Hi, my name is Amethel, and I’m addicted to van life. It started in autumn of 2020 when one of my life dreams came true: getting our 2021 Pleasure-Way Lexor TS. Since then, my happy place has been traveling in it, modifying it, or getting it ready for our next adventure.
I’m an editor-in-chief, creative director, photographer, and educator. I live in Southern California, but I see myself as a citizen of the world. I love exploring our amazing planet and learning about diverse people, creatures, and ways of life. I believe kindness is what makes the world go round, and my favorite people are those who help others just because. One of those good souls is my husband and favorite fellow explorer, Ken. He’s an architect, and this year, he’s become a campervan fanatic with me. We have two awesome sons, Kai and Paz. Van life has brought us all closer together and given us incredible experiences we’ll never forget.
I see myself as a citizen of the world.Amethel-Parel Sewell
A little bit of history
My family immigrated to the U.S. from the Philippines and the process involved a lot of sacrifices, heartache, and hard work. My parents had to quickly leave the Philippines before martial law was declared in the 1970s. I was left behind and separated from my family for several years. When we were finally reunited, my parents were so proud to have our family in the U.S. that they wanted us to see the entire country. My dad’s goal was to visit every state in the continental U.S. They saved money for a van that would fit our family of seven. Eventually, they got one, and every summer, we all piled into the van and explored a few states. We were packed in like sardines, and it was often hot and sweaty. To save on gas, my parents would barely run the air conditioner. We’d bring rice, Filipino adobo, and other food from home to minimize the costs of eating out. My siblings and I would bicker about who would sit in the most comfortable seats. Being the youngest, I usually lost.
Still, these days on the road were the highlight of my childhood. I loved visiting national landmarks and stopping at quaint roadside attractions. I loved looking for bears, birds, dolphins, and other creatures. My favorite destination was the coast. I always felt at home by the water. I loved that every day was a new day of exploring and you never knew what was around the bend. I was a photographer from an early age and had a camera to document our travels.
During one of these trips as a kid, in a rare moment, I got to sit in the front passenger seat. We were approaching the ocean for the first time after driving for days. I rolled the window all the way down and stuck my head out. A woosh of cool ocean spray and salty wind soothed my face and my spirit. I could finally see the vast ocean. I can recall this moment like it was yesterday. I told myself at that moment that someday, I’d have a van for myself.
We got serious about finding an RV, so we immersed ourselves in research and quickly discovered that we had gone down a deep rabbit hole. We reviewed endless articles and videos to learn the differences between the RV types: fifth wheel, travel trailer, Class A, B, and C, van conversion, etc. It was all so overwhelming! After we decided to focus on Class B, we started shopping in person and narrowed it down to a few manufacturers and models.
When we saw our first Pleasure-Way at our local RV dealer, we noticed the higher quality immediately. However, it was an older model without solar power, an important feature for us. We placed a deposit on a Class B campervan from another manufacturer, but there was a long wait due to the pandemic. So I kept researching campervans and came across Pleasure-Way in many positive reviews about its quality and how the campervans are hand-crafted in Canada. We decided to change our order to a Pleasure-Way Lexor.
Let the good times roll
The first year, we’ve driven it up and down California, the Pacific Northwest, and the Southwest. We’ve driven it through rush hour in big cities, remote desert locations, and to mountain elevations so high, it was hard to breathe. We’ve driven it in snow, hail, and thunderstorms. It’s just amazing where we can take our tiny house on wheels.
Just being inside our Pleasure-Way in our driveway is a joy. I’ll work in our Lexor sometimes just because it’s quiet and lets me focus. We’ve enjoyed every place we’ve been to. That said, our favorite places have been Yosemite NP, and Joshua Tree NP, the Pacific Northwest, and the Palouse, where we have dear friends.
The Light Chaser
I’m a professional photographer and photography educator, and everyone in my family is also into photography or film and video. I also run a photographic learning community called Light Chasers, where we all share and grow together in our craft. Photography is about being in the right place at the right time to catch the best light. So “The Light Chaser” was a perfect name for our Lexor. We love boondocking in remote locations where we’ll roll out of bed early to shoot the sunrise or climb back into it after staying up all night to shoot the Milky Way.
It’s the simple things
Travel is one of the wisest teachers. It has taught me to be more patient, flexible, and resilient. Growth and transformation happen when you get out of your comfort zone, and travel has pushed me out of my comfort zone many times. I’ve learned how to be okay with the unknown and to pivot with the unexpected.
I’ve learned that people are more alike than they are different, and this has made me more accepting of others. I’ve learned that I’m curious about everything, and I love learning new things every day. Life really is about the journey, as much as the destination. Taking time en route to enjoy the moonrise or the sunset with people you love is more important than getting to your destination as fast as possible.
Travel makes me feel alive. If I’m not traveling, I’m thinking about when I’ll get to travel next.
If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has the power to move you, if the simple things of nature have a message that you understand, rejoice, for your soul is aliveEleonora Duse
I’ve also learned that no matter how flexible I can be, I must have access to good coffee in the morning. Indeed, it’s about simple things.
We’re ready to go anywhere, anytime
During the pandemic, our Lexor has given us the freedom to travel safely and with flexibility. On a recent trip, we had to keep changing our route at the last minute due to wildfires. Normally, this would have been frustrating, but in The Light Chaser, it was no big deal. Late at night, we were able to find a safe, designated camping spot on BLM land. We love how we can roll with the unpredictable nature of travel.
As a photography educator, I also use The Light Chaser for small landscape and nature photography workshops, especially as a basecamp at remote locations. It’s so convenient to have a TV to plug into for image processing tutorials and presentations. Having a working kitchen and bathroom in remote locations has been a game-changer. I’ve used The Light Chaser as a meeting place when our usual meeting places closed during the pandemic. Ken has also had meetings in it with his architectural clients, and our campervan has actually inspired conversations about designing homes for small, sustainable footprint living.
I also appreciate the spontaneity it gives us. We can take The Light Chaser out for a day at the beach, or for an impromptu weekend adventure, or for a longer excursion. Either way, we keep it packed with the basics so that we’re ready to go anywhere, anytime.
Just go out and do it.
We were nervous first-time RV owners. Before our Lexor arrived, we learned as much as we could about it, even reading the official manual front to back. We joined some RV Facebook groups, but the most helpful has been the Pleasure-Way groups, where other owners are great about sharing tips and answering questions.
After a year of having the RV and dozens of trips, I’d say to anyone new to van life: just go out and do it. Use your campervan as much as you can, even if it’s just taking your RV to the park in town for the day. The more you use it, the more that operating it becomes second nature. Today, we wonder why we were so nervous in the beginning. It all seems so easy now.
One of the things we discovered is how friendly the RV community is. We’ve met so many friendly people on our trips. It’s been a fun, unexpected part of our journey. Ken and I have wondered why RV campers seem like free, happy spirits (at least the most we’ve met so far). We think being out in nature is a big part of it. How can you not be happy falling asleep next to Joshua trees while gazing at the stars? How can you not be happy waking up in a grove of pine trees next to a gently rippling stream? Whenever I’m feeling stressed, being out in nature always helps to calm and re-center me.
Get out and talk to your neighbors, make new friends, share some food, and spread some joy. Also, when you’re traveling, please be mindful to leave nature as you found it, or in even better condition.