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I bought this van from a buddy when I was working on the Four Seasons Napa project. He was halfway done building it out and then moved to Idaho. I had been contemplating living in a van to save money, since I wanted to buy a house in Napa and fix it up, and I love camping. I figured it would be great to have something for camping, surf trips and skiing, plus it would give me tons of flexibility.
I’ve always been super hands on, and a lot of that came from my parents. Especially my mom. When we renovated our basement when I was a kid, she worked with our general contractor and helped him do a lot of the work. She loved this stuff, she wanted to save money, and she wanted to learn.
So, I always kind of grew up around building projects and doing things myself. The van was my next step in planning and logistics. I learned a ton. Being in this industry has allowed me to go out and talk to people in the field, and I got advice from trade partners I was working with in Napa on framing, wiring and plumbing.
It wasn’t a small project. It’s like a tiny home, and it took about eight months of work to get it road ready. I’ve got a refrigerator, a full range and oven since I love to cook, a hot water system, and a bed that drops down for sleeping and raises up during the day so I can have a workstation and eating area. I have a shower in here, but it’s not ideal, so I go to a friend’s house or the gym, which can be a pain. I’m proud of how it’s organized, but it’s still a van, so most of my stuff is in a storage unit. But I take it to Mammoth to go skiing, and to Carlsbad to go to the beach. I can back up to the cliff overlooking the beach, open the doors and see only gorgeous water with waves crashing. That’s pretty awesome.
Living in a van has been, honestly, what I expected.
Living in a van has been, honestly, what I expected. I think that’s because I knew it wasn't a permanent thing. I wouldn't say I've ever felt like I'm in over my head or I don't know what I'm doing, but I would say on a weekly basis I question my life decision to live in a van. I'm 31 years old, I have a solid job and I live in a van. That's not the most glamorous thing by any means, but it's a means to an end.
I just closed on a house that I'll be moving into in about a month. This is all part of the plan and it's working out more or less exactly according to the plan. And I've got a pretty sick van for weekend camping trips or ski trips. So no, no regrets about the decision to live in the van.
Griff Cardew has worked as a Suffolk project manager in Massachusetts, Florida and California. His daily driver is a Ford Explorer.
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