Oh boy, there's a lot to say!
My name is Sean, and I'm a 32 year old software developer. Most of my career has been in web development, but ever since I was a young lad slinging code in upstate New York, I've dreamed of making games.
In order to realize this dream -- and, honestly, just to have some fun too -- I've decided to sell all my shit, buy a van, build it out, and travel around the United States.
Because, why not? Fuck it. You only get one life, so you might as well have some fun, and chase your crazy dreams. Does anyone actually enjoy being in a cubicle, all day?
About This Document
I have attempted to catalog the build process of the van, in hopes that it will be useful in some sense, to someone, somewhere. Even at the very least of curing your boredom, temporarily, while you sit in your cubicle and pretend to work.
I will be documenting the build process in chronological order. This means the pictures will progress correctly, and make sense. But it also means that if you're looking for one particular piece of information (e.g., how to setup a solar panel system), you will have to hunt down the appropriate tid-bits of information.
This document is long. You don't have to read the whole thing. Relax. Just look at the pictures, or skip around. It's not that serious.
Photos shot using my iPhone 5S, with an olloclip 3-in-1 lens.
Too long to read? Check out the video tour, on YouTube:
Contact me via Twitter, @voidqk (pronounced "void cookie"). No, you can't e-mail me.
Check out my latest updates and games at Syntheti.cc.
September 2014 - May 2015
Getting Rid of Everything and Selling the House
This story starts in September of 2014, when I began to internalize the realization that my college loan -- my last piece of debt -- would be paid off in December.
Well, except my mortgage.
I would be ringing in the New Year a Free Man. The first time in my adult life with no sense of servitude.
I was certainly happy, for obvious reasons, but another part of me was truly terrified.
I was terrified because I no longer had an excuse. I had to take complete responsibility for my life. I couldn't blame my situation on the idea that I had to pay my bills, because all my bills were under my complete control.
"Paying off my debt" was my prime motivating factor for a large part of my adult life, and now that it was going to be paid off -- except for my mortgage -- I had some digging to do.
As a Free Man, what type of life do I want to create? What's important to me? And what is this nagging dreadful feeling of death and doom that I feel looming over me, all the time? :-)
Around this same time, my older sister was going through her own self-actualization.
Her solution: Sell/give/toss everything, buy an RV, and travel the United States, with her husband and children.
"For those who understand, no explanation is necessary; for those who don't understand, no explanation is possible."
I thought the idea was genius. Not for me, I said, but genius.
With the impending New Year existential crisis, and the seed of minimalism and travelling planted by my sister, I began to explore the idea a little more seriously.
Testing the Waters
It does sound crazy at first... but damn it all, if it won't nag you, in the background...
"How would I shower?"
"Well shit, I go to the gym a lot already... I could just shower there..."
"How would I cook?"
"Hell, if I was travelling all the time, I could buy food fresh, every other day..."
"What about using the restroom?"
"There are toilets everywhere... Maybe not as clean, but not the end of the world..."
Slowly, my subconscious mind, sorting out all these little details... Until a question would bubble up to awareness, demanding a tiny experiment:
How big of a fridge would I need?
Off to Lowes! Buy a mini-fridge, 1.7 cubic feet. Throw away all my food, and cram what I need into the fridge. Does it fit? Does it work? Can I live this way? Try it out for a month...
Yes... it fits. This could work.
How big is a van, anyways?
Off to the dealerships! Look at the latest models. Take measurements. Nissan NV2500, Ford Transit, Dodge RAM ProMaster...
NV2500 was a bit small... Transit was a bit big... ProMaster felt good, actually!
Can I live without my precious possessions?
Pile up my crap. Anytime I need something in the pile, take it out of the pile and save it for later. Monitor usage.
Surprisingly, I didn't miss a thing.
What does it feel like to live in a small space?
Mark off a corner in the room. Layout something that is about right, and get a feel for it.
Not bad. Pretty fucking cramped... but not bad.
So: Can I do this? Seriously?
I would need to get rid of all my crap.
I would need to fix up the house, list it, and sell it.
I would need to buy a van and build it out.
Fuck it. Let's do this thing.
Sell All The Things!
