Van life


Around 1995 I started thinking about what I called The RV Dream. I spent a lot of time designing interiors and a roof capable of generating electricity and collecting rain water.

In 2010 I had my first introduction by way of becoming homeless and living in my car. I say homeless because I didn’t want to be there initially and didn’t want to stay there. Despite this being one of the most memorable and impactful times of my life. (A story for another time.)

In 2011 and 2012 I was no longer in my car and found myself gainfully employed. I started thinking a boat might be just as interesting, if not better. I designed a trimaran and considered paying for a course in designing boats along with sailing lessons.

Now, in 2022, here I am again and a lot has changed both in me and in the world of lifestyles beyond the traditional.

I’m not going to muddy the waters here by talking about historical thoughts and ideas.

Everyone has their own journey and route. For me, I want something fitting to my lifestyle.

Things I enjoy:

  1. travel,
  2. space, and
  3. long showers.

Those last two aren’t really what comes to mind when talking about any sort of mobile living situation. The first is the one I see cited often from full-timers.

I’m not looking for a house inside a vehicle. This idea of a house that happens to be in a vehicle is what I see a lot in different rigs; different people, different journeys.

Wood cabinets. Tile backsplashes and sometimes tiled showers. Different zones that can be used simultaneously. That sorta thing. That’s not what I’m going for as I consider what’s right for me. Instead, I’m looking at modes.

Generally speaking, I don’t find myself in multiple modes at the same time or needing to support that capability. I’m not showering, sleeping, and eating at the same time, for example. Therefore, if I look at this housing change through the modes lens, the ability to quickly and efficiently change modes within the vehicle increases flexibility.

The modes identified:

  1. traveling,
  2. sleeping,
  3. working,
  4. eating (includes cooking),
  5. bathing,
  6. restroom (urinating and defecating),
  7. dressing, and
  8. entertaining (self and others).

Thinking each mode will be given a section of this page, a standalone page, or both. Given my profession at the moment, thinking I’ll start with the MoSCoW method, while used as a prioritization technique, I’m using it primarily to distinguish between a minimally viable product and a more comfortable one.


Section titled Traveling

Must have

Section titled Must have
  1. Roughly 20 mpg unladen.
  2. At least 1 full-size spare tire.

Should have

Section titled Should have
  1. Electric engine.
  2. Dual alternator to help with charging batteries.


Section titled Sleeping

Sleeping mode happens roughly once per day for about 8 hours. During this time most other modes are unnecessary.

Must have

Section titled Must have
  1. Sleep one comfortably.
  2. A way to easily switch to restroom mode.

Should have

Section titled Should have
  1. Sleep two comfortably; full XL.

Could have

Section titled Could have
  1. Queen sized mattress.


Section titled Working

Much like sleep mode, work mode happens roughly once per day and lasts roughly 8 hours.

For example, I’m writing this on my phone while preparing to go full sleep mode in the apartment. I also just did a release of the site for the March 1st, 2022 paycheck, which was updated and released using my phone; from writing and updating the spreadsheets to submitting and committing the pull request to deploying to my host.

I love the twenty-first century for the most part.

If I decide to go back to an office situation, it’s also roughly 8 hours where I won’t even be in or near the vehicle. The fact that roughly two-thirds of my day is spent sleeping or working is one of the things that started me down this path in 1995.

With that said, I’ll presume a working remote situation as I also do side gigs, artwork, and writing.

Must have

Section titled Must have
  1. An accommodating work surface that can comfortably fit a laptop and possibly paperwork.

Should have

Section titled Should have
  1. The ability to stand while working that is ergonomic in its nature.
  2. Easy access to restroom mode.
  3. Easy access to eating mode; mainly the ability to make an afternoon smoothie.


Section titled Eating

Here’s where it gets interesting.

When it comes to food, I’m pretty utilitarian. Some people live to eat and I eat to live. I rarely cook for friends and family. I use salt and rarely any other spices or additions. I don’t require variety and when the desire for variety strikes, I usually pay the premium to eat out. All told, I spend about 3 hours per day cooking and eating.

I’ve been streamlining my food intake for about two decades.

Breakfast 6 days a week consists of half a pound of sausage, 3 eggs, and 10 ounces of vegetables (a fifty-fifty split between carrots and broccoli). Supper 6 days a week consists of roughly half a pound of chicken and 10 ounces of vegetables; broccoli and carrots. Lunch 7 days a week consists of a smoothie; frozen mixed berries, honey, ice, water, creatine, collagen, and sometimes chia seeds. While drinking the smoothie I usually take a broad spectrum multivitamin and a fish oil capsule while snacking on some form of chocolate. (I typically do a pseudo-fast day during which I only have the smoothie.)

