Posts tagged sprinter van build out
WINTER, 2019

It has been a wild year, and I have fallen behind my typical on top of everything work ethic for a number of reasons. You might notice a few changes in this post. The first and most obvious being that I solely shot my adventures on a beat up Nikon film camera that I acquired from a 1973 Detroit Free Press reporter. The second and most important is that I have a DOG. And lastly, that I was back to traveling solo, again.

2019 began with a broken heart and a broken van. I had big plans to be spending the majority of the winter further exploring Utah with my five week old road dog, Sequoia, but after a few months and many thousands of dollars trying to repair an unidentifiable problem in the Sprinter, I had to abandon that plan and make a new one. The new plan included spending time out in Marfa, Texas; the Florida Keys; and of course my beloved Savannah, Georgia. 

I’ve had this need to explain myself for some time now and I am not entirely sure why. Maybe because parts of me care what people think, or how I feel they might think. It is my decision to be active on social media and make my life and relationships public knowledge and that can bring feelings of shame or embarrassment at times. 

For anyone that has been following these journeys over the last five years, it is no secret that there have been a few romantic partners a long the way. You have witnessed our love grow in new cities and on mountain tops and then you have seen them disappear and then all of the sudden someone new emerges. And for whatever reason, the fact that surprises people the most is that literally every partner I have had in my adult life has broken up with me. I know my contributions to this end result and where I fall short, and to summarize - travel and distance in relationships is HARD. I could imagine that I would make a similar decision if I was in their shoes. To have the person you love most tell you that they would rather be somewhere else. Definitely unfair. If I remember correctly, in one ending argument the words, “All you care about is the van,” were spoken loudly and that was the truth I needed to swallow. I wasn’t ready to sacrifice this dream for companionship. 

Hearing that truth was what I needed. It is what prompted me to finally sell my house and move into my van full time. It also fueled me to step outside of my literal metal box and to seek new friendships with like minded individuals. I started a hiking club, found love again in Tennessee, and spent more hours than I ever have during a wedding season (mostly)enjoying my family.

I took pictures on film because I still needed to take pictures, but I needed to also be present. Which is clearly why it has taken me nine months to blog. It was my busiest and most beautiful work season ever. Not only have I experienced tremendous growth as an individual, but as an artist and entrepreneur. The lessons have been abundant, but that could be because I am finally paying attention. 

It is almost time to get back on the road, and to be honest my heart is starting to feel a pull for something new. I can’t say that this will be the last winter in the van, but I am feeling really empowered and proud of the miles covered over these last five years. Maybe a little tired, but that could just be October talking. I plan to always feed this restlessness and that could be in the form of maybe a new house on wheels, or something overseas, or a new business venture. Regardless, and as always, filled with so much gratitude for this life. 

Winter, 2019. Kodak Portra. 

THE NEW VAN

It still blows my mind that we built this. While on the road I will periodically glance back and think, “holy shit.” But it’s here, it’s real, and I have never worked so hard on anything in my life. Mostly because of the deadline for the Alaska trip. But also because we essentially built an eighty square foot apartment from scratch. 

The decision to upgrade to a new van came after booking a wedding in Alaska. I knew that I wanted to road trip up there and initially I was going to purchase a truck and a truck camper with the plan to sell when I returned home. But come along Corbin, and the dream and design flourished. Corbin has a lot of knowledge and experience in building homes, so he is really the key component to bringing this entire vision to life. Between his skill and my back account we were able to create something pretty incredible. 

The post will first just showcase a few overall images of the space and then I will break it down into parts of the build, why we did things the way that we did, as well as the cost breakdown. 

THE BED

This was a big priority for me, after spending months sleeping on a fold out couch in the old van and spending at least 10 minutes every morning and evening setting up and tearing down. The idea of being able to just crawl into an already made bed at the end of a long driving day was absolutely divine to me. So we went with a queen horizontal set up using an inexpensive memory foam mattress on Amazon. You have to cut about 10” off of the mattress in order for it to fit horizontally, so the length is only 70”. It’s tight for Corbin, being six feet tall, so we sleep on a diagonal sometimes, but still. Its amazing. 