It takes a long time to get rid of all your crap.
So much time, that I began to develop relationships with the local pawn shop owners.
Every weekend, I would stop by, with another load of items I was willing to get rid of. Things that I swore the previous week I couldn't live without.
Games, consoles, DVDs, watches, TVs...
Next, eBay and Craigslist... Old computers, couch, chair, bed, rugs...
I sold as much as I could. But at some point, you can't get money for what you're selling... No one wants it.
So, off to the donation bins. Garbage bags full of clothes, shoes, suits, ties... donated. Button up shirts, still fresh from the cleaners, into the bin.
Then the more rare items... Can I donate my books? Call around, no one wants them. Can I donate my cookware? No... Plastic containers? No...
Try to give as much stuff to friends... but they have their own crap they're dealing with.
Fine. Craigslist it is, then:
You would be sick to your stomach if you knew how much shit I failed to sell, donate, or give away. Unfortunately, a lot of my precious stuff wasn't so precious after all, and ended up here.
Fix The House, List It, Sell It
Don't you just love home ownership?
Had to fix the sewer pipe:
That was over $6,000.
Had to replace the water filtration system. Retile the bathrooms. Repair walls and paint. Powerwash the siding. Clean the windows. Landscaping. Repair scratched floors. Clean. And clean some more.
List the house.
Once listed, keep the house in a state ready to show, at any time.
Negotiate a contract.
More repairs: GFCI, electric, plumbing, foundation, termite inspection, rodent inspection...
Until finally, the day comes. The house is sold, and the bittersweet feeling of driving away (with my truck completely overloaded). Saying goodbye to my home.
On May 29th, 2015, I officially had zero debt -- no exceptions! I was also homeless.
If I wasn't so exhausted from everything, I probably could have savored the moment a little more.
...No time. On to the main event...
60 Square Feet
How do you choose a van?
Obviously I can only give you my opinion. Here was my criteria:
- New -- I am a software developer, not a mechanic
- Solid walls all the way up -- not a fiber glass high-top
- Must be able to stand up in it
- Must look generic and boring on the outside to avoid attention
According to my research, that left three vans (ruling out the Sprinter because of the costs):
Not bad. However, the ceiling was a bit short for me, and I couldn't stand up completely. A bit ugly too, but I suppose vans are an acquired taste in general.
Tons of room, with a really high top! But also massive from the outside. This. Van. Is. Huge.
Dodge RAM ProMaster
I settled on the ProMaster. The biggest selling point for me was the front-wheel drive. This means the cargo floor is significantly lower than the NV or Transit, because you don't have a drivetrain going from the engine to the back wheels.
This shaves a lot of height off the overall size of the van, compared to the Transit. So you still get the standing room, but without the massiveness.
I closed on my house May 29th. I drove 650 miles to my father's house on May 30th. I traded in my truck for my ProMaster on May 31st:
- RAM 1500 ProMaster, High Top
- 136" Wheelbase
- 3.6-Liter V6 Gas Engine
- 6-Speed Automatic Transmission
- 24-Gallon Fuel Tank
- 220-Amp Alternator
- Side and Back Windows
- Power Folding/Heated Mirrors
- GPS Navigation
- Back-Up Camera
- 8550lbs GVWR
Even though it's only 60 square feet, the entire build process is a lot of work, requires a lot of tools, and a place to sleep (since my house was gone).
Thankfully, my Dad and Step-Mom offered to house me while the van was being built. My Dad is a carpenter, and has decades of experience (and loves building projects).
Without his help, the van would have looked completely amateurish -- if I would have been able to finish it at all!
Plus it was nice to spend some quality time with my Dad. It was a bit weird to live in the house, where I had last lived 11 years ago, when in college. But it was great to work on the project with my Dad, and I loved every minute.
He did the wood work ("the fun stuff", to him), and I worked on the smaller projects in parallel (electric, insulation, painting, roof rack, solar, etc).
(My Dad's shop)
June 1, 2015
(You can see my Dad's massive car-port in the background, which was a great convenience)
(Notice the height of the wheel wells -- they are much taller in the ProMaster because the floor is lower)
Form follows function.
I figured I would be spending most of my time in the van: 1. Sleeping, and 2. Coding.
The most obvious design choice (to me) was to use my passenger seat as a computer chair. Vehicle seats are designed to be comfortable for long stretches of time, because they assume you are driving. I might as well use that same comfort to sit and code.
Mounting my TV across from my rotated passenger seat would give me a dual screen setup for coding.
Bed size and placement changed quite a bit over time, as I experimented with different layouts.
Eventually I settled on a half-queen size bed, 30" x 75" x 8". I wanted the bed length-wise, because I sleep on my stomach with my toes hanging off the end. I also wanted a wall to lean up against, while in bed. Bed height was based off of sitting upright without hitting my head.
With those constraints, it was just a matter of arranging everything else around that.
I ended up with the foot of the bed facing out the back, because I liked the idea of having the rear doors open while laying in bed.
I opted for a gravity-fed faucet for simplicity. I figured I could use a portable propane camp stove for cooking (instead of a permanent fixture). No bathroom or shower -- just use public facilities and my gym membership.
Everything else would basically just be storage. Oh -- and I needed space for my guitar and folding bike, of course :-).
As you can see, I used MS Paint to layout the van. One square pixel = one square inch. Very technical, I know.
June 1, 2015
Installing EuroCamper Passenger Swivel
The ProMaster has an option on their website for a swivel seat, but no dealership actually has that option available in the real world.
After some searching on the Internet, I came across others who recommended the EuroCamper swivel adapter:
It took some waiting for it to come in stock, but I pre-ordered it about a month before the build started, so it was delivered by the time I got the van.
The bolts holding the seat down require a T40 socket to unscrew. Just buy the damn socket! I tried using an allen wrench, but ran into issues with some stripping.
Make sure to disconnect the battery (per the instructions), so that the airbags don't go off.
Wait 10 minutes, then disconnect all the wires under the seat.
Rip the seat off.
Mounting the swivel adapter is fairly easy. We did have to re-thread one hole. The only issue was that a cross-bar would rub against the rotating plate. Not really sure what the cross-bar was for -- we just hammered it down a little bit, to give the swivel some more clearance:
Reattach the seat and wiring, pulling it through the middle of the swivel adapter, reconnect the battery -- and you're done!
The adapter works great. It rotates 360 degrees, but you don't want to sit and spin in circles, because it will twist and screw up your wiring. It locks in place when facing forward; otherwise, it rotates with a bit of oomph. The forward-backward movement of the seat remains functional, in alignment with the seat -- when flipped around, it's better to be all the way forward, so your head doesn't hit the top of the van.
Heavy duty and just want I needed. A+, would recommend.
June 4, 2015
We thought it would be a good idea to lay everything out in cardboard, to get a feel for the flow of everything.
This turned out to be a good idea, because we learned two specific things:
- The wall between the bed and sink was originally completely vertical. This was very obtrusive, so we cut it at an angle.
- The planned location of the light switches was way too low. We moved the switch panel up as high as we could afterwards, and re-wired.
The bed platform represents the size of the cabinets. The bed would be another 8" above the platform, level with the other counter tops.
(Here you can see the original location of the wiring poking out -- far too low, considering the thickness of the mattress)
(My Dad, demonstrating how I will spend the majority of my waking hours :-P)
June 5, 2015
After getting the van, one of the first observations was that it comes with a flattened spot on the roof, towards the front:
This seemed like an obvious location for the Fan-Tastic Fan.
I had originally planned on putting the Fan-Tastic Fan in the rear, and cracking the windows, allowing the fan to pull air through the entire body.
But with the fan towards the front, that plan wouldn't work quite as well.
So we decided to cut open a rear vent in the back door. This would mean the fan would pull air from the back, towards the front, (hopefully) circulating the air much better.
Plus it gave my Dad practice in cutting holes in the van (which he was a nervous wreck over).
We found a nice metal vent at Lowes.
The Fan-Tastic Fan came with a spongy material for sealing the fan to the roof. We used the scrap center piece to seal the vent to the door, along with plenty of 100% Silicone Caulk.
The vent was attached with metal self-tapping screws.
