Cargo Vans. Strange that I never noticed their existence much before, but I will never look at them the same again.
Have you ever picked up a book, started reading it, then thought “Holy crap! These are my feelings! I could have written this word for word!” That happened to me the evening of February 10th as I settled into bed and began reading my newly purchased copy of Jess Ward’s book entitled “The Intrepid Woman’s Guide to Van Dwelling”. As I curled up in my blankets with my cats beside me, in the darkness of my tiny little studio apartment, tablet in hand, I began to read. Immediately I knew I found a kindred spirit. In the first 2 pages of chapter one, I read these two thoughts from the author Jess Ward:
“Dutifully, I geared up to be disappointed by another leap into professional employment that crash landed appalling short of my expectations. The Bureaucracy, the ladder climbing, and the tedium of working forty hours a week just didn’t jibe with how I envisioned my ideal life.”
“I sucked at being normal.”
sniff She gets me. She really gets me.
The more I read, the more I liked Jess. We thought alike in many ways and had similar experiences leading up to our ‘enlightenment’ about what we wanted in life. She even mentions that she “randomly stumbled upon” Bob Wells book and shares that it was the catalyst for her deciding to live in a van. She explained, “The mental light bulb illuminated when I finished the final page of that book. The noise in my head quieted and the goal was in sight: I was going to live in a van. DONE.”
For anyone new to my story, this very same book by Bob Wells shook up everything I ‘knew’ I wanted for my nomadic lifestyle. I purchased it in Mid November 2015, and while still reading, began to realize I may not want a small Class C after all. Isn’t it cool to think Bob’s book provided Jess with her epiphany? Particularly since it had redirected my own thinking, opening my mind to the idea, thus allowing Jess’s book to completely clarify my path. Thanks, Bob and Jess!
As I was coming to the end of Jess’s book, my friend David, completely out of the blue, sent me a copy of The Van Dwellers Dilemma, a free eBook available from Christine at Defying Normal. The timing was uncanny. While Jess had a great chapter in her book ‘Selecting the Right Wheels” that helped me determine I wanted a cargo van, I still didn’t know which cargo van. Christine’s book resolved that quandary.
Christine lays out detail in her eBook that you truly can’t find anywhere else, and puts it all in one very readable place. It still shocks me that she gives it away for free! I particularly love that she shares less common information about things like turn radius and wheelbase, which can impact things like stealth and drivability. There are detailed pros and cons for practically any cargo or conversion van you can think of and she also has chapters on minivans, trucks, cars, and buses. If you plan to live or travel in something other than a typical pre-built RV, you need to read this book.
I am happy to report that I am now armed with the information I need to help pick which cargo van will work best for me. I can’t say exactly which one I want because it will greatly depend on price and availability, once I am out there shopping. It will likely be the Ford E-Series or Chevy Express. I would prefer a high top, but I can live without it. I would like to have an extended van for the extra room and would go with the Ford in that case, due to the maneuverability associated with the wheelbase. However, if I were to find the right deal on an extended Chevy Express, I might reconsider. Again, price and availability as I search will be paramount in my decision making.
I also know what I don’t want, based on what I have read and how I plan to live and travel, so that will help narrow the search process. Then there are vans like the Sprinter or the ProMaster, that I would very much like, but they aren’t financially realistic.
I am not planning an elaborate build so I expect things to be fairly simple. I know I will need assistance with the construction, but don’t know who will be providing that help yet. I won’t have an enormous amount of money to pay for labor, but I also don’t want a sloppy build. I have a few friends I might convince to help, but none near me. I may have to throw a mattress in the back and travel to them before I begin my adventures. I’m not terribly stressed about it. Things have a way of working themselves out.
I will likely have solar installed professionally and I hope to have it installed on a roof rack that has enough clearance for the vent cover of the Fantastic Fan(s) I intend to have installed. This will need to be done before I move into the van, due to health and safety concerns for the Nomadicats, Freddie and Basil.
No blog of mine, on choosing which cargo van to live and travel in, would be complete without mentioning the two potential deal changers. Now whether they are really deal changers, or just unrealistic silliness is anybody’s guess. Even for me. Anyone who reads my blog or has visited my Facebook page knows of my love affair with the Airstream 190. What many do not know is I have a similar Westfalia love affair. The charm and character of each of these very different options woo me every single time I see one. Initially, the bathroom in the Airstream 190 is what stole my heart but now that I know her, it is so much more. Both the Airstream and the Westfalia model that I am interested in, have ‘bunk’ type beds that leave the living area as just a living area. Plus you get to sleep up high! I can’t tell you how much the overgrown kid in me loves that option. In reality, both are no longer made, are older, and more prone to potential mechanical issues. Leaving me to concede the very real, 90% likelihood, that a simple but perfectly liveable cargo van will be my next home. And I can live with that.