By Alexandria Beyer
What is freedom? It’s a subjective question, with many potential answers. But what about this definition: the ability to move around wherever you want, whenever you want. Or maybe: living without relying on large energy companies or governments for essential services. If you take those definitions on board, it’s no wonder campers are fast becoming popular with liberty-loving folks who wish to spread their wings for adventure and carry a nest that travels with them.
The diversity of options for camper revamps is astounding: you can choose to create a rustic home from a van, or a stark, minimalist space in an old school bus. You can use upcycled or salvaged materials to fit out your teeny new home, or choose furniture that represents the height of eco-luxury, like wool insulation and silk rugs. You can choose to live in your camper, or use it to explore the world, instead of jetting off on holidays.
What many love about mobile homes is that they’re pretty much completely off the grid: energy is sustained by solar panels, wood stoves, or propane gas tanks (with essentially no emissions). Others have finite-water tanks with low flow spigots that encourage gratitude for every drop; composting toilets, and even bicycle powered washers and blenders.
Those inhabiting these spaces have traded their collections of things for experiences, without sacrificing beauty or a sense of personal space. If you’d like to join them, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Ensure everything you’re fitting is as light as possible to save on fuel.
- Accept that moving into a smaller space takes some getting used to. Also, you will make mistakes and that things won’t always work out as planned.
- Remember that composting toilets and completely bio-degradable products, such as DIY washing-up liquid and toiletries, makes it easier to get rid of your grey water and waste.
- Since you’re reducing your possessions to nearly nil, ensure what you do have is stuff you truly love.
- There are plenty of blogs and videos by those who live this lifestyle – check them out before you make the leap yourself.
- Use eco-friendly building materials, furnishings and cleaners. This is important because toxic, illness-inducing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are given off by everything from carpet glues and cleaners to scented candles and plywood. The effects of these are more intense in small spaces – so go organic and natural whenever possible.
- Try living in a camper van for a few weeks on your next holiday to see how you like it before you buy your own camper.
- If you’re using your camper as a tiny home as well as a way to escape at a moment’s notice, you can expand your living space by having only the kitchen and bathroom essentials indoors, and then place a bathtub or kitchen outdoors, depending on the weather where you live, of course! This is what the awesome Rob Greenfield did when he owned his Teeny Greeny House, which you can read more about here.
Going small is a big change, but it’s completely doable if you’re dedicated. Here are some inspiring people and living spaces we found to help fuel your wanderlust.
A 50 year old converted bus was made into a rustic, stylish home by the couple and creators of the wonderful clean beauty brand the Boreal Folk Apothecary. This nomadic Canadian couple behind the brand has made a career of living on the road via their ecologically minded skin and body care line. Their bus/home also tows The Wilderness Lab, the trailer which holds their soap and body care ‘lab’. We adore the copper spigots and reclaimed wood touches, offset by clean white walls. In fact, the duo behind the world’s first “off grid mobile skincare company” is giving us serious lifestyle envy – but anyone can get a taste of it through the wonderful stuff they produce, like Chickweed & Mint soap, or All Purpose Poplar Balm, which you can buy here.
When life gets to be all about the work-sleep-work-sleep cycle with weekends being the only time to actually enjoy your life, it’s time to make a serious change. Or so thought Marissa and Vanessa, a.k.a The Roamans. These two women call a 24 foot Itasca Navion RV named ‘Maud’ their home, and share it with a gorgeous kitty. Lots of comfy faux fur and a ‘loft’ bedroom define their little living space. Since going mobile, they’ve made their lives simpler, easier, and way more adventurous, as you can read about in their blog.
HofArc’s Minimalist Chic Trailers
As soon as you behold the minimalist chic interior of this Airstream, you can tell that its owner, Matthew Hofmann, is an architect. His work has been covered in plenty of publications, including the L.A. Times, all of which rave not only about his innovative decorative abilities, but also about his skills in sustainable sourcing. For example? His Airstream home features bamboo countertops, floors, and tables, recycled tiles, and the use of locally sourced interior items. All of the former materials in the original Airstreams he’s renovated were sent to a recycling yard, and all of the old appliances and fixtures were sold or donated. And the best part? He sells some of the trailers he renovates here.
A Small Life’s Airstream
For almost four years, Melanie and her 6’4 husband George lived in a 1978 Airstream Sovereign before they decided to buy a small house instead. The idea was to end that nasty ‘living paycheck-to-paycheck’ cycle, save money, and travel. And they did it oh-so-beautifully! Their ‘boogey van’ was complete with 70’s style touches, thanks to groovy fabrics Melanie found. Now, her beloved camper is for sale – all interested parties, click here, and if you’d like to know more about her experiences living the small life, check out her book, here.
Two twin sisters, Jenny and Christie, decided to buy a 31 foot 1974 Airstream camper (along with Jenny’s husband, Matt) and renovate it as a project that would allow them to have fun, free family vacations. And so Airstreamy was born. The trio have documented their renovations photographically on their blog, and also share some of their stories about what it’s like exploring the southern parts of the USA in their newly redone camper.
Living this life, everything seems to matter just a little bit more. Every drop of water, every bit of heat from the stove, every kind encounter, and every night under the stars, is entirely unique and inevitably valued. Inspired to make more out of less? To take a dream on the road? Just do it. Others have, so why not you?
Main image: Matthew Hofmann