For about two years I’ve been researching and dreaming about life on the road. Seeing the country with Wynston. Making memories. Visiting family and friends all over. And now this dream is becoming a reality!
Wynston and I have traveled to 15 states, but it’s time to step it up a notch!
We’re Starting Our Van Life Journey!
Originally I wanted to purchase an RV and live in it full time, while traveling with all of my animals. After endless thinking about what would be best for ALL of us, ultimately I decided that I want to maintain a home base while having the ability to travel for long periods of time. The compromise? A camper van!
I researched camper vans and conversions for far too long, and I mapped out every scenario to see what would make the most sense for me financially. I ended up purchasing a used minivan, and I still have my Honda Fit for everyday use plus reliability.
I put a lot of thought into several different plans. The ideas I had included:
- Purchasing a Class C RV
- Trading in my Honda and buying a brand new minivan
- Buying an older, used camper in my budget
- And my last idea was to just buy an old minivan and keep the Honda, which is what I did.
I found my minivan on a Friday after I had test driven two other used vans earlier in the day. I had also driven a brand new 2020 Dodge Grand Caravan at a dealership that Monday.
Allow me to introduce “The Wynner.” It’s a 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan. I bought her with 115,000 miles. She had belonged to a woman who passed away around the same time as my stepdad in March. Her husband was selling the van, and he was incredibly happy to hear that I had big plans for it!
To start, I am building a budget camper van conversion. So far the most expensive component in my van is my portable power station, which costed me $250.00. But for extensive camping in the van, an electricity supply is crucial!
What’s fun about converting a minivan into a camper is that you can completely make it your own. Since it’s just Wynston and I traveling, a minivan provides plenty of space for us to have a bed, kitchen and storage.
So far our van has everything we need for short term camping the van. This includes;
- Bed (after researching several options, I decided on a cot with a tri-fold memory foam mattress, and it fits perfectly!)
- Water with an electric pump
- Two burner stove
- All necessary kitchen items
- A toilet and related items
- Privacy curtains and insulation
- Drawers for clothes and linens
- A dedicated drawer and seat for Wynston
- Jackery portable power station
- Small portable A/C unit
- A plethora of lighting options
I also invested in AAA. It’ll be nice to have in my back pocket in case I should get in a jam while out on the road. It also makes my parents feel better knowing I have that extra sense of security.
As I take trips, I will continuously make changes to The Wynner to suit our needs. For example, we took the van to a remote area in Flagstaff, AZ to test our setup for the night. On that short adventure I realized I didn’t need a few items that I had packed. I’m sure our needs will vary from trip to trip, as well. Sometimes I may need to pack more, other times I won’t need as much.
I want to be able to live out of the van for weeks at a time without amenities. I have achieved that goal. I was going to purchase a solar panel system for the van, but I haven’t decided if that’s a path I want to take. We’ll first see how our travels go for a while.
Before our first big trip, I am taking our minivan to a mechanic friend for a thorough inspection. Since she has 115k miles, I want to ensure it is safe for Wynston and I to adventure in.
That same friend is also going to help me further remove seats from the van, allowing me to use the stow-and-go space for my water system and storage. Removing the seats will also free up space for the refrigerator I want eventually!
Honestly, I don’t have a set plan moving forward. I typically travel on a whim, and I think that will happen a lot more often now that we have the van.
I will continue to build on the van and improve it as time goes on, but the project and improvement is part of the fun for me.