Beep Beep Airstream to Vanlife

 I’m comfortable with the cliche: suburban family sells it all to travel full-time.
Because that’s what we did, we sold our home in Southern California, bought an Airstream, packed it up, and hit the road with our three kids. Our hands held tight in a Breakfast Club-style punch to the sky; we yelled, “Westward Expansion!” into the rolled-down windows. Bright-eyed and full of optimism, we were Sacagawea and Lewis and Clark, except if those guys had Trader Joe’s and an instant pot. We spent 13 adventurous months on the road.

Once we settled into a full-time house in Bend Oregon, we realized we needed a VAN! But we also realized that vans are typically outfitted for two people, and we were five. And that was the kind of math that I didn’t enjoy. Wait, let’s be honest, who enjoys math?! So the challenge had become, “how do we sleep five comfortably in a van?” We wanted a piece of that good, good van life. We were not discouraged. Okay, we were slightly crushed when we looked at pre-manufactured camper vans and realized it would be too tight to try to all sleep in those. We were used to living tiny in our 30’ Airstream trailer, but our youngest, laying across two seats in the fetal position all night, was pushing it.

We found a Ford Transit passenger van with 15 seats in it, ZING! And then immediately threw those seats on Craig’s list. Well, all except six. Here’s what else we did:
We insulated our new van with wool, yes, it smelled like a barn
Bought more 80/20 than I care to discuss
Cut a hole in the ceiling and dropped in a fan
Bought a fridge and wired it to an electrical to a portable power station
Got a toilet (no twosies, pls)
Changed the flooring…twice
Made a bed that hinges up when not in use,
And threw a tent on the roof.
Phew.
There’s more to that list, but you get the idea. Now the sleeping arrangement is this: two in the rooftop tent, the bed inside sleeps two plus our sweaty Pug, Hazel (who said dogs don’t sweat?!), and the area below the bed inside fits a mattress for one more. And everyone is snug and cozy. With our van, we can load up and move out fairly quickly. It’s always ready to rock, save for throwing in a speedy duffle of clean clothes and some fresh food.
Since we converted our van, our road trips became more accessible; an impromptu weekend trip in the forest is just a snap away. Beep beep!

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