Originally posted on Tiny House, Tiny Footprint
Square Feet: 110
Make, Model, Year: 2007 Dodge Sprinter
Our van, named Louie, is the longest model, with a 170” wheelbase, which we like because we have a few extra feet that we use for gear storage (we have a collection of outdoor hobbies that require equipment).
Louie was converted to a Class B RV by a custom builder for the original owner. The owner was a part-time K9 search and rescue worker, so he had the stock 4x2 drivetrain replaced with a custom 4x4 system. The front end was taken from a one-ton 4x4 Ford pickup truck, making Louie a bit of a Frankenstein van.
With a Mercedes diesel engine, we get efficient gas mileage—22-24 mpg—for a vehicle of Louie's weight and size.
Where are you currently living?
These days we don’t have a single place we call home other than our van. We’re spending some time in the Portland area to see friends and get some work done to Louie, but the greater Pacific Northwest has been our home for the last month or so.
The phrase 'home is where you park it' describes our lifestyle currently.
What were you doing before you went mobile?
I met Stephani a year and a half ago on the dating app, Tinder—which is why we call ourselves 'Tinder to Sprinter.' We both 'swiped right' and soon found ourselves in a local craft brewery.
Before May, our weekends were full of fly fishing, hiking in the mountains, and cooking over campfires, and we spent many nights in a tent imagining a life on the road.
Why did you make the change?
We came to realize that hanging out under the stars of the Milky Way—rather than the stars of Hollywood—was the only way we were going to cure our wanderlust.
At the time, we were both living and working in LA. Stephani was an executive chef and culinary director for a restaurant group based in the city and I operated a production company.
We made the transition to 'van life' to facilitate our love of travel and seeing new places. Since we're planning to move to Texas, this seemed like a great adventure beforehand.
Years Living Mobile: 4.5
We’ve been living in Louie full time since the beginning of May.
What was the process like to move into your mobile home?
We had to move out of two separate apartments in LA, so we started by paring down our belongings. Stephani had moved a lot in the last five years, so she was already living fairly minimally. On the opposite side of the spectrum, I had been in the same apartment for the last several years, so I had some work to do.
After a garage sale and many trips to the Salvation Army, our combined belongings fit into the combination of our van and a shared storage unit in LA. We didn't get rid of everything because we knew we’d be transitioning back into a house in the future.
Independently, we had both been secretly interested in turning our lives into a crazy adventure, but we didn’t know how to make it happen. Fortunately, with a little patience and a decent ability to let adversity and challenges roll off our backs, we bought the van and started our journey.
How do you balance work and living in a small space?
Currently, we are working odd jobs so that we can afford food and keep Louie filled with diesel.
We spend our working hours in coffee shops, laundromats and other random places that provide WiFi and refreshments (even if they are crappy snacks out of vending machines).
When we camp someplace for a few days and have cell service, we try to work outside using our mobile hotspot for connectivity. On the occasions where we can’t get cell reception, we try to work offline (but we’re easily distracted by the wilderness when we’re in the middle of it).
What are your hobbies on and off the road?
When we’re not driving, our hobbies on the road are basically the same as our hobbies off the road. We try really hard to limit our driving time to short bursts rather than marathon days behind the wheel.
We’re active and into outdoor activities, so regardless of where we are, we’re likely fishing, cooking, hiking, drinking beer or cocktails, taking pictures, writing or building campfires. We don’t claim that using Google Maps or Yelp are hobbies, but we spend a fair amount of time doing research on where we are or where we’ll be (so sometimes it feels like using our iPhones is a significant hobby as well).
We like to stop in communities that have interesting and entertaining people—we call them community 'micro-immersions.' We also make time to escape further into the wilderness.
What are your top three go-to items in your tiny home?
Luckily for us, Louie has significant storage, so we have room for some additional conveniences. Even with that, the most used items in our van are as follows:
Jetboil Stove: Stephani makes a lot of coffee.
Yeti Cooler: We use this instead of a refrigerator.
Fly Swatters: There always seems to be bugs flying around—whether they are flies, moths or mosquitoes.
We also love our cameras, anything cooking related (the hottest item is our new Nomiko sous vide machine!) and the collection fly rods.
What has been the most rewarding thing about living small?
Living in a van has helped fulfill our love of travel, the outdoors and adventure.
Way less. We’re a little scared to think about all of the things we packed that we haven’t even touched since we left. That’s a liberating realization, and one that helps free up space for things that are fun and meaningful.
What is the most challenging thing?
In the beginning, Stephani spent a lot of time organizing and reorganizing the entire living space and our storage areas. Keeping the limited living space neat and organized is a challenge and forces us to confront our habits (such as putting things down wherever it’s convenient).
In a home, that’s not a huge deal, but in 110 square feet of livable space, it becomes an issue quickly. We’ve become aware of the space we've dedicated for storing things. If we keep that in mind, we aren’t bothered by being in a small space.
What is your advice to future homeowners who want to live small or hit the road?
We can’t honestly say that you should give up your house or apartment, quit your job, buy a van or RV and hit the road. But we can suggest that you figure out what your priorities are in life and make decisions to turn them into your reality.
In fact, in many aspects, it’s the complete opposite of what most van-dwelling (or small space-dwelling) images and feeds look like. But for us, it's a decision that makes us happy and one we can support with our jobs.
Having fewer things helps us be more spontaneous wherever we choose to go.
What's next for you guys? Any news you want to share?
Besides the everyday adventure of living in a van, we’re getting a solar recharging system installed on Louie’s roof. This should make us more independent, and we’re excited about that freedom.
We’re working on a few collaborations with a variety of non-traditional brands that combine various aspects of our lives on the road. Brainstorming new ways to work from the road and to keep our 'van life' sustainable has also been a fun and exciting thing for us to do. We’re looking forward to seeing where some of these opportunities take us.
To keep up with Stephani & Ryan and their adventures, follow them on Instagram @tindertosprinter. Check out their website or connect with them on Twitter @tinder2sprinter. Visit them on their personal Instagram accounts @chefani_c and @ryanonthefly.
Edited by Kate MacDougall.
All photos credit to Tinder to Sprinter.