteries. We absolutely love their customer support, the quality of their products, and their vision of getting more people on the road with reliable power.”
The system in their 2022 Ford Transit HR EXT includes:
- 2 – 270Ah 12V LiFePO4 Deep Cycle GC3 Battle Born Batteries
- 1 – 3000W Victron MultiPlus Inverter
- 2 – Victron Orion DC-DC Chargers
- 1 – Victron Smart Dongle
- 1 – Victron Smart Bluetooth Shunt
- 2 – Victron Lynx Distributors
- 2 – Victron 100/30 MPPT
Eric and Colby went through all of the essential steps to ensure their system would suit their specific needs. A full electrical audit helped them determine the amount of power and different components their van would need for the electrical to run smoothly. “We have faith in our Battle Born Batteries, so more than anything we have peace of mind when traveling on the road that we will always have enough power.” Eric and Colby are designing everything in their new van to be fully self-reliant, lightweight, and easy to access for repairs, and they always choose function over aesthetics. Every part of their van build has involved careful planning and research from the electrical system to the materials, even the cherry plank sealing. They love how unique their build is and how they’ve built it around their specific needs and desires.
What’s Next for Engineers Who Van Life?
As Eric and Colby enter the final stages of their van build, they can’t wait to get out on the road and start traveling around the United States. Once the van is finished, they’re hoping to head all the way across the country to the Northeast to immerse themselves in the stunning fall colors. From there, they’ll head down the east coast to Florida for the beginning of winter before the start of ski season where they hope to travel throughout Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Montana, and California, skiing in as may places as possible. In the spring of next year Eric and Colby hope to spend some time in Hawaii before heading to Alaska for the summer.
With full-year of travel plans ahead of them, Eric and Colby can’t wait to start checking things off their bucket list, but they’re careful not to get to attached to long-term plans. The beauty of their lifestyle is that they can live spontaneously and change plans at a moments notice. While they would love to hit all of the places on their list, they don’t plan on saying no to any exciting opportunities along the way, even if that means derailing their plans for the time being. Eric and Colby are ready to embrace the unknown as they venture into full-time travel.