My name’s Alex and this is my van, Penny.
This is my pup Talkeena. After college I took a year off to go do
some unpaid internships, to explore the world, and discover myself. I ended up
moving to New Zealand for a year. While I was there I was living out of a tent and
I saw all these super cool van conversions. I just got really inspired by what people
were doing with such little material in such little space. After the year was
up I came back to Washington and I moved to Seattle and I got the big kid job. I
got the nine-to-five, the office, big apartment, the whole thing. I
was home for Christmas and one day we were driving through this lot, because my
mom was think about getting a new car at the time, and on the way out of the lot
I shouted, “Stop the car!”. We jumped out of the car and I saw this van parked like
way in the back. My mom encouraged me actually to call the dealer and see if
it was for sale and I was just like, “Mom, you don’t know what
you’re talking about, like that’s not how this works”, and so she called…thanks mom. The dealer said, “It’s not for sale, it’s just in for
service, but we’ll let the owner know that there’s an interested buyer”. So then
about a week later my mom calls me and she says, “Okay, the owners are willing to sell
that van that you saw. Here’s the number”. It ended up being this older couple
they went on one road trip to Glacier National Park and his wife hated it. She
hated van life, she basically said, “I’ll never get back in this thing again”. He
loved the van so he just kept it nice and putzed with it himself.
So I bought it and then I went home the next weekend and looked at it. It had
4,000 miles on it, the plastic was still on the floors, and the fridge had never
been used. I mean it was just completely the find of a lifetime and I wasn’t even
really actively looking, but when Penny fell into my lap I just knew that
it was van destiny. I think it’s really funny how van people really talk about
their vans like they’re people. So this is Penny. She’s my 2000 Eurovan and she’s my 17 feet of home and I love her, but I love you more.
Most days. I bought the van with this all installed. So I get that question sometimes where people will be like, “Did you make this modification?”. And, I didn’t. I worked for REI before I was in the van so all my stuff is like camp oriented. So
I have all these kinda like folding utensils. This is my pantry, got my cutting
board, clap shelf, dishes, folding pans, Aeropress, which is crucial. I don’t
actually know what’s in this fridge so we’ll see. It’s a pretty good fridge
right now. Salsa, a beer, some eggs. I have a freezer though so that’s cool with one
salmon burger in it and a GoGurt. That’s van life. This is my cooking area. I
installed this with my dad. My dad helped me out with a lot of
modifications in the van. This is my spice rack. And then when I’m ready to cook I just pop this open and voila. This is sick, this thing here, cuz it’s really easy just like to
season things as you’re cooking. This is my table. My dad made this for
me, which I like. I just click this in. Dinnertime. Or cocktail hour. When I first
got the van everything was gray. And the first trip I ever took it on, I got sick.
I was in Yosemite and it was raining and I had to stay in the van and just be
sick and watch a lot of Grey’s Anatomy and I got really depressed because it was so gray. And so one of the big things when I decided to move into the van full-time
was to put as much color into it as I could. I reupholstered my seats. I choose to sleep down here because a lot of times I’m
camped in urban areas and you’re never gonna get away with pretending no one’s in
here if you have a pop-top. I always make sure that my driver seats clear. So, I
have the keys, whenever I sleep, I have the keys right here with my knife. And I keep this pretty much ready so that if something happened or there was a really sketchy situation that I could literally just like hop up
here and go, you know. So I think that that’s something that I do for safety. Oh
I have something else I want to show you guys that’s really cool. I made this. This
is my urban camping modesty sheet. It’s black in the front and then I got
this cool little Mountain tapestry and sewed that on the other side. I just Velcro
this right up here that it like just blacks out everything and then you’re
looking at a pretty mountain. So come back to the van. This means, “The Mountains Call” in German. People ask me all the time. Both my parents are German. That’s
why I rock the Germany sticker so strong. So my solar setup. It is a 120
watt semi-flexible solar panel that I bought on Amazon. It weighs four pounds
and it arcs 30 degrees in either direction. And it’s sick. And so when I
first was thinking about doing solar I knew I had to do it because I knew I
wanted to be kind of off the grid and not reliant on power a lot and I have a
gigantic Thule box that wouldn’t allow me to put the panel on the top. It’s
not really attached to anything so I can move it wherever the sun is. I have
attached it to the back in this very not professional or German way. I just
literally bungee cord this thing to the back. I can just open, open it.
I have 15 feet of cable for my solar panel and then when I’m not using it I
just kind of tuck it in here. I have my charge controller and my inverter. Then I
got my batteries, a battery bank, back there. When I lower the top on the on the
pop the canvas will stick out and I had to replace it because it molded out and
then ripped and I spent a lot of money on it so now I’m really paranoid about it. So
I’m always like tucking this in. This is what I’m talking about. See this.
Don’t want that cause it’ll mold and then you’ll pay $800. You can just stick this in here. You know, sometimes it’s easier than others. So I travel full time in the van
by myself as a girl and the reason why I did this trip by myself was I saw all my
friends getting partners or kind of staying in jobs that they didn’t love. I
didn’t really want to sit and wait around for my job to get better or for
me to find the right person in order to start living the life I wanted. I think
that the biggest misconception about van life for women is that it’s super, super
scary and you always have to be on your guard. And while I would say that you
definitely do have to be more careful, I think that you see couples out there, you
see guys out there, and it seems like it’s gonna be this big scary world. It’s
safer than you think it is and people will surprise you. ♫Music Playing♫ The loneliness of life on the road I
think it’s something people don’t talk about and when you think about the
happiest times in your life, at least I think about, feeling connected and
appreciated and valued. And when you’re alone in your car all the time it can be
really easy to kind of fall into these patterns of not wanting to communicate
with people or just isolating yourself. I think that in our world, at least when I
was living in Seattle, I was always inadvertently numbing myself. You know, I
always had something else to do. I always had another meeting or I had another happy hour and all these things that I think people in their 20s do and you
don’t really realize that you’re kind of numbing yourself to the experience of
your life. To really be alone and to allow myself that feeling was a huge
turning point. Not only in this trip, but also kind of within my own life. To know
that it’s okay to be sad. I think finding home in solitude is a really special
thing and I think that this kind of life forces you to do that. That’s just a gift
of the road.

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