The popular stereotype of the van-dweller enjoying the "van life" is probably of someone of a younger vintage, who might choose to convert and live in a van to cope with high housing costs or realize a desire for a minimalist lifestyle, or for more travel opportunities. Despite the stereotype of fancy-free youngsters bucking social expectations to 'settle down', there are also more mature van homeowners who are adopting this lifestyle for numerous reasons.
Bryan and Jen Danger are yet another couple who have come into the van life, yet have also chosen to keep their bungalow in Portland, Oregon, which they rent out, in order to pay down the mortgage. We covered them previously in a post about their cleverly self-crafted, mortgage-free home -- basically the garage attached to the bungalow, which they legally converted into a accessory dwelling unit (ADU). What we didn't see was their converted Sprinter van conversion, which they use to travel most of year in, meanwhile renting out their garage home when they aren't in Portland. Alternative-lifestyles documentarian Kirsten Dirksen brings us a peek into their equally clever, renovated van. starting at 14:45:
Wanting to travel and live something different, the Dangers quit their lucrative jobs five years ago. They found tenants for their bungalow and moved into a revamped VW van. After a year and a half traveling up and down the continent, they returned to Portland, and realized their bungalow now felt too big for them. That's when they began renovating their wonderfully designed 480-square-foot garage home, doing most of the work themselves (there's a lot of great design ideas here, covered in more depth in this post).
The 4x4 Mercedes Sprinter van is their main home in many ways. Having sold the old VW bus in favour of something more reliable, the Dangers found that used vehicles were out of their budget, so they opted for a new Sprinter van, only because a new vehicle was the only way that their credit union would offer a loan. The couple then lived in a rough versions of van's design-in-progress for a year, before finally building out the finalized layout in lightweight aluminum and bamboo.
The interior is wonderfully done, giving the impression of an airplane or boat -- in fact, a lot of the design is inspired by the space-efficiency found on boats. There is curved cabinetry everywhere, as the Dangers wanted to avoid injury-inducing sharp corners, and these smooth forms were made possible by the versatility and durability of bamboo.
The kitchen counter occupies the middle space; here you'll find a stove that can be covered up to extend counter space. The refrigerator is actually a marine appliance, and allows the couple to use solar power to operate it.
The bed sits on a platform, underneath which is a roll-out step for accessing the full-sized bed, which in turn hides a cartridge-style porta-potty. Under the bed is a compartment for storing the insulated, black-out curtains, which allow the Dangers to 'stealth-camp' -- saving them RV park fees, and permitting them to park almost anywhere, whether in the city or in remote areas.
Outside, the van has an awning that's actually made for boats, meaning that it can withstand near-hurricane-force winds, compared to flimsy RV versions.
Another great feature is the custom-made, hidden hanging rack that's located just above the van's step, which lets them fold out the hooks only when needed to hang up wet gear without getting the rest of the van dirty.
The Dangers' van is quite well-crafted and polished, but Bryan emphasizes that they didn't wait for a finalized version of the van before beginning to travel. In fact, he believes that the point is to start and not wait for everything to be perfect:
We talk to a lot of people who want to spend more time outdoors, they want to live in a van or whatever that thing is, but they spend so much time planning and thinking and worrying that they don't ever actually leave. But I don't know without just jumping and spending time, whether it's living in a van or a very small space, if you're still living in a five-bedroom home, it's almost impossible to know what it is you want or what it is you need.
The couple continue to travel, and fund their low-cost lifestyle by designing small spaces for other clients, while at the same time, securing their financial future by paying off the mortgage on the main house by renting it out. It's a creative approach that counters the idea that van life isn't for more mature folks; in reality, it can be for anyone willing to think outside of the conventional box. For more, visit Fair Companies.