**All text and photos provided by Jarrod Tocci of Ghost Van**
I’ve always wanted to design my own home, but never felt I would have the financial stability.
I went to college for architectural engineering and sadly never used it. Oddly enough, way back in the early to mid-2000s they were teaching us how to design in small spaces. On my first van build, GHOST, it felt special in so many ways because it was my design and my hard work in the building process. Best of all, I got to build the van with my father.
At the end of the build, I told myself there was no way I’d design and build another van.
The first one took so much out of me. On the first build I didn’t have the money and had to take on a second job to save for six months. I saved up $10,000 and ended up spending that, plus more. There was another problem I ran into. Even though I had a place to myself that was considered “off-grid” I didn’t have any money. The result was that I needed to find work again. I didn’t feel comfortable with trying to work for myself yet so I went right back into my old routine.
Luckily, I had a plan. It only took about 18 months for me to start making decent money by monetizing YouTube.
I got to explore more frequently and experience more of the places I was visiting. Even better, I was seeing other people’s tiny homes and vans, which gave me many more ideas. So, after 18 months of living in my first van (which I was in love with), I decided to sell it. It took almost six months to find the right buyer. However, I’m a believer that everything happens for a reason. In this circumstance, I needed time to save up some more money, and get the van I truly wanted – my dream van. Plus, I got to spend even more time planning a crazy design that has never been done before (that I’ve seen). I also made sure to put in the most top of the line products available.
So, what’s different from the first to the second van?
Many think, “it’s a van, so what really can you change?” For starters, I went with a totally different van make and model. My first was a 2017 Ram Promaster 159” wheelbase high roof. This is about 12 feet plus of living space, not including the cab or front seat area. My new van is a 2019 Sprinter 144” wheelbase high roof, which has about 10 feet of living space. So right away you can see I challenged myself with a smaller footprint. I did this intentionally because I like to spend a lot of my time in cities or suburbs. I’m a stand-up comic and woodworker that lives in a van, so being able to stealth is a priority.
Stealthing is the reason I named my van GHOST (Ground Home Operation Stealth Transportation).
When I started planning my first van design I wanted to figure out my wants and needs. I was already accustomed to living in small spaces and the minimalist lifestyle, so how could I condense it even more into 60-80 square feet? Another concern was making it feel like a home and not like some guy in his 30’s living in a van.
My first big decision was going with a fixed bed rather than a bench or table that converts into a bed.
There are many things to consider, like the fact that a fixed bed takes away from floor space. Generally, there are four to six common layout designs for vans that you can choose from. There are minor changes to each plan, but if you keep a close eye you can find massive similarities between them. My first van design was nothing new or “game-changing” to van life. This was even more motivation to make GHOST 2 (G2) extremely different from my original GHOST (OG).
After working hard on my YouTube channel for 18 months, I was fortunate enough to step inside some amazing van designs to find inspiration. Looking back, this may have even been my inspiration for building my second van, G2. I attended a Tiny House Festival, where I met a couple living in a van full-time. Their rig had one of the best solar and electrical systems I had ever seen. They even had radiant floor heating! Lastly, they had a shower. I thought, right then and there, “these are the things I need in my next van”. Immediately, the wheels in my head started spinning.
Even with all the excitement of a new van, there is something people often don’t realize. Parting with something that you put your blood, sweat, and tears into is not an easy thing to do.
Even so, the excitement of a new build kept me distracted and looking forward. So, I continued dreaming and planning. During this process, I told myself I wouldn’t hold anything back for G2. Another benefit of having two years of experience with vanlife is that I already knew exactly what I wanted in my design and layout.
I always tell others that want to get into this lifestyle to rent a van for a week, or at least a weekend.
The longer you can do this, the better. It allows you to see what your needs will be and design your van with intention. With my new design, through major research on products and materials, I feel I have a true tiny home on wheels. Some of my favorite features of the new build include:
- Heated floors
- Recirculating shower
- Solar panels (for walking or yoga!)
- Amazing power system
- Indirect lighting (floating ceiling)
- A murphy bed
When thinking about my priorities, I really wanted a comfortable, functional build. I’m not a big enough “adventurer” to store things like kayaks, paddleboards, bikes or snowboards. I knew what I needed and made sure I fit it all in. Plus, if I ever want to do adventure-focused hobbies, I can always rent outdoor gear!
My current goal is to help as many people as I can who want to get into this lifestyle. I’m working towards this by providing design therapy for individuals who are interested. The beginning stages of a build can be super stressful and I’m happy to take off any pressure I can. Even more amazing is that everyone is different in their own ways. Through this therapy, I get to see what others like and want in their future van builds. And I can’t imagine a better way to use my passion for vanlife and design while helping others.
Follow Jarrod’s journey online: