Off-Grid | In College

For me, it is so much more than opening my back doors in the morning to a gorgeous view, or the ability to park at a trailhead for an adventure early in the morning. I have decided to embark on a journey to live in a self-converted van for my senior year of college to hold myself accountable - accountable to my surroundings and the natural world. I hope that in turn I can lessen my impacts on the environment through becoming more conscious of my energy demands, water usage, and food sourcing. But what can I say, I am also pretty stoked to wake up, roll out of bed, walk 50 feet, and go on an early morning adventure.

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My nomadic vanlife journey started two summers ago when my boyfriend and I purchased a 1995 Dodge Ram Van off of Craigslist, converted the interior into a cozy but simple home, then hit the road to adventure around the U.S.. What first began as a way to explore while bringing along all of our toys like bikes, kiteboards, and SUP’s, turned into a passion for life on the road. Waking up each day we had the ability to decide where we wanted to go, what we wanted to see, and how we wanted to explore. However, these summer road trips would inevitably come to an end as leaves started to change and it was time to go back to school. Yet, one day I was reflecting on my first summer of vanlife while sitting in the library and a lightbulb went off. I realized that I could combine my love for a life on the road with my goal of living off-grid by committing to a year in the van.

For the past year and a half my mind has been consumed with envisioning what vanlife - college edition - would be like. My time was spent trying to determine if it made sense environmentally, financially, and socially, often referred to as the ‘triple bottom line.’ Additionally, I was examining those pesky details such as where I would park at school, use the bathroom, or do my homework. After I sorted out these details, then came the hard part. I pulled the trigger and sold my car to buy my navy blue Promaster named Roxi.

This past summer I spent countless hours in the 90 degree Utah heat learning the in’s and out’s of insulation, how to build cabinet boxes, how to wire my solar system, and how to install kitchen plumbing. I laugh as I think back to the moments when I was struggling to lift 4’x8’ pieces of ¾” MDF onto the table saw by myself. Or when I had a hard time seeing where to drill because my eyes were filled with tears of frustration (this only happen once, I promise) after having to remeasure and rebuild a cabinet box for the fourth time. In the end, after hours of daydreaming, planning, and building, my dream has come to fruition. I am currently sitting on a bench in my van, which also turns into my bed, proudly looking around at what I have accomplished and excited for the adventures to come.

Inevitably I will face challenges and have additional van-related tasks everyday, such as brushing off my 600W solar array after every snowfall, and manually filling and emptying my water tanks. However, I know that my efforts are worth it. Through my off-grid van adventure, I hope to not only live in harmony with my natural surroundings, but to also inspire others to push the status quo. Many people questioned my ability to convert the vehicle myself and live comfortably off-grid. Others suggested that I wait until graduation to pursue such a project. Yet, my desire to protect the incredible natural landscapes around me made it impossible to wait any longer. 

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