June 5, 2015
We decided to use Lauan Plywood for the walls, ceilings, and panelling. Attached using the same metal self-tapping screws. We stuffed the cavity with regular pink insulation before sealing it up.
And don't forget the hole for our newly installed vent.
June 5, 2015
Wiring and Insulation
The wiring plan was simple:
The batteries would be on the passenger side. There would be 4 switches on the driver side (floor LED, bed LED, sink LED, and DC outlet). The refrigerator would be hard-wired to power directly. Additional lines were needed to run from the batteries to the solar panels and Fan-Tastic Fan.
As you can see, I also started stuffing insulation in all the channels.
June 6, 2015
Solar Wiring, Fan-Tastic Fan, Ceiling
The day my father dreaded: cutting holes in the roof of my new $33k van. I didn't see what the big deal was, but I suppose it was pretty easy for me -- I just watched, for the most part.
Start small. First, the hole for the wiring for the solar panels. We used a grommet to try and protect the 12 gauge wire from rubbing against the metal edge.
In order to drill it, we wedged a 2x4 with a wooden block on top, so my Dad would have something to drill into.
Sealed everything with 100% Silicone Caulk again. That stuff is great.
Quick side note:
We were happy to find duct insulation for the ceiling. It's thinner than regular insulation, and fit perfectly, without compression.
We attached it to the ceiling using 3M spray contact adhesive.
Needs to go here:
(My Dad, looking nervous)
(We taped a box below the target area, so that the sparks wouldn't go everywhere and burn the cloth seats)
(See Dad? That wasn't so hard :-P)
Next, create a small wooden frame. Turns out the wood was a bit too skinny -- you'll see why, soon.
Goop up the fan with our favorite: 100% Silicone Caulk. (EDIT: bad idea).
Drill into the van using metal self-tapping screws. Missed our frame... oops. Oh well, the self-tapping screws are secure enough.
Careful not to damage your wiring. Oops again.
And we're done -- for now!
We used 3 sheets of Lauan Plywood for the ceiling panels. The first 2 sheets were fairly straight-forward. A few notches on the side, but they mostly just went right up.
Again, we used the metal self-tapping screws to attach the panels to the cross beams.
(Don't forget to wire up the fan, before the third sheet...)
The third sheet was a bit harder.
First, how to mount it? We decided on cutting back some of the material in the front, uncovering a beam that we could screw to.
Next, how to cut the panel to fit all the goofy edges? We used cardboard.
June 7, 2015
We used cardboard cutouts to get the right profile around the edge of the floor.
Cut the 3/4" plywood to size, then test to make sure it fits:
I decided to use a layer of Reflectix under the plywood. It probably doesn't provide much insulation, but I figured it would at least help fill in the gaps between the ridges on the floor. We used 3M spray contact adhesive to glue it to the floor.
To cut the last section length-wise, we put on our thinking caps. Roll it up, then one cut should do it...
(We also used window flashing for the wheel wells -- why not?)
To attach the plywood, we countersunk the metal self-tapping screws, so the floor would be flat.
Beauty, ain't it?
June 8-9, 2015
Insulation and Framing
Used more 3M spray glue and Reflectix as the first layer of wall insulation:
Framing consisted of cutting boards to the right fit, so that we would have something to screw the wall panelling to, without too much bending.
(The trick is to pick the right length self-tapping screw, so that it doesn't go through the side of the van!)
We used plain R13 wall insulation.
Start of Wall Panelling
More templating with cardboard:
June 11, 2015
We tried coming up with different clever ways of attaching a roof rack... but couldn't figure out a way that was really satisfying.
So... I bit the bullet, and bought the EuroCampers VanTech H3 Style 2 Bar Aluminum Roof Rack.
The rack is well made, and installation is a breeze.
Please note, though: this rack is low-profile, and cannot be mounted in the front section of the van if you have a Fan-Tastic Fan -- they are clearly in conflict:
That didn't matter for me -- I wanted them in the back anyways, for the solar panels.
June 11-12, 2015
While I worked on the roof rack, my Dad continued work on the wall panelling:
It's a bit tedious, cutting out the exact sizing... but the great thing about building out a van is that every mini-project has an end in sight. There are only so many wall panels.
