Jane has been living and traveling in a van since November, 2015. She runs a blog and online shop where people are encouraged to share their stories of life, photography, poetry, or anything that inspires. Having traveled all over the US and Australia in over 15 different vans, Jane knows a thing or two about van life!
Interview With Rock Meets Soil
What is your favorite whiskey?
Bulleit Rye or Fireside
What is something that you donít know how to do that you wish you could do?
Fly. I wish that not knowing how was the only thing holding me back from flying.
If you could change one thing about the design or layout of your van what would it be?
Honestly nothing. Whoever designed the Tiger camper is a god damn genius. They thought of multiple things I never would have thought to include in the design. There is nothing that I would change except making it 4wd.
How has vanlife changed your diet? Do you continue to cook the same foods you would in a house?
For the most part my diet hasn’t changed a whole lot. I love to cook and still enjoy cooking even when I’m on a campstove or over an open fire. The first van I lived in for a year and a half I only had a single-burner backpacking stove that I used for all meals. I would also utilize the grill during warm weather, but got really good at one-burner meals for awhile there. Besides not having an oven though, I was still cooking a lot of the same meals I had always enjoyed.
My current van now has three burners which makes it much faster to cook some meals, but I still keep it rather simple. Breakfasts are usually some eggs in whatever way I feel like cooking them. Or just a bunch of fresh fruit and yogurt. Lunches are light for me, which has been the norm for awhile, unless it’s adventure time. And dinners consist of lots and lots of vegetables, well-sourced protein and a grain usually, which can be eaten in so many different ways with so many flavor combinations. So yea, long story short, other than not having an oven I eat pretty much the same as I always have. I love food.
What is the most frustrating thing that has happened to you on the road?
Ah I still remember this evening so long ago, and to precursor it I’m not placing any blame on anyone. I started out living in a van with my ex partner for a year and a half. We had some of the best times of our lives cruising around in ol’ Tatanka criss-crossing through the American west and exploring all of the hiking we could find. And truthfully we got along very well for living together so long in such a close space. But one of my most frustrating moments on the road was one of the very few arguments the two of us had one night, and all of the sudden I felt the true size of the space I was calling “home”.
I didn’t know what to do physically with myself; there was not enough space for the two of us and our egos. So I started walking away. We weren’t yelling at each other or anything crazy; we just needed space, and the van wasn’t cutting it that time. So I walked away and he stayed in the van, and we decompressed. That was frustrating. Not having my own space in a time like that was hard. I felt a little like I had been betrayed by my home, but then I remembered that I’m the one that decided to live in a van with someone, and I found understanding out under the stars and life went on and la-dee-da.
What mistake do you see a lot of beginner van lifers make?
Either overstaying their welcome in a parking spot/area or not packing it in, then OUT. Respect people. Respect Mother Nature. You chose to live in a van. Play the game, don’t be an asshole.
For people starting out – What is a sign that you are (or aren’t) gonna have a good time living in a van?
Having too many expectations will set you up for disappointment. If you’ve never lived that small, there is going to be an adjustment period until your tiny home starts to actually feel like home. Also, you’re not going to have a good time if you don’t know how to let go of the control a little bit on the road. Having a plan is mostly irrelevant when you’re cruising. Be open to whatever comes next and allow the happenings of the day to guide you to your next destination, physically and metaphorically.
I read that you had spent some time living in a van in Australia. How was that different from van life in the US?
I travelled Australia in a rather interesting way. In three months I lived, slept or travelled in 14 different vans with friends, friends of friends and strangers and explored half of the country hopping from van to van with locals from every corner of that amazing place. The majority of the trip would never have happened without social media, which is weird for me to admit, but that’s how I knew or met almost everyone that I travelled with. It was an amazing experience, and quite different from van life in the States. I think the main reason for this is that Australia has a whole lot less humans than the US; you can’t really escape the people here. I mean, you can go out into National Forest and feel away enough, but you don’t drive over 1,000 miles without as much as a fuel station, if that. And that happens a lot down there in Aus. In fact, one of the “highways” up by Darwin isn’t even paved yet.
