If you’re following us on Instagram(You are following us on Instagram, right?) you’ll know that we recently purchased and converted an old Ford cargo van into an adventuremobile. That’s right, we’re jumping into this whole van life thing (#Vanlife.) If you don’t follow us on Instagram, you should go do that right now. And then come back and read the rest of this post.
Now that that’s taken care of, I’ll explain exactly how and why we entered into the realm of van life. We purchased a 1990 Ford Econoline 350 van. Her name is Connie. She got her name because her insignia was already missing the “E” spelling only “Cononline.” With a little imagination, she became Connie.
All it took to make Connie’s name official was a flathead screwdriver and some rubber cement. She sports a diesel engine, with less horsepower than an average Honda Accord. Her transmission slips when shifting from 1st to 2nd, and she gets a bit hot when we take her through mountain passes. But she always starts up (after installing a new fuel pump) and has solid 4 wheel drive, that has only let us down once(see caption below.)
Looking at that last paragraph I guess you could say we’re ironing out the kinks. But honestly, that is what van life is all about, figuring everything out. Maybe it’s a metaphor for life, trying things out, breaking things, and failing. Trial and error, deciding what works and what doesn’t – maybe I’m getting too deep.
You might be asking why we got a rig that is older than us, has some mechanical issues, and needs to have her oil checked each time you fill-up? You might be asking how we’ll survive without traction control, headlights that turn in the direction you’re steering, or the light that blinks on the dashboard when you have a flat tire(actually that would have been nice last weekend when we got a slow flat and didn’t realize until we got to the top of a mountain.)
I sometimes -but rarely- ask myself the same question. In actuality, I also drool over the brand new 4×4 Sprinters, with enough room to stand up in, the fuel efficiency of a Subaru, and central air/heat. Instagram is full of Sportsmobiles that are closer to RV’s than vans, yet still can get up that snowy mountain. There are countless, amazingly awesome, but expensive and overcomplicated rigs out there. There are vans that cost more than a moderate sized house on a small plot of land. And don’t get me wrong- those vans are awesome! But honestly, for me, that’s not what the van represents.
I think the ideal van is the ultimate adventure platform. It’s a no frills recreation-enabler. It’s not concerned with style, luxury, or grace. It’s the old, slightly rusted and very clunky multi tool that has all the tools you need, and none of the ones you don’t. It needs to be oiled now and again, and the knife sometimes doesn’t want to flip back in. But it’s scissors are sharp, and its bottle opener also works as a screwdriver. You wouldn’t trade it for a brand new Leatherman.
The purpose of a van is to be a mobile base-camp for anything you want to do. It may not have all the amenities, but it houses all the necessities. Mobility. Shelter. Food. Entertainment. And that is what van life is about. Distilling life, and adventure, into its purest form, and getting rid of the rest.
We designed Connie to be the ultimate vehicle to live out of, not live in. And there’s an important distinction there. Connie, while having a semi-comfortable IKEA foam mattress, is not really designed to be a hangout spot. Sure, she’s got enough room to cook, read, or just take a nap, but her main purpose is getting us out into the world. If we wanted amenities, we’d tow our tiny house trailer around, or just use Airbnb. She carries much of what we need, but little else. And that’s why she’s perfect for us.
She’s got a small fridge, a water jug, and a camp stove. Honestly, that’s more than we’ll ever need to feed ourselves while on an adventure. She has a solar panel on the roof, and plenty of space to hold our gear. She can charge our phones and computers, fill our water bottles, and provide a safe place to rest. She keeps us dry and warm when it’s storming, but is also perfectly happy sitting for a few days while we head into the wilderness. She’s slow and steady, but delivers us to any trailhead we can locate on a map.
Van Life is the start of a new adventure for us, and Connie has already brought us to new places, and enabled us to experience new things. While she’s not pretty, and doesn’t have all the bells and whistles, we love her for it. Her scratches, dings, rust spots, and creaks give her character. They add to the adventure, and for us, that’s what’s important.
A few more photos from our first few vanlife adventures: