Family Life In A Van: Starting Small and Living Big

words + photos
| Ryan Sellmeyer
March 16, 2017
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Our van world is very small.

I don’t mean the 80 square feet of living room mounted to these four wheels, but, rather, the community we have found and exist alongside in our parallel van universe. No matter where you find yourself, this dimly lit screen in your hands acts as a kind of mirror most days. It’s our only look into other lives we can relate to.

Our phone is also our wishing well. It’s something that’s worth diving into at 6am in mid February, while your kids are still asleep, and the curtains are open just enough to see that it is still 33° and raining in the Pacific Northwest. But with Instagram open and a hot cup of morning coffee in hand, just for a moment you get to trade the Olympic Peninsula for the Baja Peninsula and warm your soul.

Our lives are different than most. We’ve found that the American dream can quickly become a nightmare when life is moving at the speed of a freight train. That lifestyle encourages people to trade family time for overtime and treat their Fico scores like an altar where they sacrifice potential futures in order to “win.”

But contrast that against our adventuremobile, a time machine of sorts: a 1985 VW Westfalia. The Swiss Army knife of vehicles. For us, our old camper van is the polar opposite of a status symbol. It’s a reminder to stay focused — a middle finger to the Joneses.

And in that way, we tend to veer off track as a family, I suppose. We’ll take the unknown of an open ended road trip over “normal” life any day. Just as soon as we have all these fancy letters behind Ma’s name paid off I believe that’s exactly what we will do, disappear for a good long road trip. No place has ever felt more like home. It’s always enough. The 20,000 miles we add to the odometer each year are a constant reminder that we must continue defining needs versus wants to get where we’re going.

We don’t need a three-story concrete prison to retire in. Give us a windshield, some surfboards, and never-ending wonder. Life is for exploring! After all, no one promised you tomorrow. But today’s a pretty big gift. Maybe that’s why it’s called the present.

*Photos are a mixture of mobile and slr images.