In April 2015, I bought a 2001 Chevy Express Van with a high top roof for $2,800 and spent the following two months turning it into a manly-man cabin on wheels. It was complete with running water, solar electricity, two single beds (or one queen bed), a stove, small fridge, microwave, and port-a-potty. On July 1st, 2015, I hit the road for some random adventures as I traveled across the country hoping to meet fun and interesting people.
Update: The van’s motor exploded on September 8th (after only 70 days on the road), so the van life is over for now. I greatly enjoyed traveling and living in a van and there’s a good chance I’ll do it again someday.
By the end of my journey I had become quite comfortable living in such a small space, free from rent and other bills. I felt incredibly at home and feel I accomplished so much more on a day-to-day basis. This was definitely an experience that changed me forever.
- Ottawa National Forest, Michigan
- Porcupine Mountains State Park, Michigan
- Nowhere in Particular, Minnesota
- Fargo, North Dakota
- Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
- Glacier National Park, Montana (Part 1)
- Glacier National Park, Montana (Part 2)
- Glacier National Park, Montana (Part 3)
- Yellowstone National Park (Part 1)
- Yellowstone National Park (Part 2)
- Yellowstone National Park (Part 3)
- Yellowstone National Park (Part 4)
- Yellowstone National Park (Part 5)
- Northern Utah
- Hiking, Art, and Music
- Arches National Park, Utah (Part 1)
- Arches National Park, Utah (Part 2)
- Arches National Park, Utah (Part 3)
- Canyonlands National Park, Utah
- Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
- Zion National Park, Utah (Part 1)
- Zion National Park, Utah (Part 2)
- Angels Landing, Zion National Park, Utah
- Observation Point, Zion National Park, Utah
- The Narrows, Zion National Park, Utah
- Viva Las Vegas
- Slab City, California
- A Week in Slab City
- Cheat Day
- You Suck, San Diego
- California Dreamin'
- Joshua Tree National Park, California
- Los Angeles, California
- I Love Truck Stops
- Route 1, California
- Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California
- Redwood National Park, California
- Lassen Volcanic National Park, California
- Yosemite National Park, California
- Route 66: Santa Monica, CA to Barstow, CA
- Route 66: Barstow, CA to Kingman, AZ
- Hoover Dam, Nevada
- Route 66: Kingman, AZ to Flagstaff, AZ
I’ll be honest, I only worked a couple times during my travel. All I did was jump on Craigslist and check out the general labor and computer jobs.
- Amazon Camperforce – Amazon’s program to hire travelers as seasonal employees to work in their warehouses.
- Workamper – Cool resource for jobs for travelers.
- California Land Management – Work and live in campgrounds in California, Colorado, Oregon, or Washington.
- Craigslist – Many of the general labor jobs will pay $10+ per hour in cash.
Finding a place to park is sometimes a hassle, unless you’re willing to pay. When I was traveling, I typically camped in town either at a Walmart, truck stop, or at an RV World/Camping World. I also occasionally just parked on the street.
Camping in town has its conveniences, however it’s more likely that you’ll run into law enforcement at some point. It can also be nerve racking. For me, I was always concerned about staying too long in one spot and someone starting to notice. To me, that’s the worst thing anyone could do – be noticed. Once people start noticing you, that’s when the laws start getting more strict or enforced more. Don’t be the person who ruins it for everyone else. I tried not to stay in a spot more than a night and always left right away in the morning.
I camped outside of town about 1/9th of the time and I always felt more relaxed. I only paid for camping a couple of times and it was $5 a night.
In the Woods
- Free Campsites – Enter a location and see on a map where campsites are located.
- Campendium – Similar to above, but a little better designed.
In the City
- Truck stops – I really love truck stops, particularly Pilot/Flying J. Truck stops are great because you can get gas, take a shower (if you’re willing to pay $10-12), and almost every Pilot I’ve been to had the most important thing anyone needs – PIZZA! I usually only showered there if I was traveling with someone and we split the shower, costing only $5 or 6 each. Anytime I stayed at a truck stop, I also asked the people working there if it was OK to park in their lot. I love truck stops so much that if I knew I was gonna be staying at one that night, I did my best to let the gas tank get as empty as I was comfortable with so that I could fill up once I parked for the night. When businesses are willing to cater to travelers, I want to help support that business.
- Camping World – I only stayed at one once, but it was awesome. I called and asked permission and they told me where to park and when to be moved by. They even said I could plug in and have free electricity for the night, as long as a plug was open.
- Walmart – Walmart was one of my more favorite places because they’re typically open 24/7 (in case you need a bathroom in the middle of the night) and if you need food or supplies, you’re already at a store.
- 24 Hour Casino – I used this more than a few times, especially in Vegas and parts of California. Other than they’re open 24/7 so you have a bathroom if you need it, they typically have restaurants of some kind so you can get your grub on.
- Hospital – I’ve personally never stayed at one, but I’ve heard a lot of people mention it.
- The Vanual – By far the BEST conversion I’ve ever seen. Beautiful, simple, and highly detailed. My next build will be very inspired by this guy.
- Van Dog Traveller – Details on how this guy’s van was made and where he travels across Europe.
- ProMaster RV Conversion – Amazingly detailed write-ups about a van conversion. I used a lot of ideas from this guy.
- Steve the Vandweller – Some decent info here and there.
- Cheap RV Living – Information from a long-time van dweller.
- Ultralight Construction – Very cool method for building lightweight, yet very durable cabinets out of FOAM!