Also, you can find the pillow, which was the inspiration behind all of the interior design at www.baladihome.com.

THE TOILET

This is still my favorite. I am pretty sure I shared it on Instagram when it arrived in the mail, but it is so nice. It tucks right under the bed on a slider and is easy to use, easy to clean, and easy to dump out. There is also zero odor, but we do only use it for liquid waste, so I can not attest to solids. The toilet itself is a Thetford Porta Potti Curve 550e and I found it on Amazon for $120 with a mounting plate for another $30.

THE KITCHEN

So the second big priority was having a stove/oven inside of the van. Being on the road for long periods of time can be a bit draining, and not eating well just exemplifies that feeling. I also have such a pain in the ass diet, so fast food and restaurants are super tough. I found the RV oven on eBay for like $300 because of a few scratches which are unnoticeable to us, and truthfully it is going to get beat up anyways and so far its worked perfectly.  Adding in the stove meant needing propane, and that was quite the journey. I see a lot of van builds put propane tanks in built out sealed compartments inside of the vans, but Corbin was not into it. He wanted to find a tank we could mount underneath the van but they were super expensive. So after a week of going back and forth I reached out to another trusted van builder pal, and he strongly recommended Corbin’s plan. So Corb-1, Meg-0. 

I found a reasonably priced fork lift propane tank that could be mounted vertically and we mounted it underneath the van with twelve inches of clearance. We did read that some people struggled with hitting the ground, but we’ve driving 2,500 miles thus far (and through a couple of fields) and thankfully haven’t had any issues.

As for the sink, its all standard size parts that you can find in any hardware store. We are using three 5 gallon tanks (also found on Amazon and I think they are used on ATV’s). One tank is the grey water holding and the other two are connected to a water pump for dishes, teeth brushing and showering. We put the faucet specifically next to the door and bought a faucet with 360 turning range and an extra long hose so that we could pull it outside to wash. Alternatively we have a six liter gravity filter for backpacking with a shower attachment. Just this week we hung that from the back doors and were able to both shower on the side of the road in British Columbia.

THE POWER

Let me just say that solar power is the coolest thing ever. The fact that I can run a refrigerator and have the lights on and charge a computer and always have a sleep fan because of the SUN is so rad. And every day it just recharges itself, no matter how much energy we use the day before I wake up in the morning and check the battery only to find it full. We ordered the Renogy Adventurer 300 Watt Solar Kit from Amazon and have so far found that the 300 watts provides more than enough juice for the things we need. 

We did splurge on a refrigerator from ARB that only draws 0.7 amps per hour and other than the one time Corbin turned it down to 1 degree Celsius it has not affected our battery levels at all. We do keep things that need to be really cold near the bottom because the items on top don’t seem to keep as cool. It is also more spacious than it appears, after grocery shopping we thought it would be jammed but there was still a lot of room to spare. 

THE COST

Here is a cost breakdown of what I spent on the rebuild. Obviously super fortunate to be able to do most of the work ourselves, and would like to give a huge shoutout to our friend Denny for his guidance and scolding, my dad for making the carpet piece for the front area, my mom for custom making our cushions, Shane, Ryan + Tommy for lending Corbin a hand when I was out of town or working, Wendy lady for being a painting boss, Tinne with Baladi Home for providing the entire design inspiration with her products, The Cupples for sweet reminder that sits at the foot of our bed, and Spenc + Jess for gifting us with plant life. Thank you to all of our friends and family for their love and support and being patient with us while we disappeared down the van building hole. 

We are beyond excited, filled with so much gratitude and cannot wait for the infinite memories and adventures we plan to make in this space. Much love, Meg + Corb.