Tips from two full-time van dwellers on building the ultimate means to adventure

In our family, we live by the philosophy that less is more. That’s why in August of last year, we welcomed in another member that would hold us to it. Meet Gaucho, the Ram Promaster van. Most mistake him for their electrician, but in fact, he’s just our humble home on wheels.

If you’re thinking, “Well, why would anyone want to do that?” we get it — you’re not alone. The short answer is: we craved a space that encourages minimalism — one where we would be less reliant on the comforts of a modern home and more focused on the things that make us feel alive. For us, full-time RVing could offer just that. 

Of course, you don’t have to live in a van to experience the freedom of an ever-changing backyard. Van life is for adventurers of all kinds: from dirtbags to glampers, weekenders to remote-settlers. 

However you choose to roam the road, we know that building a home out of one of these beasts can be as daunting as rappelling into a bottomless slot canyon. That’s why we reflected on what we wish we would have done (better, anyway) and came up with a few key takeaways…

 

Make friends. Boulder has a vast community of “van lifers” to turn to when you need to bounce an idea around, borrow tools, or work out the details of all those complicated jobs. (We can’t all be engineers!) These folks are not only great resources, but they also make the experience that much more rich. Exchange stories. Form allies. Share a beer. You might just find a lifelong friend. If you’re lucky, you can get them to spill where all the best camping spots are!

Get creative! Take advantage of online resources — SprinterVanDiaries and Reddit forums like Van Dwellers are invaluable — but remember: there’s no one way to build your home. It’s okay to go off the books and pull out your inner architect. Actually, it’s a lot more fun if you do.

Focus on functionality. Instagram would have you believe that van life is all reclaimed wood and fancy Pendleton blankets, but the truth of the matter is if you’re doing it right, you’re not spending much time inside the van anyway. The way we see it, your van is simply a place to lay your head after the fun is over. So, throw in a good memory foam mattress, skip all that extra business, and take a hike. No, really…go for a hike.

Don’t take yourself too seriously. You’re going to stub your toe on a plank of wood, you’re going to get insulation debris stuck in places you can’t imagine, and you’re going to read the tape measure wrong. Learning how to roll with the punches is one of the greatest lessons this experience offers. The sooner you accept it, the sooner you can relax and enjoy the ride.

Give yourself time. The jobs that you think will take you 30 minutes are always the ones that end up exhausting an entire night (or week). This can turn into a problem if you plan on moving in sooner than you’re ready. It’s always easy to say, “We can finish that later,” but take it from us, it’s easier said than done. Make sure there is enough time to finish all the tasks on your to-do list before the official move-in or trip and leave as few loose ends as possible.