By Paul Strubell of Dirt Orcas – 10/9/17

For the forty ninth installment in our ongoing interview series here at Dirt Orcas, we are very pleased to speak with Chris and Shelley Noble. I met Chris and Shelley while camping this summer in Yoho National Park in British Columbia.

While taking any motorcycle trip you are guaranteed to meet people. They often approach you to ask where you are headed or where you are coming from. Bite size little interactions that remind you that people are generally good and that they care about one another. Chris, Shelley, and their dog Gato, at first seemed to be along those same lines of good people you meet as you pass through their home. After I asked about their beautiful VW Vanagon, they turned out to be much more.

They kindly invited me to join them for drinks and snacks at their campsite and we talked into the night about my experiences in Canada so far, motorcycles, the state of American politics (Americans are mostly as confused as the rest of the world), their Van build, and future plans to trek through Nepal. I found them to be wonderful people. They have a kind spirit about them and they have a zest for experiences that are true and genuine.

When I was creating this post, I used the working title of “They have No Social Media” because I typically title my interviews with the peoples names and their Instagram handle to make it easy to find on the web, if you are interested in their story. After I finished building the interview, I decided to just leave the title as is, because I think it explains a lot about who they are. Chris and Shelley are great people who are very active, caring, and interested in the experience of life in the moment. They have little need for the validation of “likes” or worrying about the numbers of followers they have. Just simply creating great stories with each other and living a true existence is enough.

We can all learn a lot from this.

Check out the interview below.

What do you consider to be your place of work?

The firehall for myself, and the Primary Care Clinic for Shelley.

Tell me about your (Year, Make, model) vehicle. What do you call it?

Our VW Vanagon- Camper style, also known as a T3.  She was born in 1989 and grew up in Oregon.  We named her Chitty.  Name came from the Disney movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

What other vehicles did you consider and what made you ultimately pull the trigger on the one you bought?

Tough question…this is our 3rd Vanagon.  We bought this one with the plan of rebuilding it to suit our needs and wants.  Our first was a 1983 Air cooled Vanagon, also named Chitty…because she went Bang Bang when we cornered…loved it but a mechanical nightmare.  Next was a 1987 Synchro Vanagon….Named him Vinny.  Vinny didn’t last long with us….  We did consider a small trailer….but love the freedom of the Vanagon.

Have you made any upgrades or changes to it? 

This is a long list…everything mechanical!  New Subaru engine and 5spd transmission.  Upgraded brakes, suspension, etc.  Trucker Fridge, propex heater, house battery system with portable solar set -up.  External shower set up, Upgraded bed, LED lighting, awning, USB plugs, modified the bench seat to allow for external access, New flooring and carpet, Recaro seats, new stereo and speaker system, Upgraded bumpers, integrated 2” hitch, swing out bike rack, swing out spare tire, Kayak roof mount system, South African grill and headlight system, LED external lights…..that’s the big stuff…lol. Oh yeah, we painted the van too.

What is your favorite part about it living/working out of your vehicle?

Freedom to go anywhere we want.  The fact that Chitty is a bit of a attention getter…lets us meet and talk to people we would not have met otherwise.

What is your least favorite part about it?

Maybe the size…gets a little small when the weather is really crappy out.  And lack of hot water….but am working on that!

How many miles have you put on your vehicle? 

About 12000km or 7500 miles

What is the best place you have taken it?

This van has only been in Alberta and BC so far.  So would have to say the West coast of Vancouver Island…Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, Green Point Campground – Long Beach Unit.  Should be on everyone’s bucket list of places to see.

Is there just one?

Field BC, the Ice Field Parkway, The Canadian Rockies in general.

Favorite road you’ve driven? 

Icefields Parkway – must be driven in both directions!!  Banff to Jasper and back.

In one word, what describes your approach to life?


If you could give a person one piece of advice when thinking about living from a vehicle, what would you tell them?

The vehicle or whatever set up you use must match your personality.  Be true to who you are.

It takes a special kind of person to recognize that the journey, not the destination, is the point of life. Travelers know this. Was there a point in your life where you became conscious that you were one of those people?

I am very lucky in that I have found my soul mate who shared the same goals and philosophies on life.  We get in our Van and drive out of the city and we start to feel free.  We get on an airplane and know we are in for an adventure.  I think we were born or raised this way…there has been no single ayah moment, but a constant reminder that it’s a really big world out there; full of culture, experiences, people, and beautiful things to see.  Sometimes is right around the corner, sometimes its half way around the world.  And the only way to experience any of this is to get outside, go for a walk, a bike ride, a drive, a paddle.  Sometimes the path less traveled is the better path…sometimes is sucks…but it’s those experiences that you never forget.

You have found a strong place in the community of travelers. What values do you think your home or family instilled in you, that you take on the road?

Respect.  Respect for your surroundings, may it be nature or local culture.  Try to learn some of the local language… basic stuff can go a long way.

I admire your outside the box approach to career and home. Do you see yourselves as people who took a leap of faith to live in an unconventional way or do you think it kind of just happened?

I look at people like Brad and Sheena, with their Van Nacho, and driving around the world, and now in the boat named Impossible…and am blown away and feel like I am trapped in a very conventional home/life/career cycle.  Then I look around and see other couples our age and feel like we are living life.  So I would say it’s just slowly happening and evolving.  We have not reached the point of quitting jobs, selling everything, and going to parts unknown….not that it has not been discussed.

Where do you want to go next?

Small trips – back into the mountains every chance we get.  Long trips – Going to Nepal in October for 6 weeks to hike.  Want to spend a month or more in the van next summer along the West Coast, and biking the Icefield Parkway.  Honduras…need to learn some Spanish.

Career wise:  Always looking internationally… The world is too big, and life is too short to spend it in one place.

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