Many people dream of a life on the road, a life of adventure and excitement, of exploration and wonder. A lot of folks are drawn to the idea of simply selling their house and most of their possessions, hitting the road, and exploring this amazing world of ours, living each day to the fullest, seeing new things all the time, and never knowing what the next day will bring.
Many people dream of that kind of life, but few of them actually go through with it. A lot of people find excuses. They worry that they might not be able to make ends meet and wonder whether it would really be fun and exciting to live out of a van on the open road. But there are a few very rare and extraordinary people who actually go ahead with it. Christian Schaffer is one of those people, and here is her story.
Christian Schaffer is an outdoor adventurer and travel photographer who has been living on the road full-time for more than two years already. She decided to lead an alternate lifestyle, not following the usual path of getting married, finding a home, and settling down that so many other folks tend to follow.
Instead of all that, Christian chose to do things differently. She lives out of a van, travels far and wide, and explores new places each and every day. She is always heading somewhere new and planning something special, taking some amazing photos along the way to amaze and enchant her legions of fans and followers across the world. Christian is someone who dared not just to dream, but to live her dream.
As with any story, it makes sense to start at the beginning when discussing the amazing life of Christian Schaffer. Her life actually started relatively simply, particularly when compared with how crazy and unusual it would later become. She was born in Arkansas but raised in Wisconsin, leading a typical Midwest life with her family.
However, as she got older, Christian dreamed of doing something different, of seeing somewhere new. She had always been passionate about the ideas of travel and adventure, always enticed by the idea of seeing the world, exploring new lands, and experiencing the thrills and wonder of travel. She wanted to see it all and live a life like no other, so, eventually, she decided to pack her bags and go for it.
After spending her youth in the Midwest, Christian decided to head somewhere totally different. She went to the Aloha State itself, Hawaii. To raise the cash for her move, she sold off all but four boxes of her worldly possessions, heading to Oahu, totally alone. It was a bold move and one that not many people would have been able to do.
These days, especially, many people feel close ties to the places where they grow up, and they value their possessions enormously too. So, for a lot of folks, the idea of selling almost everything they own and setting off for a totally different place would be almost unthinkable. However, to Christian, it just seemed to feel totally natural, and she did it all with a smile on her face.
Christian didn’t know a single soul in Hawaii. She’d never spent time there before, she didn’t know her way around, and she had no friends or family nearby to turn to. She was on an island, many miles from the people she knew best back in the Midwest, and, yet, she says that the Aloha State immediately “felt like home” to her.
This isn’t uncommon. A lot of people tend to say that Hawaii is a particularly welcoming place, with very friendly people and kind faces all around. It was a far cry from what Christian was used to, but it was a great place for her to end up, filled with beautiful beaches, charming locals, amazing landmarks, and majestic scenery all around.
Like a lot of people her age, Christian decided to go to college. She enrolled up at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. There, surrounded by the blue waters, verdant jungles, and majestic mountain scenes of Hawaii, she pursued a degree in Business and Spanish and graduated after four years.
Christian started to grow accustomed to Hawaiian life in her free time. She made some friends along the way too, creating a true home for herself in Hawaii, becoming much more independent than ever before, and proving to herself and others that she could go it alone. In just a few years, she’d successfully left her family home to live out the dream of so many people.
Some people are born with a passion or a calling; they know exactly what they want to do with their lives, being drawn to a particular activity or hobby. However, others, like Christian herself, discover their callings later on in life. Many people might assume that she always loved photography and always dreamed of being a photographer. Still, it wasn’t until she was 19 that she first really took an active interest in photography.
Christian’s friends dared her to enter a swimsuit competition in Waikiki Beach, Hawaii. She won $300 and used the cash to buy her first-ever digital camera, a 3MP model. From there, her love of photography was born, going from strength to strength in the years that followed and flourishing from a simple interest into a full-blown passion.
With that first little camera that she purchased with her competition winnings, Christian started to snap some photos, nurturing her growing talent for photography and her interest in this truly unique form of creative expression. She took a trip along the stunning Na Pali Coast, roaming along the 22-mile stretch on foot and snapping plenty of photos along the way.
