Taking the Show on the Road with FolkBus
Taking the Show on the Road with FolkBus
Meet a unique van life couple touring the country in their Travato.
By: Sue Ann Jaffarian
I first met Daniel and Faith Senie online in the Travato Owners and Wannabees group on Facebook. It would be a couple of years before I would meet them in person, but when I did, we became instant real friends.
The Senies are owners of a Winnebago Travato that they have named FolkBus. As you may guess, they are also folk singers. They spend about one-third of the year traveling in their van, meeting up with other RVers, and performing at venues. They are fun, interesting, and extremely talented people. Great additions to the Winnebago family and a unique example of what RV life can look like.
A Little About this Unique Van Life Couple
Faith grew up with RVs. She recalls that in 1968 her father bought a Winnebago Lifetime and the family drove out to her brother’s graduation from the Air Force Academy. She said RVs were so new in those days that they would honk and wave at any other Winnebagos on the road. Over the years, the family had a succession of different RVs, and by the time she graduated from high school, Faith had visited more than half the states in the U.S. Although new to the RV lifestyle, Dan had backpacked and tent camped as a child. As a couple, they have done a lot of tent camping and owned a few pop-up tent trailers.
However, in August of 2015, the Senies bought their first Travato - a 2016 G model. They later upgraded to a 2019 G after 51,000 miles because they couldn’t resist all the new changes Winnebago made to the Travato. To date, they have put 34,000 miles on their 2019 Travato, which they bought to make touring much easier and more cost-effective than using hotels. The Senies are also vegans and find traveling with their own kitchen and pantry much more convenient.
The two met in 1982 while attending Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY. They graduated a year apart and married in 1985. After college, the couple settled in the Boston area, but they now live in Charlestown, NH, on 16 acres with an incredible view of the Vermont mountains. They started performing together about ten years ago, mostly around New England. After buying the Travato, they were able to expand their touring to include the rest of the country.
Although they spend quite a bit of time on the road traveling, both Faith and Dan work full time in the field of high tech. Dan is self-employed, providing software development and network design and security consulting services. While Faith works for a large multinational corporation, leading multiple teams providing software testing services for a major datacenter product. Dan also does fine art photography, specializing in scenic and wildlife photography - a perfect addition to their touring.
When on the road, they work from the van, which Dan rigged with a cellular router and roof antennas. As Faith put it, “We are both able to work from home. Sometimes the home is the house in New Hampshire, and sometimes it has four wheels.”
Taking the Show on the Road
The Travato is also great for hauling their musical equipment. Both of the Senies are accomplished on many instruments – about a dozen in total. But, that’s a whole lot of instruments to pack into a van. When they travel, they usually limit it to bass guitar, mandolin, ukulele, dulcimer, banjo, harmonicas, and guitars. They also travel with a full sound system. So, if any of you reading this are wondering about the storage space in a Travato, think about this!
Faith and Dan also write and perform their own original songs. They do perform a handful of cover songs, which they explained is their way to keep alive the music of artists they have known who have since passed on, or lesser-known works by better-known artists. With regard to their own songs, Dan said, “Our songs tell stories. And when we perform, we fill a bit of time between each song telling the back-story or talking about what inspired the writing of the song.”
They both write their songs, with Dan being the most prolific. I found it very interesting that they started songwriting by taking a class on using meditation and lucid dreaming to elicit ideas for songwriting, and refer to their music as “dream-inspired folk.” When asked about influences on their music, they said, “It’s pretty classic folk, in the style of the ‘Folk Revival’ of the ‘60s and ’70s. We were influenced by the likes of Peter, Paul & Mary, Simon & Garfunkel, Pete Seeger, Cat Stevens, The Kingston Trio, and John Denver.”
Every month, they host a songwriter showcase in Massachusetts where they ask each audience member to write a word or a phrase on a slip of paper. Then, through a random selection and voting, the audience chooses their pick. The next month’s songwriters are given that word or phrase as their assignment for a new song for the following month. Hosting this showcase also requires them to write a new song a month. They say some of their best songs came out of their participation in this monthly showcase with themes such as “One’s Earliest Memory,” “Comfort Food,” and “The Road Less Traveled Leads Back to the Highway”.
Dan also acts as their booking agent, spending an incredible amount of time identifying venues and radio stations, and contacting them far enough ahead of time to ensure they have openings in their schedule when the Senies are passing through their area.
So, where do the Senies stay while traveling? Faith told me that their favorite campground is Mama Gertie’s Hideaway in Swannanoa, NC, adding that, “It’s built into the mountainside, with fabulous views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and by far the cleanest showers of any campground we’ve ever been in, bar none.” Recently, they were at Jetty Park, at Port Canaveral watching a nighttime rocket launch. With their performance schedule, they don’t often stay in campgrounds, but might drive to a Flying-J for a quick overnight before moving on in the morning. They also often use Boondockers Welcome or Harvest Hosts to find places that work along their tour route.
When I asked them if there was a place which they hold special, thinking it might be a campground or national park, Faith shared that there is a little cabin in western Massachusetts. Dan’s parents started building the place when he was just two years old. The cabin appears in several of his songs, and it’s also where he first proposed to Faith.
I had the opportunity to see the Senies perform in Georgetown, TX. Their songs are charming and their love of music infectious. You can visit the Senies and check their schedule here.
If you see FolkBus on the road, wave. Dan and Faith will wave back!