Truth be told we’ve been searching for months to find the right Adventure Specialist to join our sales team. We wanted a woman with a deep passion for culture, who mirrored our travel M.O., and frankly exuded equal parts acumen and charisma. Enter Devin Bonner.
This extraordinary nomad has been zipping around the world for the past few years, enjoying extended stays in Europe, Asia, New Zealand and beyond. She enjoys travelling slowly and thoughtfully, more often than not with her partner Jade. In fact, just as covid-19 thwarted the travel industry, Devin and Jade were half-way through a 4-month Southeast Asian adventure.
If you’re asking yourself, “why does Devin’s cherubic face look so gosh darn familiar?”, it’s probably because her joint accounts with Jade have popped up on your TikTok and/or Instagram suggested feeds. The duo have a sizeable following on social media (read: over a half-million and counting…) where they are chronicling their ambitious plan to convert an old school bus into a tiny home and drive across America.
To introduce our travellers to this whip-smart whippersnapper, our Marketing Manager rang her up in her home state of New York. Read on to hear their conversation.
To kick things off, let’s talk about what you’ve been up to since covid threw a wrench in your usually nomadic lifestyle: converting a school bus into a tiny home. Where did this idea come from?
To be completely honest, social media. Jade and I were just home from Asia and quarantining for a couple of weeks back in March when covid-19 first hit. We were supposed to be in Asia for four months but we had to come home after only two. We were literally just sitting around looking at our phones when I saw @fernthebus was selling a government registered bus. It only had 30,000 miles on it. And I turned to Jade and was like, “Do you want to do this?” And she just said, “Sure! Let’s do it!”
Honestly, we paid the deposit on June 21st and we were driving over to Michigan to pick up the bus with my sister and her partner on June 29th. It happened so fast.
I’m curious where you got the skills to completely convert a school bus into a tiny home?
Oh that’s all Jade. She’s such a hunk sometimes. She took a three month internship and learnt to flip houses: put up drywall, do refinishings and touch ups. She’s absolutely incredible.
We have a recurring joke on our Tik Tok account where I do all of the social media and Jade is doing all of the work. I’ll pick up a drill but it’s really Jade doing the work.
When the bus is finished, where are you and your partner off to first?
That is the most common question I get asked. It looks like we’ll be finished renovating by the end of November so we’ll probably start driving at the beginning of January. We’re in New York so we’re going to drive very slowly down the coast and end up in Florida for a while. Then we’ll zig-zag around and eventually end back in places like Vermont and Maine when the weather is nicer and the fall colours are back.
And are there places you’re particularly excited to visit?
Nowhere specific. We really want to go slow. We love staying in National Parks. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good city. But we want to stay in National Parks mostly. There’s also a practical aspect to staying in parks. We’re going to tow our Jetta along as well so we can just park the bus and then use the car to go to the grocery store or whatever.
I think before covid struck we took international travel for granted. In retrospect, what do you appreciate the most about your international travel experiences?
Definitely just being able to go snorkelling during the day or something, meeting someone and saying, “Hey do you want to go for dinner?” Or joining up with a group of expats at a cafe and chatting. There’s this culture among travellers where you’re meeting new people all the time, and you follow each other’s social media accounts and become friends. Now we can’t meet new people and everything is done through Zoom. I miss those relationships and connections that come with the nomad culture.
When you’re planning a trip or adventure with your partner, what do you guys look for in a destination?
First and foremost, good weather. I’m from New York, but wearing a parka just isn’t my thing. I don’t do well in the cold. Second, landscapes. We love getting out into nature and seeing beautiful landscapes. In fact, we bought a drone so we could just fly it around and take these gorgeous shots of all the landscapes we see.
At Out Adventures, we really focus on showcasing local cultures. Do you have any special memories you can share from your own travel experiences where you really took something away from a local culture?
Actually in Thailand we just arrived in Koh Tao and we became very close with a group of the locals. We were only supposed to stay a few days but we ended up staying three weeks because we liked them so much. We’d go out to dinner with them and try the food that they actually eat. Not the places tourists go to. It was really special to get to know local people and become friends and just really start to understand the culture.
Some of our tours are actually quite challenging physically. Are you much of an outdoors-woman? Have you done any big hikes or sports while on the road?
Yes. I actually studied abroad in New Zealand for a while and I’d be hiking all the time. In fact, the day I arrived in New Zealand I got off a 14-hour flight and we laced up our hiking boots and did a 10 mile hike. I was sweating so much you would have thought I just went swimming. I feel like a good hike is the perfect way to just sweat out a long flight.
I also did a lot of hiking in Thailand in the jungles there. I know Thailand isn’t known as a hiking destination necessarily, but we were trekking the jungles sort of north of Bangkok.
As our new lesbian travel specialist, what value do you see in joining an all-women’s tour?
Community, community, community. There’s just something about feeling comfortable within the safe space of other queer women. The best times I have are nights when it’s just Jade, myself and our lesbian friends. We understand each other. I think you always know when you’re the odd one out in a group. So being on an all-women’s tour, you feel comfortable and within your community.
The Anti-Travel Lightning Round
To switch things up, we also did a quick anti-travel lightning round. We wanted to scratch a little deeper and discover what does and doesn’t tickle Devin’s travel fancy. 😏
The trashiest airport food you’re embarrassed to love? Burgers and fries.
The worst airport/airplane no-no you’ve ever witnessed? A man vomited across the aisle from me. It stunk.
The one airplane faux pas you often commit? During flight descends, you’re not supposed to get up and go to the bathrooms but I do anyway.
A city you got absolutely lost/disoriented in? Bangkok.
A city you were all too happy to leave and never see again? Langkawi, Malaysia—so touristy.
A city or destination you had your worst travel hangover in? Bangkok again. This is why I had to go back to Thailand. My first trip there was terrible so I had to create better memories.
The weirdest miscommunication you’ve ever had on the road? On my first trip to Thailand I was travelling to this resort. And you had to take a bus, a tuk tuk, a longtail boat, etcetera to get there. And the communication just wasn’t happening that day. I had no idea where we were going and I was trying to use my phone app to translate. Anyways, long story short, I thought I was getting kidnapped.
The most renowned food, dish or restaurant everyone loves that you absolutely hated? This is controversial but I was in Paris and I didn’t love the food. Specifically, I had raclette and I hated it.
The one spot or sight you regret skipping or missing while travelling? The Gili Meno statue of the people in the circle under water. The seas were always too rough to scuba dive, or the crowds were too big. I need to go back.
Your least favorite travel cliche? That everything is supposed to be blissful the entire time you’re travelling.
The worst travel advice you’ve ever received or read? I almost always disagree with blog posts saying “do this…” or “go to these places…”.
The most important piece of personal property you lost or broke while travelling? I crashed my drone once. It was just that sinking feeling watching it crash, knowing it was like $1000.
The one travel experience you’re super happy you had but content to never have again? Taking an overnight bus in Thailand. It was a cool experience but I definitely know I don’t want to do it again.
All photos courtesy of Devin Bonner.
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