The Na Pali Coast is one of the most beautiful parts of Hawaii, so it’s no surprise that Christian wanted to capture as much of it on camera as she possibly could. And it was throughout that journey that she realized just how much she loved taking photos, as well as contemplating the idea of perhaps taking photos on a professional level sometime in the future.
Even though Christian loved to take photos as a hobby and hoped that maybe it might be more someday, she had to stay focused on her career at the time. After graduating from college with a business degree, she got a job with a popular fashion brand, Abercrombie & Fitch. Her first role was as a store manager in her adopted home of Hawaii.
In her free time, Christian would go out, exploring the world with her friends and snapping photos along the way, but whenever she wasn’t out and about having fun, she was working hard, catching the eye of her bosses, and quickly moving up the ranks. In no time at all, she was being offered other positions at stores across America.
After managing a store in Hawaii to start off, Christian was later offered positions in California, Colorado, and all over the Midwest, sending her back to the continental US and allowing her to explore even more of her homeland. For someone who loved to travel, it was a dream come true, and she was able to make and save a lot of money through her hard work.
Her inspiring story just goes to show how far hard work can take you. She was still only in her early twenties at the time but had already lived in several different states, got herself a great degree, and begun to work her way up the ranks of a successful company. The sky seemed like the limit for young Christian, and her prospects started to look even sweeter when she was offered a job in Europe.
Next up on Christian’s ever-expanding travel agenda was a trip to Italy. She was promoted to a position in Milan, later heading to London for a while to learn the Italian language and receive more training in her new position of International General Manager. After that, she relocated back to Italy, basing herself in Campania in the south of Italy for over a year.
She really fell in love with Italy during her time there and jokes that she’ll always have an Italian manner of driving. However, as time went by, Christian began to feel that this life of business and corporate careers might not be what she really wanted in the long run. She loved the traveling aspect of her job, but the idea of being tied down to a corporate lifestyle started to seem less appealing.
Something inside Christian had changed. She’d had an amazing rise to the top in her professional endeavors, but, now, she wanted to do something totally different: to leave the regular world of business and offices behind for a life in the open air. So, she made the bold move and gave up her home in Italy, packing all her stuff into storage and setting off for new adventures.
Many people would have been so intimidated by the thought of taking such drastic action, but Christian was used to making big decisions and had never shied away from following her gut. She was just 27 years old at the time, an age when many people are still figuring their lives out or trying to move along the career path, but, instead, Christian set off for a year of backpacking.
The world was Christian’s oyster at that point. Nothing was tying her down. She had no debt to worry about, no loans to pay off, no obligations in terms of family or relationships, and nothing ahead of her but adventure. So, she set off for a full year of backpacking, spending time exploring the US and eventually settling down in California.
There, she started taking on a few different random jobs for artists around Carmel, as well as hiking along the John Muir Trail and exploring several national parks. Surrounded by all that beauty and snapping so many photos every day, Christian began to truly realize that photography was her calling. It was time for her to become a freelance photographer.
The decision was made. Christian launched her own business, taking photos, sharing them online, hoping to attract the attention of big brands, and pursuing a totally different kind of life. The most interesting aspect of all was what she decided to do with her home: she gave up the California apartment she had at the time and decided to start living in her own SUV!
Living in a 4 x 4 would be an interesting experience for anyone, and Christian decided to look at it as an “experiment in minimalism.” She’d given up most of her personal possessions, not wanting anything to tie her down and not feeling the need to own much stuff, and the SUV lifestyle let her keep living costs low while being able to travel all over the place.
Christian spent a little time in her SUV and enjoyed the experience, but eventually, the lack of space and amenities started to weigh on her, so she decided to make a serious upgrade. She invested in a 2019 Dodge Ram ProMaster 1500 High Roof cargo van. Not only that, but she also kitted the van out in the style of a tiny home.
