This week, I got to talk to an amazing couple that has been living in their van for about four years! Frankie and Alex, aka FnA Van Life, tell me about living nomadically in Central and South America and why they upgraded from their first van to their second van after about a year. Frankie and Alex are also podcasters and YouTubers, and they have some great stories, amazing tips, and wonderful energy to share.

In This Episode:

  • RV or van? How FnA made their decision
  • Maintenance happens – a lot
  • Why and how they upgraded
  • Can you beat Frankie’s record?
  • Tips for living in close quarters

Links and Resources:


Guest Bio:

Frankie and Alex McCullough

Frankie and Alex McCullough

Frankie and Alex have been living tiny since 2019 only their tiny home is on wheels. Paco the dog joined them in 2020. To date, they have self-converted two work vans into tiny homes and have been enjoying van life all over North and Central America. Full-time YouTubers and Podcasters, their brand FnA Van Life inspires countless others to dream of a life beyond the 4 walls of a home.




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More Photos:

Frankie and Alex's first van

The first van wasn't as big as the second van

The van's ceiling is magnetic


12 people can fit in there!

While the van is set up to cook in, sometimes it's cheaper to eat out

Frankie and Alex have a podcast and a YouTube channel about van life


Being a good copilot is exhausting

Sometimes they go to coffee shops to work, but with a view like this they may stay home!

Campsites are very affordable in Central and South America


Frankie McCullough 0:00

I actually said to her that like don't get attached because I'm going to be traveling. At the same time I also invited her along with me.

Ethan Waldman 0:08


Frankie McCullough 0:10

Five years later now we're on the road together, and absolutely loving it.

Ethan Waldman 0:17

Welcome to the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast, the show where you learn how to plan, build and live the tiny lifestyle. I'm your host, Ethan Waldman, and my guests today are Frankie and Alex, aka FnA. Frankie and Alex have been living tiny since 2019 in their van. Well, they've actually had two vans, and in this interview, we're going to talk about why they decided to upgrade from their first van to their second van. Also, Frankie and Alex have actually been touring around Central America, and we talk about what it's like living van life living tiny living nomadically in other countries that aren't necessarily the United States or Canada. Frankie and Alex are wonderful guests. They're actually full time YouTubers, and podcasters and they've just got great stories and great energy to share. So I hope you stick around for the conversation.

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Alright, let's get on with the show.

All right, I'm here with Frankie and Alex. Frankie and Alex have been living tiny since 2019. Only their tiny home is on wheels. Paco the dog joined them in 2020. To date they have self converted to work fans into tiny homes and have been enjoying van life all over North and Central America. Full time YouTubers and podcasters, their brand FnA Van Life inspires countless others to dream of life beyond the four walls of home. Frankie and Alex, welcome to the show.

Frankie McCullough 3:34

Thank you so much for having us. We appreciate you bringing us on to the podcast.

Ethan Waldman 3:39

Yeah, thanks for being here. And I it's always nice to chat with fellow podcasters. And of course, I want to want to hear about your show. But first, can you kind of like flesh out the story? Oh, and I also will say for the listeners like Paco is also the third person, the dog. Paco is also going to be a part of the interview. So if you hear any like strange moaning and groaning it's not me or Frankie or Alex. It's the dog.

Alex McCullough 4:05

Yeah, absolutely. Paco has been a very important part of our podcast since day one. As soon as we start recording, he decides it's time to like get crazy. So yeah, he hears the mic go on. Maybe there's some like weird frequency or something. So just ready to go.

Frankie McCullough 4:20

So one thing you need to know about Paco is he is a true extrovert. He very much loves when people are around and he is a social butterfly when it comes to, you know, at least adults.

Ethan Waldman 4:31


Frankie McCullough 4:32

And so I think he hears the other person or is talking to somebody and he's like, "Wait a second. Where are they? I need to get an introduction."

Ethan Waldman 4:42

Yeah, yeah. Well, I'm happy. I'm happy to include him.

Frankie McCullough 4:47

Thank you.

Ethan Waldman 4:49

So tell me about your like, kind of what were you doing before you converted your first fan and what kind of what pushed you over the edge? What made you decide to kind of make the jump.

Alex McCullough 5:03

So we were both working in New York City. We had very, like corporate jobs, nine to five - more than that, really, when you're in New York City, it's very much a hustle and bustle and very stressful. And both of us were, you know, leaving home at 6am. And then not getting home until, you know, seven o'clock, and it just was starting to weigh on us, mentally and emotionally. And, you know, we just kind of weren't enjoying New York City for all that it has to offer anymore.

Frankie McCullough 5:32

I worked as an air conditioning tech in New York City. I lived in like South Brooklyn. And basically, it took me three hours on average per day of just driving in my van not getting paid. So I was like, "Why am I going to drive for somebody else in a van, when I could just like live out of one and travel and drive whenever I want and hopefully make money while I'm doing it, you know?" And kind of that's what kind of spread into before I met Alex, I already had this kind of this idea that I want to travel. It wasn't in a van at first. It was more like pulling something at like with a truck. And then my goal really was the snowboard as many mountains as I could in my life. And so yeah, I met Alex. Actually, during like, I was coming back from an injury from a snowboard season. And I started dating again, and I met Alex. And on our first date, I actually said to her that like, "Don't get attached, because I'm going to be traveling." At the same time. I also invited her along with me.

