Marina Aguilera leads a nomadic life.
Aguilera graduated in 2012 from Monroe High School, where she ran cross country and track.
“They called me ‘the runner,'” said Aguilera, the daughter of Marsha Aguilera of Monroe and Ruben Aguilera of Texas.
After attending Monroe County Community College for two years, Aguilera moved to Texas, where she met her friend Mark Dexter from Wisconsin. He is a filmmaker living nomadically in a converted vehicle since 2017.
“He was into it before it became a huge social media craze,” Aguilera said. “He introduced me to the lifestyle. It was very new to me. I grew up camping every summer with my family. That was my favorite thing. We started building our first vehicle together during COVID. We built every day, at all hours of the day. It took 45 days. Mark is very accommodating. He had built and understood things (with previous vehicles).”
Then they hit the road.
“It was right in the middle of COVID, so it was really a good time to travel. It was a ghost town everywhere we went,” Aguilera said.
So far, Dexter, Aguilera and their dog have visited about 35 states.
“In the past, we moved around a lot. Every night he was in a new place. Next, we evaluated places to stay for a longer period of time. We really love being surrounded by community, with nomadic family and friends. We’ve been staying in Wisconsin for a few months now,” Aguilera said.
She and Dexter work as filmmakers and recently released a documentary about nomadic life, which they will screen Nov. 4 at the River Raisin Center for the Arts.
“We shoot weddings on the road and promotional work. We shot a music festival during Labor Day. We are filming ‘Tiny House, Giant Journey’ for YouTube. This is a really great resource to learn more about this lifestyle. It has 3 million subscribers,” Aguilera said.
In their 2 1/2 years on the road, she and Dexter have had three homes/vehicles.
“All three had a walk-in closet, a full-size shower. They feel just like a house,” Aguilera said.
For each home, the couple, with the help of friends, started with sketches.
“Everything is with precise measurements. What fits into which area? It was important for us to entertain and have people around. We wanted to have large seating areas,” Aguilera said.
She also wanted as big a kitchen as possible.
“I love to cook. Cooking really blossomed on the road. I’m a stickler for healthy, clean and purposeful eating. I was able to just channel that creative side of my cooking,” she said.
Their first vehicle was a van. The second, a box truck. Square walls allow for more creativity.
“We had a platform in the kitchen and storage under the raised floor and an L-shaped kitchen. This gave it a more spacious floor. We closed off different areas so it didn’t feel like just one box,” Aguilera said.
Their current truck body is similar to the previous one, but improved. The pair added features like curved edges to avoid sharp corners. It is 8 feet tall, 8 feet wide and 12 feet long.
“It’s smaller than a lot of people’s kitchens,” Aguilera said.
However, there are four rooms: a living room, a bathroom, a bedroom and a kitchen with a gas stove and a few small appliances. There’s even a deck on the back wall. Aguilera said it was surprisingly spacious.
“You’d be quite surprised what I’m capable of having in the truck. We love dressing up and going to music festivals with fun, crazy outfits,” she said. “I had 36 pairs of shoes in the first van. I’m nowhere near that now.”
The truck has a composting toilet. The couple wash clothes in laundromats. They store water in a 60 gallon fresh water tank.
“We fill up with water wherever we can find it, from friends or family or from a gas station. We have a water filtration system in the truck. I always know the quality of our water. All our faucets are low water consumption,” said Aguilera.
Electricity comes from solar panels on the roof.
“The roof has 1,000 watts of solar power, and we have a solar-powered battery,” Aguilera said. “We have a gas hob, a gas oven, a gas hot water heater.”
Aguilera said she learned a lot from the nomadic life.
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“We really can survive on a lot less than we think. This lifestyle really showed us that,” she said. “Also, how to be more resourceful. My worldly skills have developed. This life definitely gave me the courage to figure things out on my own. It shows me that I can do so much more than I thought I could.”
Someday, though, Aguilera wants a permanent home.
“I really want to have a home and a garden one day. But I want to be self-sufficient. I want to always have the opportunity for some adventure. This option is so important. We never know what will happen in the world. If you have a vehicle of some kind, you can pack and rely entirely on yourself. We can be self-sufficient on our own,” she said. “I never expected my life to turn out the way it did. They were some of the most challenging and most beautiful times.”
RRCA hosting film, panel discussion on nomadic life
“All Who Wander,” a film about nomadic life starring Monroe native Marina Aguilera, will be shown Nov. 4 at the River Raisin Center for the Arts, 114 S. Monroe St. Tickets are $25 with a $1.38 value added tax. For tickets, visit allwhowandermovie.com.
The 1½-hour film will be screened from 6 p.m
“It’s our life on the road, what we go through, the highs and lows of 2 1/2 years and all the people we meet. It’s for people who don’t know anything about this lifestyle,” Aguilera said.
Aguilera and her boyfriend Mark Dexter are producing the film. At 5 p.m., they will show their home, a converted truck.
“Come in and talk to us, take a sneak peak,” Aguilera said. “We’re really excited.”
A panel discussion with Aguilera, Dexter and their two business partners, Joshua Murphy and Madeline Anto, will follow the film.
Aguilera said 4 million people currently lead a nomadic lifestyle.
“It has always been there since our ancestors. This is the natural way of life. We all have a natural, nomadic wandering spirit within us. With COVID, a boom started. More and more people still adhere to this lifestyle. It’s a community on the road,” she said.