I've lived in a Sprinter Van for a full year! (and some change...)
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.
The first thing I would change is the material I use to build the wooden parts of the van.
2x4's are awesome. BUT. I think it would have been a good idea to go lighter on the wood we used to build out the van. I often wonder what my gas millage would be if we had been more concerned about weight. If I ever do a van conversion 2.0 I would definitely go with lighter.
Find a better place to store propane.
When we started the van conversion we wanted to have the small green propane canisters, but as I lived in the van longer I realized I could only get about 15 meals out of one canister, which financially made zero sense. The larger propane tanks last for months, not days, and the cost of refilling them is less than the cost of the 4 pack of canisters you buy at a hardware store. Also, now I have to store my propane in kind of a sketchy place and it doesn't off gas correctly. I am planning on changing this when I do the remodel of my van.
If I did it again I might not do solar.
I LOVE my solar panel. BUT. If I had to do this all again with a different van and I had to purchase a panel outright? I might not do it. If you are trying to do your van on a budget it makes way more sense financially to buy an isolator combiner, hook that up to your ignition battery and charge you batteries when you drive instead of dealing with the hassle of a solar panel. That would drop your costs down a lot and get you more energy, especially if you live in a place where you don't get full sun all the time.
The 'All Weather Tires' were worth it.
That's all I really have to say about that. Get em.
Vanlife Lessons: Year One
Living in a van isn't all about what I would have done differently on the build out, it's also about what I've learned by just being out in the world!
Some of the highlights include.
- Don't knock on someones van unexpectedly
- Get a plastic pee jar
- Take space for yourself
- You wont be alone, trust me.
- Clean up after yourself (don't give the vanlifers a bad name)
- Be overly friendly to people when they see you park on their street.
- 9/10 people in this world are awesome
- 1/10 people are not
- I don't generally feel more afraid to travel alone because I'm a woman
- BUT I do experience a higher level of risk because of my sex
- Still the best decision I've ever made for myself
I'm generally really happy with all of the things I did on my van. There are a few things I would tweak now that I've had all this time to really get a feel for it, but over all I think we made the right call on most of the construction decisions.
As far as lessons I've learned? The main one is cheesy, but true. Be kind to the people you meet on the road, be kind to the places you visit, be kind to yourself. To elaborate, I mean take space for yourself and take care of yourself when you need it because life on the road can wear you down if you're not careful. Be kind to the places you visit because you want to be able to come back one day. Be kind to the people you meet on the road because you need communities in order to survive. We are social beings that require connection, so be kind and make friends.
Here's to many more years to come in the van.