The van serves as an office, living room, kitchen, bedroom, and mode of transportation, all in one. It features plenty of storage, cozy seating, power sockets, a sink, cooking equipment, and more. Interestingly, Christian styled the whole thing on her former apartment, installing the very same kitchen tiles and similar gray couches, too, to give the place a familiar, homey sort of feel.
A lot of people ask Christian how she adapted to living in a van, and she often jokes that she could write a whole book about the experience. She says that “van life is the college education I wish I’d had,” adding that there are a lot of “peaks and valleys” to the experience, with many moments of happiness but many other challenging moments to contend with too.
All in all, however, she says that living in a van has helped make her a stronger person and allowed her to confront some of her own fears. She says that when you live in a van, every day feels like its own adventure, and it’s also been so convenient for her to have her own van customized with all the amenities and appliances she needs to get by.
Each day, Christian can wake up and set off somewhere new. Sometimes, she has to leave the van behind to jet off to the other side of the world. Still, whenever she’s home in America, she can be found driving around, visiting national parks and beautiful beaches to take photos for her personal social media accounts and for various brands.
She leads a life of non-stop travel and adventure. Every day is unique for her, every moment is special. She gets to visit all kinds of exotic locations. She has traveled to 36 countries in total and lived in five of them, and those numbers will continue to rise in the years ahead as her photography business grows stronger and more influential with time.
Christian has received a lot of massages over the years from other people who want to follow in her footsteps and lead the same sort of life. So what kind of advice does she have? Well, she says that many people like the idea of her lifestyle but worry about giving up their current home or possessions.
She says that a big part of her lifestyle is her minimalistic attitude. She has given up most of what she owned in the past, storing the few possessions that remain to her in a small 4′ x 5′ storage unit. She says anyone who wants to live her kind of life needs to be able to let go of their possessions and truly free themselves, and she encourages people to try taking an extra-long road trip as a kind of “taster” experience.
As someone who has visited so many different countries and experienced such a wide array of cultures, Christian is often asked about her favorite places or which location has touched her most. She says that the Middle East is one of her most preferred locations, as she spent some time dating someone who lived in Bahrain and Egypt.
She would visit her partner for several months, heading beyond the typical touristic spots to really explore that part of the world. She remembers one particular experience in which a man in Oman refused to speak to her because she was wearing a tank top and hadn’t covered her hair in accordance with local customs and traditions, reminding her how one culture can be so different from another.
Christian takes a wide range of amazing photos, but what do they really mean? Well, she says that when she first started out, all she really cared about was capturing the beauty of the wilderness and sharing her favorite places with other people from around the world, and that’s still an important aspect of her work today.
However, with time, her goals have changed and grown too. Today, she hopes that her photos can inspire feelings of calmness and serenity in those who see them. She believes that life can be quite chaotic and challenging for many people, but a single photo can help us feel a lot more at peace, both with ourselves and with the world around us.
Pretty much anyone can take a photo. All you have to do is aim the camera and hit the button, and with so many people owning their own smartphones these days, photography isn’t a particularly exclusive art form or creative hobby. However, it takes a certain set of skills to really take a beautiful photo.
You need real talent to capture the world at just the right angle, with just the right light and filters to make a shot that captures the imagination and startles the senses. Christian has that talent. Her photos often capture landscapes that seem to have leaped right out of the realms of the imaginary and into the real world. Magical and ethereal in nature, her images are almost like dreamscapes, beautiful and fantastical, all at once.
Part of what makes Christian’s art so special is how unique each and every image seems to be. Some photographers might fall in love with a certain location or landscape, snapping the same scene countless times and offering us endless angles and views of the same place. Still, thanks to the fact that Christian is always traveling, she gets to photograph so many different scenes.
You can scroll through her latest snaps on Instagram and be blown away by the variety on offer. Some photos capture the setting sun gently lowering over an ocean scene; others capture misty forests or Fairy Tale Mountains, awe-inspiring canyons, and snow-capped peaks. She often uses herself as a model too, posing perfectly in her carefully set frames for photos so beautiful they deserve to be hung in a gallery.
