To say that the global pandemic rocked the world in horrific ways would be, to put it mildly. We may never know the full extent of grief, anger, and loss. One thing is for sure: We’ve been forever changed for having experienced and come through this season of our lives. This is my story.
That’s exactly what the ugly, life-disrupting monster known as the pandemic screamed in my head. “Ha! You fool! Who’s in control now? Let’s see how ready, willing, and able you are to pivot.”
How it Hit
Unlike others around me, I wasn’t at all overcome by fear. Instead, I was totally stunned by this reality: I live as though I know the future. I plan with a level of certainty that is completely unrealistic. I choose not to recognize that everything can change in a moment.
My husband and I have this huge list of things we will do and places we will see. Someday. When we retire, when we have time. Once we finish this or accomplish that. And while we plan, life is passing us by.
The pandemic made me see clearly that all of our big plans lie under a shroud of uncertainty. The only thing we know for certain is what is happening right now.
Still stunned by what was happening all around me, I was flying through my email one day in early 2020. I get so much mail. And I still cannot figure out why I opened a message from a quirky site with a funny name; This is Why You Are Broke. And this is the first item that popped up.
My immediate reaction was to be slack-jawed, intrigued, with heart-beating fast. I forwarded it to Harold with a simple message: We need this. Of course, I had visions of traveling care-free whenever we felt like it—to every corner, nook, and cranny of this beautiful country. I was ready to start making every moment count. The uncertainty of life was my new reality.
His message was swift, if not hilarious. Are you kidding? Who IS this? To understand, you’d have to know a little history. Early in our marriage, as our two boys were babies (17 months apart), we did the camping thing in a tent. Did I mention two babies?! How many ways can I say miserable? Horrible. Rain, wind, even snow in July. All work, no fun. I hated it.
Of course, I don’t remember saying it, but he recalls, “I will never go camping again. Don’t even ask me!” We sold all the stuff, and that was that.
Fast forward decades later and there we were—he with his mouth hanging open, me with a photo. I found the company that created that van conversion (screenshot above) and got them on the phone.
How, where, and when were my questions. You buy a van and bring it to us in New Jersey, we convert it into a camper van; but sorry, we are booked through 2023, were their answers. Oh, and what you are looking at in the picture will run about $65,000 give or take on top of buying the van.
Rats! I had my heart set on at least going to look at it. But $100,000 or most likely even more? Double rats.
Spark of Joy
Unbeknownst to me, Harold had a spark of joy at the thought that I would ever allow “camping” in my vocabulary again. He began looking around, researching, plotting.
Not surprisingly, I guess, he discovered Colorado has become the vanlife capital of the world. Where we live is where most van sales and conversions are happening. He located a highly reviewed van conversion company with 40 years experience within our area.
So, on a Saturday in June 2020, we went to see VanWorks in Ft. Collins, Colo. What we found was awesome. They offer every kind of conversion, from just the bare essentials to high-end luxury options.
We had no plans to make any decisions that day, and you can start laughing now. VanWorks has a partnership with the local Dodge Ram dealer, where they buy fleets of cargo vans with the right factory components for quality conversions. And you’re probably way ahead of me here, but surprise! They had just one 2019 model left and were anxious to get rid of it. Long story short, we bought it with more than $12,000 in discounts and rebates.
We met with VanWorks and settled on their BaseCamp conversion with a few upgrades. I’ll add basic specifics below for anyone into that kind of thing.
In addition to the specs below, we have a 24-gallon water tank, water heater, dry-flush toilet, outdoor shower, sink, induction cooktop, fixed bed, garage for eBikes, Blackstone grill, folding table, and chairs, etc.
The day we picked up our newly converted camper van, we named her Vangie. As we took her maiden voyage, Harold turned on the radio, located that Rolling Stones hit from the 60s, “Angie,” cranked it up, and we were in heaven.
It’s been nearly two years since we adopted a kind of semi-vanlife, and we couldn’t be happier. We’re seeing every part of our newly adopted state as quickly as possible.
We have not retired. Both of us work more than full-time. We’ve just figured out how we can afford to include semi-vanlife in our current schedule. We travel for fun, part-time. And what fun it is. Highly recommended.
The total cost of the van plus conversion, including items below, came in at less than half what the company in New Jersey estimated. Living without debt has its benefits.
And Here She Is
2019 Dodge Ram Promaster 136-in Wheelbase
Battle Born 400 amp hours lithium-Ion
Victron 2000 watts
Laveo Dry Flush
Mobile Internet System