I’ve been working as a freelancer since 2014 doing social media marketing, which you can learn more about here and one of the things I get asked a lot is ‘what about internet?’
So, this is pretty easy to answer. When I’m in town or a city I go to coffee shops, libraries, laundromats or just friends houses for wifi.
The first thing you should do if you know you are going to be in a city full time for a while is get a PO box! This is essential because you can have an address in the city for all your important documents to get delivered to. Post office boxes can cost between $19-$75 a month depending on the size and location of the box.
The first thing you should do is lock your door every time you leave your van, put up your blinds and hide your valuables. Fortunately for me my van kind of looks like a piece of shit from the outside and I’ve never had anyone try to break into it, but I do know a few girls who have been sleeping in their cars/vans and woken up to the sound of someone trying to break in!
There are a lot of benefits to living in a van, and I know many people who chose to do the vanlife thing in a city. It's great for them! But in my experience, it kinda sucks. That's why, after getting stuck in Grand Junction Colorado for a week and then getting even more stranded back in Santa Cruz for a few weeks, I decided to put together a little guide for staying happy and sane in the van in a city/town. Hopefully this will help y'all out if you have to hang out in a mechanics shop for a bit longer than you would have liked.
If you've been following me for a long time you KNOW I have been meaning to do this for a while. If you haven't been following me for a long time, then welcome! This is the DIY hangboard set up for my 2006 Dodge Sprinter Van.
I get this question ALL THE TIME. So I decided to start tracking all of my expenses.
I’ve also compared my expenses to the national average because I like data and numbers.
Car Insurance: $128.49
I've been living in a van for two years as of today! Yay!
Sundress, spandex shorts, Birkenstocks. We were hanging out at a dirtbag potluck, which is basically just a bunch of climbers hanging out in a parking lot and sharing food together. I was instantly drawn to her bubbly attitude and her impressive list of badass climbs she had been ticking off in Squamish. Kate wasn't afraid to go for it.
Hey Kaya! Can you make a video about hitting the road as a climber? How skilled were you when you started? Is it better to be a fully competent trad climber before starting? How often do you climb with knowledgeable climbers and how often are you taking novices? And most importantly, how do you not get in over your head?!
One of the things I get asked all the time is ‘How do you insure your van?’
I think it’s a valid question and since I’ve done a bit of research on this exact subject I thought I’d share with you how I got my van insured and how you can most likely get yours insured if you want.
I’ve wanted one of these for a while because they allow you to open the door halfway and let some light/air in even if you’re parked on a hill. I got it from the blog Traipsing About, it was only $45 (with tax and shipping) and took about 20 minutes to install.
One of the questions I get all the time is:
"What made you decide to live this lifestyle?"
I wanted to address this question because it IS really important to me and I think it’s really relevant to my generations struggles to fit into our society.
I see more and more people with uterus’s moving in to vans and since I’m a uterus having person I thought I would dedicate some space to the period experience for van lifers.
So I have a really heavy period, that can last anywhere from 5-10 days and I get really bad cramps that make me nauseous and crabby. I’m all about low impact and minimalism so I don’t use pads or tampons, although they are great, I use the diva cup!
So I’ve lived in my van with a full-time partner, alone, and for short periods with other people.
And I have to say that living with two people full time in a van… is pretty difficult.
I do think it can be done, I know lots of people who do it really well, but I think it forces you and your partner to talk about things you wouldn’t otherwise confront because of the close proximity and space.
You both have to be really on top of your space management, and if you weren’t super close before then you are going to get SUPER close really quickly.
It’s pretty easy. You need a 13 mm socket wrench, an oil pan that can hold close to 3 gallons of oil, rubber gloves, paper towels or shop towels, a new oil filter, 12 quarts of oil, and an oil filter wrench.
I've lived in a Sprinter van for 1 year and 6 months as of the writing of this blog.
The highlights are: It has been the best decision I've ever made for myself, I really like working on my house and living in a small space and there are a few things I would do differently next time.
"How do you shower?"
