How much did it cost and how long did it take to build?
The total cost of the van build was somewhere in the $3,000 range not including the cost of the van and took approximately 3 weeks to build. The van was partially converted with one RV fan, some cabinets, batteries and two flexible solar panels as part of the purchase, although we completely gutted it and started fresh. The van had about 52k miles when we purchased it and is rear wheel drive. Most materials were purchased at Lowes and Amazon. Below is a partial list of products we purchased online.
How do you afford to travel?
Heather is a full-time Professor with a year contract to teach remotely with the commitment to return to campus in Wilmore, KY six times a year for meeting with students, faculty and maintaining relationships in-person. This is a position that wasn’t offered but negotiated and since the idea was presented, support from faculty and staff has been above and beyond what we expected. Full benefits, retirement and salary remain which allows us to focus on our work educating, building and taking care of our boys. The contract will run out in May 2020, but has the potential to continue depending on the success of the work.
We realize that this opportunity is very unique, however, having a career that allows for remote work is becoming the norm. Due to the overhead costs being lower for remote work, most businesses and organizations are looking at this option as an advantage for both employee and employer. If working remotely coincides with the ethos of your organization, business or institution, consider talking to your superiors about the possibility of working “from home”, “remotely”, “online” or whatever you’d like to call it!
Where to park?
One reason we chose to go with a smaller van was primarily for parking. We wanted to be as mobile as possible. Our Ford Transit (148”) is the largest model you can purchase that will fit into a normal parking spot. The only limitations we have found is the height restricts us from going through any drive-thrus (one more way to detour us from eating unhealthy!) or parking garages. With the fan cover, the height of the van from the ground is 9 feet, 1 inch. The app, Stay, gives an icon for heights of tunnels, and low clearance sections of the country, so we can plan our trip away from anything that is less than a 10 foot clearance. However, we haven’t run into anything that low yet.
We can park at rest stops, truck stops, city streets, friend’s houses, campgrounds, BLM land, college campuses… really almost anywhere that allows overnight parking! Since Heather is a Professor, getting permission to park at affiliate college campuses is an option many don’t have. With young kids, it gives them room to ride their scooters, walk around and have amenities like restrooms, gyms, pools, cafeterias, etc. Ironically, so far our least favorite spot to stay overnight was at a campground. The grounds were nice and well kept, but we paid for access to porta potties and cold showers as opposed to modern, hot showers and restrooms at a rest /truck stop for half the cost.
We do not have side windows, but we do have rear windows and a back up camera which helps when parallel parking or fitting into tight spaces. Side windows would be nice in some situations, like the boys being able to see better, but they also pose other issues like heat, security, and they take up precious wall space that can be used for storage, etc... Overall, parking has been just as easy as driving a van around and we do not hesitate to hop in and go wherever we’d like!