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Photo by Mark Gilliland / Be on the lookout around town for Nomad Be Happy's customizable rental vans, which will feature the name of each of its local partners proudly displayed on the exterior.

When Robby Eskridge and Lindsey Hardesty met, they shared more than just a profession. Both pharmacists, the two met early in their careers and began dating in 2014. At the time, Robby lived in Chattanooga while Lindsey was in Savannah, Georgia — making road trips the foundation of their relationship.

"Our love of travel has been part of our lives since the beginning," Robby says.

In 2016, the two married and settled in Chattanooga. Finished with school and now living in the same city, they traded their weekend rendezvous for international adventure, including following Dave Matthews Band from Mexico to Italy and beyond.

They dreamt of buying a van and spending more time on the road.

Nomad Be Happy partners

* Rock/Creek Outfitters

* LoLo Bars

* Goodman’s Coffee

* Naked River Brewing Company

* Double Cola Company

* Vandoit

"With my job, we were lucky. We were able to get us down to happily living on one salary," says Robby, who had been working as a pharmacy consultant while Lindsey looked for work. "But then, my position got COVID'D."

When Robby's position was cut last August, the Eskridges took it as a sign to take their lives in a new direction. This was the moment, they decided, to double down on their dreams and purchase not one, but two camper vans.

The initial idea, he says, was to buy one van and help offset its cost by periodically renting it out through Outdoorsy.com, the Airbnb of RVs. But while researching clever names for their van, Robby discovered Vandoit, a company selling modular vans.

A modular van is built to be versatile, featuring a design that lets a person edit their vehicle, so to speak, adding and subtracting amenities in order to experiment with the layout that best suits his or her van life.

"I was like, wait a second, there is nothing like that in Chattanooga," Robby says.

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Photo by Mark Gilliland / A modular van is built to be versatile, featuring a design that lets a person add or subtract amenities that best suits his or her van life.

So, in April, after purchasing two Vandoit vans, the couple launched Nomad Be Happy, a company that rents camper vans that can be customized for each trip.

"A lot people are curious about van life, and this gives you the chance to explore it and experiment without paying a lot of money," Robby says.

Both of the Eskridges' camper vans are built on a 2017 Ford Transit chassis. From there different components, or pods, can be added. For example, a kitchen pod with a sink, table and cooler, or a bathroom pod with a small toilet. Or, renters can forgo either or both of those options to accommodate more sleeping space or passenger seats.

When the Eskridges personally use one of the vans, they like to have the kitchen and bathroom setup, plus two bed platforms. And, Robby adds, if they were renters, they'd probably opt for the unlimited-miles package.

Customize your camping experience

Kitchen pod: Sink, table and cooler

Bathroom pod: Cassette toilet (a toilet seat installed over a removable waste tank)

Max platform: Oversized, full mattress (Total of two platforms available per van; single floor sleeping pads also available.)

Seats: Up to 12 (Driver and front passenger cannot be removed. Ten additional seats may be added in the absence of pods or platforms.)

Though Nomad Be Happy's rental packages will vary, Robby says the nightly rental fee will be around $200, plus additional fees for insurance and mileage. The ability to customize — with both pods and mileage packages — will let renters control the way they travel, says Robby.

But no matter which options they choose, they'll carry a piece of Chattanooga with them.

"We very much love Chattanooga and we have a unique opportunity to show others outside the city what we have to offer, and hopefully drive some revenue for other local businesses," he says.

Each rental comes with a swag bag stuffed with products from Nomad's partners, which include Rock/Creek Outfitters, LoLo Bars and more, the name of each small business proudly displayed on the van's exterior, ready to carry the message of adventure from coast to coast.

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