Sylvia Torres is a digital nomad who is redefining the American Dream by proving you don’t have to have physical roots in a place to be successful or happy. With over 150k followers and counting, she’s taking TikTok by storm with videos capturing her travel experiences and van life. Sylvia recently gave me the opportunity to get to know her over an interview and I can’t wait to share what I learned about her with you!
Let’s get to know Sylvia Torres, better known as @Sylviagnomad!
Meet the Van Lifer Who is Redefining the American Dream: Sylvia Torres
Chubby Diaries: Where are you based?
Sylvia Torres: I am currently stationary in Los Angeles!
Chubby Diaries: Describe the moment you caught the travel bug.
Sylvia: My first ever trip was out of state for my 8th grade trip to the East Coast. I went to NYC, Philadelphia, Washington D.C and a few others. I was so hyped about being out of my little bubble. After having watched so many TV shows and movies about NYC, I was walking the same streets.
It wasn’t until I was older and went to Europe that I realized how important travel is. I realized that there is life outside of my bubble that operates so differently than mine. My life didn’t have to look like how I thought, especially growing up in the church, I was taught so many things I no longer support today and it’s because of travel that I realized I can live my life exactly how I wanted and it’s ok, in fact it’s magical!
Chubby Diaries: Has travel always been a central part of your life? If not, how did you make the change?
Sylvia: I have always been the adventurous one in my family, wanting to explore and try new things. I loved going camping when I was a kid. My family could not afford these trips so I would jump at any opportunity within the church to go on some of their mission trips. That’s the first time I ever saw Yosemite! One of my dreams was to be a flight attendant because they flew everyday and went to all these cool places and got paid for it! I worked for the airlines for 2 years and traveled a lot of the west coast! Now I’m living in my van and traveling whenever I can! Travel is such a huge part of my life. I have always prioritized it!
Chubby Diaries: What was your motivation for starting to share your van life online?
Sylvia: I have always shared my life on social media going back to myspace days. What changed for me was TikTok. As I was researching for my van I came across so many vanlife accounts and they were showing these gorgeous places they’ve visited and how they built out their vehicles. It was so helpful and I wanted to do the same. My dad actually helped me with the majority of my build and it was the first time we’ve ever done a project together and I wanted to document it. Then one of those videos hit 100k views and that pushed me to make more content. At my first vanlife meetup I was surrounded by content creators and that motivated me to post more.
Chubby Diaries: How does social media play a role in your career?
Sylvia: As I started gaining a small following I started to realize that there was a very small amount of plus size Latinx outdoor creators. I received a few messages from people who were finally seeing themselves represented in this community. As I met other creators who made social media their career, I was filled with so much information about making this into my main income and I was so motivated. I love making content. I love being on social media. Of course I’ve been hit with some ruthless comments but those only fuel my fire. I just remember why I make my content and who I make it for and it keeps me going. When I was in college I took a Chicano studies class and the main thing I took from that class was that we NEED to tell our stories. So I use social media to tell mine.
Chubby Diaries: What do you hope your audience will get from your content?
Sylvia: I hope that I can inspire someone to go outside and explore! The outdoors can be a scary place for people of color and people of size. I want to normalize seeing us outdoors! Nature is so healing and travel is so important!
Chubby Diaries: Where do you find inspiration?
Sylvia: Being surrounded by nature inspires me. I truly believe the earth has everything we need to live and create. It also helps to surround myself with creative people from all walks of life to help gain a new perspective.
Chubby Diaries: How do people break into this industry?
Sylvia: Everyone has a story… figure out what yours is and then figure out what you can offer someone. Is it entertainment? Knowledge? What makes you different from these other creators? Once you figure it out the rest is about consistency and learning about the platforms you share content on.
Chubby Diaries: What do you wish more people understood or knew about the nomadic lifestyle?
Sylvia: For a lot of us this isn’t just a summer vacation. It’s not always white walls and sprinter vans. It’s actually very affordable. In fact, for a lot of us it was our only option because we could not afford rent or were living in abusive homes. We have made the best out of our situation and thankfully we have this community of people who are so generous and loving!
Chubby Diaries: What is your proudest moment of this year?
Sylvia: The moment my family started to realize what I’m doing actually matters. I come from a family of very hard workers. Success to them means having a full time job working 40+ hrs a week with great benefits and enough money to buy a house. “The American dream” but my American dream is a little different. So when they found out I was living in my van and quit my job to travel they thought I was crazy. Now when I talk to them… instead of them telling me about a new job opportunity, they ask about my life and what I’ve been up to lately. They’re very supportive now and that was the moment I felt proudest.
Chubby Diaries: What will travel look like for you in 2022?
Sylvia: I’ll be stationary in Los Angeles ’til spring, however, I’m hoping to go to Europe for my birthday in March. End of May, I’ll be hosting a trip to Costa Rica! Everyone’s invited! Late spring or beginning summer I want to be back on the road full time, mostly traveling on the west coast up to Washington and hopefully to Montana! Who knows where I’ll be after that.
We hope you enjoyed getting to know Sylvia Torres with us! Let us know what you enjoyed most about the interview in the comments.
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