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This Ford Transit, Medium Roof, converted camper van became a dream in 2018.  After finishing the first version of the build, two adults and two children (ages 8 and 4), sold their 3 bed, 3 bath house and immediately after closing set off to adventure!  


We purchased this van used for $19,000.  We spent approximately $5,000 on the build and spent 300 hours designing and building (and rebuilding) to fit our family's specific needs.


We have a large cooler style fridge (does not include a freezer) which runs off the solar panels on the roof.  The van is also has one cabinet of pantry space below the sink and some above. Our family of four can generally last 3 days without going to the grocery cooking every meal in our van.  We have hanging baskets for fruits and veggies and enjoy eating cold lunches (salads, sandwiches, charcuteries) and warm, one pot or skillet dinners. Because we have to conserve space, we do not buy canned or bottled drinks.  We can not buy frozen items either.  To our surprise, the ease of fresh vegetables, fruits and the lack of certain items fitting (think giant bags of chips), we have found ourselves on an accidental healthy diet!  While we are out, items like popsicles and soda is quite a treat!


The 10 gallon fresh water tank lasts us about 3 days during full-time use.  It is easily refillable through the back door with a normal hose.  The 5 gallon grey water tank is used to catch our sink water and requires emptying every 2-3 days.  We use biodegradable soap and dump it in a toilet.  We opted to not have a shower as it takes up a lot of space and requires a larger water tank.  Our family stays at campgrounds, friend's driveways and visited many beaches and pools so hygiene was rarely an issue. #Vanlifers without children can easily sign up for a chain gym membership for showers.  The only other water in the van is used for our toilet.  It is a typical, manual flushing, camper toilet.  We empty the toilet at rest stops or similar public restrooms about every 3 days.  We tried the organic stuff many times but resulted in the strong chemicals (takes very little) used in "porta-potties" to control smells when it is in use.  You'd never know it was there when put away! 


The van is built to be somewhat stealth giving us the ability to park it in the city or parking lots when on the road without it being so noticeable while sleeping.  The van originally did not have any small windows making it super stealth.  The cross breeze during warm months out-weighed the small risk of someone noticing our van while sleeping (and we've never had any trouble ever). I use the All Stays App for finding our stops. Our destinations are normally at campgrounds, free BLM spots, visiting friends, and festivals.  However, when in-between places, our favorite locations are Cracker Barrel and Bass Pro Shop.  They are often off the interstate and always in safe neighborhoods.  In the morning, we grab some biscuits and coffee or say hi to the fish inside!  The van is equipped to be plugged in for heat and the fans run off solar.  We do not have AC, so avoid locations with temperatures above 70 degrees at night.

Work & Family

During our year living on the road, Heather taught higher-education courses as a full-time faculty member while Jesse homeschooled the boys.


Before entering the open road, I taught full-time at a small University in rural Kentucky.  At the time, administration was eager to explore the online teaching space and granted me permission to temporarily adjust my position from in-person to full-time online.  This allowed our family to keep vital benefits such as medical insurance. Ironically, as a result of preparing as an online instructor in 2019, I was prepared for teaching in 2020. My 4 class sessions were conducted every Tuesday and Thursday with constant feedback, grading and conversations happening over email with students Monday-Friday.  Finding high-speed internet to support Zoom's large bandwidth demands was a constant challenge.  The environment of coffee shops and fast food places did not accommodate the virtual space I needed to conduct classes. As a result, I landed on one of the most overlooked resource in the wonderful United States - public libraries.  The US has over 9,000 public libraries all with 100 times better internet speed, making a location fairly easy to find with the exception of very rural areas in the West.  I've visited and worked in the most beautiful libraries in the world.  My favorite so far is Salt Lake City's downtown location. 


Normally, our family includes two working parents but because #vanlife is so affordable, we only needed one income.  In addition to maintaining the van, doing the bulk of driving and social media management of our journey, Jesse took care of the boys education. He certainly isn't interested in teaching small children but we knew the opportunity was worth the adaptation.  After Heather planned the curriculum for the boys, Jesse took up the often frustrating and tedious work of implementing their education.  Thankfully, much of their education didn't come from a book but rather museums, ranger tours, zo and more.  Every day was a field trip!  The boys were young enough the material was made up of basic writing, reading and mathematics but also old enough to work on things independently.  The pressure for our four year old wasn't as intense as he would only be in pre-school and focused on understanding letters, shapes, numbers and basic skills.  Overall, if you asked the boys if they would like to be homeschooled again, they would all three immediately shout, "no way!"  But they wouldn't trade the adventure and experiences they had while on the road.


We let the kids be kids but we also had a consistent routine.  Being in a new location every few days is fun but it can't be an endless vacation.  The boys needed expectations and goals.  Even if we were driving in somewhere late, we would have them brush their teeth, get dressed for bed and read a book in-route.  The beds were just the right size for them and both always slept really well.  There were times when we felt guilty for taking them away from friends and away from familiar places.  We received criticism for our temporary lifestyle but after many saw photos and stories of our journeys, they quickly changed their attitude to one of envy.  Our oldest is very friendly and made friends easily everywhere we went.  Our youngest is a bit shy and doesn't need the interaction of other people.  He is the kind of person who only needs his core people, and the rest are extra. So as long as we were with him and well, he was happy and at peace.  Thankfully, the combination of personalities made the journey doable and enjoyable.  

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