Vanlife? Vanlife! I am buying a van. Yes indeed, I am going to be a van dweller.
When I first started looking into this lifestyle in late 2014, I was convinced I would be buying a small Class C or trading my car for a truck and getting a small travel trailer. A Class A rig was never a consideration due to their size and the Class B’s were out of my price range. In fact, I remember thinking that even if I could afford the Class B, those marine showers were not going to cut it.
My, how things change.
I came across Bob Wells site Cheap RV Living in the early days of 2015 while researching different kinds of mobile lifestyles and have since visited frequently, always intrigued by the vanlife but never really giving it full consideration. Then, in June 2015, I watched a documentary featuring Bob called Without Bound, something I had been meaning to watch for months and simply hadn’t taken the time. It confirmed for me that the plans I was making were the right ones for my life and I was even more inspired to move forward with my idea to live a nomadic lifestyle. Yet again though, I didn’t give the vanlife option much more consideration than I had before.
On November 16, 2015 I finally bought, and subsequently read, Bob’s book How to Live in a Car, Van or RV–And Get Out of Debt, Travel and Find True Freedom. I read it every single day on my lunch breaks, and before bed at night, until I finished it 6 days later. Even before completing it, I told my 2 closest nomadic minded friends (Patrick and David) that I had decided I wanted to travel by van. They were both immediately enthusiastic about the idea and thought it sounded absolutely perfect for me. (neither of them aware of my shower obsession)
On November 23 I posted this blog in which I vaguely touched on my newfound interest in vanlife. I reiterated my concerns about a shower and what I would and would not tolerate as far as showering conveniences. Looking back, I can’t rationalize or explain my mindset at the time, but I really cared about a specific kind of showering in my van for some reason.
The more I thought about it as the weeks passed, the more I read, the more videos I watched, the more information that serendipitously fell right in my lap, the more I wanted to live the vanlife. So much so that the thought of a Class C no longer fit my idea of what I wanted out of this lifestyle.
I began looking for and following profiles on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube about Van Dwellers. I became increasing thoughtful about all the places I would be able to access in my van, as well as stealth parking and the potential for mechanical issues. I researched camper van floorplans. I looked into the different brands of camper vans. I researched the newest model year I might be able to afford and all the price points of interest. I looked into financing and the age of the camper van in relation to the likelihood of getting a loan. I checked every possible option. Including, of course, showers.
I found a model of Roadtrek that had a hallway shower option that would work but unfortunately, the price was never right no matter how many I looked at. At some point during this process, I found my dream girl: An Airstream 190 Camper Van. She is a vanlife goddess. A stunningly beautiful, yet gaudy piece of (art)work, and bless her heart she has a full shower in the back. We all know what’s inside matters most and she doesn’t disappoint with her high top, upper bunk over the cab, and kitchen window, to name a few of her best traits.
After 1996, they began installing marine showers in the Airstream 190 and ultimately ended production on this model 3 years later. The very last one built was completed on August 1, 1999. After 11 years in production, there was a total of only 1,393 made. These babies are not easy to find and even harder still to find in good shape. As much as I would love her, financing would be nearly impossible at her age and I simply don’t have enough money saved to buy outright. :'(
Firmly dedicated to vanlife at this point, I decided if I couldn’t have my sweet Airstream 190, I would build my own. I told Patrick and David I didn’t care if I had to build it while I was living in it, I was going to do what I had to do. More than once I proclaimed “a bucket and a mattress are all I needed to start, I can do everything else as I go.” I meant it then and I still do now.
You might be wondering what became of my shower requirements. I simply don’t know. I can’t remember what happened or why, but there was a point after deciding I would build my own van, that it just didn’t seem to be a big deal anymore. Suddenly I began to notice van dwellers with gym memberships or YMCA memberships, using those facilities to shower very regularly and that seemed perfectly fine with me.
In January, I was supposed to meet my friend David at the Rubber Tramp Rendevous in Quartzsite, AZ. Things happened and I could not go. I consoled myself one afternoon by watching some videos from folks who were there. To my delight, one of my all time favorite YouTubers (Brian from AdentureVanMan) was there and had just posted a video. At little over 7 minutes into the video, he blew my mind. Check out his clever shower set up. Clearly that won’t work in a heavily populated area, but I have a gym membership for that situation. When boondocking in more remote areas, where I may not be inclined to leave for many days, this is going to be a brilliant solution!
Brian and I were later able to discuss his shower and how he came up with the idea when I interviewed him for The Nomadic Fanatics Podcast in February. In the weeks following my interview with Brian, someone shared The Big Kahuna Portable Shower as something I might be interested in as well. It’s pretty darn incredible and I would love to have one, but I think the less costly option Brian demonstrated will work for me just fine.
With the shower issue resolved and the choice to build my own van nailed down, I now need to shop for an appropriate vanlife van. In some cases, building out your own van can be more costly than buying an older used class B. However, you can get a newer model year if you build your own, and I like the potential reliability of a newer van. The true cost factor depends on any number of variables. Are you someone who can do all the work yourself? (not me) How important is it to you that you have a shower and flushing toilet in your van? (not me) Do you need modern conveniences or do you like roughing it a little? (I’m in the middle, nearer the roughing it side) Are you laid back or a little uptight? (super laid back with minor uptight tendencies) Are you OCD about showering every single day? (not me) I answered these questions for myself and as it turns out, I am pretty flexible and laid back on almost everything. (2003 me would have been shocked to know 2016 me. Just sayin’.)
The next thing I need to figure out is which type of van will work best for my needs? So stay tuned, there’s more to come on that!