The feeling of home – in all 50 US states in the converted Sprinter.

A couple at a campfire, in the background a Sprinter and a starry sky

Matt and Megan have an ambitious plan: They want to visit all 50 US states in search of a place that feels like home.

A rather modern love story.

The Dirty Darlings story starts the way many modern love stories begin: Matt and Megan got to know each other through a dating app, both had no desire for superficial and meaningless relationships any more and decided to get to know each other better over a glass of wine. When Megan sat across from Matt in a small wine tavern in San Francisco, however, she had no idea what he was up to: Matt was not only looking for love, but also for a travel companion who was courageous and spontaneous enough to embark on a great journey with him. His plan: To visit all 50 US states in a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. Matt had already bought the converted Sprinter and travelling alone was out of the question for him, and what he was all too aware of was that if the chemistry between the passenger and the Sprinter was not right, hours of driving in the tightest of spaces could quickly become unbearable.

A man and a woman, forest in the background

Matt and Megan approach van life in a relaxed manner – “Our top priority is certainly not Instagram”.

On the road with Vanna White.

They spent more and more time together and before long Megan became passionate about Matt’s plans. In chats about traveling and about home, they realized that they were not yet sure where to spend the rest of their lives. So Matt and Megan’s conclusion was: Just take a look at everything and decide where you like best. Together they adapted the already converted Sprinter to their ideas, organized the route and all insurance policies necessary and made preparations as to how they could continue to pursue their professions on the road. In August 2017, nine months after their first meeting, their common dream became reality and the two said goodbye to friends and family and climbed into their Sprinter “Vanna White”.

Our top priority is certainly not Instagram.
A white Sprinter at night

Matt works as an outdoor photographer. He shares pictures of his journey and all sorts of tips on the blog thedirtydarlings.com.

How to master every difficulty.

Just 100 kilometers away from San Francisco, the first small breakdown immediately caused disillusionment. A defective turbocharger forced the two adventurers to drive very slowly. While they were frustrated and slowly approaching their first destination Big Sur California, they made a pact. They agreed on five beliefs that they remember each time something goes wrong and morale sinks.

The five principles the Dirty Darlings live by:

  1. Things could always be worse.
  2. We chose this.
  3. It would have happened anyway and we can cross it off the list now.
  4. No matter what happens, we are a team and solve the problem together.
  5. A glass of wine makes every situation bearable.

A little dirty but happy.

Matt and Megan’s friends and families reacted surprisingly positively to their adventurous plan. Many supported the two in their plans. But some joked: “If you’re only living in a Sprinter, you’ll always be dirty – without a real shower or bathtub”. Matt and Megan alluded to this by calling themselves “The Dirty Darlings”. In the blog thedirtydarlings.com as well as on Instagram and Facebook, the two report on their experiences on the go and give tips on how to take perfect travel photos or how to combine work and vanlife. Everyone can follow online how far they have already come with their project. Currently you can read on their blog: “We’ve been on the road for 450 days; we’ve driven 35,600 miles and visited 39 states.”

A man pulling a bag out of a Sprinter

The Sprinter offers a lot of storage space, but Matt and Megan still try to live as minimally as possible.

A woman relaxing inside an converted Sprinter

There is a lot to organize without a fixed place of residence. The most common question is: Where do we sleep tonight?

The interior of a converted Mercedes-Benz Sprinter

The interior of the Sprinter – Matt bought the already converted Sprinter before he got to know Megan.

A woman cuts vegetables in a Sprinter

The Dirty Darlings enjoy being able to visit friends and family members who live further away while travelling.

Following the sun.

Wild landscapes, campfire evenings and stargazing in the desert remind the two of why all their efforts payed off in the end. This realization also shaped the further course of their journey, for Matt and Megan have been certain since the first setback that every problem can be solved. When they miss their families or their work as photographers and accountants suffers from the journey, they master the situation with this mantra in mind. Nevertheless, Matt admits with a smile: “Our friends were right, we do shower much less often than we were used to before our trip.” Until they find the place where they both feel at home and settle there once and for all, there are more important things to do. Maybe sometimes a little dirty but above all happy and content, they start their engine and look for the next adventure. They have no plans, because somehow, they say, the whole country is now their home.

5 Life Hacks that go with every trip for the Dirty Darlings:

  1. The save function on Google Maps:
    Under “My Places” we save recommendations from the van community and our personal favorites. You simply place a pin at the location of your choice and find it again and again this way. We save campsites, restaurants or highlights that we definitely don’t want to miss. The lists “Would I like to go” or “Favorites” are very helpful.
  2. Camping and travel apps:
    It is tricky to find the balance between necessary planning and “over-organization”. Travelling also means that the route and destinations on the way change again and again and too much planning is unnecessarily restricting. A good way to stay flexible and still plan ahead are travel apps: There are numerous free apps like Freecampsites.net, iOverlander or Campendium, which help you to find free or cheap campsites. We also use apps like REI’s MTB Project or The Outbound to discover attractive routes and other attractions in the region, or GasBuddy to find cheap gas stations.
  3. A cast-iron camping pan:
    We prefer to cook in a van instead of eating out a lot. Since the space in the Sprinter is quite limited, you should keep the facilities as simple as possible. We have a cast iron camping pan, a ceramic pot and a saucepan. The cast-iron pan can also be used over an open fireplace without damaging the material. We prefer to use the ceramic pot for eggs. In the saucepan, we like to cook “one pot” dishes. This is the least dirty dish that often piles up in our small sink.
  4. Mountain Bikes and Paddle Boards:
    It is important for us to stay active on the road. We are very happy that we can take our bikes and inflatable paddle boards with us on the trip and try to use them as often as possible. To stay fit we also use the free Nike apps for yoga and fitness.
  5. A membership in the fitness studio:
    Our Planet Fitness membership has helped us stay fresh and clean on the road. Of course, we also enjoy sports, but the showers are definitely our highlight. Find out which chain is most common on your itinerary and think about becoming a member.

  • A Sprinter driving up a winding road
  • The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter from the rear
  • A woman showering in front of a Sprinter
  • A white Mercedes-Benz Sprinter photographed by drone in the woods

The shown conversions were carried out by independent third parties. The suppliers and conversions were not checked by Mercedes-Benz. In this respect, these illustrations do not represent an assessment of the supplier and/or conversions by Mercedes-Benz.

Photos: Matt McMonagle

More Links to explore: thedirtydarlings.com@Instagram@Facebook

Sprinter

Regardless of what job you have to tackle – the Sprinter will make your day-to-day tasks easier. And even if those tasks are weighty ones, together, you’ll move mountains. Thanks to a host of different variants and over 600 optional features, the Sprinter can meet a wide variety of requirements.

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter
Slider images