I’ve found this gives me enough caloric intake to feel energized throughout the day. The fiber content keeps me fairly regular. My body doesn’t do well with spices, so, the lack helps reduce inflammation, gas, and bloating. The range of macro- and micro-nutrients is also helpful.

Moving on.

I use the same cookware and utensils for all of it:

  1. a frying pan,
  2. a plate,
  3. a knife,
  4. a fork,
  5. a measuring cup, and
  6. a bowl.

From a power consumption perspective, this is probably the most intense mode; however, will tend to be short lived.

I usually carry 1 week’s worth of groceries at any given time. The mode needs to be flexible enough to increase if necessary, which will most likely be more dry goods (see 2020 pandemic).

Must have

Section titled Must have

I’m going to leave this blank for now because I’m trying to be relatively strict in the definition of must.

Should have

Section titled Should have
  1. A flat surface large enough for a cooktop, scale, blender, and bowl; could be the same as working mode.
  2. A cooktop; preferably induction.
  3. A 10–12 inch frying pan.
  4. A bowl.
  5. A fork and knife.
  6. A spatula.
  7. A package of lard.
  8. A blender; Nutribullet or similar.
  9. Measuring cup.
  10. Scale; battery operated.
  11. Refrigerator large enough to hold 3 1 pound sausage packages, 2 dozen eggs, 64 ounces of broccoli (or broccolini), 64 ounces of carrots, and a little extra.
  12. Freezer large enough to hold 8 chicken thighs, 3 bags of frozen fruit, 12 ice cubes, and a little extra.
  13. A sink, bowl, or both for washing dishes.
  14. A fresh water tank, hookup, or both.


Section titled Bathing

I love showers. I never thought I’d be able to handle life without them. Then I became homeless and my world shifted dramatically on the difference between want and need. I’ve decided I need a way to brush my teeth every day and would like to be able to shower at least once a month (increased if I do heavy activities or the like).

Must have

Section titled Must have
  1. A sink, bowl, or both to brush teeth; could be the same as eating mode.
  2. A fresh water tank, hookup, or both.
  3. A way to take showers regularly; at least once every two weeks.
  4. A way to rinse and sanitize underarms, genitals, and anal region.

Should have

Section titled Should have
  1. A shower near by.

Could have

Section titled Could have
  1. A shower; recirculating.
  2. A way to choose continuous flow or on-demand water flow.


Section titled Restroom

Everybody poops.

Must have

Section titled Must have
  1. A container for urine that’s easy to transport and dispose of.

Should have

Section titled Should have
  1. A way to store and easily dispose of solid waste; preferably using compostable bags.

Could have

Section titled Could have
  1. A composting toilet.

Won’t have

Section titled Won’t have
  1. A black water tank; must store liquids and solids separately.


Section titled Dressing

Must have

Section titled Must have
  1. Storage for:
    • 9 t-shirts.
    • 5 pairs of jeans.
    • 3 coats.
    • 18 socks.
  2. A hamper; preferably a bag that won’t occupy a lot of space when empty.

Should have

Section titled Should have
  1. Storage for:
    • nicer shirts,
    • slacks,
    • dress shoes,
    • exercise clothes.


Section titled Entertaining

Generally speaking, I don’t have company. When I hang out with people we’re usually somewhere else; not my place.

Must have

Section titled Must have
  1. Cellphone with various applications for books, music, and movies.
  2. Computer; preferably laptop (mainly for software development work until it becomes easy to do from tablets and smartphones).
  3. A way to recharge devices.
  4. A way to recharge battery banks.

Should have

Section titled Should have
  1. Roughly 300 watts solar power.
  2. Roughly 600 watts of rechargeable batteries; preferably lightweight lithium.

Could have

Section titled Could have
  1. A standalone inverter.
  2. A larger screen or television.
  3. Seating for 4.


Section titled Integration

With the modes listed out along with the must, should, could and won’t haves we can combine them all and we get a minimally viable product.

We can also see opportunities for multi-purposing some things. For example, for work I need a large, flat surface and for eating I would like a large flat surface. Could these be the same surfaces?

If I wanted to create a weighting state to help prioritize things, I could see how many opportunities a thing provides. For example, I’m pretty sure I could use the same flat surface for work, eating, and sleeping. This would give the flat surface a weight of 3, while everything else at the moment is a 1.

Believe it or not, I’m not much of a planner. With that said, I do appreciate the idea of measuring twice and cutting once along with the idea that you spend less time considering what to do with things that are easy to change in the future.

Put another way:

Where I put a piece of mail in my house is very easy to change in the future; not much consideration necessary. Moving a heavy piece of furniture, on the other hand, probably a bit more consideration. Adding an extension to a house would probably be even more consideration.

The more things I can make easy to change in the future, the less measuring and planning necessary.