My Dad also made some hardwood decorative end pieces, to cover some of the exposed insulation, and to help hold up the ceiling panels.
June 11, 2015
Why buy an expensive awning, when you can just use a tarp and some poles?
But first -- I needed to have a place to attach the awning. So I bought some metal strips, painted them white, and bolted them to the roof rack:
Then, just a 10' x 10' tarp, with some tent poles, rope, and metal hooks:
June 13, 2015
Wall Construction and Wiring
Next, the wall between the bed and sink. We wanted this to be strong enough to support me leaning on it, while sitting in bed.
Wiring up the switches was easy -- once you know the trick.
The fridge is hard-wired to power. All the white wires go together. The switches break the black wire, for each circuit. Instead of providing a dedicated wire to each switch, you can use a single power line and connect all the black wires together.
Follow the diagram and you'll see what I mean:
(You don't need ground wires in DC circuits... I learned this later)
June 14, 2015
Mounting the Solar Panels
The solar panels came in a kit, from Renogy, which included an MPPT charge controller. They are 100 watts each.
I bought 4 metal flat bars to mount the solar panels to the roof rack. The flat bars are a bit wavey, but since the panels are mounted very close to the roof rack, the waviness isn't a big issue.
First, attach the bars to the panels:
Mounting to the rack was easy, due to the rack's design. The only hard part was doing this in 90 degree weather.
Things didn't line up perfectly, so we had to cut longer holes.
Wiring on the roof was easy -- connect the panels in series, then positive to white, negative to black.
June 14-15, 2015
Bed Cabinets and Platform
Meanwhile, my Dad worked on the bed cabinets. He insisted on a toe kick, which does make a huge difference, at the cost of a little extra space.
The channel in the back needed to fit my folding chair. The compartment at the foot of the bed needed to fit my Brompton folding bike.
I bought my mattress from Sleepy's. It's designed to be a platform bed, so no box-spring is necessary. The dimensions are 30" x 75" x 8" -- a half-queen.
And the true test -- can I sit without bumping my head?
(Notice the height of the switches -- good thing we moved them up after the cardboard prototype, huh?)
Last thing for today... biscuit joint and glue the frame together.
June 17, 2015
Paint and Bed Drawers
I picked some nice colors at Lowes -- "Pillow Talk" for the ceiling, "Paradise Blue" for the walls, and "Snowcap White" for the cabinets.
The walls turned out a little too baby-blue for my taste, so I might repaint them, but it is growing on me...
We talked about a bunch of different ways to access the storage under the bed. Eventually we settled on drawers, so that I wouldn't have to be digging under the platform for items.
Box-joint for the drawers.
We added a bit more support on the bottom.
Attach the framing...
Notice that the drawers need to be finished before we work on the passenger side cabinets. We won't have room to remove the drawers once the other cabinets are in place.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
Simple latch system:
There is some wasted space that could have been put to use if we had used shelving and sliding doors -- but I think it was worth the sacrifice. This way I'm not on my hands and knees every time I need something from storage.
What The Hell Am I Thinking, Anyways?
"Fuck it" is a great reason. But I obviously put more thought into something so drastic. Impulse only goes so far.
There are two primary motivating factors:
1. Mortgages are a complete rip-off
The average American household spends over a third of their take home pay on housing... For 30 years.
This is utterly insane.
Let's put that in perspective:
If you work 40 hours, 9-5, then Monday and Tuesday are dedicated to paying for your house. Every week. If your housing was paid off, your weekend would be longer than your work week.
You will spend 2,600 days at work to pay for your house.
I built my van in under 40 days. The money used to fund the build only took about a year to save up.
I could purchase and build a new van every two years, and still pay less in housing!
Do your own math. Calculate your cost in terms of time spent at work. For some reason, we give special exception to mortgages... we would never spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on anything else. Why does housing get a pass?
2. Corporate life feels like a zoo
You Weren't Meant to Have a Boss (emphasis mine):
I was in Africa last year and saw a lot of animals in the wild that I'd only seen in zoos before. It was remarkable how different they seemed. Particularly lions. Lions in the wild seem about ten times more alive. They're like different animals. I suspect that working for oneself feels better to humans in much the same way that living in the wild must feel better to a wide-ranging predator like a lion. Life in a zoo is easier, but it isn't the life they were designed for.
