Van Beginnings

2011 was the year for making a big–or rather small–change in takingĀ our lives and work on the road. In today’s economy, driving our semi and pulling our 40 ft. 5th wheel trailer to writing/photo/video opportunities is prohibitively expensive, and flies in the face of our lifestyle: simplify, downsize, and live on and with less.

And one final mantra – Live on the edge. If you’re not, you’re taking up too much room. (That we acquired from a man in the Adirondacks.)

So, we exchanged the family car for a 15-passenger Ford van, which we converted to a fully self-contained home and office on wheels. It’s cheaper to transport and live in than our 40 footer, and it makes us more agile and nimble so we can respond faster to opportunities on the road, whether we need to change our plans on where we are staying the night, or need to respond to a new video/photo shooting opportunity on or off road.

Our new smaller home is very green. Our electricity comes from 215 watts of solar charging, 1000 watts of ac conversion, battery storage, and shore power backup. We can get by for about three days without sunlight, if necessary.

Rear view: batteries in the middle, solar controller and inverter on left, charger on right.

1000 watt inverter for 110 VAC (in back). Solar charge controller (behind the wires). Transfer switch hidden in the left corner.

To accommodate working while living on the road, we build the beds to double as couches. Storage under the beds held clothes and personal items. It’s interesting how easy it is to get along with so much less than you’re used to when living in a larger space.

One thing we we had to have was mobility. After traveling for five years in the big rig and having to find places where we could dump RV tanks and hook up a hose to get water, we wanted to eliminate those from our new rig. So, water storage and waste is transported by hand; there’s never a need to find a dump station or water hose where we have to pull up to it to dump or fill tanks.

Simple galley. Green water tanks carry 6 gallons and can be carried in to be filled anywhere. 24-volt pump pulls water from the tanks. Between them is a plastic gray water tank. Storage to the right eventually was filled with plastic drawers for food, cooking, and utensils.

In the van, life is simple. We live what’s important. Like downsizing to the trailer, we gave up a lot of things that seemed important but don’t last, but we gained a lot of things that are important and do last.

To build out and equip the van, we spent a lot of time online looking at ideas others have tried. And I learned there’s a whole community of folks out there living in their vans, who calls themselves mobile dwellers, or more acutely – Vandwellers.

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