Life on the road has been a lifestyle and goal of many travelers for decades. Whether it was Jack Kerouac who first inspired freedom-seekers in the 1970s, or the VW Westfalia, young people to this day still seek the solace that’s found on the road.
Current trends like vanlife and overlanding have never been about the vehicles, but about the lifestyle: free from a desk job and a rent or mortgage; able to explore the country as opposed to stay in the same place. There’s a reason why the #vanlife hashtag has taken off in recent years.
But how do you actually get an adventure mobile you can live in?
Before you build out your van or overlander, you need the whip first. It’s easy to get carried away with the idea of driving a bright yellow VW Westfalia but you need to be sure you are actually getting what you need and not just what you want in your home on wheels. Do your research. Sprinter vans have become popular because they are reliable, however, repairs can run expensive. If you’re buying a vehicle on Craigslist, be sure to get it inspected.
Will you mostly take your van to the beach or off-road? Knowing roughly how you’ll be using your van, and the area you’ll call home, is important for things like tire selection. Be sure to do your homework on what you might need for your vehicle depending on your lifestyle.
How you use your van is the most important question to answer before you hammer anything into place. Will your van strictly be used as a home that you drive, or will you sometimes need it to haul ski equipment? If it’s the latter, you will need to have furniture that is moveable and adjustable. Be sure to lay out the inside of your vehicle multiple times–test to see how you will use the space, and what storage you will need.
When you begin to build out your van, trailer, or overlander, it’s important to remember that materials matter. Though linoleum faux wood flooring might look fashionable, it is sure to peel and get scratched up after intense use. Once your vehicle is laid out and nailed in, it becomes harder to replace these materials.
Though the vehicle might be a large upfront cost, you will have a ways to go before you are done spending money. When budgeting, keep in mind whether or not you want to invest in solar power, since it allows you to not worry about electrical hookups when camping. Also, don’t forget to budget for the buildout, which depending on what you do, can cost a lot—try to use secondhand materials to cut down on costs.
Like many things, we underestimate the time it takes to get something done, and van buildouts are no different. Try to start with the most critical buildout, for example, a bed if you plan to live in your van. The other things will be built gradually as you embark on your journey from city life to vanlife.