My name's Alex and this is my van, Penny. This is my pup Talkeena.
After college I took a year off to go do some unpaid internships, to explore the
world, and discover myself. I ended up moving to New Zealand for a year. While I
was there I was living out of a tent and I saw all these super cool van conversions. I
just got really inspired by what people were doing with such little material in
such little space. After the year was up I came back to Washington and I moved
to Seattle and I got the big kid job. I got the nine-to-five, the office, big
apartment, the whole thing. I was home for Christmas and one day we
were driving through this lot, because my mom was think about getting a new car at
the time, and on the way out of the lot I shouted, "Stop the car!". We jumped out of
the car and I saw this van parked like way in the back. My mom encouraged me
actually to call the dealer and see if it was for sale and
I was just like, "Mom, you don't know what you're talking about, like that's not how
this works", and so she called...thanks mom. The dealer
said, "It's not for sale, it's just in for service, but we'll let the owner know
that there's an interested buyer". So then about a week later my mom calls me and she
says, "Okay, the owners are willing to sell that van that you saw. Here's the number".
It ended up being this older couple they went on one road trip to Glacier
National Park and his wife hated it. She hated van life, she basically said, "I'll
never get back in this thing again". He loved the van so he just kept it nice
and putzed with it himself. So I bought it and then I went home the
next weekend and looked at it. It had 4,000 miles on it, the plastic was still
on the floors, and the fridge had never been used. I mean it was just completely
the find of a lifetime and I wasn't even really actively looking, but when Penny
fell into my lap I just knew that it was van destiny. I think it's really
funny how van people really talk about their vans like they're people.
So this is Penny. She's my 2000 Eurovan and she's my 17 feet of home and I love
her, but I love you more. Most days.
I bought the van with this all installed. So I get that question sometimes where people will be like, "Did
you make this modification?". And, I didn't. I worked for REI before I was in the van
so all my stuff is like camp oriented. So I have all these kinda like folding
utensils. This is my pantry, got my cutting board, clap shelf, dishes, folding pans,
Aeropress, which is crucial. I don't actually know what's in this fridge so
we'll see. It's a pretty good fridge right now. Salsa, a beer, some eggs. I have
a freezer though so that's cool with one salmon burger in it and a GoGurt. That's
van life. This is my cooking area. I installed this with my dad.
My dad helped me out with a lot of modifications in the van. This is my spice rack.
And then when I'm ready to cook I just pop this open and voila. This is sick, this thing
here, cuz it's really easy just like to season things as you're cooking.
This is my table. My dad made this for me, which I like. I just click this in.
Dinnertime. Or cocktail hour. When I first got the van everything was gray. And the
first trip I ever took it on, I got sick. I was in Yosemite and it was raining
and I had to stay in the van and just be sick and watch a lot of Grey's Anatomy and
I got really depressed because it was so gray. And so one of the big things when I
decided to move into the van full-time was to put as much color into it as I
could. I reupholstered my seats. I choose to sleep
down here because a lot of times I'm camped in urban areas and you're never gonna
get away with pretending no one's in here if you have a pop-top. I always make
sure that my driver seats clear. So, I have the keys, whenever I sleep, I have
the keys right here with my knife. And I keep this pretty
much ready so that if something happened or there was a really sketchy situation
that I could literally just like hop up here and go, you know. So I think that
that's something that I do for safety. Oh I have something else I want to show you
guys that's really cool. I made this. This is my urban camping modesty sheet.
It's black in the front and then I got this cool little Mountain tapestry and
sewed that on the other side. I just Velcro this right up here that it like just
blacks out everything and then you're looking at a pretty mountain. So come
back to the van. This means, "The Mountains Call" in German. People ask me all the
time. Both my parents are German. That's why I rock the Germany sticker so
strong. So my solar setup. It is a 120 watt semi-flexible solar panel that I
bought on Amazon. It weighs four pounds and it arcs 30 degrees in either
direction. And it's sick. And so when I first was thinking about doing solar I
knew I had to do it because I knew I wanted to be kind of off the grid and
not reliant on power a lot and I have a gigantic Thule box that wouldn't allow
me to put the panel on the top. It's not really attached to anything so I can
move it wherever the sun is. I have attached it to the back in this very
not professional or German way. I just literally bungee cord this thing to the
back. I can just open, open it. I have 15 feet of cable for my solar
panel and then when I'm not using it I just kind of tuck it in here. I have my
charge controller and my inverter. Then I got my batteries, a battery bank, back
there. When I lower the top on the on the pop the canvas will stick out and I had
to replace it because it molded out and then ripped and I spent a lot of money on it
so now I'm really paranoid about it. So I'm always like tucking this in. This is
what I'm talking about. See this. Don't want that cause it'll mold and
then you'll pay $800. You can just stick this in here. You know, sometimes it's easier than others.
So I travel full time in the van by myself as a girl and the reason why I
did this trip by myself was I saw all my friends getting partners or kind of
staying in jobs that they didn't love. I didn't really want to sit and wait
around for my job to get better or for me to find the right person in order to
start living the life I wanted. I think that the biggest misconception about van
life for women is that it's super, super scary and you always have to be on your
guard. And while I would say that you definitely do have to be more careful, I
think that you see couples out there, you see guys out there, and it seems like
it's gonna be this big scary world. It's safer than you think it is and people
will surprise you.
The loneliness of life on the road I think it's something people don't talk
about and when you think about the happiest times in your life, at least I
think about, feeling connected and appreciated and valued. And when you're
alone in your car all the time it can be really easy to kind of fall into these
patterns of not wanting to communicate with people or just isolating yourself. I
think that in our world, at least when I was living in Seattle, I was always
inadvertently numbing myself. You know, I always had something else to do. I
always had another meeting or I had another happy hour and all these things that I
think people in their 20s do and you don't really realize that you're kind of
numbing yourself to the experience of your life. To really be alone and to
allow myself that feeling was a huge turning point. Not only in this trip, but
also kind of within my own life. To know that it's okay to be sad. I think finding
home in solitude is a really special thing and I think that this kind of life
forces you to do that. That's just a gift of the road.