Vanlife is what you make it, especially when converting your own van.

My husband, Drew and I, have been living in vans for the past 4 years – a Sprinter in the US, a tiny Dacia in Iceland, a box truck in England and a Ford Transit across Europe and Northern Africa, that we lovingly refer to as “The Howeller.” We included some fun facts about each of them in the images for you below:

After returning to the US from our 2.5-year stint of living and traveling in The Howeller (this was also our honeymoon), we found the deal of the century on a pre-owned, 170″ WB 2008 Dodge Sprinter.

So we decided to dive head over heels into our first ever van build. This time though, we knew that in order to sustain our nomadic lifestyle, especially if we’re thinking about having kids in the future, there were a few upgrades we were going to need to build into our lives, literally. It’s been almost 4 months now that we’ve been working on our new van, “Spirit,” short for “Spirit of The Howeller”, and while Drew’s been doing most of the heavy lifting with the conversion, I’ve been documenting the entire process via weekly episodes on our YouTube Channel. We’ve worked so hard and learned so much, and now, we’re finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

More than just our adventure mobile, Spirit is going to be our sanctuary, giving us the additional comfort and space that we need in order to grow into all that this next chapter of life has in store…

Listed roughly in order of importance, here are a few of the upgrades we decided to include in our 5th van and 1st ever build:

1.) A Swing

I put this one first mostly just to make you smile, but truly, if we were basing our rating purely off of joy, then our van swing definitely wins. Made using a steel pipe, some carabiners and an aerial silk swing, Drew totally surprised me with this! You can watch my initial reaction in our episode from week 2.

2.) Water filtration system

Absolute luxury. Who doesn’t dream of having amazing, drinkable water straight out of the faucet! Watch our episode from week 13 to learn more about our set up from the RV Water Filter Store.

3.) Hot water heater

After living without it for 2.5 years, bathing in the Norwegian Sea, praying for the sun to shine on our black rubber solar shower bag, it was time. We decided on a mini 2.5-gallon hot water heater, and man oh man are we grateful. Watch our episode from week 11 to see us use it for the 1st time.

4.) Inside shower

This upgrade is made even more awesome by our hot water heater. If you saw our incredible shower in a drawer/futon that Drew invented in week 12’s episode, then you know why I’m so excited! We live for adventure, I love to run and Drew needs his morning wake up showers. Plus, if we ever have a little one, it’ll make the perfect bubble bath!

5.) Sliding bike tray

This little luxury basically eliminates unnecessary struggle from the beginning and end of an epic adventure! Check out our episode from week 4 to see how Drew built this beauty of a bike tray.

6.) Roof-top Deck + ladder

There’s something so nice about being able to enjoy the view from above. You can see how Drew installed our DIY roof-top deck in week 5’s episode.

7.) Hands-free faucet

In an effort to better conserve water when washing the dishes and our faces, Drew installed this magical little button in our episode from week 13!

And well, there you have it! Part of me is going to miss totally roughing it our van. There’s a deeply humbling simplicity that comes along with “going without,” but something tells me that all these little upgrades will just create more space for gratitude in our vanlife, and well, that’s a beautiful thing.

Join us for everything that this unpredictable journey has in store:

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