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December 13, 2023

Going on the road with Vanlife, built around PC gaming and real-life exploration

Trent Arant has been to about 40 states and dog-friendly national parks in his travels all over the U.S. in a custom-built van that doubles as his home. It doesn’t have a bathroom or shower, but it does have something more important to his daily life: a PC gaming station.

“Gaming has always been a big part of me,” says Arant, 29, who has more than half a million followers on YouTube as TTTHEFINEPRINTTT who follow his journeys and gaming experiences, which include playing creepy titles in the middle of the night in the middle of creepier woods. “It’s my way of relaxing after a hard or bad day.”

He’s had his fair share of those over the four years he’s been living this nomadic life, sharing his heartbreaks, loneliness and resilience with his many followers. He’s also stumbled upon a growling bear with his dog and backed away without incident and enjoyed outdoor weekly showers from the back of his van (when he’s not near a gym). Living and working in a van has taught him how to adapt and make do with less.

“Doing something so uncomfortable made me step out and grow,” he says. “I needed that five years ago. I was stuck in my ways. I had to become something new. Vanlife was a catalyst for me. It pushed me out to the world and changed me indefinitely. I’m a completely different person now.  I grew up a lot. This has been a transformative time in my life, saying goodbye to a past version of myself.”

Though he’s taken some breaks from his van, it’s his homebase, born of a wanderlust that wasn’t fulfilled after trying it temporarily. That time, he had been living with friends in a house for about four years. In those early days of vanlife, he found a cheap, old van and went all in on a three-month road trip. He loved it so much, he wanted to live that life full-time.

Being on the road so much with only his dog Millie for company, he meets new people all the time (and she loves that the world is her yard). But Arant misses his friends. Gaming is essential to how he catches up with them.

“This lifestyle has a lot of freedom and it’s so rewarding, exciting and full of adventures. But there’s a lot of isolation,” he says. “In places I’m unfamiliar with, it’s so comforting to play and reconnect with my friends by gaming online.”

Man in a van, door open and desert in the background

PC gaming captured his attention when he was a child, in fifth grade. A major milestone happened: the family got a computer. One of his siblings opened a new world by showing him how a keyboard and mouse – vs. using a controller and mouse – could lead to new adventures.

“That really sold it for me, and it felt even more immersive when I could game online,” says Arant, who credits Age of Empires and RuneScape with his early preference for PC gaming.

The first van he built and lived in didn’t have gaming as a focus back in 2018, so by the time the pandemic and lockdowns rolled around he was firmly entrenched in that life and able to adapt quickly, isolating himself and Millie in the woods. But over the years, he tweaked his gaming setup and documented those changes on his social media channels: switching out different chairs, consolidating equipment and upgrading monitors and computers. Most importantly, he built a dedicated and comfortable space for gaming. He also evolved his online gaming from tethering his phone’s internet to hotspots to the much more reliable mobile satellite kit he now uses.

Man sitting on top of a mountain at a table with a laptop, satellite station nearby

“Starlink changed the game for me,” he says. “Vanlife puts me so far from cell towers and places I avoided before, but now I don’t.”

He also made other improvements with his second van, which debuted in spring 2021 after working on it for several months starting in 2020. He ditched his cooler for a real refrigerator, added a real stove and burners, traded in a sink he had to pump with his foot to a running one and meticulously chose decorative handles and designs for his new and improved kitchen cabinets.

One constant through all those upgrades that ensure he can play when he wants: solar panels installed on his roof, which supplement a lithium battery bank that stores power for him to use throughout the night or on days he can’t count on the sun’s rays to come through. He also uses a DC-DC charger that allows him to charge the battery bank while driving.

Close-up of a laptop with keys lit up and ROG Strix logo on screen

He’s had a lot of computers over the years, for work and for play – and even built a few – but his latest go-to for work, play and everything in-between is the ASUS ROG Strix Scar 18.

“Out of all the computers I’ve had, it’s the most powerful PC I’ve ever used. It’s outperformed everything I’ve ever owned and big enough to feel like a full tower PC,” says Arant, whose current games include World of Warcraft, Fortnite, Call of Duty and Apex Legends. But he’s also using the laptop to edit his YouTube videos.

He is a fan of the Windows OS.

“It’s both prosumer and consumer. It can be barebones, but it can also be really great for nerds like me who like to dive deep,” he says. “That’s what I love about it.”

Man sitting at table wearing headphones and looking at PC display with mountains in background

ASUS followed Arant’s journeys and got in touch with him, leading to a formal arrangement that made him a brand ambassador for ASUS ROG. While Arant still enjoys working in the film industry creating on-screen graphics, the recent strikes had cut down the project-based work he usually did.

As part of his partnership with ASUS, he’s been trying out the ASUS ROG ALLY, a portable Windows 11 gaming device. He took fans on a tour of it in June, showing off its versatility and intuitive features. He’s taken it camping and enjoyed gaming under the stars.

“I love that thing! I love that it plays any PC game like a console, but you can also hop on YouTube and Netflix. It’s hard to describe, but it feels different.”

Though he’s adept at the mobile gaming vanlife style, the mobility of the ASUS ROG ALLY is an entirely new experience for him.

Man sitting in van holding a mug with door open showing forest outside

Arant grew up in Georgia, but since he first committed to living the vanlife, he’s traveled to all but about eight states in the U.S. His favorite scenery so far is the Pacific Northwest because it reminds him of a place in a video game.

“It has what I like to call a hauntingly beautiful feeling to it,” he says. “The tall pine trees poking through the evening fog and the lush green forests with that dark blue hue in the atmosphere is so eerie, yet so beautiful and comforting to me. It’s a weird satisfying contrast and I always loved the feeling that sort of landscape gives me.”

When he was a child, he says, he leveled an Undead character on World of Warcraft for the first time, walking through the Undead starting zone feeling “alarmingly cozy and at peace.” That place wasn’t exactly an area you might think would elicit those kinds of feelings.

“You’re surrounded by zombies, evil spirits and mutated bats that are trying to kill you,” he recalls. “But I realized it was nature and the atmosphere that made me feel that way. I remember telling myself I wanted to visit a place like this in real life one day.”

Man with dog with van and mountains in background

As he approaches 30, he says he realizes how short life is and is glad he’s engaging in these adventures now, visiting other scenic landmarks such as the Grand Canyon, Great Sand Dunes, the Grand Tetons, Death Valley and the Great Smoky Mountains.

“It’s a reminder to me that we only exist on this planet once,” he says. “This makes me want to go out more, grow more and challenge my thoughts.”

To find out what he’s doing next (or where he’s been), follow him on YouTube.

All photos courtesy of TTTHEFINEPRINTTT.