Photos and text by Josh Lewandowski and Hue (pronounced Way) Dao.
Follow Josh and Hue’s yearlong adventure: @joshlewandowski @hue2go
You know the pictures, the ones with high-top econolines, moneyed sprinters, and colored vanagons perched precariously on lonely canyon rims or cradled in fir trimmed valleys, glowing so provocatively you can almost hear the van life whispering come hither?
Well, we did, heeded the call, succumbed helpless and drooling to the torrent of tranquility being fed to us by the grams, posts and influenced. Logistically, we sold our furniture, gave away years of accumulated purchases, informed our landlord that we would not be renewing our lease. We sold our cars, we bought a van. Then we drove, pushed, and towed it to Minnesota.
You may have guessed from the unusually varied methods of cross-country propulsion that our van had some issues from day one. After a month in two different shops and a new engine and transmission to show for it, it was still just a startlingly empty cargo van (though one that purred steadily and with great anticipation).
Theoretically we knew that it would need some additions and adjustments to make it more liveable for an extended stay such as this year. I was pretty confident about what I could make from a couple sheets of plywood but as we thought about the actual steps needed to bring about all other changes, the tools required to tackle those steps, and the generalist knowledge base necessary to make the project anything more than simply creating sawdust and electrocuting ourselves, we needed my dad.
My dad helped me make a solar oven once and it got so hot it melted. When I took up cross country skiing, he brought home equipment from his engineering job in defense and turned our basement into a wax lab. When he is involved on a project the result is not only outrageously successful but the process reliably fun.
And it was. In just under three weeks with two sheets of plywood, a fan, battery, cooler and set of rv lights, we turned the back of our van into a dwelling that while not dripping in hygge (cause ewww, gross) is certainly more than adequate. And we learned a lot along the way.
One month in and 4,000 miles, 22 state parks, 7 wildlife refuges and a national park behind us, we’re just beginning to learn to slow down. Some of the bandwidth hoarded by modern life has been returned and we’re attempting to apply it with more intention. The bowl of ramen in the county park is becoming as satisfying as the roseate spoonbill sighting in the Audubon sanctuary. Enjoying the moments.