What does a life well-lived look like? Well, for many it does not necessarily mean the suburban house (and attached mortgage), 2.6 kids and the white picket fence. It could mean getting rid of the burden of "stuff" and downsizing to "live tiny", it could mean working remotely while sailing the seven seas, or it could very well mean going on a long-term exploration of wild places in a modified off-grid, off-road van.
That's what New Zealand-based John McElhiney has done. Though he doesn't live in it full time, the self-professed traveler, wilderness explorer, pilot and techno geek converted a van into a home with four-wheel drive, capable of actually going almost completely underwater, thanks to a neat snorkel add-on. Watch him give a tour of his vehicle, via Living Big In A Tiny House:
McElhiney recounts on his website how he started about this project:
I obtained, fully modified [..] this expedition-ready, post-apocalyptic camper van. It all started on 20/April/2015 when I purchased it. My van is based off of factory 1998 Mitsubishi Delica Starwagon. From the beginning, I tore out the rear seats to present day as I am enjoying it using it for 4WD camping under the sun and in the snow. I playfully refer to this van as zombie apocalypse 4WD expedition survival campervan.
With the rear seats out of the way, McElhiney installed a custom-built structure that houses a pull-out sink, compact 40-litre refrigeration unit and a hidden counter -- all of which are locked in place with a pin system, and accessed via the rear door.
Inside, there is a compact toilet that rolls out, and an expandable platform that is split for either a single or double bed, as well as a roll-out dining surface. His pantry, water tank and water pump is also stored underneath this platform. The privacy curtains are double-insulated, and also have zippered pouches for storage.
Underneath McElhiney's book shelf is an inverter and the 120-amp battery that stores electricity from the van's rooftop solar panels. McElhiney has set up his 200-watt power system to provide quite a bit of electricity, relative to the size of the van. It's also set up so that if the car battery ever dies, it can be jumped with the house battery, or recharged with the solar panels.
Perhaps the most awesome feature of this van is its snorkel system, which allows McElhiney to drive the van through deep water. Sayeth Wikipedia: a vehicle snorkel is the "land-based equivalent of the submarine snorkel which allows submarines to use diesel engines while submerged. [..] The snorkel supplies air for both the engine and the sealed crew compartment."
McElhiney is continuing to add more features to his off-grid expedition van which would allow him to not only travel to remote places, but to also potentially have a better chance at survival if anything happens -- such as earthquakes, floods or the odd zombie apocalypse. He is also working on a book detailing how he modified his van, plus tips for people who are interested in converting a van of their own. More over at Living Big In A Tiny House and John McElhiney's website.