The "Van Life" has always been a dream of my husband's. Being equal parts homebodies and travel junkies has always been our style... but when the disaster that is 2020 hit and we became homebound, more or less, for the foreseeable future... we decided no better time than the present to jump on board the van life bandwagon.
Being particularly busy in work and life, I gave my blessing and handed this project over to my husband. He scoured the entire country for used Mercedes Sprinter vans — either empty or partially-built — and finally found one in Bakersfield 4 hours away from us. We purchased a 2019 Sprinter Cargo van that was completely empty in the back. It had a dividing wall that needed to be removed and oh yes, *everything* needed to be put in.
San Diego is somewhat of a mecca for van lifers because of the easy access to both beaches and mountains. There are a few companies here who will outfit the vans for you, and specialize in working with families with kids. Being single or having no kids is a van life dream... so much extra space. When you have little(s)... it complicates things (understatement). Where will they sit? Where will they sleep? Where will they eat? We sent in for some quotes, all of which came back in the six-figure range with a long wait. Our heads just about exploded.
It was time to get our hands dirty and DIY the hell outta this thing. I'll admit: this build was about 90% my husband's hard work and research! Again, I just could. not. find bandwidth for this, personally. My husband was laid off at the beginning of the pandemic, which has been a blessing for us in many ways. Herein lies one of them! He spent many days (and long nights) working on the van or sitting in the van researching what to do next. There were countless trips to Home Depot during this ordeal. We got to know neighbors that we previously hadn't, as they were able to watch the van take shape from the convenience of their own daily walk routines. We had the help of sweet friends and neighbors who helped cut, hold, glue, hammer, and nail. To say this van is a labor of love would be a fair statement.
I will spare most of the gory details mostly because I lack knowledge in them (and because I am writing this so far out from when we actually did it), but here is a laundry list of things we did to outfit the van:
- Bench seat installation
- Construction of our bed/dinette area
- Fan installation
- Window installation
... and there is still so much to do. We're still missing parts of the electical, walls, a table for the dinette, and countless other things.
It's not the picture-perfect van you see on Instagram accounts for van life. Much as we tried, there was no way we could condense our lives to the extent that there was no clutter or dirt in the van. On the contrary, we lived in clutter and dirt the whole time. And with that, I will hand it over to Part 2...
Hi! I'm Laura, a 30-something first-time mom raising her little dude in southern California. It's been quite a first year, and this is my way to try to make sense of it all. This is a safe space for all moms to get some laughs, recommendations and feel like they are not alone.