Ethan Waldman 6:32


Frankie McCullough 6:34

And, yeah, three years, or five years later, now we're on the road together for three years, and absolutely loving it. You know, she was a big reason why this life came to fruition. She was like, "How about you think about...?" Like she's three months in and she kind of pulled out a whole spread sheet of all the money that I need to save for my travels. And then I turned around, and I was like, "There's something missing." And she's like, "What?" And I'm like, "You're not on here." And sure enough, she had her own Excel spreadsheet to save money. So she was like, already on board just wanted to hear me say to her, like, where are you at? You know?

Ethan Waldman 7:14

She just flipped to the second sheet. And it was the combined expense sheet?

Alex McCullough 7:19

Yeah, I should say that I was an executive assistant in New York City. So spreadsheets were very much up my alley in terms of you know, day to day workflow and Frankie kind of put this seed of an idea of full time travel into my head. And then I kind of got into, like, just, I just went down this rabbit hole of YouTube and podcasts and all the things van life and what that might look like. And, you know, the, the rational thing in my mind to do is to put it all on the spreadsheet and figure it out, because that's how you make all the best decisions in life.

Frankie McCullough 7:53

And so basically, and so basically Alex was pretty much like, "Are you sure you want to do it this way? How about we like look at our views and stuff." Because the the budget, I'm gonna have to say basically like $4,000 a month to to put away the type of money I needed to get like the meeting mate and the brand new truck and pull the money behind the brand new truck, whatever costs for like, you know, camping spa and whatnot. And so we reanalyzed and we went back to the drawing board and we we were like, "Alright, well if we want to spend..." Like we went super the opposite direction we went from very expensive to super inexpensive, like I we're probably only going to do this for a year. Let's let's like really think about the cheapest way of doing it so that way we have more money later on. And we went looked at RVs that were in like this, like four to $5,000 price range and they were all kinda really old and needed tons of work and had been like really lived in. Yeah, and so this was before the boom of of like Van life and the pandemic.

Ethan Waldman 8:57


Frankie McCullough 8:57

So vans were still pretty cheap at the time. And we were looking around and and Alex said to me, like, "Hey, do you think you could build one out?" And I was like, "I do. I do think I could build one out and it will give me time to save money." So this is this is ultimately what we did. And we found a van for about $4,000. Yeah, which is so cheap right now like if you were to find cheap van today, it probably $13 grand just for the van.

Ethan Waldman 9:25

Wow. Yeah. So I remember like at the beginning of the pandemic, Van suddenly got crazy expensive. And I'm curious. I know you you you're in a van already. So you're probably not like watching the van prices quite as closely but has that like has that leveled out? Have they started to come back down or is it still just like...?

Alex McCullough 9:47

I think it's come down a little bit from like the way crazy like max peak and I also think that market has been flooded with tons of inventory now.

Frankie McCullough 9:57


Alex McCullough 9:57

Because there was for a while that like even the car manufacturers couldn't make new cars.

Frankie McCullough 10:03

Actually, when we got our second van, we bought it and moved stuff to build it out and the car manufacturer reached back out to us, and were willing to buy it back for $15,000 more than what we bought it for. So I'll show you how willing they were to get these vans back so they can sell them again.

Ethan Waldman 10:20


Frankie McCullough 10:22

And so yeah, like Alex was saying the inventory for an already pre-built van now has kind of skyrocketed because you have a ton of new van build companies, you have a lot of people that have jumped into the craze only for a year and then decide, yeah, rather than sell their van, there's definitely more inventory for it. And I will say that normally when you build your first van, there's a couple things that you miss for yourself in the lifestyle like, you know, like, oh, van number two is going to be the better bill of amusement.

Ethan Waldman 10:53

Yeah, so, um, very keen to kind of learn about the differences between van number one and then number two, but maybe tell tell us a little bit more about van number one, like what was the fit out? Like, how long did it take how much you spend that kind of stuff.

Alex McCullough 11:10

So van number one was super, I don't know, I guess you could call it like rustic chic. We were trying to do everything on a really tight budget because like Frank said, he thought we were only going to be in the van for a year, we're like, "We're just going to do this big road trip and then we're going to sell it. We're going to buy a house, we're going to, you know, be done traveling." And obviously that's not how it worked out. But anyway, so we didn't want to put a ton of money into something that we knew that we were only going to be in for a year. So everything that we did in that van was about, you know, cutting costs, we wanted to have all the "luxuries", quote unquote, of home. So like running water, we had a composting toilet, like a really basic one. We had a fixed bed, all of the wood was just regular plywood that we use the burning technique on. So it was like really rustic looking, I think it was really cute. And it was definitely functional. And we lived in it for almost 11 months before we sold it. But at that point, the kind of bigger problem had become that the engine itself was constantly having some kind of trouble because it was an older van, it was a 2003 We bought it with over 200,000 miles on it, you know, it hadn't been super well maintained, we gave a lot of TLC to it and put a fair amount of money into the engine and things like that.

Ethan Waldman 12:32


Alex McCullough 12:33

And we're continuing to do that on the road and making fixes and upgrades and you know, new parts and whatever. But we just kind of figured if we're going to keep living this lifestyle, and travel is hard, and as fast as we enjoy, then having to push a wrench every couple of weeks every other month, it's not really enjoyable.

Frankie McCullough 12:54

Also, before we sold the van, we realized that one the head gasket itself was warped or blown slightly, it was it was having blow by and so when we listed it, we put that all in the details of the listing like, "Hey, you're most likely going to have to change a head gasket. You could put three to $6,000 into it. And then you have a brand new van basically." And yeah, we just knew that for us in our financial situation at that time, it was better for us to sell that van and allow somebody else who had the financial ability to just fix the gasket with the help of a mechanic, and then they have a home to live in. For us. It was like, "Alright, we'll sell this and then we'll take that money and we'll use that money to buy a new van."

Ethan Waldman 13:37

Got it.

Frankie McCullough 13:38

And that's exactly what we did.

Ethan Waldman 13:40

Yeah, so that first fan I'm looking at the pictures that looks like a Dodge Sprinter and that that's a diesel van. I know that those are notorious for for engine troubles.

Frankie McCullough 13:52

Yeah, but at the same time, if you keep up on it, you fix it, it's a 500,000 to a million mile engine, you know, so it's, there's a give and take to it. You know, you you have this longevity of the engine, but little things around it are definitely going to, you know, go bad every 60,000 miles or so.

Ethan Waldman 14:11


Alex McCullough 14:12

But that's kind of what you're getting into when your house is a vehicle. Like, you know, when you're buying a van. I think it was one of the mistakes that I made mentally in my mind was that when we hit the road when we were done building the van that we would be done with all this construction stuff with all this van set like now we can just enjoy and have fun, right? But then you get you know, 10,000 miles down the road and something blows or, you know, that cabinet that you thought was built really well starts to rattle loose or you know, your van is basically going through a little earthquake every single day. And you're putting a lot of miles on it. It's a pretty heavy load like we tried to say under the GWR... Is that what it's called?

Frankie McCullough 14:55

Close enough.

Alex McCullough 14:58

Like the max weight for the vehicle.

Ethan Waldman 15:00


Alex McCullough 15:01

So we do that, but it's still it's like the vehicle is always has a load and it always has, you know, weight in the back. And so you're just kind of, you're building a house on some pretty unstable ground that you're gonna have to maintain.

Ethan Waldman 15:14

Sure, sure, yeah, that's a really good, that's a good point. And that's, that's like a fair warning to anybody listening who wants to do van life, which is that like, even if you start with a brand new van, there's going to be maintenance, there's going to be things that break down the road, just because of what what you're doing do it.

Frankie McCullough 15:31

And like, we like to set realistic expectations for people, you know, we're not the type of people that are gonna just show you the Instagram photo that is like, "Oh, look at that beautiful place they're at again." Of course, it comes with the lifestyle where you're going to wind up at these places, nice timing, guys, they both started drinking coffee at the same time, or tea, whatever is in the cup. But, um, you're gonna, you need to set these realistic expectations, yes, there's a lot of beauty to the lifestyle, but there's also a lot of hardship too you know and you can't just come into the lifestyle thinking that it's all gonna be peaches and cream, you know, it's gonna, there's gonna be stuff between it that, you know, you're gonna have to get your hands dirty, you're gonna have to be willing to fix stuff on the go in the middle of nowhere in the middle. And that's one of the major things I tell everybody to do is at least have a couple of essential tools that you need to make some, you know, quality fixes, you know, and that's a big reason why, when we build our vans, ourselves, you know, we want to use the same type of screws for everything. That way, you're not trying to mix and match a 20 to 30 different tools by on the road.

Ethan Waldman 16:35

Smart. I'm curious, you know, when you did this, you're in the first van for 11 months. And then you decided to go with a second van. So tell tell us about, you know, what were some of the key things that you wanted different in this in this second van? And also, you know, was the switch from that sprinter to the Ram? Like, was that were you specifically after the Ram van? Or? Yeah, talk about that.

Alex McCullough 17:08

So at that particular moment, in time, I think what we were most interested in was a reliable engine that we weren't gonna have to fiddle with, that we wanted a newer vehicle, but we weren't in a financial position to buy like a brand new, you know, 2021, you know,

Frankie McCullough 17:26

4x4 Sprinter van. Like, we had to think about the, you know, what we had value-wise on what we can spend, and we needed to really think about, you know, options that were available for us, and even just finance in general, because, you know, even though we didn't have good jobs, you know, previously, we were technically self employed at this point. So it's much harder to get a company to give you a loan, you know, or bank to give you a loan for anything in general. So when we got our loan, it was only for X amount of dollars. So we actually had to come out with, I think it was like $10 grand, and out of our pocket too, as well, right? Luckily, this first van allowed us to have that money to be able to put down that down payment of 10 grand to be able to get the vehicle itself.

