How did we end up living in a van? Well, first we decided to live in a travel trailer, and needed a big vehicle to pull the trailer. We bought a 1999 full-size GMC van to pull the 18’ travel trailer.
We learned we didn’t like moving the trailer from place to place. Packing safely and getting hitched up was a chore, and driving the whole set was stressful. We didn’t want to travel with our travel trailer. We took a couple memorable road trips while we figured that out, but somehow I’ve deleted the photos. You can see some in this cheesy vacation video) though!
After two years we downsized to the van.
Phillip adapted it into a house. He added a ventilation fan for cooling, installed solar panels and the electrical system that goes with it (he’ll write a whole post on that eventually), and built a box to go on a hitch rack and carry our bikes and kitchen.
We tried out living in the van for a week last spring and encountered an impressive range of problems. Read about getting rear-ended and a tree falling on the van.
When I think back on that amazing round of bad luck, I realize how much better we are at living in a van now! For example, just because we can fit 17 quail in the van doesn’t mean we will. We were convinced we’d rip the carpet out of the van after that…but we never got around to it. It’s got new stains now, mostly Max’s.
But with greater knowledge comes greater limitations, or something. Because now that we know better, we realize we’re stuck. Our three dogs push the limit of living in the van. We have two cats and 13 chickens, too, which means…we’re stuck.
Okay, we did leave El Terreno for 24 hours, one time, and it was the limit. We had to take the dogs and leave the rest, so 24 hours is max unless our neighbors can cat-and-chicken-sit.
This winter will be too cold to live in a van off-grid. My fantasy of driving to the Yucatan gets hazy…we can give the chickens away, but what about these sweet kittens?
They hate truck trips; they don’t want to live on the road with us.
The more we cultivate life en El Terreno, the more we’re rooted on this spot with cats and chickens, the more satisfying our time here becomes. We realized we’ve set a new record: we didn’t leave the land for 5 days. Didn’t open the gate! I’m a homebody; I wasn’t missing being in the city, on the roads, in a vehicle. We have plenty of space to move here - I still haven’t stepped into all the nooks and crannies of this 1.5 acre plot.
Yet, surprisingly, I find myself feeling stuck when I realize we can’t just drive to the beach for a weekend. I don’t miss being on the road, cramming all our stuff back into the van to drive to the next campground and move tubs out of the way so we can crawl into bed. I love our rustic kitchen and digging in the dirt. But the freedom to just go - is that what I’m missing?