“Ain’t Nothing Gonna Stop Us…
Back it up. Back it up slow. Yeah, just back it up.”
– Luis (Ant-Man and the Wasp)
Before I start going into the actual van build process itself, lets back up a second and have a little chat about how I got to this point and what my general plans are…
What is the Utah Conservation Corps (UCC)?
Straight from their website, “UCC is an AmeriCorps program… dedicated to service to our community and environment. We engage in projects throughout the state of Utah that address goals relating to environmental conservation, leadership, education, and sustainability.”
UCC has three locations throughout Utah that act as home bases for the various crews: Logan in the north, Moab in the southeast, and Cedar City in the southwest. I applied to and was selected to join the team in Cedar City, which I am super excited about for many reasons, one of which is that it’s located somewhat near to Bryce Canyon, Zion, and Grand Canyon National Parks. And, I know there is so much more for me to explore. The whole area is such a special and unique geological playground!
What made me decide to live in a van?
When I first accepted the position with UCC I was not thinking this would be the direction I took in relation to my living situation. I had hoped to find a small 1 bedroom or studio apartment in town or possibly find some roommates to live with. After searching for a while, I still hadn’t found anything that popped out to me for the price I was willing to pay though. One day while working with my father, The Master Trailsman, we got to talking about the idea of me buying a small camper to use and our ideas snowballed from there. With time, my mind became more set on buying a vehicle to convert and live out of. Slowly, I narrowed my focus into what I was looking for.
Why did I choose this particular van?
First, I should say that I have little clue about what I’m doing here. I’m not one that has been super into the idea of tiny homes or vanlife and only in the past few months started watching YouTube videos and reading some blogs about it. That being said, once I started seriously considering it, the idea has stuck. Once I began searching for a vehicle, it became very clear that I needed to figure out what were the important factors that mattered to me. For instance, was space the most crucial aspect? Did I want it to already be built and ready for me to live out of? How about the age of the vehicle? And, what’s my price range… was I willing to take out a loan to do this?
In my search, I was pretty stubborn about finding something that had decent cargo space for the build, yet still managed to get decent gas mileage too. Of course I liked that idea for economic benefits, but mainly I struggled with the alternative, picturing myself sucking down gas and spewing out harmful fumes. There are plenty of large cargo vans out there for sale that are pretty ideal for this situation, but I hoped to get something better than 12-15 miles per gallon (mpg). So… for a long time, pretty much my whole search until the end, I was focused on newer small cargo vans like a Ford Transit Connect, RAM Promaster City, or the Nissan NV200. These things apparently get fuel efficiency in the mid 20’s mpg. I was so set on these that I drove down to the Chicago area one day to test drive a couple and then back the same night in a snow storm. It was a major bust.
In the end, I think price probably played the biggest factor. I didn’t want to give myself another monthly payment, and so I found one that after selling my previous vehicle, I could buy outright. Yes, Veronica has a few more years than most and has a higher than average reading on her odometer (256,000 miles :)), but ultimately I talked with the seller and have faith that she’s got a lot of life left in her. I hope. The gas mileage isn’t going to be as great as I’d like either, but my hope is, still better than the big cargo vans. I plan to track and find out. I also think I’m going to try and track my entire carbon footprint throughout the process to see how it compares with a more traditional lifestyle. The VW Eurovan also has quite a bit more space than the models I was originally considering with cargo dimensions approximately 5 feet x 8 feet.
Do I plan to go all out with this build?
At this point, I have an idea of the layout I’d like and am finalizing the items I want to include prior to setting off. I’m hoping to have a couch that can slid out into a bed, a sink, a mini oven/stove combo, a series of additional storage cabinets, and a battery powered light system.
Items I’ll consider adding later on if deemed helpful and within budget: solar powered electricity, refrigerator (powered via solar), outdoor shower.
There are some seriously fancy builds out there. They’re fantastic and I’d love to have/build one. For this go around though, my focus will be on functionality. And I’ll be constructing it specifically to fit my needs for this period of my life and the area I’ll be living in. I’ll try to make it look pretty too though 🙂
If anyone’s following along and has some advice or suggestions, please feel free to share! I’m a newby to all of this. And ask away with any questions too!