Alex McCullough 18:15

But I think we also did like the ProMaster. And the fact that it was a lot wider, because in the first hand, the Sprinter, especially the older chassis was quite narrow. And then it also you know, like vans kind of angle inwards as they go up. So the roof is skinnier than the base. So you have, you know, a very long, narrow living situation. And whereas in the ProMaster, it felt like we could have more space and spread out.

Frankie McCullough 18:42

And at the time, we you know, we went on this mission in the first band to snowboard as many mountains as we could on the epic and icon paths in North America. And that goal was at three mountains. I wound up snowboarding 71 of them in one season and Alex 40 with me. Yeah, so technically, it's a world record.

Alex McCullough 19:01

But don't, don't ask Guinness.

Frankie McCullough 19:03

It's not noticed by Guinness. So there's no snowboard more mountains in a single season. And I know if somebody else, let me know if if you know. And so we never

Ethan Waldman 19:16

You're certainly like of my podcast guests, you've snowboarded the most number of mountains. So I'll give you that award.

Frankie McCullough 19:22

Thank you. Thank you. Appreciate that. So I hold a world record on this channel alone.

But, uh, but yeah, so we never needed four by four during that whole time. You know, while snowboarding all these mountains and parking in these random places. We've never pushed our limit to the point where we had to have a four by four vehicle. So for us, we were like, okay, four by four isn't necessary. It's only necessary if you're going to go really, really far off the beaten path, which at the time we didn't expect to do. And so we

Alex McCullough 19:56

Actually we've been we're in Costa Rica right now. We've driven all way through Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua, we went to the Panama Canal. So we've done this whole trip as well and haven't needed four by four. I mean, there was a couple spots where it would have been very helpful. It was

Frankie McCullough 20:13

five spots where we needed four or five, but

Alex McCullough 20:17

we made it out of all them with some help and some ropes and you know,

Frankie McCullough 20:22

if not four, by four, we at least needed like, like a low gear, like you could go into first year. But you can't go into overdrive with with with a Ram van, you know, at least with the one that we have, were like a four by four, you go for real low, and then you basically climb up any, you know, it doesn't really matter the pitch. Right, right. Were out in Central America and South there are definitely some roads that are over 20% grade.

Ethan Waldman 20:50

Yeah. So was the second van built with the idea that you would go south?

Frankie McCullough 20:59

Yes, in a sense. So I would say yes, because we wanted to make it very open space. That way, we could feel very comfortable in at all times to be able to be inside and work, we didn't put air conditioning in because we wouldn't need a much larger battery system, okay, or a generator. And then that's just an extra thing we have to carry. So we just have fans in our van. And as we were traveling through North America, we realized that we actually had to install more fans, because we only had one at the time. And we got to some warmer climates in the cold climates, because they warm, we have that heater in there that that makes it nice and toasty. But as we got south and it got warmer, we realized, "Oh man, we need we need more airflow." And so we put two fans, level fans like that face the bed directly. And also push forward. So you could like kind of rotate them wherever you kind of want them. But you could get really good adequate, you know, airflow on your body. And that makes it to where you don't really need air conditioning. It's, it's, you would really only need air conditioning in the middle of the day when it's like the hottest point in the day. And normally at that time we're out, like in the ocean or hiking or doing something that is getting us away from the heat.

Ethan Waldman 22:20

Yeah, that makes sense. You don't want to be sitting around and abandoned in 100 degree heat. Now, we got to find shade. Trees with a breeze.

Trees in the breeze. I like it. So I've definitely spoken to people doing van life. But I don't know that I've ever talked to anyone who's like specifically traveling in Central America and kind of going beyond the like, you know, US and Canada. So I'm curious, like, what do you what are the pros and cons of of, of departing us for the southern southern climes?

Frankie McCullough 22:58

Yeah, I mean, first thing is culture. I'm like, the opportunity to be in a place where you don't speak the language. And, you know, you have to really like learn to adapt. And and, you know, you're getting this, this new culture that you're infused into. And you're really, really, really relying on the kindness of strangers, because you don't even speak that language. So it really gives you a new perspective. And then money.


It is, it's definitely much cheaper to live and travel in a van through Central America. There are pros and cons to it, though, because like now since we do run a business of this lifestyle, and travel, and we do have our podcasts and our YouTube channel, we do utilize and work with brands, and have sponsorship deals and things like that, that we can't do as much when we're in Central America, just because it's really really difficult to receive any type of physical product. And we don't want to mod something that we don't know how it works or how it feels, you know, so we want to go out and make sure it's good for this lifestyle before we promote it.

Ethan Waldman 24:07

Okay, yeah, that is, that is tricky.

Alex McCullough 24:11

Yeah. But like generally, I think traveling through Mexico and Central America has been really a beautiful experience. A lot of people were worried about our safety or worried about, you know, us being robbed or murdered or you know, all these things. And we've had nothing but really positive experiences. People going out of their way to help us, people being super friendly. We've definitely parked in a lot more campsites down south, but it's because they're very affordable. They usually have really great views. And it gives you an opportunity to have like a nice cold shower on a super hot day for like $5, you know.

Ethan Waldman 24:49


Alex McCullough 24:49

But we've also free camp in every single country, you know, like we're not the very first night that we got to Mexico we free camped on the, you know, the side of the lagoon, and it was very, I was super nervous, but everything turned out, okay. And I feel like the first like, week or so through Baja and Mexico, there was this like, worry of like, okay, like everybody says it's so dangerous here, you know, I'm just waiting for something to happen. And then nothing ever did. And so by the time we got into like mainland Mexico and Guatemala and Nicaragua, like, we're just having a great time and meeting new people, and trying new foods and meeting other travelers. It has been really cool. Because, you know, just, it's more rare down here to run into people. Like, I feel like in a lot of the really van, you know, popular locations in especially in the United States, like if you're going to Sedona or J Tree or stuff like that, there's so many nomads, and you're gonna run into so many vans and things like that. Like, we could go like weeks without running into another van down here. So when you do see somebody in a van, you're like, "Oh, my God! Hi!"

Frankie McCullough 25:58

Or you're excited, because you're sharing an experience that a lot of people, you know, dream about. And a lot of people are thinking like, "Oh, I'm gonna live tiny, I'm gonna be traveling in an RV or a van."You know, one of the, one of the dreams is to do the Pan American highway, and we're actually here doing it, you know, so, it's this opportunity to really, you know, bounce different stories and stuff off of each other, and, and, you know, just really be really immersed into the, you know, the thing that you both were dreaming of doing, um, you know, just being here and in the moment is, and with other people that understand us feels really good.

Ethan Waldman 26:38

What would you say? Are your, like, your costs to live down there in the van? And what do you like? And how does that compare to what you'd think it would cost to live, you know, in the States in the van?

Alex McCullough 26:52

Sure. Um, so I think that the fuel down here is at par, or like, maybe even a little bit more expensive. But then it's interesting, because you can get through a whole country on like one or two tanks of gas. So for us, we've been doing about a month in every country.

Ethan Waldman 27:08


Alex McCullough 27:09

So moving fairly slowly. So maybe we're getting one or two tanks of gas a month, at, you know, between 75 and $100 per tank, depending on which country we're in. And where we fill up and things like that,

Frankie McCullough 27:22

So gas is about $200 a month, on average. $200 - $250, depending on how much we're driving.

Ethan Waldman 27:28


Alex McCullough 27:29

Yeah, cell phone plans down here are a lot less expensive, like the local SIM card plans. You can buy data for, like $10 a week.

Frankie McCullough 27:38

Plus we have been using our T Mobile Service quite a bit and just dump it on Wi Fi whenever we get the chance. So that's been really easy. We have - the only place where we were able to use Starlink was in Mexico, and it's cheaper there where we got it. So I don't know what it is in the States at the moment. Maybe like $100 a month or something like that. Where for us, it's about $65 Because we've got ours in Mexico. So ours is relatable to the price of what you'd pay in Mexico.

Ethan Waldman 28:06


Frankie McCullough 28:08

But we've paused it so we have been using that at all.

Alex McCullough 28:10

Because it's not available in any of the Central American countries yet.

Frankie McCullough 28:13

I would say on average, it's anywhere from like $1,500 to like $2,000 a month maximum.

Alex McCullough 28:20

For like everything

Frankie McCullough 28:21

for everything

Alex McCullough 28:21

food, like I feel like

Frankie McCullough 28:23


Alex McCullough 28:23

We probably spend maybe $300 a month on groceries for two people and a dog. We eat out a lot more down here especially depending on the country. Costa Rica is quite expensive to eat out and do all these things so we eat out less in Costa Rica. But in like Mexico, you can have like a feast or two people and they bring you the bill and it's like $9 USD and you're like, "Oh wow! I like it here!"

Ethan Waldman 28:46

That sounds awesome.

Alex McCullough 28:47

Yeah, so it just it really depends, you know, obviously more touristy areas so like places that are really popular are going to be more expensive because they know they have the tourist dollars coming in. But if you're in like a really small beach town somewhere, everything is really inexpensive.

Frankie McCullough 29:04

Typically for us on average, it's probably about $1,000 a month less, you know for us to be in Central America rather than in the States on average. And that depends on your lifestyle.

Alex McCullough 29:15

And we haven't been in America since this like crazy inflation stuff that everybody's talking about. So everybody is keeping warning us that when we come back our grocery bills are going to make us you know shake in our boots.

It'll make you wish you never came back.


Frankie McCullough 29:31

My brother actually told me like, you're in Vermont, we were saying my brother's in New York and he said for a carton of eggs, for a 12-pack of eggs, it's $8.

Ethan Waldman 29:42

Yes, it's expensive. There's, there's some stuff going on with eggs right now for some reason.

Frankie McCullough 29:46

Here in Central America, you know how much it is for a 12-pack of eggs?

Ethan Waldman 29:51

No, tell me.

Frankie McCullough 29:52

Probably like $2.