My corporate job was easy. It paid great. The people I worked with were smart and talented.
I should feel lucky to have such an awesome job in the middle of a recession... right?
Yeah... but I didn't feel lucky. I felt like I was in the human zoo. Predictable, boring, lazy... sitting behind a desk, while watching the outside world through the window of the Internet. Trapped, because I needed my paycheck to pay my mortgage.
Day by day, year by year. All the comforts -- big screen TV, nice house, fast Internet, big bed, three bathrooms (for one person!). No risk taking. Steady and safe.
What's the point?
Yeah, life isn't easy now. Yeah, so what. Who fucking cares? At least when I get up in the morning, it's because I'm exhilerated at tackling the next task. At least I can see the world with my own damn eyes -- not through some glowing rectangle.
Yeah, I don't have all those comforts. But you know what I do have? Freedom.
Sure, it's cliché, but it's cliché for a reason -- this subconscious drive for freedom is hard-wired in our DNA. No modern comfort or toy can take the place of true autonomy.
And unless you win the lottery, you basically have two paths to freedom:
1. Work your life away, acquire lots of money, and enjoy your freedom when you hit 67.
or 2. Live frugally today. Sell all your shit. Say "no" to modern comforts. And enjoy your freedom now, when you have the capacity to fully enjoy it.
Is having a couch and TV worth being stuck in a cubicle for the rest of your life? Is showering at the gym so terrible that you'd rather spend your waking hours pretending to work so you can have your own bathroom?
Let it go.
June 18-20, 2015
Same process as before -- measure out an area, leave room for a toe kick, frame it out, and build a drawer:
The only thing that goofed us up was trying to figure out which drawer glides to use... The drawer has to come out quite a bit, so the fridge can open. We found some that were long enough, but they didn't fit without mounting them to the bottom of the drawer. A little strange, but it works.
Instead of wiring the fridge directly to the power, I used a DC socket instead.
You can see we cut out squares from the side of the drawer, to help the fridge air out.
June 20, 2015
Once again -- the same process.
June 20, 2015
It was getting late, but I realized I had all the pieces to finish the electrical system -- so I excitedly put it together :-).
First, cut all the 0 AWG wire. Why 0 AWG? Because I had a 1500 watt inverter, which meant I could be pulling 150 amps (1500 watts output / 120 volts output * 12 volts input = 150 amps input).
By the way: 0 AWG wire is a pain in the ass to deal with. We soldered the connectors on the end. Yes, those are bolt cutters.
(Working into the night... "This ain't no union job!")
Here is a diagram of the inner workings:
It looks more complicated than it is... Basically, just hooking everything up, but with fuses on the positive wires. 20 amp fuse to protect the charge controller, 30 amp fuse to protect the batteries, 150 amp fuse to protect the inverter. 0 AWG wire between the batteries, and connecting the inverter; 12 AWG everywhere else.
Not shown, but I also had to attach the power line from the driver side switch box directly to the batteries, along with the fan power line.
Our reward? Switching the LED light on and off :-).
Checking the next morning -- yes, the solar does charge the battery :-). It's a 250 amp-hr system, with 200 watts of solar panels.
June 21, 2015
Frame the passenger side, affix a pole, and hang the door:
Plus a little shelf on the bottom:
June 22-23, 2015
June 26, 2015
Buckles, Panels, and Moving In
I decided on using plastic buckles and straps to keep things secure while driving around. It was pretty easy to cut the straps to the right length, burn the ends to prevent fraying, and screw them into the wood.
My Dad worked on finishing off some of the other panels -- the panel in front of the inverter and the two panels under the closet. He also attached the hardware (handles and knobs), and made the platform beneath the sink, to hold some extra water.
With everything so close to being done, I started moving in.
June 27, 2015
Counter tops were made out of MDF and laminate:
(Some laminate on the wall)
June 27, 2015
Plumbing was a bit hard -- only because there wasn't a lot of clearance between the drain and the fridge. We had to figure out the correct sequence of pipes and hose... but we got it, in the end.
