How do you split your time between the coast and the desert these days?
Mike: I commute to San Clemente every week for work and to shoot and surf.
Lara: I go with him a few days every other week or so to keep the marriage on good terms.
And before that, you guys were living out of the van, right? How long was that adventure?
Lara: We were only in the van from September 2016 through March 2018, and then we leased a commercial space and opened our gallery near Joshua Tree. It had a shower, so we were like, “We’ll take it!” We slept in the back a lot of the time. But we didn’t move into an actual residence until January 2020—so nearly three and a half years.
Where did you drive in your van while living in it?
Mike: We went cross-country to Florida right after the 2016 election. That was surreal. Then we did a trip up through the Pacific Northwest, Montana, Idaho, and Utah. We’ve been up to San Francisco countless times, and we hang out in Baja and San Diego a lot too. A lot of times we stayed close to home in Orange County though, both for work and for climate reasons. Plus it helps to really know a place and the people there.
What were some of the highlights? What would you say are the pros and cons of van life?
Lara: I would say that one highlight was the feeling, which was maybe an illusion, of self-reliance and low commitment to anything outside of our relationship and our living situation—both of which were, of course, huge commitments! But there’s a certain lightness to living life without a lot of stuff and on your own terms.
Mike: The highlights for me were being able to be where the waves were and having friend groups in all different places, and shooting anything and everything around us, from an editorial piece on Tijuana to Trump rallies that popped up out of nowhere, to nature.
Lara: Obviously there were low points as well. Being sick sucked. Never feeling like you’re on level ground. In the winter, it gets dark super early, and if you don’t have the best electrical setup, there’s nothing to do but to go to sleep. There were definitely new lows with hygiene, eating out of the same cast iron pan every damn meal—I’ll spare you the details. And we had to coordinate with each other whenever we wanted to participate in things. So you have to prioritize aspects of your lives together. But I think it was strengthening, to see Michael 100 percent there for me when I had dance projects, and being there for him when he needed to surf or shoot.