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How I Arrived at Van Dwelling


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My name is Brian, 38 years old, and I am a native of San Diego, CA.  I have been working full time since age 18.  I started renting at the same age.  About a 2 years ago I had a emotional breakdown that led to me giving up my career, new car, and nice 2 bedroom apartment.  While the rest of the U.S. were complaining of no jobs or work, I simply resigned from my secure career.  Why would I do such a thing?  I was working very hard for things that weren’t making me happy at all.  The future I saw for myself was just more of the same.  I’m not married nor do I have any children, so I moved in with my parents to regroup and establish some emotional balance.  I began researching alternate lifestyles.  I soon arrived at  I grew up camping, fishing, backpacking, and off-roading with my family.  Those adventures growing up are truly the happiest times of my life.  Finding Bobs blog brought all of those memories back.  I had to ask myself…Why am I not enjoying life?  Well, its very expensive to live in San Diego.  I could never get things together enough to be able to plan and actually take time off for adventures and spending time in nature.   I made a decision 7 months ago that I was ready for some real adventure.  Not just taking a trip, but to actually live it.  I’ve had a part time job working 25 -30 hours a week at a good wage for the last year.  It provides me more than enough to cover my food, gas, and other expenses.  I can even put some money away for savings every month.  That is…without paying rent.  Living with my parents is great but not as a long term goal (love you Mom and Dad!).  RV living and van life have always been attractive to me.   The more I researched the more hopeful I became about my future.  My possessions slowly started to lose their value to me.  I was truly seeking freedom from the material life I had become accustom to.   I started selling, donating, and giving all my stuff that wasn’t directly related to my survival.  Wow! Did I have a lot of stuff!!  It felt good deconstructing the museum that had become my life.  I saved up enough to buy a van in October of 2013.  My awesome parents had gifted me their old SUV so I sold that when I got the van and used the money to convert the van.  So begins the story of the van.
I found a 1997 Dodge Ram25000 short cargo van with a V6.  I really wanted the best MPG, so for me the smaller the better.  I knew the small space would be a challenge, but I was up for it.  The van was and old AT&T service van.  It had 84,000 original miles on it and was well maintained.  I paid $1,500 cash.  The van had roof racks and racks inside for work.  I was able to remove them and sell them on craigslist.  I found all the information I needed to convert it and got most of my ideas from  I started with insulating the cargo area.  I went with Reflectix against the bare metal.  Then 2 layers of foam insulating board.  I covered the insulation with a nice paneling.  I laid Relflectix on the floor than put down 3/4″ plywood on top on that.  The van came with a cargo divider so I have a nice doorway from that cab to the back of the van.  After measuring out my space and drawing up a few different floor plans,  I decided on the bed/couch in back.  I knew I wanted a solar panel so I planned on having a space for my battery bank and inverter.  I also wanted to have all my wire runs as short as possible.  I built the bed frame first.  I designed it so the couch can be used facing front or facing back for when the back doors are open (I can back in at the beach and watch the sunset!).  There is storage under the bed.  I build a little table for my sink, which I also use for cooking with my propane stove.  Its not bolted down, I like to be able to move it around when I set up camp.   My battery bank in behind the drivers seat.  I made a funky cabinet thing to house the batteries.  I have storage space on top of the batteries, I found a plastic storage drawer that fits in that space.  I went with a 100watt solar panel and a Morning Star controller.  I have two 6 volt golf cart batteries.  I’m using a small Dometic 12 volt fridge.  I have plenty of power to run my fridge 24/7 and can charge my laptop and other gadgets off the inverter.  The fridge and inverter are wired directly to the batteries.  I installed a fuse panel for adding other thin gs like fans, lights, or other accessories.  I’m currently using little battery powered LED lights, but I will probably wire in some in the future.  Overall I am very happy with conversion.  I left some things unfinished so I have something to do when I get bored.  I will be living in the van full time in just a couple weeks.  I have been spending most of my time in the van and doing over-nighters a few nights a week to get a feel for what I might need or have forgotten.  My total cost for the van and the materials for the conversion(including the solar setup and the fridge) was around $2,800.  I knew I could do it under for $3,000!  I will be mostly stealth camping around my job and spending my days at our beautiful parks and beaches.  I’m taking up surfing which I haven’t done since my high school years, and will continue to hike, mountain bike and take little roads trips as needed.  My dreams of living more on less are becoming a reality.  I am so grateful to Bob and all the other bloggers and members of this community.  I am most grateful for my amazing parents and brother whose unconditional love and acceptance has carried me through some of the toughest times of my life.

Author: Adventurevanman

Adventure seeker, nature lover, musician, and van dweller

4 thoughts on “How I Arrived at Van Dwelling

  1. I love your idea of how life should be lived best of luck always brian

  2. Hey Brian,

    Not sure where to begin, but I will try to keep this brief. My name is Gunner and like you, I am also a native San Diegan. I was an East County kid from Spring Valley! Anyways, I retired last December and bought a used Class C and left SD in May. I don’t plan on going back to live. This is my 3rd motorhome and first started watching an assortment of Youtubers living the boondocking lifestyle including yourself and after watching that documentary featuring Bob Wells. I ended up reaching out to Randy Vining (who was also in the documentary) via email while I was still living in Coronado and wrapping up a 23 year career. I too had an emotional breakdown a couple years ago so this experience has really been therapeutic for me.

    Anyways, I drove my rv out to Massachusetts for my daughters HS graduation and to see her off to college. Left SD on May 10th and got to Mass on June 4th. Since being out here I wave made the best of it and have really been roadtrippin all over this region. I bought a kayak and try to incorporate kayaking everywhere I go. I just got back from a trip to Maine and I have been sticking around the Connecticut coastline around Essex and Old Lyme.

    I’m really into photography and have been shooting a whole series on the Osprey at their nesting area. I just watched your last couple videos and see that your currently up in New Hampshire.

    I was wondering if you would be interested in hooking up with me before I leave out of here and head towards Arizona around Sept 1st. I could either meet you up where youre at or where ever? I’ve been travelling solo since May and I’ve really adapted but Hooking up for some boondocking with you would be cool. Also I was wondering if you would be interested in making a couple hundred bucks by giving me a crash course in shooting a video, editing it. Uploading it on YouTube, etc…

    I have all the time in the world to be making videos which I would like to do for all my friends and family have been following my adventures. I’m pretty good at photography but I learn best when somebody shows me. I would be willing to pay you for a quick video course. Also I’m thinking about driving to Alaska next Summer and would like to be able to video my trip while using an assortment of cameras. I’ve been video taping my kayak adventures but I think I need to buy a GoPro and a dedicated stand. I really struggle with editing.

    Well welcome back from your Summer job in Alaska and hope to hear from you.


  3. Hey Brian,
    It’s Paul Huff. I recently got in contact with Carlos Martinez from the old chevron days and he led me to “adventure van man” on YouTube. Hats off to you! It’s great to see you living your dream. There’s a big part of me that envys what you’re doing and the freedom you have. I’m pretty wrapped up in my career and 4 kids, but I think what you are doing is awesome. Take care and keep it up!

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