This was originally published on Tiny House, Tiny Footprint.
Micah bought a van on Craigslist two years ago in an effort to live cheaply and travel more. He saw it as a way to pursue his creative talents: graphic design, music and photography. His Facebook page is filled with poetry and songs he's performed in his mobile home.
So far, he's spent more than a year living on the road, and he plans to continue until the van stops running or he finds a girlfriend with an apartment.
Square Feet: 45
Make, Model, Year: 1994 Chevy G20 Sportvan Shorty
I like to think this van picked me. I had just come home from Central America with the idea of heading west in a van. I had limited time and budget to find one though. But I came across the van on Craigslist at the right time for the right price. Plus, it looked pretty awesome. I like the retro look it has.
Years Living Mobile: 1.5
I bought the van a few years ago, and I think I've put almost 50,000 miles on it. It’s been across the US three times now.
Currently In: The East Coast
I'm here until the end of the month. Then I'm driving out to British Columbia.
What was life like before the van?
Before I went mobile, I was going to college. Even then I did a semester abroad. I think I came across the #vanlife lifestyle because I was always on the move. It just sort of made sense. I got tired of trying to sort out housing everywhere I went. It was just easier to bring a house with me.
Tell us about the build out.
I was basically living out of a backpack before I got the van. When I first moved into the van I pretty much built a quick bed frame, bought a camp stove and hit the road. Before this last winter I did a lot of work getting ready for the cold. I insulated everything the best I could. I also raised the roof in one section about a foot to allow for more sitting space. I figured I was gonna spend a lot of time in the van during the winter and I wanted to be able to sit up comfortably and play guitar. So I designed a living space around that. I cut a big hole in the roof and built a plywood hightop. Of course not before sitting around with my old man and his old hippy friends thinking what the best options were and if cutting out part of my roof was really a good idea. Some pretty crazy ideas got kicked around during the evening time out in the barn standing around pieces of scrap paper and half broken pencils. Someone even had the idea of welding a steel trashcan to the roof like a sort of periscope you could stand up in. It was almost tempting because once you are in a space you can’t stand up in, you start to notice how nice standing really is.
What prompted traveling in the van?
This particular trip has been a bit ongoing. This will be my third summer living in the van. I’m going on a year straight living in the van, including a full-blown Colorado winter off the grid, just to say I did it, basically.
Top Go-To Items
Guitar: It always gives me a source of entertainment.
Propane Stove: When I’m in my van, chances are I’m cooking or playing guitar. Otherwise, I would prefer to be out doing something else. I like being in the van, but for the most part, it’s my survival pod and I’d rather be living outside of it.
Refrigerator: Totally worth the investment. I love leftovers.
How do you fund this lifestyle?
For the most part, I am a freelance graphic designer. I work on my laptop mostly. So I spend a lot of time in libraries and coffee shops. The more time spent out of the van, the better.
I also play music which mostly feeds me, earns me beers and makes friends and maybe some tips. I usually play in coffee shops, streets and farmers markets.
Where do you shower?
During the summer, I do the river thing. In the morning, I go for a walk along a river. I look for a good spot to take the plunge. Up here in the Rockies, the rivers never really get all that warm though. By the third dunk, just to make sure you got all the soap off, you are pretty cold and very awake. This past winter, I got a gym membership to be able to use its shower and facilities.
Where do you park?
My favorite spots are on BLM land. It’s free and you can legally stay for two weeks at a time in the same place.
However, I do a lot of guerilla camping around towns: apartment complexes, residential streets, even Walmarts. If you pull in late at night and leave in the morning, you can pretty much sleep anywhere. I have been hassled a couple times though. But that’s not too bad considering how many nights I have slept in my van (all of them).
Favorite Place to Visit: Western US
I really like Colorado, which is why I spend a lot of time here.
But I have also really enjoyed Washington. Mount Rainier National Park is super awesome. I was also really surprised by how much I enjoyed Vegas. I only went because it was on my way from Zion National Park, Utah, to Colorado. But it was a pretty cool place to walk around, take pictures and talk to all the crazy people on the street. I also found a parking lot I could stay for free in and not get hassled. That helped.
Why live in a van?
I want to be able to see and learn a lot about the US. I have been fortunate enough to see a lot of national parks and cool rural places. Something else that has been very rewarding has been meeting a lot of people I never would have otherwise. When you live in a van, you ride a fine line of being homeless. You find yourself hunting for open places to spend time in. You search for public restrooms in the morning when no trees will do. You also don’t have access to a shower or washing machine when you need them. All these things tend to lead me into being out and about looking a bit shabbier than I would if I was living in a traditional house. And especially when I’m on the road. This seems to provide some street cred. I have had some good candid conversations with other "houseless" people because of this.
What makes vanlife hard?
My space is pretty small and it’s filled with toys (e.g. guitars, amplifiers, snowboard, mountain bike, yada yada), as well as functional things like a water tank, heater, propane and fridge.
No real big plans. I think that’s what got me into this lifestyle to begin with.