It has been a crazy few months for us. First making a big decision to change the way we travel, then the stress of researching just the right choice for us and then the biggest step of all; actually implementing those decisions. But first, let’s back up just a bit to tell the “why” we decided to make this decision.
So if you follow us at all you know we’ve been on the road now for just over four years. We left our hometown of Evansville, Indiana in October of 2017. In those four years we visited 34 states, drove over 90k miles around the USA and have seen hundreds if not thousands of wonderful places! It has been an absolutely amazing experience! We haven’t once thought we made a mistake by selling our home and most our possessions to travel this fine country of ours. We’ve made wonderful friends all over the country too!
So why make a big change? Well, put simply, because we can. We were both once change adverse. Change can be scary and if you are in a comfortable spot in life, why do anything to rock the boat? Now, however, we have started embracing change. With change comes growth; with growth comes experience. Change is good. And let’s be completely honest here, everyone has constant change in their lives. Change is just a part of life. So why not take control of that change (as much as possible anyway)? We were both ready for a change.
Hauling a 30′ travel trailer all over America can be stressful. Even after all our miles doing so I still got a bit anxious on travel days. I think it’s because I’m such a defensive driver so I’m constantly on high alert and that just wears on you pretty quickly. Being an overall length of something like 50′ and driving through big city traffic was not something I looked forward to (and honestly avoided as much as possible). Then there was just the overall procedures required to hookup and then setup camp each and every time. The RV had to be put into travel mode. While this isn’t hard and probably only took us about 20-30 minutes, we were just longing for something simpler. More mobile.
So this got us dreaming about mobility and what could get us there. Instead of 3-4 hour drives (averaging around 250 miles or so) we started thinking it would be nice to be able to drive much longer distances. Getting to our desired location quickly was appealing. Misty didn’t really like driving at all, let alone towing, so getting something she felt more comfortable driving was also appealing. If we can both take turns driving we could drive for a LONG time. A new rig was in order. Selling our RAM and our Rockwood, both paid for, and getting something else and very likely going into debt again was scary. But change is good we reminded ourselves.
So that brings us to our decision. We were going to join the #vanlife lifestyle. A camper van checked off most of our new wants. Easier to drive, more mobile, smaller and easier to park, can camp in any campground in America, built for off-grid living and just generally easier to camp in. Just one BIG problem, they are obviously much smaller, so can we get all of our stuff from our truck and trailer into a van? Downsizing from a 2400 square foot house to a 30′ trailer was tough enough, but we would quickly learn that downsizing from that truck and rig to a 21.9′ van would be even tougher. But before I go into that fun, what did we get exactly?
After much research we got ourselves a 2021 Roadtrek Chase Class B. It’s based on a 2021 RAM ProMaster chassis. We decided on this particular model for a lot of reasons. First, it already came from the factory with lithium and solar. 330 watts of solar and 400ah of lithium to be exact. Fairly comparable to what we had on our previous rig of 520 watts of solar and 400ah of batteries. It comes with an under hood generator (basically a 280amp second alternator) which charges the house batteries while driving. A 3000 watt inverter gives all our off-grid AC power. It has some of the newest technology in it as well. Instead of a huge bank of switches for things like the water pump, lights and other things, it just has a tablet which controls everything in the RV. Tank space, battery levels, AC/heat, lights, etc. all controlled from a single location. It also has an app so we can control everything from our phones as well. The geek in me is happy. It has a new 12v refrigerator which works very well and is very efficient. Tankless water heater and induction stove rounds out some of the cool features. The ProMaster chassis is one of the widest which we like because the aisle in the van is a little wider than the Sprinter or Transit. It made the rig less tight feeling which was huge to us. The van has a lot of storage for such a small vehicle and we did manage to get most of our stuff in it. Overall, we are very happy with it so far and have adapted quickly.
The process of transferring our stuff was a chore though. Over the years we had gone through our stuff in the truck and trailer several times and pruned out things not needed. So pruning those things to the absolute necessities was rather tough. There were obvious things we had for only specific tasks (like the oil changing tools for the RAM) we could easily get rid of, but other stuff was harder. Mainly clothes. We already felt like we only had the minimum articles but it was WAY too much to fit into the cabinets of the van. We donated two lawn and leaf bags of clothes! Now we have the bare minimum I think. Three pairs of jeans, two hiking pants, a few shorts and athletic shorts, and around 14 shirts each. It’s funny actually, because it sounds like such a small amount of clothing, but when I think back to when we owned our home, I had a closet FULL of stuff. Yet I mainly wore a handful of favorites. Even with limited space, we each still had our favorites. So it turned out a little bit easier by just keeping our absolute favorite articles of clothing. Other things like cables (I’m a computer cable junky, a hold over to my IT years I guess), and just miscellaneous stuff was also tough. But in the end, we managed to get all the necessities moved into the van and donated everything else. We’ve donated a LOT of stuff over the past few years. But we try very hard to live simple lives now. I still have a few “fun” things that bring me joy (but aren’t necessary) like a guitar, video game systems and of course my photography equipment (though I’d argue that it’s very much needed). All of which I found spots for in the van.
We’ve been out and about the area we are currently in (the Space Coast area of Florida) and have gotten a taste of what traveling in the van will be like. We think we are going to enjoy it! It will be a lot different but in all good ways we believe. Time will tell of course, and be sure to check back here from time-to-time to see how it’s going. We will eventually put together a video of a tour of the inside of the van.