If you look at Christian’s photographs, you might assume that she must have taken classes or attended some workshops to develop her skills and nurture her talent. She seems like such a pro, and her pictures seem so carefully framed and perfectly put together, but it might surprise you to learn that she’s never taken a single class or workshop.
She basically taught herself everything she knows, saying that “personal experience, experimentation, and most importantly – the advice of friends and mentors” have been her three guiding lights throughout her photography journey. Of course, the fact that she got a degree in business also helped her establish and run such a successful freelance enterprise to accompany her photography too.
These days, many people make their claims to fame through their online social media profiles, and a person’s success can often be measured by the number of followers they have on sites like YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram. Well, Christian has accounts across all the big social media platforms where she shares videos, photos, and updates from her life.
She’s accumulated a huge number of followers on these sites too. On YouTube, for example, she has close to 50,000 subscribers, while her Instagram account has attracted almost 250,000 followers. She’s a smashing success, with some of her videos and pictures going viral and gathering crazy numbers of views, likes, comments, and shares. Her online success shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
One of the questions many people ask upon hearing about Christian’s story is how does she find the money to cover the costs of all her traveling and exploration? Well, she’s a smart businesswoman. She saved up what she could during her career in the US and Europe, and she doesn’t overspend in any area.
She’s a full-time photographer and can make a sufficient income from her photos, partnering with various brands like Canon, Mazda, Land Rover, and Samsung who contract her as a photographer, influencer, or model. Thanks to her business skills and amazing skill as a photographer, she’s been able to enjoy this life for several years already and seems set to enjoy it for plenty more years to come.
Christian has partnered with all kinds of brands so far, including the aforementioned major names, several luxury brands, various outdoor brands, and even tourism boards for various countries and regions to drive tourism to certain areas.
She’s a highly desirable influencer in the eyes of many companies, and lots of brands are willing to offer her free items, equipment, and cash in exchange for her photos, videos, or social media posts. The first brand she worked with was Samsung, then Eddie Bauer, and from there, her network just got bigger and bigger.
Amazingly, a lot of Christian’s travel costs are actually covered by the brands and businesses she works with. Since travel is such a big part of her job, and she needs exotic locations and beautiful backgrounds for her amazing photos, brands are willing to pay to send her around the world. She explains that this is especially true when working alongside tourism boards in specific areas.
In short, she’s living the ultimate dream that so many people fantasize about: she gets to go to amazing places and gets paid for the privilege! Many people might be envious of such a lifestyle, but Christian has worked really hard to get to where she is, making smart decisions throughout her life and always being bold enough to go it alone.
Christian doesn’t have a trust fund, nor does she have wealthy parents who are covering the costs of her travels. She’s done it all on her own; she’s totally debt-free and 100% independent. So, what advice does she have for anyone else dreaming of living a similar life? Well, she says that the key to her success is the fact that she has learned to make do with less than most people.
She uses apps to save cash on things like gas and groceries. She avoids eating out. She has very few personal expenses outside of the basic necessities, and, of course, she doesn’t have to pay any rent, utility bills, or debts for loans and credit cards. She says if she can’t afford something, she just doesn’t buy it.
Christian does most of her traveling alone. She describes herself as an introvert and says that she needs her “me time” and personal space to recharge her batteries and focus on her work. She says that she is at her most creative when she’s alone, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t open to meeting new people and making friends along the way.
She sometimes invites a friend along on her travels. She has also found a lot of new companions online via social media, chatting with her fans and followers, and linking up with the outdoor community and fellow photographers too. Each day, she receives many messages and comments of support that inspire her to keep on doing what she does so well.
Christian is an inspiration to so many people. In a world where so many individuals simply try and follow the preset plan of graduating high school, going to college, getting a job, buying a house, and settling down for the years ahead, she chose to do things totally differently. She is living proof that there are other ways to live your life.
It’s no surprise that so many people have been enraptured by her story, taking inspiration from her decisions and dreaming of someday following in her footsteps, selling their possessions, and setting off for the adventure of a lifetime. Christian has been leading this life for over two years now, and who knows how long she’ll continue, but it’s clear to see that she’s loving life every single second.