Explorer Spotlight: Hansen on the Hustle

Calling all nature-loving families! Are you interested in providing your little ones with year-round bonding and educational experiences? If so, allow yourself to be inspired by the Hansens, a family who prioritizes time spent outside despite living in the metropolis of Los Angeles.


The Hansens exemplify how investing in a camper van can unlock unforgettable family adventures. From their intriguing van life initiation story to helpful tips for keeping kiddos happy while driving, there’s a lot to learn from this crew. Read on for the interview.



La Mesa: Can you tell us a little bit about your family?

The Hansens: We’re the Hansens, a nature and science-loving family of four (soon-to-be five!) that loves to explore the great outdoors–specifically the nature of Los Angeles County. Some of our favorite outdoor activities are bouldering, waterfall hikes, and family bike rides. We are currently trying to visit all 25 state parks located in Los Angeles County. When we aren’t out on the trails, you’ll find us digging for sand crabs at the beach, collecting water samples to observe under our microscope, or exploring the great state of California in our van Starla!


As for our day-to-day life, Taylor is the manager of a professional dance studio in Los Angeles, the head coach of a highly competitive high school dance team, and a traveling freelance choreographer and master class teacher. These jobs are very demanding and have specific busy seasons, but the semi-seasonal schedule allows our family to remain flexible and spend lots of time traveling during the tourist off-season. It also allows Tom to be a full-time stay-at-home parent as we begin the homeschooling journey of our sons.


LM: How did you get into van life?

H: We have been living in Los Angeles for over a decade now, but the majority of our immediate family lives in the Midwest. Throughout our years in L.A., we typically flew back to the Midwest two or more times per year. We were pregnant with our second son when the pandemic hit and we were unfortunately forced to stay in Los Angeles and cancel many of our trips back. Los Angeles County had very strict mandates, which did not allow our family to travel to meet our youngest son when he was born. Once he was old enough and our doctor cleared us for travel, we decided to take matters into our own hands and make the trek across the country in a rented minivan. The trip was daunting and took a lot of planning but once we were on the road, we never wanted to leave. We had such an amazing time exploring the sights and adventuring through America. As excited as we were to be home with our family, we couldn’t wait to get back on the road. We ended up doing this road trip three times that year, upgrading our vehicle each time.


In 2022, we were gifted a 1995 Fleetwood Tioga Montara by Tom’s dad to renovate. We were able to do a few adventures in “Turbo,” but sadly, as we continued on the renovation journey, we had to scrap it due to mold and rust damage. We were bummed, but everything happens for a reason.


Shortly after, Taylor’s dad reached out about collaborating on a camper van rental that also could be shared between the family during the off-season. Before we knew it, we were driving across the country in a brand new 2023 Solis, named “Starla Mango” by our sons.


LM: What kind of van did you choose, and why?

H: Taylor’s dad had his heart set on a Solis 59PX. He had heard amazing things about it from his community but still wanted us to shop through all the options together to see what we thought would work best for the family, as well as for a successful rental. We found pros and cons for each type of recreational vehicle, but the Solis 59PX really crossed off the capabilities on our wish list.


Our 2023 Winnebago Solis 59PX is the ultimate getaway vehicle! It is fully equipped with off-grid capabilities, including solar power, air conditioning/heating, and a quiet generator that's national park-approved. It has sleeping arrangements for four, including a cozy rear queen Murphy bed and a queen-sized stargazing pop-top.


It is also ideal for rentals. One of our worries was renting an RV to first-timers who aren’t used to driving large vehicles. However, with the digital rearview mirror camera and 360-degree clear camera view, we are more at ease that our camper van is safe with renters.


LM: How do you think this adventurous lifestyle is shaping your kids?

H: Adventures have emerged as an exceptional means to reconnect as a family and prioritize what truly matters–our relationships with one another. When we venture out together, we rely on each other's support, from collaborating to uncover the critters beneath a log to engaging in open conversations where everyone feels heard and accepted. In the midst of our daily routines, it's easy to lose sight of the togetherness that defines a family. However, when we embark on adventures, we find a sense of belonging and the opportunity to fully engage with one another.


Our children learn to embrace their innate freedom, express their emotions, and depend on each other to solve problems. The process of overcoming challenges on the road not only strengthens our bond, but also equips the kids with valuable skills for the future. Moreover, our children are exposed to the wonders of nature, witnessing life cycles, water flow, and various human-environment interactions. Even at a young age, our children are developing skills directly inspired by the natural world.



LM: How do you keep your little ones entertained on the road?

H: We are very fortunate that our boys have always been great in the car. However, we did start exploring with them at a very young age so they’ve grown up with the road trip dynamic. We typically plan our trips around nap times and allow for stops frequently to let our very active kids run around, even if it is just at a rest stop or neighborhood playground.


We keep our packing list pretty light to stay organized and save on gas, but for our most recent trip, we made them portable Lego boxes and coloring boxes. They also brought their favorite cars. We occasionally allow for their favorite animated movies on the iPad, but we have found screen time causes our boys to struggle more on the road. It makes them antsy and doesn’t really hold their interest for long. However, when we listen to podcasts or audiobooks, we can extend the drive time. Our biggest advice would be to plan for playtime out of the car every few hours. It breaks up the trip and gives us a chance to make memories along the route. Our trips are also about the journey, not just the final destination.


LM: Can you tell us about your van-renting venture?

H: When we or Taylor’s dad are not using the camper van, we have it listed for rental on Outdoorsy for other adventurous people to enjoy. We are just getting into the rental world and have loved getting to meet new families and offer them a fun van life experience. We are still learning about all of the amazing features of our Solis as we use it, so it has been really helpful to hear about our renters’ experiences as well. It also has allowed us to add new features to the van and upgrades here and there, as we have been investing our earnings back into the Solis to make it even better! It has been a win-win situation.



LM: What are three of your favorite destinations in the U.S. and why?

H: Here are our favorite locations so far:


Sequoia National Park in Three Rivers, California

Being among these giants really grounds you and makes you think about how small you and your problems are within our universe. Not to mention, the views are utterly breathtaking, whether you are looking up at the treetops or down from the top of Dome Rock. Pure beauty.


Coconino National Forest in Sedona, Arizona

The contrast between the red rocks and green ponderosa pines creates such enchanting views. The diversity of the landscape also lets you experience adventures such as Slide Rock or exploring a lava cave. There is something new to do each time we visit!


Scenic Route 24 through Utah

Driving to adventures can sometimes take a toll on us as adults, along with the restlessness of our kids. But driving through Utah and being able to pull over and explore the natural flowing rivers and extra fine red sand is such a liberating experience for the whole family.



LM: What's next for you?

H: We are currently prepping for the arrival of our third son and adventuring as much as possible before we take a break for postpartum recovery. We are hoping to live vicariously through our renters this coming winter and spring, and see Starla go on epic adventures! In late spring or early summer, we would like to be back on the road. It has become a tradition to take the newest members of our family on an epic adventure at around eight weeks old, once we both receive our clean bill of health. Our eldest made the journey to Seattle, Washington. Our middle made the journey across the country to the Midwest. The chosen adventure for our newest family member is still to be determined, but something tells us it will be our best trip yet!


Want to follow along with the Hansens? Connect with the family on Instagram at @hansensonthehustle.