My, my, my. It’s been so long since I originally published this website – and equally long since I updated it. No matter how much time I seem to think I have, it never turns out to be enough. Sadly this isn’t the ultimate #vanlife tricks and tips repository I was hoping it was, but maybe it will be in the future. We have major plans!
The drive to Miami Beach from Salem, Massachusetts was nothing but pleasant. We visited two National Parks (Shenandoah and Congaree), and relaxed as the air continued to grow warmer and warmer upon our cheeks. By the time we arrived, it was almost as if we completely forgot that it was snowing just a day before we left the Northeast. Of course, we didn’t forget, and we laughed all the way into our bathing suits as we jumped in that lukewarm Southern Florida ocean.
As we drove along we ran into the same issues we knew we already had, all of them power related. Not that anything was broken, but that nothing worked without the van being directly plugged in to a source of electricity. So unless it was our cigarette lighter in the cockpit, it didn’t work. This made things like watching movies during the nights (or the afternoons – most of our drives were over by 4pm) impossible. In order to recharge my old and dusty 2010 Macbook Pro battery, the van would have to be powered on, with our dinky 140w inverter plugged into the 12v slot. We got in a groove of charging the laptop during the drives, watching TV on it til it died, and sleeping early. It wasn’t that we were bored or boring, it was simply just that we had no interest in exploring Virginia or the Carolinas outside of the National Parks, and sitting all day seemingly saps energy from you moreso than a hard day’s work.
Luckily in Miami Beach we had a power source to connect to. I personally am lucky enough to have friends all over the world from my career as a long distance skateboarder, and when the offer was made to give us a parking slot in a driveway, we jumped on it. With our last stop being Cocoa Beach, Florida before a 3 hour drive to Miami, we arrived nice and early to settle in. The salty air was unforgettable. Though the kitschy aura of Miami Beach was more pungent than the ocean, it truly felt like for the first time in a long time that I was home.
Being plugged in gave us an opportunity to test out our van at full capacity. Having removed the toilet that was sitting directly in the rear, in the center of the “hallway,” we adjusted to using a portable camping toilet. It hasn’t been the worst experience. We store the toilet in our shower, and empty it when necessary. It smells when not taken care of properly, and we’re yet to do #2 in it, but it’s mostly a work in progress. At the very least, the horrible experience of carrying a piss-filled plastic storage bin inspired us to work on something greater: I am going to remove our shower, place an RV toilet over the drain, and make that entire area an extra spot for storage. Of all of the projects planned, this is the most labor intensive with the lowest cost, so it will likely happen prior to most other projects in the works.
We are still working on solar. However, being plugged in opened our eyes to the reality that our van life is slightly different than others. We aren’t stealth camping unless traveling, and as such, our ability to plug in removes a need for constant alternative power sourcing. We are not opposed to staying at campgrounds or crashing in friend’s driveways in exchange for work – at the time of writing this my work with the non-profit SkateIDSA (and its events) is paying our rent as we stay parked. With all of this in mind, the next goal is to purchase something like a Goal Zero Yeti 400 (or similar – like the Suaoki I see on Amazon), so we can charge and travel without even needing solar or a plug in. We have battery operated lights inside, so our electricity demands are generally low while on the road. Solar and power has moved down a notch.
We mounted a 20″ Polaroid television to the wall attached to the armoire by placing a 2×4 inside of it and drilling through. The armoire itself is some cheapy vinyl board that would have never held up the TV, but – fingers crossed that with the 2×4 all will stay fine. We have not driven since placing it on the wall, so only time will tell.
The rigmarole of leveling our van so that our refrigerator would turn on was its own beast of burden. These old 80s electronics don’t operate like they do now – the need for HUD displays that tell you the temperature or even signify that the device is on is a problem that only exists in 2018. To turn on our fridge, we had to leave it on temp setting 4, hope it was working, and then crank up the chill on it hoping that wouldn’t turn it off.
The only other thing we struggle with is the sleeping situation – I developed (mysteriously) a horrible case of claustrophobia while in the bed that overhangs the cockpit, so we’ve taken to sleeping on the pull-out couch below. It’s unfortunate because it is nice to be able to have a sleeping area away from the rest of our living space, but because of the low ceilings there just isn’t room for things – like laying down and watching a movie, changing sleeping positions, and other things. The only reason to be up there is to sleep, and with my natural insomnia (too many words in my head, too many business ideas, not enough time), it just isn’t realistic to go up there. We are debating what to do with the space. I am thinking of converting it into some form of storage, but who knows what?
We’d love to hear your ideas! In the mean time, I moved my old sites (calleighlittle.com and skatecrosscountry.com) to this link: https://bit.ly/calleigh. Check out my portfolio!