“We bought a brand new Ram Pro Master van. This is me going all in!”
For a guy who has moved around a lot, Nick Black doesn’t think of himself as a traveler. He grew up in Charleston, then moved to Georgia for college. He had a stint in Huntsville, where he really learned the ins and outs of performing on stage. That was followed by a move to Nashville- which was also a learning experience, about how competitive the music industry is. West Virginia was next; he didn’t last very long there. And then three years ago, Nick and his wife Theresa moved again- this time to Carolina Beach.
Each transition along the way required Nick to pack up his life, say goodbye to friends, and set off for a new town where he had to start all over again. Moving can be stressful. It involves research and planning—and yes, it also involves hitting the road. But Nick will be the first to tell you that there is a difference between moving and traveling. Moving is a one-way journey. Traveling, when you hold on to your roots, feels different to the soul. It’s like you are setting off on an exploration with the security of knowing you always have a home to come back to.
“I built a bed in the back of the van. I am not a handyman by any means, but apparently I have done a good job.”
You may have heard of this burgeoning nomadic trend where folks convert vans into compact, mobile apartments, turning the open road into their home. You may know someone who has embarked on this modern-day movement. Since 2019, it is estimated that some 700,000 people have moved into their vans on a temporary or full-time basis. Most are fueled by a desire for freedom, flexibility, and a connection with nature. They yearn to see the world, or at least to discover the nation… but really, if they are honest, they are trying to discover themselves.
The journey Nick is about to embark on is about self-discovery. But unlike the other Vanners (that’s what they are actually called), he is not running off to pursue an adventure. Instead, he is chasing a dream.
“I am kind of bursting at the seams, ready to get out there… because I’ve got to get my songs out there. In a way, I’ve given my entire life to my musical dreams, but if I am honest, in a way, I haven’t given it all. I’ve never put my full adult brain into it, my real firepower into it without having a steady job and income on the side.”
That will change next month. Sometime in early February, Nick plans on loading up the van and heading north to tour the country as a musician. The singer-songwriter is risking a lot. He has built up a following in the Wilmington area. He was performing up to six days a week. But last year, Nick decided to cancel all his local gigs to hit the road. It is a solo journey. He will be performing alone… he will be traveling alone.
“Theresa, can you help me for a moment. I have no idea where I am going, and right now I sound like an aimless, wandering cowboy dying in the desert on a horse.”
When I ask him about some of the specifics of where he is going and when he will get there, it’s clear that Nick has been left on a need-to-know basis. As we wait for his wife to fill in some of the gaps, he explains to me that she is the brains behind the operation.
“Theresa is awesome! She has taken over everything. She is setting the dates right now. So, I will just go where she tells me to go and hope the logistics work out and that we can both survive the headaches.”
Theresa will be staying at home. Someone has to be working the phones, sending out emails, pitching venues—manage it all! She has already lined up two official bookings. One in Ohio, the other in Alabama.
“So right now, I am trying to work off that. I am reaching out to clubs in West Virginia, Kentucky, Chicago, and Indiana,” she explains when she comes to the phone. “He is going on his own because we have four dogs and a cat and a house to take care of. So the best guess is he’ll hit the road for several weeks, maybe a month at a time, and then come back here while we plan the next leg.
In addition to hitting the north over the next few months, the couple is already working on a swing to the western states for the late summer or early fall. Theresa is researching different festivals on the west coast and reaching out to bars in Oregon, Sacramento, and Oklahoma.
The plan is for Nick to perform his own original music. He has made a vow to himself that he will never again work as a cover artist. He knows performers can make a solid living playing other people’s music, but he has his own creations to share and his own stories to tell.
One of the songs he will be playing on his journeys is a tear-jerking tribute to a female friend who was the victim of domestic violence. He debuted the song on an Instagram post in December. The song, which has been liked by nearly 2,400 people in less than a month, actually started off as a letter to the abuser. In the end, Nick never mailed it. He didn’t have to. The unsent note accomplished what it was meant to do. He had gotten everything he wanted to say out of his head and onto paper.
You see, creating something that’s real, that has meaning, that touches people’s soul, is part of this self-discovery process. It’s part of the journey. And Nick is hoping that his life on the road will not only allow him to share what he’s already written but that the nomadic experience will inspire new creations to pour out of him.
“That’s what I am the most excited about. I’m the kind of guy who has to do things to make me do things. Especially when it comes to writing. I have to immerse myself into music for me to create new music. I respect and admire so much the people who wake up and do something, like slide on their running shoes and go running, because they love it. For me, everything is an arduous task to overcome. I can’t just do things in moderation. I am either all in or not in at all…so this is my way of going all in.”
So, the man who has moved around a lot but has never really traveled is about to embark on a mission of a lifetime. He knows he has a lot to say and talent to share. He also knows, of course, that he is armed with the support of the people who love and believe in him. And mostly he knows, perhaps for the first time, that he will always have a place to come back home to.
“We will never sell our house here. We live on the north end, and it’s just beautiful! The neighbors here are so amazing. We have so many friends here. So, I am not leaving…I am just hitting the road for a bit.”