Brand partners Tenaj and Faustino (Tino) Melendres are full-time travelers. Last year, when international air-travel came to a halt, they came back to the US and purchased a sprinter van. Tenaj and Tino have spent the summer building out the van of their dreams. They’ve been hard at work with making cabinets, building sinks, setting up plumbing, and doing electrical installations.
Meet Tenaj and Tino:
Tenaj and Tino are a married couple from New Orleans, Louisiana who have been married for 21 years and are the parents to two sons. Tino is originally from Cuba and spent 10 years in the military, which included a tour in Iraq and Tenaj is originally from New Orleans. Both Tenaj and Tino are college graduates with master’s degrees.
In 2014, Tenaj was working as a Marketing Director in the healthcare industry and Tino was working for the federal government. On top of it all, the couple also owned a daycare and a fashion boutique that they ran in their home of New Orleans. While Tenaj and Tino had a great life and amazing careers in their Louisiana home, they both yearned for more than the typical 9-5 grind. In 2017, Tenaj and Tino quit their jobs, sold everything, and set out on an adventure to become full-time travelers.
Funding Full-Time Travel
When Tenaj and Tino first began traveling, they were simply living out of their savings. While this worked in the beginning, it wasn’t a sustainable option. Eventually their savings would run out and they would be forced home to resume their careers. Instead of travelling until their savings was dry, they found a unique way to travel the world for free as professional house- and pet-sitters.
Among most of their journeys, Tenaj and Tino weren’t travelling alone. Their youngest son Daniel joined them as they traveled through Southeast Asia and South America, and although travelling with children can be challenging, Tenaj and Tino love seeing their experiences through their son’s eyes. Daniel was able to learn about new cultures, and even attend school in Malaysia where the family stayed for over a year.
After three years of full-time travel, the Melendres family returned to New Orleans during the pandemic. As international travel was out of the question for the time being, Tenaj and Tino found a new passion for van life, and the couple purchased a Mercedes Sprinter van to begin the process of a custom build.
The Van Build
Tenaj and Tino found their dream van in Arizona using the vehicle finding app Ryder. Even though it would be a 10-hour drive to pick it up, they knew this was the perfect van for their dream build.
They began with a completely bare van and were able to install everything exactly to their liking, making it truly exactly what they wanted. After doing soundproofing and installing a subfloor, they went to work on their electrical system.
Tenaj and Tino loved the green energy storage options that Battle Born has to offer, and incorporated the following components into their system:
- 6 BB10012 Battle Born Batteries
- 1 Victron Multiplus 3000W Inverter/Charger
- 1 Battery Isolation Manager
A top-of-the-line electrical system was an essential part of their build. Tenaj and Tino love how their Battle Born Batteries can power all their necessities and fun extras, such as Tino’s Xbox. Following the electrical system, Tenaj and Tino are building out other key parts of their van. They’re hard at work installing insulation, cabinetry, plumbing, and windows.
Tenaj and Tino have made sure to include their son Daniel in the new van build, making the entire family part of the process. Daniel has been assisting in picking out colors and designing the van space and can’t wait to travel in it.
The goal is to have the van finished at the start of the summer so they can test it out when they drive cross-country to visit a friend in Alabama.
What’s Next for Tenaj and Tino?
Tenaj and Tino are advocates for inclusion and are establishing themselves in online travel communities on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, specifically the Black Travel Movement. The couple has a project called “Diversity in Van Life,” that has a goal of increasing representation in different communities.
“We just want people to know that van life is a lot more diverse than it looks,” said Tenaj. “We’re seeing more and more people of color in the outdoors, including ourselves. We’re not in our 20s, so our audience is older and retired.”
This summer Tenaj and Tino will participate in the Black Nomads Meet series from June 4-6th, a weekend-long meetup in Warthen, Georgia. They will gather with van-lifers and tiny home-dwellers of color to connect, share resources, and tell stories.