Also…beaches. Australia is an island continent and a coastal people. When you’re cruising around in a van you spend a lot of time on beaches, really beautiful beaches. Unfortunately for Americans we just don’t have that.
Is it difficult to find places to sleep? Nah, not much different than what I’ve experienced here. Every now and then you have a bit of difficulty finding a place to park right away, but with a little GoogleMaps fondling, a park, marina, dirt road or the next town will pop up and reveal your address for the night. I did get into a hit-and-run in the middle of nowhere on top of a mountain in the jungle while I was down there, and that has not happened yet in the States. But we shouldn’t have parked there anyway.
How long do you plan to continue the van life? Is there anything that would make you want to stop living this lifestyle?
Ah um, I can’t really say for certain. I’ve full on adopted tackling life day by day. At this moment I don’t see myself changing my living situation anytime soon. Even when I left the country for a few months I was living and traveling out of other people’s vans. Could be a phase, that’s cool. I do own a cabin on wheels though so there’s really no point in me paying for rent or a mortgage right now while I can financially focus on other goals. I suppose the next chapter in life will dictate when I get over living in a van. I have no idea when or what that will be though. That’s the fun of it.
Mountain, beach, desert or city?
Mountains when it’s warm. Beach when it gets cold in the mountains.
About The Van
What van are you currently living in?
My current van is a 1989 Tiger conversion camper on a Chevy Astro base. It was converted to the Tiger sometime in the mid-90’s. When I bought it it had 178k miles on it.
How did you find your van?
This van is the fourth one I’ve owned and I found it while living in my previous one with my ex partner. We both had eyed the Tiger for sale off of Main Street for a couple of weeks. It had a $5k sign in the back tinted window and was parked up against a fence, so you could only see it driving one direction down the street. Upon further investigation I learned that it wasn’t listed anywhere; no one knew it was for sale. One day in January 2017 I drove by and noticed the price had been dropped to $4500; you could barely even see the sign in the window. It was about 10∞F and I decided to walk down and peek in the windows to see if it was worth a call. It was totally worth a call; the interior was in incredible condition. I didn’t have $4500, but I couldn’t just walk away from such a score. The hardtop Tiger campers are quite rare in that good of condition and they don’t make them anymore. I knew these things and was falling more and more in love with that van the more research I did.
I called the owner and got the low down. I called my dad for advice and input. I figured out a money situation and my bargaining tactics. I called my mechanic buddy and asked him if he could come with me to look at it and the two of us walked over there the next day. While the engine was running, Paul crawled underneath and looked inside of everything while the owner showed me the inside and all of the amenities and how they worked. I was head over heels in love with that van, and after Paul gave me the green light mechanically I took it for a test drive and got the keys and title to her on my 27th birthday. Funny thing is, a couple of months later a friend and I drove the van down to the local hot springs to meet another girlfriend, and when she showed up she freaked out not knowing who’s van it was. Turns out I had bought it from her dad; I just didn’t know that was Josie’s dad at the time.
Funny shit. She verified that her dad didn’t want to sell the van, which is why it was never advertised, and that many people over the years had tried to buy it from him and he would never let them. Which is more proof that Teeg and I are soulmates and we’re meant to be together forever.
Approximately how much did it cost to purchase?
I ended up talking him down to $4250 after he had already lowered it to $4500. He had very recently put new tires on it and had replaced the whole heating system with an outdoor vented propane furnace and modern pilot light, which is huge. I couldn’t complain too much so I shook his hand before he could change his mind and the deal was done.
Approximately how much did you spend building it out?
On this van I didn’t spend any money building it out as it is a pre-manufactred Tiger camper. These guys know what is up when it comes to building out a tiny space, and there is not much if anything that I would change about the setup. They came up with things that I would never have thought of as far as using all of the space and the placement and cohesive sizes of certain cabinets and compartments. That said, I have put money into the van since I bought it. Mechanically in the last 16 months I’ve put a solid grand into her fixing little things here and there. I’ve also put some money into small, custom touches like new curtains and hooks and shelves and commissioned art pieces like my new tabletop and removable counter pieces.