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Travel Inspiration | Road Trip
Building My Next Adventure: Vanlife

As a videographer with a background in woodworking, I’ve always gravitated towards projects, specifically, I’ve owned and built out three vans and have assisted others in creating custom configurations with their vans. Melissa, my partner, and I have now been working together on projects for over six months. We’ve tackled things like working for the Del Norte County Tourism Board, where we spent twenty-one days capturing the county’s natural beauty. We’ve also taken on work collaborations that require a lot of backpacking. In August, we spent a week in the North Cascades shooting and enjoying the rewards of a hard day’s hike. In fact, we’ve been scheming ways to do more of these projects for longer periods with ease. So, it was only natural that we decided to take on our next big adventure together: buying a van.


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We decided that something like a compact cargo van would end up being too small for us. They may be a great option for those who pack on the lighter side, but we’re not necessarily those people. (Compact cargo vans are also great for short trips, like a week or so, but ideally wouldn’t be sizable for living in for more than a week).


Then came the compromise. We had to consider what we could and could not live without. Was a built-in stove with an oven something we needed? The oven was an easy no since we weren’t going to be living in the van full-time. We also wanted to be able to have our friends hang out with us in the van. Sometimes it’s cold and not every place allows you to build a fire outside.


Woman looking through cooler while sitting in van


When it comes to the actual layout of the van, this part has required the most conversation. I wanted maximum storage space—I would have been perfectly fine with a build-in flatbed, which would have doubled our storage capacity. Melissa wanted a table to work at. While I would have been alight with working from the bed, I understand the taxing nature of hiking and being hunched over a laptop all day, so I ultimately agreed to a collapsible table (that can lay flat when we’re using the space to sleep.


Couple sitting on top of mountain looking out towards view


Building this van out with Melissa has been quite the adventure. We enjoy being able to travel and unplugged from our normal lives, which require a lot of social media engagement, emails, screens, screens, and more screens. While it was a lot of effort to consider all of the different components of what was necessary for us, it was well worth it. When the distractions of modern life melt away, it’s our opportunity to focus on the things that matter most to us. The van allows us to have a little peace of mind on the road. It’s not quite the same as getting into our bed at home, but it’s certainly close.


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Johnathon DeSoto is an award-winning artist and filmmaker based in Northern California. His work focuses primarily on personal stories in the current geographical, historical, or political moment. He has worked with a range of clients, including Toyota, Budweiser, Patagonia, and Crabtree & Evelyn.