Ethan Waldman 29:54

Well, I don't want to make people jealous but like Vermont is its own magical little place. And we buy eggs, like from somebody who my wife works with, like for, I think like $3 or $4, but it's still a lot cheaper than what you can buy at the store.

Frankie McCullough 30:11

Then we come home, we'll do like a grocery shop or, or like we'll go to like the local fruiteria is what they're called here. And you're one of those and then we'll come back we'll have a bounty of of just like fruits and vegetables and all this stuff. And we'll do a video, shoot a video. And next thing you know, our friends in the states are like, "Oh my God, it's like a third of the price."

Alex McCullough 30:31

Like maybe $30 to $50 every time we go do this.

Frankie McCullough 30:34

I know, like for that same thing, we would pay almost $100. It's just kind of mind blowing, you know, to, to hear the difference between the two.

Ethan Waldman 30:44

Wow. Sounds nice.

Frankie McCullough 30:46

Yeah, I mean, it has its, it has its perks.

Ethan Waldman 30:50


Frankie McCullough 30:50

And it has its, it's like it has its pros. And its cons.

Alex McCullough 30:53

I think it takes a particular kind of person to enjoy traveling down here too. Because there's definitely things that if you are used to a certain kind of lifestyle, or luxury, or it's going to be hard for you to not have a hot water shower every time or like, we've been into some really disgusting bathrooms and like, you know, there's just like, some things. Some things are great and beautiful and amazing. And some things are like, "Whoa, that's, that's a place." But so for us, it's kind of all part of the experience. And it's just like, you know, whatever, like, I'm not gonna stay here forever, I'm going to use this thing one time, and then I'm going to be out.

Ethan Waldman 31:31


Alex McCullough 31:31

Whereas for other people, you know, not being able to find your particular brand of cereal that you love at the grocery store might just drive you nuts, or being able to find like a high quality peanut butter.

Frankie McCullough 31:41

Yeah, it's you could definitely do, you know, certain type of diets that, like, if you're like a vegan or a vegetarian, you could find those diets, but it's going to be much harder to find specific ones. And then even like, you know, to get good quality meat, you know, it might be a little bit harder, just because your the way that they do things down here is just different,

Alex McCullough 32:06

or just the way it's packaged, or the way it looks

Frankie McCullough 32:08

There's meat just drying in the air and a lot of places or fish on the side of the road, you know, and it's just not a normal thing that you would see in the States.

Ethan Waldman 32:17

Got it. Got it. So you both live in the van full time. And you both work in the van full time. Do you have any tips on how to make 70 square feet functional and livable for two people?

Frankie McCullough 32:33

Love your partner.

Ethan Waldman 32:36

The dog, my dog is now annoying me. I think he wants to leave this room, but I'm not gonna let him.

Frankie McCullough 32:42

Yeah, so be kind to your partner. You know, think about things in the sense of like, I like, "Do I need to step out of the space and go for a walk or go surf?" Or whatever it is, you know, give them an opportunity to be by themselves. They need it have a lot of good communication with one another. Know that when people like... Talk to each other, don't yell at each other. Yeah, that's one of the biggest things you could do.

Alex McCullough 33:09

We also spend a fair bit of time at coffee shops and things like that. And I think it helps that Frankie and I are also working on the same business. I think it would be a little bit more complicated if say...

Frankie McCullough 33:22

It's a person.

Alex McCullough 33:26

Yeah. Oh, yeah.

Frankie McCullough 33:29

Okay, I think he's done.

Alex McCullough 33:31

But yeah, I think it would be a little bit more complicated if we both had different businesses. So if I was trying to be on a call with somebody, and he was trying to be on a call with a totally different person. But because we're doing the same thing, it makes it a lot easier. Like we're both on this podcast right now. It's not like one of us had to leave the room so that the other one could make the phone call. So I think that helps as well. But yeah, we definitely, you know,

Frankie McCullough 33:55

We know we're a team and we know that in order for everything to work out really well we have to continue to be a team. And, you know, if team sports and life wasn't a really good thing for me, I don't know what else would be because like, you got to really learn to work together and stuff like that. And what are the benefits of being a good teammate? You know, and I think we do it in a really good way in a really loving way. And to be able to, if you're in a relationship with this person, you need to be able to take away the business side and the relationship and separate it into two pieces, because they're different things. And one thing could impact the other thing and you don't want that to happen. So remember, first and foremost, that you are in a relationship with this person and secondly, that you're in a business together, you know, because the relationship is more important than the business my opinion. So that's, that's how we like to look at it.

Ethan Waldman 34:50

Nice. So do you have a dedicated workspace in your van?

Frankie McCullough 34:55

We have a, we have a table that kind of that's our bed as well. So when we put the table up, it actually fits six people around. It's very comfortable, we can lounge out in it. There's other areas where you could kind of sit down and work, we can swivel the chairs around, we made our van to where you could fit 12 people in it comfortably. And so that maximizes the opportunity to really move around the space and be able to kind of sit anywhere you want. So there's no really dedicated spot. It's just how you feel that day. Do you want a view? Do you want to be able to, you know, look out the side door, or do you want to sit in the back and be more kinda like trapped in place?

