If you’ve ever met Ron Torres you are well aware of 2 things:

  1. Ron is a passionate storyteller.
  2. Ron is a lover of life.

These two traits overlap so much so that it is no longer possible to differentiate between the two. They happen at all times, simultaneously!

So for those of you who are unfamiliar, here is a brief glimpse at the man that is Ron Torres.

All right, Ron, you know the drill, tell me who you are and what you do!

My name is Ron Torres. I am a nerd, a filmmaker, and an adventurer who travels across the country telling documentary stories in PJ, my camper van!

Before we catch up to Ron + PJ let’s back it up a little! Can you start off by telling me a little bit about how we first linked up? Take me to the beginning of Ron meets VIMBY…

I was living and working out of Idaho and already started developing some success within my state. I had a short mini-doc in festival circulation at that time and I believe I got a reference call for working with you guys! It just kind of fit perfectly with my career aspirations. I just freed up from doing corporate video and I had been working freelance for about 5 years and was looking for someone like VIMBY to collaborate with because I was very much into personalized documentary pieces.

And since then we’ve connected on some pretty fun projects together! Do have a favorite?

I really love the piece we did for Folgers! I think that video is a really great example of that “video in my backyard” mission statement you guys have. It was amazing how I was on the ground being active in the Boise community and was able to tell, not only the story that works for the brand, but also a story that the community can be proud of. It’s crazy how on so many small levels VIMBY has been there for me, to kind of guide me where my storytelling interests are eventually going to go, and yet at the end of the day, we are working with these incredible brands too!

I’ve actually had the pleasure of getting to work with you in Idaho, and it was a little difficult for me when it came time to say goodbye to Boise. What is it you love so much about your home state?

I’ve lived in Idaho my whole life. I love cultivating my talent and giving back to the place that I’ve called home for so long. I wanted to tell stories that felt like they gave a good backdrop to the Idaho experience, and I guess that’s why I stayed there for as long as I did because I love the stories I found there! I think that is the thing that became apparent after awhile though. I had stayed there long enough to be ready to accomplish telling stories similar to what I found in Idaho in other places.

When did that realization happen for you? When did you know it was time to go someplace new?

The decision for me to leave Boise and go nomad was kind of the result of what happened with doing the story on RITA. The refugee experience in Boise, Idaho was a topic of note in the city around the time when VIMBY approached me about highlighting a story from my backyard. To me, nothing represented “backyard” so well as addressing the refugee movement in Boise.

It was just crazy! When I very first met RITA, and it’s weird to say this, but you just know when someone is ready to tell their story! You can see in her confidence this kind of quiet strength. She had found her perspective on the refugee experience in Idaho and America at that moment.

The whole process was a whirlwind! Premiering in Los Angeles at the VIMBY Film Festival, then getting selected to the Sun Valley Festival (winning the Gem State Award), and getting selected at Tree Fort. It was incredible! Once we highlighted her story and saw the reach that it brought to the issue, it just made me very aware that there are probably stories like this all over the country. In a way, I hold myself accountable to find them, and so that’s what I’m doing.

So how does that work? Most people who have those sort of ideas don’t normally act on them.

I started really thinking about what I could do to free myself up to tell more stories like RITA. I had started exploring minimalism and from there I landed on the idea of Van Life. The light bulb went off and I was suddenly saying, “Wait a minute. Here is a way that I can tell stories anywhere!”

Starting December 25th of 2016 I decided to venture out into the world and live as a nomad. I live in a camper van and travel across the country doing a web series called RonVanLife. It starts out kind of as a VLOG and it’s kind of my story, but everywhere I go I end up finding a story that I feel exemplifies an empathy and element of the community that I’m visiting, similar to how RITA exemplifies Boise.

Tell me about your camper van PJ

PJ is a 1988 Chevy Horizon camper van. He has a propane stove, a workable toilet, and a workable shower. I always joke to people that PJ is my millennium falcon, Chewbacca and R2D2 all rolled into one! PJ has pretty much been maintained meticulously because before me it was owned by this incredible woman named Cathy Claybaugh. Cathy actually became my first documentary subject in the RonVanLife series.

And in your travels with PJ what are you hoping to find out there?

I think we are in a very interesting time in America where we are not noticing each other, and I feel like it’s not an obligation but it’s a great asset as a filmmaker and a storyteller to be able to be the bridge between cultures, to be the bridge between classes, to be the bridge between different political environments. I feel like it’s kind of our chance right now as storytellers in this Internet Era to go out and venture! Find the stories that are going to keep the country together and keep people thinking in a positive way rather than a negative way.

Now you’ve got this brand new lifestyle on your hands, tell me about it! Tell me about the good, the bad, and the weird!

Van Life is extraordinary! One thing we are very conscious of, as a Van Life community, is not portraying the lifestyle with rose-tinted glasses. It’s not the perfect life, in fact, it’s very imperfect. It can be very chaotic! But what that chaos does is it makes you hyper present in the moment of your life. Every moment. So that is both good and bad.

But the weird is weird. One example is just how I sleep. PJ has a couch that turns into a bed, and I kind of have this strange sleep habit of “turning over” about every 3 hours. I feel like a rotisserie chicken, I flip from side to side. It sounds uncomfortable but honestly, I sleep well, and I always wake up at morning dew. It’s like natures alarm clock!

What’s next for you and for RonVanLife?

Like anything, I’m always expecting the unexpected. I am on the tail end of my experience in the Pacific Northwest and look forward to what will be my journey as the seasons shift, and I, like any other natural migrating animal, head south for the winter!