June 28, 2015
Desk, Shelves, and Trim
The desk has legs on one side, that fold up. This allows me to slide the desk directly behind the driver's seat.
I can flip the passenger seat around, and use the desk as an office... or I can stand on the other side, and use the desk as a kitchen counter top.
Paper towel holder:
Shelving for more water:
Propane holder, below the closet:
Some small trim to tighten up the look:
June 29, 2015
First Night in the Van
With all major work completed (except flooring), it seemed like a good time to get acclimated to van life.
The first night was "ok". The air became stuffy, and I was hot, so I slept on top of the blankets.
Throughout the week, I tweaked my routine, and now it is quite comfortable. I bought an extra fan to help circulate air, and I learned not to sleep on my blanket -- the mattress is designed to dissipate heat, and works quite well at keeping me cool; the blanket just aborbs the heat and makes things worse.
One thing I noticed is that it would be nice to have a night stand... so we made a slot where a board can slide out from under the mattress:
July 1-2, 2015
First, a layer of lauan.
The laminate was 13 feet wide... we only needed maybe 5 feet. Oh well.
We laid out the lauan, traced the profile, and cut out the shape with fabric scissors.
Nailed down the lauan:
Then glued down the laminate:
Lastly, my Dad made some hardwood thresholds for the side and rear:
July 2-3, 2015
Linseed oil the desk and wall trim:
Attaching the last piece of trim:
Mounting my TV so that I can use it as a second monitor:
(I am in heaven :-P)
And... we're done!
(Yes, I wore the same shirt on purpose :-P)
The van cost $33,750, and the build cost $5,555. It cost more to replace my sewer pipe at my old house than it cost to build out my entire van.
Thanks for following along on the build -- it's been great, but really, this is just the start of the adventure :-).
I'm thrilled to hit the road -- I have a lot of places I want to visit, and a lot of code I want to sling.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How will you go to the bathroom?
Public facilities. Grocery stores, book stores, Wal-Mart, etc. For emergencies, I have a pee bottle and a 5 gallon jug. Line the jug with two trash bags, and cover the poop with kitty litter. Then toss it in a dumpster. Hopefully I won't have to do that too often!
What do your friends and family think?
I keep good company -- my family and friends have been awesome. No one has told me I'm crazy (to my face :-P), and most have expressed excitement for me.
How will you support yourself?
I have some money saved up. I also work part-time as a freelance programmer, which can be done anywhere. Hopefully I will launch a successful indie game development business with all my extra time -- afterall, that's the whole point!
How long are you going to do this?
Two years. Of course, I reserve the right to quit early if I hate it... or go longer, if I love it :-P. But the initial plan is two years.
Who does this...!?
Actually, a lot of people! If you look around online, you can find tons of people who have done exactly the same thing. This might seem like a bizarre idea at first -- but look around on YouTube and Reddit, you'll see how common it really is.
In fact, if you go to your local Wal-Mart in the early morning, chances are you'll see lots of vans and RVs in the parking lot, off to the side. There are people in there, living their mobile life.
So... you're living in your vehicle. Are you okay? Do you need money?
Yes, I am okay. No, I don't need money. (In fact, I probably have more money than you... how much is your mortgage, by the way? :-P)
Some people live in their vehicle because they are in a bad situation, lost their job, have some sort of drug or alcohol abuse, etc.
But many people are just regular folks, not in a desperate situation, and choose to live a mobile lifestyle. Like I said: look around on YouTube. Search for "van dwelling" or "full time rv". You'll see what I mean.
I certainly feel bad for those who are going through a hard time. But I choose this lifestyle, at least for now, in order to free up my time and adventure on life :-).
Where do you plan on going?
I don't have a fixed schedule or route. I do have some key destinations I would like to see. My first target is the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California. That just gives me something to look forward to... I'll be taking my time and visiting lots of locations.
What did X cost? What model of X did you buy? Where did you buy X?
Good news, everyone! I kept a detailed cost log, with links to specific items, that you can download here:
Short answer: My total out of pocket cost: $23,205. The van was $33,750, trading in my truck got me $16,000, and the build cost $5,555 (and a $100 gift certificate).