Alex McCullough 35:32

But I will say that, from our first van to our second van, our first van had nowhere to work at all. We had a really high platform bed, so you couldn't even sit upright in the bed. So you could work in bed, but you'd basically be like laying down and kind of like hunched over your computer. And then we just yeah, and then we had like a couch in the front with that lagoon table, which worked fine. But then you couldn't really walk past when the lagoon table was up. So it was like too big. So by having the six, or by having the converted bed, in this build, we thought, "Okay, like, we'll just make the table every day, make it into a bed at night. And then we'll be able to have the workspace during the day and the bed at night, it'll be the best of both worlds."

Frankie McCullough 36:14

The idea was to have the elevated bed too, the bed that would go up and down. But we didn't get the materials in time. So we just like said, "You know what? We'll make it work with just the convertible bed. And we'll have the one bed and that's it."

Alex McCullough 36:26

Which has been fine. But I find that like, on the days that we set it up. It's great. And it works really well. And it's totally fine. But often it's just easier to go to a coffee shop, you know, like, especially in Central America.

Ethan Waldman 36:40


Alex McCullough 36:40

And like you're like, "Okay, it's the middle of the day. Do I want to be in my van, trying to make it cool trying to get all these things? Or do I want to just pack up my knapsack, go to a nice coffee shop around the corner, get an ice, whatever. And you know, use their Wi Fi use their facilities and like relax."

Frankie McCullough 36:55

And being the fact that life down here is a bit cheaper. We could afford to go to that coffee shop and be in the air conditioning and find a place for Paco to feel really comfortable. And he's really good at the place, those places. He just kind of sits in his bag and hangs out. And you know, he's a good little do with us.

Ethan Waldman 37:11

His bag.

Frankie McCullough 37:12

Yeah, he has like a bag, you don't like to travel bag that you would put him in an airplane. We just leave it wide open and if you love sitting, it's like his favorite place.

Ethan Waldman 37:22

That's awesome. That's really that's really great. Do you have a shower in your van?

Frankie McCullough 37:30

We do a shower. It's a convertible shower. So we like set we'll put up we'll put the cushion on the back table.

Alex McCullough 37:38

It's a couch

Frankie McCullough 37:39

that's like a couch cushion. Yeah, we'll put it on the back table. And then we'll lift it up. And then you can hang the curtain on the ceiling because the whole ceiling is tin. So it's magnetic. Yeah, which allows us to hang anything, wet shirts, towels, whatever it is. And yeah, be able to shower inside the van, we use that we use it quite often in Baja. And in places where we're on like a beach a lot.

Alex McCullough 38:02

And winter.

Frankie McCullough 38:06

Quite a bit. But we haven't been using it as much down here because it's pretty easy to find the shower for the most part.

Alex McCullough 38:14

Interesting. It's another one of those things kind of like the coffee shop. Like is it easier to set up the shower and go through all the things? Or can I just get a shower somewhere for like $1 that's going to be easier and I can just grab my bag and go and do it and then come back and I don't have to worry about putting all the stuff away?

Frankie McCullough 38:32

I actually had quite a different beaches here in Costa Rica, they'll have just like a freshwater shower that you can rinse off at. So,

Ethan Waldman 38:38


Frankie McCullough 38:39

We'll use that, you know, powder the armpits a little bit

Ethan Waldman 38:45

Are there people showing up at the beach shower to like full on shower?

Frankie McCullough 38:49

Well, we're normally coming out of the ocean.

Ethan Waldman 38:56

So what's your next van?

Frankie McCullough 39:00


Alex McCullough 39:00

We've been talking about that.

Frankie McCullough 39:01

That's a good question. Um, I really would like a like overlanding rig four by four. Because if we ever are going to do a trip like this, again, I want the ability to go really like off the beaten path. And, you know, when we have those really challenging uphill roads, I want to be able to walk up them, you know, I don't want I don't want like even if it's slow, I don't care. But just knowing that we have the power to get up it is very important. I would love for it to be an electric rig. But I just don't see the mileage being appropriate at the moment. Maybe in the next two or three years. We'll have rigs that will go 500 miles and then you could pretty much go anywhere.

Ethan Waldman 39:45


Frankie McCullough 39:46

So I would love it to be an electrical rig because the all wheel drive aspects of that are the four by four aspects of that is even stronger than than a gas engine.

Ethan Waldman 39:55


Frankie McCullough 39:56

So I would love that but I think our next rig might be...

Alex McCullough 40:00

We're gonna have probably like an in between rig. So I think we're gonna have, we're gonna sell this van when we get back to the states and then get into something, we're thinking about buying maybe like an older RV or like a, you know, something along those lines, and then fixing it up making it more off grid, making it more rugged making it, you know, like making it a van life, RV, so to speak. And then traveling in that for a little bit and then selling that as well. The thing about the dream of the big rig that Frank has is that, you know, to get all that costs a fair bit of money. So we might have to, you know, have a couple of projects built between, that will get us to that point where we can actually afford to build the rig that we really want.

Frankie McCullough 40:46

And ideally, by the time that rig's here, you know, ideally, we will have like a family or something along those lines. So we will be making the rig for you know, the four of us instead of just three of us. You know the Paco I would really like to put like a little den somewhere in there from Paco to have like a spot for himself.

