Matt and I have been talking a lot lately about vans, and what we’d like in a vehicle if we ever “moved up” from our little tiny Honda Element micro-camper.
For the past 2 years we’ve had the awesome experience of traveling around the country (41 states, baby!) in our customized-by-us Honda Element. It has been awesome!!
We lived in the van/Element for one month, and then two months, and then four months - plus smaller little one-month trips in between. We’ve spent about 50% of our time over the past 2 years in the Element micro-camper.
We frequently go for one- or two-week long trips and it feels like nothing - it’s SO EASY. Van life is easy, flexible, and convenient (for the most part). Plus, it makes accommodations and travel REALLY affordable. We get more than 25 MPG and can camp in tent sites, which are cheaper than trailer or RV sites.
Compared to towing a trailer, traveling in a van is just way more relaxing and there’s so much less to worry about. Maybe it’s just because the COMET is so old and boxy, and I get kind of nervous towing it long distances because I don’t want it to fall apart haha!
Towing is stressful. Parking, getting gas, hitching and un-hitching every night - that stuff isn’t fun for me.
I’d rather have a little less space in our travels, but way more freedom
- like in the Element - for long distance travel. Freedom is worth the small space trade off.
Obviously living in a tiny “van” has it’s own issues.
For one, and as unfortunate as this is, people do tend to judge.
When we travel with the COMET, we’re the darlings of the campground. Everyone loves it and wants to visit and see inside. It’s awesome.
Traveling and camping in a vehicle, people tend to make judgments. We’ve been turned away from campgrounds late at night because they didn’t want “our kind” in their park. That’s a pretty crappy feeling.
No "Middle" Ground
The other thing we miss when living in the Element for long periods of time is a COUCH - some sort of relaxing space in between the driver and passenger seat and the bed in the back. Their are only TWO positions in the Element - you’re either sitting up front, or laying down in the back for bed. There’s no just sitting around relaxing. I never thought I’d miss that so much.
One thing we’ve been talking about is how we’d create a relaxing space if we ever get a slightly larger van.
Privacy goes out the window when you live in a vehicle. No matter how many curtains you put up around the van, you just never know who’s going to knock on your window in the middle of the night, and as a result you’re always alert.
It makes it hard to rest when every passing light, footsteps, etc makes you wonder if you’re going to be approached or asked to step out of the vehicle. There were plenty of times we were camping and I just wanted to be able to sleep without wondering if someone was going to wake me up with a flashlight in my eyes, or knocking on the side of the car.
Right now it’s just a dream and an idea, but I think eventually Matt and I would like to take the next "step-up" towards van life. That would mean trading in our beautiful, amazing, functional (I seriously am in love my car) Element for something a tiny bit larger - something with a higher top and a few more feet long.
As it is, the bed that “unfolds” at night takes up the entire car. We realized that even in a vehicle just a few feet longer, we’d be able to have the bed in the back, a bench/seats in the front, and a little extra room to get dressed in the morning (pulling your pants on in a tiny vehicle can be tough!).
So we’ve been casually talking about what that might look like.
We know that we love spending time on the road and that we REALLY enjoy the light, easy, flexible travel that van life has shown us.
It’s much cheaper and more relaxed than towing. We know we want to continue going on our long, extended trips. We just think that after 2 years of doing it super tiny in the Element (35 square feet!) it might make sense for us to move up into something slightly more suitable for long-term travel.
Of course a dream van dweller’s vehicle would be something like the Sprinter or Ford Transit (ah-mazing gas mileage - 25-35 MPG!), but they are pricey.
We love talking about all the possibilities of outfitting and “renovating” a van like that. We learned SO MUCH in the process of renovating and re-building and creating the off-grid systems in the COMET, we feel like we could do an even better job the second time around. It would be like if the COMET Camper was a van, and we had to get even more creative with the even smaller space.
I love a challenge!