Never Say Someday
By Carrie Dana, Implementations Analyst
Does all of this time stuck at home during the pandemic have you down? Are you missing spending time outdoors in this great country of ours? Still feeling uneasy about staying in a hotel or visiting your favorite local eating establishment? Well, so were we!!!
My husband and I asked ourselves how we can get back out in to the world but still stay safe these days. After the onset of the quarantine, we thought there was no time like the present to build our little dream. If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that life is precious and you are not guaranteed any tomorrows. Why not make “someday,” TODAY! WHY NOT NOW??!!
If you have ever looked online at those fancy Class C Motorhome/Vans, you know that they can come with a hefty price tag (Ouch!). We liked the idea of being able to travel anywhere, and yet be self-sufficient and self-contained … but purchasing something like that was quite a bit over our price range. However, what if it was possible to BUILD such a welcoming space? This is where Frances the Van comes in!
Meet Frances. She is our 2020 Ford Transit that was purchased completely empty at the beginning of June. By the end of July she became our little weekend home away from home!
Let me just say that you can learn anything from You Tube. If you simply search “van conversion” on Google, you will be amazed at the wealth of information out on the Internet. That is where we started. Having average handy skills (no one here is a professional, by any means, trust me!), we were able to research every little aspect of what goes in to a build like this. So many others have embarked on this journey and provided such good documentation and suggestions that we just had to go step by step and then we were off!
The major expense was the price of the van, obviously. We did trade in one of our vehicles for her, but keep in mind she is still a vehicle so we can still use her for day to day travels. She cost no more than a regular 2020 car these days. Our goal was to spend less than $10,000 on everything else. We came in way under that budget and the outcome is VERY NICE! By having basic sewing skills, being able to use power tools, and having lots of patience, our total costs for Frances were less than half (and more realistically, closer to one-third) the price of one of those fancy motorhomes/vans.
When you think of all of the things that go into one of these builds, it can be quite intimidating. You really have to take things day to day. You have to be prepared to not know what may come, or how something will turn out. Sometimes you can’t build or plan something until you know on that day, in that moment, what it has to look like and what will go into making it. A van is not a square box so there are no right angles or straight edges. Everything is a custom cut. But hey!!! Working on this while stuck at home during the pandemic is perfect because you have nothing but time!
Here are a few things that went into the creation of Frances (the short version):
- Vibration control
- Flooring – insulation/boards/actual flooring installation
- Walls – insulation/strapping/painting boards/installing all boards, power roof fan (cutting a hole in the roof – GASP!) installation, ceiling insulation/strapping/hand staining boards/installing all boards
- Lighting planning/installing, wiring for all fans/plugs/switches, kitchen cabinet installation, installing fans/plugs/switches
- Bed platform plan/build/installation, wall fan installation, countertop build and installation, bench plan/build/installation
- Sewing of all cushions/screens/pillows/curtains/shades
- Install sink (another hole cut! GASP!) / faucet / soap dispenser, upper cabinet plan/build/installation
- “Garage” (area under the platform bed) planning, bike tray / storage / laundry chute (yes, I insisted on a laundry chute that goes down into the garage area that holds a laundry basket for our dirties)
- And … last but not least, the two BIG things that took much research were electricity and water. The electricity in back is separate from the van electricity. It has its own battery to run off of that recharges with “shore power” (can be plugged in to recharge) / inverter / charge controller / fuse boxes (there is much more to the electrical that I don’t know of. I’m the sewing person…he’s the electrical person). The water system consists of a clean water storage tank, a grey water tank, a water pump, and an outside shower/sprayer.
There is something very fulfilling about sitting in Frances and knowing that we actually made her. We were able to save thousands upon thousands (upon many, many thousands) of dollars by doing research, watching tutorials, putting in a little (make that a lot) of elbow grease, and doing it ourselves!
Just shy of 8 weeks later we have a custom van that fits OUR needs. Yes there will be tweaks here and there on her, but she is 100% awesome! We can travel anywhere with our bikes in the garage area. We are self-sufficient, can stay active and healthy, can enjoy the outdoors, and most importantly we can spend time (safely distanced) with our family and friends!
Why always say “someday,” when today is just as good as any day. You never know what you’re capable of until you try. Anything is possible!
If you want to follow Frances’s entire journey, you can find her on Instagram: frances_the_van