Ethan Waldman 41:03


Alex McCullough 41:04

I think every time you build a van, you just you upgrade. Yeah, you like you live in the first van, you say oh, what do we like what do we not, then you build a second van, you think it's like perfect, but then you realize, okay, like maybe this could be a little different, or your life changes. What you like to do changes a little bit.

Frankie McCullough 41:20

This van was pretty close to perfect for two people and a dog and the type of travel we were doing. You know, and and when that travel changes, you want to you want to make changes to your rig, you know that accommodate those things.

Ethan Waldman 41:37

Nice. Well, one thing I actually, too, it's not often that I have guests on who are also podcasters. So tell tell the listeners about your show and why you know why they might want to listen.

Alex McCullough 41:51

Sure. So it's FnA Van Life, the podcast, it's everywhere that you listen to podcasts. Every week, we interview nomads from the nomadic community, or we share stories from the news about van life, okay, so that people can get a good understanding of what it's really like to live life on the road.

Frankie McCullough 42:09

And sometimes we'll rip apart the news and you know, that you have some people that are getting into a rig for like, a couple of days and then talking about van life, like they know what it is.

Ethan Waldman 42:20


Frankie McCullough 42:21

But we rip apart those articles quite a bit. Yeah, but also at the same time we, we find articles that we feel are very well rounded, and, you know, are speaking the truth about what the lifestyle is, for us at least.

Ethan Waldman 42:35


Frankie McCullough 42:36

And and then when it comes to other nomads, like everybody's different. So, you know, we probably have a podcast or a person for you that you would be like, "Oh, that's me."

Ethan Waldman 42:46


Alex McCullough 42:47

Yeah, we want to make it so that everybody can see themselves on the road. Like, I think a lot of people make excuses. They say, "Oh, I have kids." Or, "Oh, I'm too old ."Or, "Oh, I work full-time." Or, "Oh, you know..." Whatever it is, that's kind of holding you back from doing it. So we try to talk to all different kinds of people who are living the lifestyle and loving it. So that you know, whoever's listening can see themselves in that person, you know, and find somebody that they could, you know, look up to and say, "Well, if they could do it, and they have the same challenges that I'm you know, making for myself, then they could do it."

Frankie McCullough 43:19

And another really cool thing about the podcast is that we're giving you more up to date live stuff of what's happening. So if you go and check out the YouTube channel, that's normally anywhere from two weeks to a month behind, where when you listen to the podcast, you get like a really up to date, you know, opportunity to really hear where we're at what's going on and what kinda has conceived with the YouTube channel a little bit. So, like a flash ahead.

Ethan Waldman 43:43

Cool. Yeah, it's more more direct.

Awesome. Well, one thing that I like to ask all my guests is, you know, what are two or three resources that have helped you or inspired you that you'd like to share with our listeners?

Frankie McCullough 43:59

I'm gonna start with iOverlander. iOverlander. If you don't have it, and you're a nomad, you must get it, especially down here in Central America. It's been a lifesaver for us. It's, it's really given us the information that we need to create and have a successful van life experience. You know, while we're here in Central America.

Ethan Waldman 44:19


Alex McCullough 44:19

So if we're talking about apps and things like that, I think that, especially in the United States are so many apps that you can use, whether it's get upside or Gas Buddy to get money back on fuel, because for Van lifers, that's probably one of your biggest travel expenses is just paying for gas all the time. So when we were in the United States, that was a really great resource, even if you're only getting like $1 back here, $1 back there, or when you're spending, you know, thousands of dollars on gas a year, it really adds up. So I would definitely recommend that.

Frankie McCullough 44:19

One of the things I would say is be kind, be the passionate, be a nice person to other people, because, you know, we're out here on the road and we rely on other people being positive and nice to us. So we want to give that back to them as well. And we want to show people that we're out here doing the right thing. So we're cleaning up trash, we're doing all the things that you don't necessarily see the everyday person doing. So, if we could do that out here as a community, we can show everybody else that like we're leading by example. And maybe that they'll fall in, in that footstep of of being good stewards and being good people just in the general aspect of life.

Ethan Waldman 45:28

FNA. A little nod to the Lebowski. All right. Well, Frankie and Alex, thank you for being guest on the show today. It's been really fun chatting.

Alex McCullough 45:39

Yeah, we had a really good time, Ethan. Thank you so much for having us.

Ethan Waldman 45:43

Thank you so much to Frankie and Alex, FnA for being guests on the show today. You can find the show notes, including a complete transcript of the episode, links to their YouTube and podcast, and some photos of both of their vans over at Again, that's

If you liked the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast, I hope you will leave us a five star review in Apple podcasts, Spotify, or Stitcher - wherever you listen. And please, please follow the show. I recently found out that a lot of my listeners aren't actually subscribed, so make sure you hit that follow button so you get a new episode of the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast when it goes live on Friday morning.

Well, that's all for this week. I'm your host, Ethan Waldman, and I'll be back next week with another episode of the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast.

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