We met Becca just before she set off on a three-week Grand Canyon rafting trip. She’d been living full time in a Sprinter van with her boyfriend, Cade, traveling and working as a a tandem paragliding instructor in Jackson Hole in the summers. It was her flying photography that first drew us in, but there are always stories behind the Instagram feed. We wanted to know more.
We talked to Becca about her lifestyle and we love the snapshot we’ve captured. Becca embodies the spirit of longer-term life on the road. Not always in motion, not rushing to squeeze fifteen states into a few weeks, she reminds us it’s okay to park somewhere for a while, to take it slow sometimes, to revel in the small comforts we’ve created, and never spend too many days shut indoors.
I grew up in Billings, Montana. My family also has a cabin in the Beartooth Mountains of Montana and my parents have always loved to adventure, so I was thrown head first into the outdoors at a very early age. As early as I can remember, we were hiking, biking, canoeing, fishing, skiing, and rock climbing and I think that my love for being active and spending time outside was solidified before I could even walk.
Jackson Hole is an amazing place, and the view is even better from above. We are incredibly fortunate to have lift access to the mountains to fly around Jackson Hole. I have flown all over the world, but I love the ruggedness of the Rocky Mountains – they have a more wild feel than other mountain ranges I’ve flown around. Getting to ride the tram, gondola, and other lifts up the mountain, then fly over snow, cliffs, and extreme terrain looking for eagles, red tail hawks, and grizzly bears is a pretty unique experience.
I’ve been flying since an early age – I went for my first tandem flight when I was 12 years old and on vacation with my family in Queenstown, New Zealand. I started flying solo back in the states at 14. After my first flight I knew it was something I wanted to do. There is no other feeling in the world that compares to flying. This is my 14th summer flying in Jackson Hole and every day still feels fun and different.
I love the mountains. I am drawn to the desert and canyon country, and even the beach and jungle for shorter stints as well. I love to explore different landscapes, but the mountains will always be home.
It was a hard decision to make the ‘upgrade’ from the Astro to the Sprinter. We had so many amazing experiences in our Astro and it was pretty incredible the places we were able to access in our first van. But eventually we knew we wanted to be able to stand up inside, to cook in the van, and to sit comfortably inside when the weather isn’t cooperating.
We also really wanted to have a permanent fixed bed so we didn’t have to rearrange everything and set up the bed before we could go to sleep every night. We ended up buying a new Sprinter, which gets better gas mileage and is significantly more reliable than the Astro as well. The Chevy was an amazing first van and took us on some unbelievable adventures, but the Sprinter is definitely more of a comfortable, practical home for us!
I think we actually share a lot of tasks – we both trade off cooking, cleaning, setting up camp, taking care of the doc, etc. But we do split up some tasks. Cade is the primary driver and I mostly navigate and DJ. I also spend a lot of our time on the road researching destinations, activities, and potential camping spots.
I am much more obsessive about organization and he is a little handier when it comes to fixing things and mechanical issues. I am nearly fluent in Spanish – which means I was the translator for most of our journey south of the border when we drove to Costa Rica and back.
I have learned that my needs and wants are actually quite simple – and even though I live a much simpler life than most Americans, I am actually still quite fortunate to have the luxuries that we often take for granted.
I have also been surprised at how much I enjoy living in the van. When we stay with friends, I generally still prefer to sleep and cook in the van, even if they have a really nice house! Honestly, I have been traveling, camping, and road tripping for as long as I can remember, so living in a van has not been a massive adjustment for me. If anything, it is more convenient and luxurious because everything I need is all in one place and I get to take home with me on all my travels now!
Flying is my passion, so even when I’m not working as a tandem instructor, I am paragliding solo whenever the weather allows. I do have some other aerial activities as well – speed flying, paramotoring, skydiving, flying planes, etc. I also love to hike. Walking is a form of meditation for me and having a dog has been one of the best ways to encourage me to get outside and clear my head on a daily basis. I always tell myself if the pup needs a walk, I probably do too!
I also really love stand up paddle boarding. Having easy access to the water, especially rivers, is essential for me. When I finish up with a busy day of tandem flying, the first thing I want to do (besides eat a huge lunch) is get on the water. We just got back from a three-week river trip on the Grand Canyon and there wasn’t a single day I was missing flying because I was having so much fun playing with friends on the river! I also got my first ‘real’ bike this winter and have been having a ton of fun being new at something again and challenging myself mountain biking.
I don’t even feel like myself when I can’t be outside. I get grumpy, irritable, uninspired, and unmotivated. I feel super fortunate that I have the opportunity to spend quality time outside every day. It’s an amazing way to go through life. This winter I actually had hip surgery, so I was spending a lot more time indoors than usual. I was a little concerned that I might have a mental breakdown, but Cade and my mom conspired to get me a fat bike for Christmas so I could get outside, exercise, and rehab at the same time!
I am back in Jackson Hole, just two weeks into our busy summer season. I’ll be here through September working as a tandem pilot, paragliding as much as possible, hiking, biking, and paddle boarding until the snow starts to fall again!
Photos courtesy of Becca Bredehoft and Cade Palmer / Sustainable Van Life.
Editor’s note: This interview contains Amazon affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase through the link, She Explores receives a small commission at no charge to you. We appreciate your support.