When we launched the Avenza Maps app, we had in mind a group of users who would use it – from firefighters to forestry managers – and while we knew the app would work well for recreational users, we found that it worked extremely well for expeditionary adventurers. In the latter group, we can find Cortnie, Mike and their dog, Penny, “America’s only full-time van life” influencers using Avenza Maps 24/7, while traveling around the United States. We reached out to them to learn more about their story, why they decided to start such an adventure, and how they use the app.
In 2020, both Cortnie and Mike decided to leave their corporate jobs and started planning for a completely different life: one on the road. “We were tired of the corporate rat race and wanted a new challenge. Originally, we bought a very expensive custom-made cottage-core van, but to be honest, everyone on Instagram was doing that”, said Cortnie. So they decided to go all-in on their next adventure. They thought, ‘No one is driving around in a thirty-year-old van and making it look amazing. Let’s see if we can do that.’ After many improvements to the van and ensuring it was mechanically sound, Cortnie and Mike hit the road for the first time on January 1st, 2021.
They were six months into their new life on the road around the United States before discovering Avenza Maps. “We picked up a paper map of the Uinta National Forest from the US Forest Service, and there was a QR code on the back. We got to download the map and Avenza free of charge. Lucky accident? We don’t believe in accidents or luck, so let’s call it destiny”. They soon found out that the US Forest Service offers digital maps on the Avenza Map Store for millions of visitors to its national parks and remote outdoor recreation areas.
Before using the Avenza Maps app as their main guide, they used a mix of paper maps, hiking apps, and screenshots to navigate between national forests and to find dispersed camping sites. “It’s pretty tricky when you can’t rely on cell service. Thanks to Avenza Maps, we have not gotten lost or stuck in the mud once. We find great camping spots and navigate remote areas using GPS.”
When we asked about some of their favourite places, they said the Moab area in Utah. “One of our favourite places is the Moab area. It can get pretty crowded, but between its proximity to Arches National Park, Dead Horse Point State Park, Canyonlands National Park, La Salle National Forest, and some great BLM land, it’s the perfect spot to wander for a few weeks.” Mike and Cortnie share their trip and adventures on Instagram where you can find them as @well.branded.van to check on their progress. Their next stop is the east coast of the United States. “We're planning on going more north as the weather warms up”. When asked about the exact places they’re looking forward to visiting, they had three specific answers: “We're excited to explore the Smoky Mountains, the Blue Ridge Mountains, and hike sections of the Appalachian Trail”.
You can follow them on Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok at @well.branded.van.