Isn’t it crazy how popular Van Life is?? A few years ago, you never read about people converting a van to live in it full-time. Especially in the US as we love our comforts so much. 2023 – we have an updated post on car camping 101 with information on the build out of our van.
Six years ago we wondered if we could work on the road or live on the road full-time. We knew we couldn’t do it in a tent, and knew we didn’t want a motorhome. We rented a teardrop hooked it up to our beloved jeep and spent two weeks driving up the coast and living. We lived, worked and enjoyed the freedom. It was very liberating. Ever since we wonder out loud, very often, about how we can make it happen again. Honestly, I have a feeling I could be a nomad. Lenny on the other side, he is not quite that ready yet. Our business makes it hard to live the van life full-time; but if we could do a few days here and there during the week, on top of being aways on weekends, we would be thrilled.
Almost four years ago, we were still talking about how free and liberating it was living for two weeks in the teardrop. We had spent that summer camping almost every weekend, and while it was a blast, the clean up wasn’t. By Labor Day we were tired of packing, unpacking, cleaning dirt off of gear and folding the tent up again and again. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had everything in one place, ready to go any time. It was then that we decided it was time to give this odd Van Life a try. We bought an old 1999 VW Eurovan, condensed all of our gear into two containers that could be stored in the van, and we hit the road. We loved that little van, and we have some great adventures camping all over Northern California and even up to Mount Rainer, Crater Lake and all the way to Whibley Island. It made us realize, that yes, we could make this happen. Maybe not full-time but more often than an occasional weekend.
Unfortunately, Eurovans are notorious for breaking down and costing mucho bucks to fit. After much sadness, we sold her early this year to a guy who is going to ship her to a family in Nigeria for more adventures. They don’t have to smog there, and we knew she wouldn’t pass in California any longer. We had one less car and knew that had to change.
We had been talking about a new van for over a year before we decided to sell our Eurovan this year. Lenny has been doing crazy research, literally for that year. In December, we decided it was time, and we started going out to test drive vans and look for the perfect one. We had nailed it down to a Ford Transit. Luckily the guy who we wanted to buy the car from didn’t get back in touch with us, and we lost interest. Then one Saturday, we decided to head to the Mercedes dealership, with no intentions to buy, just to look. Three hours later we walked away with a 2016 Sprinter van, that had 13 miles on it and was completely empty. It was kind of a no-brainer; this van gets 500 miles to a tank of gas! Hello, road-trip adventures! It was like a dream had been fulfilled, as we wanted an empty van with windows and we did not want white. Everyone wanted to unload their white vans on us.
Our goal is to build out the van and start getting outdoors. With all this rain we have been having we are totally itching to get out! We know we have to get the van finished before our busy season starts mid-April. We looked at a few vans that had been converted to living situations, and we reached out to a few companies who do the work. After receiving the sticker shock, we decided we would do it ourselves. Or should I say, Lenny, convinced me that we could do it? I just want it to get done, and for it not to be a project that lingers. What we want and don’t want are pretty simple, and so far we are agreeing on most of the items.
- Outdoor Wooded Look – we do not want heavy wood paneling in the van, nor do we want big chunky wood furniture. Why? We feel it will be too heavy and we do not want to weight down the van.
- Permanent Sleeping Area – we want something that will convert, it would be great to have a dining area, that can function as living, working and at night sleeping.
- Built In Stove – we want the stove to be portable as we love to cook outside. It is fine for early morning coffee sessions to be inside when cold, otherwise we want to be out as much as possible.
- Fridge – takes up too much room and again we want to keep it light. The cooler we have worked great when we did a two week road-trip, sure we can make this work.
- Bathroom – we went back and forth on this. Lenny really wanted at least a port-a-potty, and I did not want to deal with it. We decided that it could wait, and that we would see how it goes. Again, it was a weight issue as well as stink.
- Insulation – our entire van is windows and we feel it will be warm enough. We are going to try it out for awhile to see if do-able, if not we can always relook that area.
- Modern Look – not rustic cabin. Which is kind of funny as our home is modern, you would think we would want a cabin get away. Instead we want a clean minimalist look.
- Heater – this is in addition to the car heater. It is one that is installed and can be run on it’s own with the diesel fuel. Great thing about the Mercedes Sprinter? There is an extra line installed to make this easy.
- Kitchen – small workable area where we can use the camp stove when it is cold or to make early morning coffee. As well, we want a sink with water and storage.
- Storage – place to keep all of our gear, so it can be out of the way and we can be ready to go at a moment’s notice.
- Ladder – this is what I want, to enjoy sunset views on top of the van. Look at IG if you want to see what I mean!
- Awning – Lenny wants this so we can gain more livable outdoor space, especially on rainy or extra hot days.
- Portable Shower – maybe down the road after traveling awhile.
Looks that we like:
Barefoot Theory – bright and fresh and space is well used
Our Home on Wheels – it is also bright, fresh and space is well used. Love that they are doing it as a family, with a baby!
The planning is hard, but it is fun too. We keep joking that it will get us ready to build that house we keep dreaming about. Paint color decisions, tile for the floors or carpet? Extra lights installed or fairy lights? Curtains or blinds? Mattress or cushions?
You can follow all of our camping adventures on Instagram Stories for all the behind the scenes as we embark on this new journey!
Here it is after 6 years of having fun in our Sprinter van we made a video showing the tour of how we live on the road.