I think the term 'hiking' is used loosely in this context, at least for the actual canyoneering section of the hike. I like sliding better. Sliding down the Subway was more accurate.
But! On May 6th 2017 in the early morning light, I did The Subway with my dear friend Amanda (@Scatter_Cusion). This is how it happened.
I was driving up a hill on Highway 1 just outside of the tiny town of Rockport California when I completely lost power.
I heard no sound, no change in the handling of the car, I just couldn't accelerate any more. I had just gotten into the passing lane to pass this really slow Prius, and got some weird looks from the driver as well as the cars behind me when I suddenly slowed down to 50mph, and then 45, and then 40...
I've never worked on my car before.
But after googling some mechanical issues for 10 minutes I'm confident I can do most of it myself.
It forces you to give an elevator pitch of your entire life, and often when you can squash your occupation or passion down into 1 or 2 sentences it doesn't sound that great.
My answer to this question, Freelance Social Media Marketing, is usually met with blank stares and the follow-up question, "So, what does that mean?"
This blog post/video is dedicated to answering that question. Let me break it down for you.
*Note* Something to consider is where you will dump your water tanks! As much as I can I dump mine in RV dump stations, camp bathrooms, or down the gutters. However, this isn't always possible and sometimes I dump my water in remote areas. It's important to note I only have 5 gallons of water so my impact is very low. However, if you have really big tanks I would not recommend dumping them on the ground. Do your best to deal with your greywater ethically!
Bringing the bike in the van was always a priority for me, but until recently I was just putting it on the ground inside the van. It would rattle around and I eventually broke my derailer when the bike fell over, so I decided it was time for a new bike rack solution.
My beer is cold at the end of the day because of the power of the sun.
I love that. I love that so much. Having a solar panel and running a battery bank off it is amazing. It saves a lot of money, it's quiet, and it's renewable! Getting the electrical set up in the van was the most expensive and difficult part about building out a van, but 100% worth it. I wouldn't recommend skimping on expenses during this stage. Having a system that is expensive and works is way better than having a system that is cheaper, but could break down/explode during your travels.
The wood paneling we did in the van is one of my favorite visual components of the van. It makes the van look and feel like a cabin in the woods. The color was really important to us when we were building it out, we had seen a lot of build outs that had dark wood and it really shrank the space. With the light wood it seems much more roomy and light, which is key for a small space like this! Another bonus is that when people first enter your van they can smell the cedar. My nose has long since adjusted to the scent, but I still get people who comment on it when they walk in.
Building out the bed frame and cabinets is so rewarding because you finally feel like it's starting to come together as a home. The bed frame especially makes it feel homey since you can start to imagine where you'll be sleeping! This step is also surprisingly expensive unless you have a lot of spare wood lying around. We were able to reuse some old wood, but needed to buy a lot of sturdy stuff for the cabinets.
This was one of the first 'mods' that we did on the van that didn't have anything to do with the 'house' part of the build out. We had been driving it around for a while and realized that the stereo sucked a lot. It didn't have an audio jack, didn't take Bluetooth and only played CD's, which I haven't bought since 7th grade. So we replaced the stereo!
I didn't realize until a few months after having a fan in the van how important it is. With a fan in the van you can drastically reduce the moisture that gathers on the windows, it helps air out a tiny space that you cook in, sleep in and bathe in, and it really helps keep the van a comfortable temperature. I use the fan all the time when I'm cooking to keep steam from condensing in the van, to keep the onion and garlic smell from lingering and to air out the burning propane. Fantastic fans are awesome, 100% would recommend.
One of the most frequent questions I get from people looking to build out a Sprinter Van is, "Does the insulation actually work?" and I would say "Yes*". Yes, it does, but with a footnote.
The very first thing we did on the Sprinter van (after tearing out the shelving left over from the other guy) was install the van floors. The floors are a really important part of the install. I've seen a lot of build outs that recommend doing the floors last, but that seems counter-intuitive to me. We also went with the 'hardwood' floors instead of the roll out linoleum flooring that some installs have. If I was to do it again, I would totally do the hardwood floors!