Van Life – A Tour of my Studio Apartment on Wheels

This is a post that has proven very difficult for me to write, I have intended to write it for months.  It’s challenging because van life has definite ups and downs, and I want to properly portray it.  I am also writing at a time when I’m starting to miss some basic comforts and am preparing to have a proper ‘home’ again. 

My van is intentionally a soccer mom van from the outside.  I have kept it this way so that I can blend in at nearly any parking lot.  When you open the doors it becomes apparent that it is no longer a soccer mom van, I only have the front two seats remaining.  The back ¾ of the van is my studio apartment on wheels.  The passenger sliding door acts as my front door.  I have a small open area here that is my entryway and shoe storage.  Upon entering my home, I typically take my shoes off and sit on the bed which stretches along the drivers’ side.  The bed frame was built by my dad, intentionally sized to 5.5ft (long enough for me), and to a height allowing for me to sit up straight.  There is storage under the bed.  The front half holds my extra books (mostly climbing guide books), electronics, clothes, extra warm clothes, laundry supplies, and a sewing kit.  The back portion has my toolbox, jumper cables, spare room (tent/sleeping pad), and climbing gear.  When everything is properly packed it nearly all fits, however the gear I’m using is typically out in the back corner. 


The entry way.


Another view of the van.


My bed on the left and gear closet on the right.

The biggest item in the van is my crash pad.  This is a mini mattress that can be used to fall on when bouldering, climbing close to the ground without ropes.  This can either set on the floor along the bed or hang from the ceiling, held up by a 1×6.  Either option is bulky and in the way, but it’s an item that I’ve been very glad to have at certain times along the journey. 

My kitchen is between the bed and the drivers’ seat.  This consists of a cabinet that my dad built to hold my cooking supplies, a two burner stove, a quick camp stove, a fold-out table, and a good supply of water.  All of my food is stored just behind this cabinet.  Early in my travels I decided that a cooler was not an effective solution for me.  I didn’t keep a lot of cold stuff, and ice just kept on melting so I gave away my cooler, and found the cool spot.  This has been an important discovery for me.  In the van I have a spot between my food tub, kitchen cabinet, and bed where I put items that I want to keep cool.  Each morning I put my quilt on top of this for insulation, and if it’s cool out, I take it off at night.  Shockingly, it works quite well! 


My kitchen all packed up.


My kitchen set-up in action.


Van neighbors, this was a common occurrence for us at the Red River Gorge, KY.

There are also features to make it feel a little homey.  I have carpet on the floor, an entry rug, a fitted sheet, bed skirt, and my quilt.  The quilt is of particular sentimental significance because it’s a double sided t-shirt quilt full of high school and college shirts that my grandma and I made together. 

I also have a propane heater (with a CO sensor) for when it is cold, and a little USB powered fan for when it is hot.  I have multiple lights, my new favorites being two solar powered lanterns, one of which changes color! 

The only adjustments I made to van itself were the addition of rain guards over the windows and a bungee book shelf under the back passenger window.  The rain guards are great because I can have the windows cracked without it being apparent, and don’t have to worry about being rained on.  The bungee cord bookshelf just helps me with organization and is a fun little feature. 


A bungee cord book shelf.

These are some of the main features of the van, but in reality I have every nook and cranny full of stuff.  It seems like every time I pass through Iowa I leave more stuff behind, and still have more than I need.  I’m continually amazed by how much I have, and how little I really need. 

Some people have asked if I would like a tiny house when I have a home again, and frankly the answer is no.  I feel like I’ve already done that to the extreme with the van, and one of the things I miss most is being able to host friends.  I miss grill-outs on the deck after church, sweet baking with ladies, having friends over to watch a movie.  I have had multiple people hang out in the van when there was bad weather, but it is just not the same.  Consistent community is the one thing that I miss the most with life on the road.  I’ve met many amazing people, but faces seem to stick around for 2 weeks at the most before one of us take off.  Someday I’ll have consistent community again.  Until then, I hope that you will all take a moment to appreciate those people in your lives. 



Drying out gear after a rainy day.


Van Girls in Red Rocks, NV

A Couple Bible verse thoughts

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.  Hebrews 10:24-25

Remember to encourage the people who matter most to you!

 And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”  And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”  Matthew 8:19-20

When I started out I thoroughly enjoyed having no certain destination, but with time it has become tiring.  As time progresses, I find myself more frequently missing basic amenities such as a soft bed and indoor plumbing.  It’s also not unusual for me to wake up and look around for a minute to figure out where I am.  This has caused me to really consider Jesus’ statement above about not having a home.  It is hard to continually wander, and for the entirety of his ministry he had no home.  I have the comforts of the van and a savings account, he was walking through the wilderness with nothing but the clothes on his back.  If I were with him in the desert, would I have the courage and perseverance to follow him?    


A lot has changed since I first drafted this post.  I actually have acquired a job and a home.  There will be more about that in my next post… 

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3 Responses to Van Life – A Tour of my Studio Apartment on Wheels

  1. Sue Ellingson says:

    Can’t wait for the next post to see where your new adventure will take you!! Glad you are well!!


  2. duane morreim says:

    Thanks for sharing this,very interesting and amazing experience.Good luck in your new Job and home.God bless you Kristie. Sent from my iPad


  3. James Johnson says:

    Thank you so for the update, glad you are ok and love the van girls. Really happy about the new job. Blessings to you, hope your close to some rocks to climb on. You are not alone. In fact you are in Jesus care all the time. How could you do all this fun without Him. God Bess.


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