Avid rock climber & photographer converts a pop-top van into stealth camper (Video)

Exploring Alternatives
Video screen capture Exploring Alternatives

Mobile lifestyles are gaining some traction in the wider consciousness, thanks in part to a growing gig economy, new technologies that let you work anywhere, the rise of global digital nomadism, as well as the "van life" and mobile nomad subcultures.

Thanks to the convergence of these and other factors, more people are exploring alternatives to burdensome mortgages and monthly rents, in order to recover their time pursuing their passions instead. Canadian freelance filmmaker and photographer Julian Fok of Vancouver converted this 1999 Ford E-150 van into a part-time home-on-wheels, in order to pursue his livelihood, traveling to photography gigs -- but also to pursue his passion for climbing. Take a tour of his tiny home via Exploring Alternatives:

Exploring AlternativesExploring Alternatives/Video screen capture

Fok says that he was inspired to convert a van when he got into climbing about a year ago. As he became more immersed in the climbing world, he came across a book by free solo-climber Alex Honnold, who describes how he lived out of a van for many years, which allowed him to travel and climb some of the most incredible places around North America. Fok was also beginning to live a more healthy and minimalist lifestyle, and converting a van seemed like a good fit for his career choice and way of life at the moment.

Fok's conversion is simple but sweet: there's a simple kitchen with foot-pump sink and icebox, storage drawers throughout, a platform bed, a 20-gallon water tank and a fold-away multipurpose table. Though there is an emergency port-a-potty, there's no dedicated bathroom or shower inside; this is where public washrooms and Fok's membership to climbing gyms (and their showers) come in handy.

Exploring AlternativesExploring Alternatives/Video screen capture
Exploring AlternativesExploring Alternatives/Video screen capture
Exploring AlternativesExploring Alternatives/Video screen capture
Exploring AlternativesExploring Alternatives/Video screen capture

One of the nicest features in the van is the pop-up top, which gives a lot more headroom. However, if Fok is parked in the city and wants to stay incognito, the top stays down, and the van's nondescript appearance allows him to blend in.

Exploring AlternativesExploring Alternatives/Video screen capture

Remarkably, Fok's van was stolen a few months after he completed it. Even more remarkably, the police found it the same day, eight hours later, minus his climbing gear and a pack of beer. He has since installed a car alarm and puts a 'club' lock on the steering wheel. He jokes:

[The thief] didn't do much damage. He was actually really nice and closed all the cupboards after he rummaged in them and he probably had a good nap, because of the beer!

Exploring AlternativesExploring Alternatives/Video screen capture

For now, Fok only lives in the van part-time, as he also resides with his mother when he's not traveling around. For Fok, this is a choice that respects his mother, as he points out that it's very much part of traditional Asian culture to live with one's parents prior to marriage; it's considered part of being a dutiful son or daughter to help one's parents. It's interesting to see how Fok is navigating these contrasting cultural ideals: age-old traditions of filial duty on one hand, and the New World ideas of freedom and rugged individualism on the other. As Fok explains, the van will allow him to travel, work and climb full-time during the warmer months: "It works with my lifestyle right now."

Exploring AlternativesExploring Alternatives/Video screen capture

To see more, visit Julian Fok, VanlifeVancouver and his Instagram.

Tags: Small Spaces

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