So you’re thinking about building a van into a mini home to get a bit of a travel fix from time to time? Maybe you want to adventure just on weekends, or maybe you’re dreaming of living van life full time. No matter your goals, Escape Campervans is a great way to test the waters before fully committing to getting your own van.
Jayme and John from Gnomad Home travel around in their ‘96 Chevy Express van that they converted into a tiny home all on their own! They hit the road in April 2017, and they’re not looking back.
Many people ask them questions about how they do it and what their lives look like, so they put together a brief FAQ.
We were never rolling in money. Before we hit the road, we were that typical suburban couple working 9-5 jobs, living paycheck-to-paycheck, and trying real hard not to fall behind on all the things society asks us to pay for. To earn extra money, we ran an Airbnb from one of our spare bedrooms that helped get us set aside some savings for vanlife. We also sold all of our belongings, which in the end made us about $10,000. While we built our van, we also started working online – freelancing for others and building our own blogs and websites. We started our online businesses in the summer of 2016. September 2017 was the first month that our website income fully covered our expenses, and now they are our only source of income.
This is probably the most common question we get, and believe it or not – we never have a problem with this. Almost every public establishment has a restroom – gas stations, restaurants, libraries, coffee shops, and so on and so on. Even when we are camped out in the middle of nowhere – most of the time there is a pit toilet we can use (an outhouse). When there isn’t a pit toilet around though, we do have a small shovel we carry around with us, as well as a travel bidet to help us get our business done in a quick and easy manner. REMINDER: If you are doing your #2 business in the wild, stay far, far away from natural water sources!
After all was said and done, we spent just over $10,000 on the vehicle and the build. We bought the van for $1,500, and after some new tires, mechanical fixes, taxes, and registration fees, the van itself cost us $3,670 in total. Then the build cost us about $6,600 – including our solar, batteries, fridge and other appliances, lumber, nuts, bolts, screws, etc. Much less than our first house cost!
Well first off, we have a very healthy relationship that we work very hard to maintain and improve. We don’t enjoy fighting or arguing, so we do a good job at actively backing down or diffusing situations and recognizing when we are feeling stressed. Also – the idea is to live outside of the van, not in it. So we really aren’t crammed in the van 24/7 – we have plenty of space to get away from each other if we need to. We also schedule times to purposefully be away from each other, because time to yourself is very important.
First and foremost, we trained them very well before we hit the road. We taught them that they can only exit the van when we give them permission, and we heavily encourage them to come back to us the second we call them. We do not leave our dogs in the van unattended for long, if at all. Most of the time when grocery shopping or anything like that, one of us hangs back in the van with the dogs just to be safe. We typically only go to places that are dog-friendly – if it says dogs are not allowed we either don’t go, or we put the dogs up with a sitter via Rover.com.
Hope these questions help you out as you research more and more about vanlife! Feel free to reach out to us on any of our platforms like our blog Gnomad Home, Instagram @gnomad_home, or on our Gnomad Home Facebook Page. We love helping anyone who has questions about this lifestyle and are contemplating making the jump!