Adventure: VanLife Episode 001

There is life before the van and there is life after. I’m not entirely sure why I didn’t drive a van until now but once that realization was made it became apparent this was going to be our vehicle moving forward. I will provide you with a few small but important details about what we bought and why but the importance of the van is not the van itself.

Go ahead. Judge me. And yes, there is talk of a drone.

The van itself if like a camera. Metal, plastic, and glass. The van itself is but a means to an end. The van itself is about access, usability, and balance of the work/life paradigm. It’s what we DO in the van that will remain. What we see, hear, smell, and touch. Our van is a 2019 Dodge Promaster, 2×2, 136 high roof. Affordable, basic, practical, and relatively efficient at 22mpg average.

Tried and true gasoline engine and six-speed transmission. Fixable just about anywhere. Riding on a new set of BFG KO2’s which means the front-wheel-drive beast does well in a variety of conditions. The inside of the van is where things are interesting and upgraded.

A Wayfarer Kit from Wayfarer Vans in Colorado Springs. Plug and play, a modular system that provides flooring, insulation, ceiling, galley, and a sleeping platform. Total install time, three hours. The day after we bought the van we were camping in it, fulling self-contained. Could we have done an extensive build out on our own? Sure. Did we have time? Maybe, but the Wayfarer system was like making the jump to camping light speed. It just works. And if I need my van as a cargo van I can just unbolt the entire system and remove it.

So far the van has taken us through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, and Nevada. We’ve seen meteor showers, full moons, trout rising at dusk, and hundreds of Mescalero petroglyphs. We’ve used the van as a basecamp while working on projects. We’ve spent sub-zero nights cozy inside with music and light powering us through till dawn.

The van works as a catalyst, pushing us out into the world to explore with pen, paper, sensor, and the methodical madness of emulsion. And we have only just begun. The van redefines the edges of the map. The van redefines time, allowable time, usable time, and even the precious “time off.” In fact, the van makes us realized the balance between time off and time on is fundamentally flawed buried in a tradition of work for the sake of work, work for the sake of the time clock, and the punch card.

What if the van asks? What if there was more? What if the ask for permission was replaced by the sound of tires on gravel, wind, and the spirit of going without knowing what’s there? Our four wheels equal our circle of life, four stages of life, four seasons, and the four directions. The van is our pale horse. Bringing us up, out, and together.

12 Comments on “Adventure: VanLife Episode 001”

  1. This popped up in my inbox just as I we are loading up our van for a few days of getting “lost” in the Jemez.

    And if vans are like cameras, ours is a well used Rollei. With light leaks, maybe some coating loss, and a finicky film transport system… But we’ve seen so many places and met so many kind people that we most likely would not have without it.

    Keep exploring, Dan!

  2. I started looking into RVs last year. I’m a slow mover, wanted to make sure I wasn’t just giving into mid-life crisis #8.32. I haven’t been outdoorsy in a long time, and I thought I should rediscover that connection on its own first, without falling into that trap of thinking that buying X will get me to Y. Then COVID hit. You can’t find an RV these days. I started looking into vans. They’re scarce these days, too. The van would be a great bridge for my move back to the southwest. I’ll keep looking.

    This is a great video.

    1. Thanks Scott,
      You can occassionaly find a used Promaster with Wayfarer kit. Just keep looking.

  3. Great video, Daniel, it gets your/my/the idea of van-life across perfectly.
    I own sort of a van myself, at home in a different element, however.
    Couldn’t get to it all year – yeah, Covid-19…
    Hoping for next year – and for a visit to shifter HQ.

    1. Wolf,
      Covid has been a real challenge but if we are patient we will emerge to van again and again.

  4. My 80-year old father-in-law asked me for a tent and sleeping bag today as he’s decided he’s going on a road trip with a friend all the way up north to Hokkaido in November. The older he gets the more adventurous he’s becoming. He started cycling as well in the spring. It’s wonderful (and a little bit scary).

    But I might show him this video and see if I can persuade him to buy a van as well for ‘family use.’

    1. Sean,
      That is fantastic. You should do a project about him. He sounds like our kind of guy. Also, the sleeping pad will be key. Heck, even for me.

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