Since we (Molly + Peter) met, we’ve been on the road. A lot. And sure, the pandemic slowed that down, as did the addition of our mini-dachshund, DW. But now that things are opening back up and we’re trying to do more travel as a tiny family, the obvious solution–being millennials–was to get a bigger van. Now, we’re far from full-on van-lifing it. But we’ve traveled a lot in our smaller van in the past, and after a lot of debate, we decided it made sense to get a bigger version of our tiny Ford Transit Connect, in the form of the Ford Transit 250. We opted for a medium roof and the long wheelbase, rather than going big with the extended wheelbase or high roof. The slightly more compact version fits in a standard parking space, and since it’s our only vehicle as a single car family, it needed to feel reasonable to drive around town.
Anyway, we got the van in June, and so far, it’s been awesome. However, I (Molly) will admit to some serious van envy when looking at other people with much more built out van, which has led to the desire to write this post. I’m realizing that having a van versus #vanlife is similar to having a small condo versus a #tinyhouse. The difference is that with the #vanlife or #tinyhouse, often, that object (van or house) is the hobby. For us, the van is simply a way to travel around doing the stuff–running and riding–without needing to sort out where to stay, and while having everything we need on hand. It’s a small differentiation, but I think it’s an important one when I start getting bummed that we don’t have snazzy wood paneling.
What we do have is a comfortable, practical sleeping setup, counter for cooking, battery + electric cooler that can even serve as a freezer, and swivel seats to make it more spacious for work/hanging out. We also have A LOT of open space. We’re opting to steer mostly clear of cabinets and drawers, because while they make a space look nicer, we feel like they give you permanent setups for your space, and we sometimes have 1 bike, we’ll sometimes have 4. Our needs vary, so our storage options need to vary as well. We also wanted plenty of room to easily get changed in the van, get ready for rides and runs, and honestly, even have enough open floor space that DW can play a bit. This means…
What we don’t have: Nice floors that could end up scuffed by bikes/shoes/dachshunds, cabinets and other stowage solutions that could camouflage bags of gear, wood paneling or other built-ins/build outs. In short, we’re lacking a lot of the niceties that make a van aesthetically appealing rather than simply comfortable and practical. It’s a hard pill for me to swallow, but it does make things a lot easier when trying to set up for different trips.
And I’m also starting to realize that just because we don’t have the perfect paneling, it can still look decent in a more industrial kind of way. More to the point, it is slowly becoming an incredibly practical adventure-mobile for us, and it’s already gotten us through 4 weeks of racing and working, plus a mini-vacation and work trip. So, it’s coming along.
Similar to what I said with the stupidly easy sourdough bread recipe a few weeks ago, my goal is almost always to get things done as simply as possible, without turning hobbies or practical projects into second jobs. It’s easy to double the cost of your van with buildouts, even DIY ones, and take months doing so, but we wanted to get up and moving as quickly as possible, so it’s been about asking ‘what do we need to do to make our experience comfortable and simple,’ versus thinking about what will look best in photos. (I’m also learning that IRL van setups MUST be messier than they look on social media. Unless someone is one of those ‘I only own 30 possessions and eat air’ types, there is A LOT of stuff that must get hauled out of the van to compose the perfect photo.
All of this to say: I’ll be doing a few more pieces on the van setup as we dial it in, because we know that a lot of people are either kitting out vans of their own, or simply trying to make their current setups (whether an SUV or a full camper van!) more conducive to training. Let us know in the comments if you have any specific questions around van stuff and we’ll do our best to answer!
Before you go, check out our book, Becoming A Consummate Athlete, right here: