Meet Janna. Meet John. They’re a creative, curious, recently married couple living in a craftsman bungalow in Spokane’s South Perry District. If you get the chance to sit for an hour at their trestle table, you’ll enjoy warm hospitality, strong local coffee, and some scenes from their unfolding story.
Longtime staff writers and editors for Surfer (Janna) and Powder (John) magazines, they earned the right to unmoor themselves from the office and just drift a while, leaving their Southern California life for an open-ended future working from anywhere. So they spent an entire year in a retrofitted Sprinter van, experiencing as much of the United States as they could, from cold coastal Maine to the hottest food Austin has to offer – doing the millennial thing, John says. The trip was not easy, but it was as beautiful, gritty, and illuminating as they hoped it would be. It even helped them decide to end their winding road right here in the Inland Northwest.
INB has also been on the road, in a sense. Our past few years have been marked with expansion – from the Central Washington to the Columbia Gorge to Portland – so we recruited John and Janna to lend us their time and curiosity for a few days, taking a road trip around INB’s expanded territory. The goal? To gain new insights and see the stories of this region’s communities through fresh eyes.
They jumped at the chance to drive from Priest Lake, across Washington’s fertile fields to the Puget Sound, down to Portland, and back to Spokane through the Columbia River gorge and the Palouse. Along the way, they stopped several times each day to meet with local entrepreneurs and their INB bankers, to see those partnerships and soak in the ethos of each community.
From organic apple orchardists busy with their harvest to aeronautical parts manufacturers hand-crafting solutions for aging fleets of airplanes (and a lot in between), the diversity of the people and businesses was as striking to John and Janna as the ever-changing landscapes and climates passing by in their car windows.
Reflecting after the trip, John marvels at the unique glimpse at the Pacific Northwest. “What an experience. When else would you get the chance to quickly experience a place and its people, and the work they do?”
Their trek through INB’s territory brings the conversation back to their broader journey, and their decision to put down roots in this region, and specifically in the Inland Northwest. Their original relocation plan had been Portland, Oregon, but while resting in Spokane after their year-long trip, something just felt right. With the very reasonable cost of living, work/life balance that leaves room for true friendships, an upward trend in arts/culture/food/drink, low traffic, and close striking distance to such a variety of communities and outdoor excursions, it all added up to an ideal home base.
“We love the ease of life and quality of relationships we can have here,” John says. “And it just feels accessible and less saturated than other places, in a bunch of different ways. You can get in on the ground floor and impact change here, whether that’s in business, creative work, or politically, or really whatever you want to develop. In many cities, it doesn’t feel that way at all.”
Janna adds, “In previous places we’ve lived, something as simple as meeting friends for a beer at the end of a work day was not simple: you’re working long hours, sitting in traffic, everyone is so spread out. Here, you can have that experience, and have a big fun group of friends who actually see each other.”
As sold as they are on the upside of their new Inland Northwest life, they’re not exactly selling the van. “The plan is to take it out for shorter excursions – a week, ten days to bike or ski somewhere within a few hours, and just work from there for a bit,” says Janna.
We’ll continue to keep tabs on their comings and goings (along with 25,000 or so Instagram followers: @vanvantures), but for now, we’re pretty glad Janna and John are staying.