In the beginning it was just a thought. The idea of shaded redwood forests passing by as the road leisurely bends towards cascading waterfalls. Or perhaps the vision of a brilliant sunset that glistens across the Pacific Ocean to where I sit with toes buried in the warm sand. Better yet, the sound of a crackling wood fire mixed with the scent of pine as crickets sing their subtle melody somewhere in the distance. The mug of freshly brewed coffee warming my hands on a briskly cool morning as I listen to the birds chirping as I wait for sunrise. It's a destination chosen on a whim. The taste of cinnamon in the apple pie the local folks say is the best in town. It's going everywhere and nowhere at all. Utter bliss. Total freedom. I wanted that lifestyle. I had seen it in videos repeatedly. I sat jealously scrolling through Instagram watching others travel the globe. I scoured through countless pictures on the web. I read articles and blogs. After all that my mind was set. I saw the beauty and uniqueness of it all and I wanted in. The van life had got me hooked.
Like anything I gain a measurable interest in; I dove headfirst into research. What kind of vehicle should I get? Legal considerations? What about electricity? How to do I build one? Jobs I can do traveling? Each time I turned to Google and YouTube. In time I had my answers. I knew what I wanted. Something that I can take off the grid in any environment. I wanted to build it almost entirely with re-purposed wood and salvaged material without sacrificing any measure of functionality or visual appeal. Food storage and solar power were vital as well as a small wood stove for winters.
Next, I had to find a vehicle suitable for my build. I needed space, but it had to be affordable. Since I was focused on low overhead cost and mostly reclaimed materials I turned towards the needs work section of Craigslist. The following weeks were spent periodically checking the listings as well as other online sources. Soon I had found an unusual prospect. My buying window was up to $2,000 but I had found a 90's era passenger van for $450. It appeared to need a fuel pump and that was all. In my mind I thought it could be a steal, but I was also hesitant. Why? Besides being $450, it didn't even start.
Lots of Repairs
Fast forward a month. My newly purchased van is rolled off the trailer into the driveway and I set to work. With the aid of my stepfather we started by replacing the entire electrical system with new components. Further testing revealed that the fuel pump did work but it still wouldn't start. Working on the van was difficult because I could only do so on weekends. So, I spent the week days mentally troubleshooting what it could be as I anxiously waited to try the next repair. Next came new fuel injectors but still nothing. At this point we had verified that there was spark, fuel, and combustion. What else is there? I had thought. It is now the present and the van still sits motionless. There are a few more things I can try but after that I have no idea. As you can imagine I am entirely too anxious to get my vehicle running because I can't really begin any interior work until I know that it will run for sure. I am entirely confident that it will run but time is running out. I have approximately four months left to complete the build because I am taking the van life on a bit of tangent before I begin my travels. I intend on living in it while I finish my bachelor’s in engineering. In doing so I hope to bring a new and different perspective to van living and what it could be. The aim- low cost, sustainable, independent and simple living. To follow this story check in periodically to view new blog postings. I will cover my experience as well as many other interesting and helpful topics. Stay tuned.