master of none


Destination: Van Life


In 2015, Randy Olson posted an article describing the optimal route to drive all lower 48 states. This planted a seed.

Flash forward to 2019: Mary and I are now regularly heading out to climb or hike multiple times a month, sometimes driving several hours out and back in the same day. We’ve also done a number of longer road trips, staying in cheap casinos/hotels and expensive Airbnbs. It’s always a hassle, and the dogs can never come with us.

What if we could hit the road all day, then pull over and be home? What if schedules didn’t matter? What if the journey between destinations was just as fun as the destinations themselves? What if we could bring the whole family?

Sign me up!

BUT… I don’t want to drive an RV. You can’t park ‘em. You can’t fight traffic. They’re extreeeemely expensive and they lack all charm.

It seems the solution to all our concerns is to build a custom van.


Mary and I started researching simply by collecting inspiration. To date, we’ve saved over 100 Pins on our Van Life board on Pinterest and we’ve watched several days worth of YouTube videos about van builds.

We have a lot to do! Here’s a really high level todo list:

  1. Decide on a budget.

  2. Pick a make and model – Sprinter, Promaster, Transit? Short bus? Ambulance?

  3. Make a billion decisions about constraints and tradeoffs. Do we want a shower, toilet, or neither? Air conditioner? Microwave? Or do we trade it all for the ability to actually move around?

  4. Draft a layout.

  5. Source materials.

  6. BUILD!

  7. Fix all the crap we broke, overlooked, or disliked. Iterate until it’s perfect.

  8. “Adventure is out there!” – Ellie, Up

Mary and I successfully planned a wedding, and we were super proud of how it turned out. This is a hugely different animal, but we feel it’s going to require a lot of the same skills and discipline to build. Furthermore, I’ve been getting a little bit better at carpentry by working on our house. It’s probably false confidence, but I feel we’re up for the task. If all else fails, my dad (a skilled craftsman and lifelong carpenter) can bail us out.

Come along for the ride

One of my goals for our van build is to document everything. This post is the very first step.

I plan to add lots of photos and videos, diagrams and instructions and links. I want to bring you along on this adventure.

Until next time, wish us luck!

Brent Traut