SPRINTER VAN LIFE INTERVIEW: OUR HOME ON WHEELS
Meet Jace and Giddi, the couple behind the popular Instagram account Our Home on Wheels. Since finding their account a couple years back, I’ve been continually inspired by their adventures, their genuine nature, and their ability to make vanlife work with their new baby, Juniper. I recently heard that they are raffling off a fully converted Sprinter Van to one of their followers, and I just had to find out more. In this interview, we chat about vanlife with a newborn, tips for DIYing a Sprinter Van conversion, vanlife in Europe and more.
Learn more about Sprinter Van Life in this interview with Our Home On Wheels!
1) So tell us about this Sprinter van you are giving away? And how did you get the idea to do this?
It is a 2005 Sprinter 158” wheelbase high-roof van we converted into a camper ourselves (well 98% Jace). It’s been all over the western United States and all the way down to Mexico the last year and a half, as our full-time home. Around the time it was built, we added a new member to our family. We introduced her, our daughter Juniper, to “vanlife” with this vehicle she knows as home.
We were actually inspired to do the giveaway by @expeditionhappiness. They had a beautiful bus they had converted into a home and did something very similar to what we are doing. We saw it as a unique way to give someone else the opportunity to enjoy all that comes with this lifestyle, without the thousands upon thousands of dollars and hours of time it could perhaps take someone to get a vehicle and build it similar to our own.
By supporting us through our custom products on our website, not only does someone receive something nice shipped to them in the mail, but also a free entry into the giveaway for a chance to win our home. Instead of selling it to someone with all the cash, we thought this was a good way to not lose out on what we’ve invested into it financially, while still allowing the winner an extremely cheap dream come true.
2) You started Sprinter Van Life in 2016 as a couple and recently added a new addition to your family. Can you talk about the transition to living in a van with a baby? What were the challenges and how did you overcome them?
We lived quite a long time in our van without a child so we were already accustomed to and familiar with van living. Bringing a baby on for the ride wasn’t super difficult to be honest, and definitely not as hard as most people would imagine. That being said, we do have a bit more of a schedule and some activities (rock climbing, biking) have slowed down a bit, whereas other activities (paddling, hiking) have just changed to be a little more chill so she’s able to do them with us. When asked by others about how we have dealt with raising a child on the road, we’ve always responded along the lines of “we’ve never raised a child before so whatever lessons we would have had to learn in a traditional house, we’ve had to learn still, just in a much smaller space.” Parental instincts just kick in wherever you’re living, so adding a child wasn’t as difficult as you’d assume it to be. We just went with it. We don’t have super long driving days (probably a good thing), and we eat more consistently than we used to. 10pm dinners in the parking lot don’t cut it anymore! She’s pretty rad though and super happy almost all of the time, so we feel we are doing things right. She absolutely loves it!
3) Take us on a tour of your current home on wheels. What changes did you make from your first van?
Our first build was pretty basic. We were both brand new to van building (and any building for that matter) so Jace learned everything on youtube and from different online forums and we went with it. We built the first van with only a jigsaw, circular saw, and cordless drill. It had a hand-pump faucet at the sink, a folding camp stove we pulled out each time we needed to cook, no toilet, no shower, and everything was hinged doors (no sliding drawers). This current van has been plush in comparison. We added a composting toilet, running water (no more hand pumping), a larger fridge with a freezer section, additional battery/solar power equipped with a large enough inverter to run a blender, a countertop set stovetop, and a third seat for Juniper. We also added multiple drawers for convenience. Grabbing your clothes out of a slide-out drawer is far easier than reaching to the back of a cupboard while kneeling down on the floor. All these changes are very simple but have made a huge difference in our van.
4) What are the keys to success for doing a DIY Sprinter Van conversion?
Honestly, I think this answer can really be different for each person. Making a place a home isn’t a one size fits all kind of answer and I think thats a good thing. Really, what I think applies to all conversions is that if you are motivated enough, you will make a comfortably livable space regardless of your knowledge, expertise, experience, or lack of “proper” tools. I think if we had to give one piece of advice it would be to not overwhelm yourself. Write down exactly what you absolutely need in your van. If a shower or a toilet or electric 12v pump isn’t an absolute must-have, no stress. If it is, you’ll find a way to make it work and get it built out exactly how you want. You get to make it how you want and according to your budget and comfort level, but don’t be afraid of failure. We spent 7 months converting our first van and had a lot of trial and error that we were able to learn from. We sometimes miss the simplicity of that first van and the more “raw” experience it gave us all the way to Alaska and back.
5) Most memorable camping spot or experience of all time?
There are seriously so many. Too many to really start ranking them! One of my favorite and most memorable is hearing Juniper’s heartbeat for the first time. It was just outside of Big Sur. We hadn’t told anyone except our parents that we were expecting a child. We were camped up on a cliffside with an amazing view of the water. Our van door was open and right outside our door you could see the beautiful waves crashing and the sun was setting down for the evening. I pulled out the doppler our midwife had given us to see if we could finally get a heartbeat and there it was. We sat and listened to the sound of her heart while looking at this beautiful place we found ourselves at and it really was a magical moment that I hope Juniper will recognize is a beautiful and unique way to begin your existence in this life.
6) What is your favorite thing about your current van and what would you change?
Toilet. Haha. We seriously love our Nature’s Head Composing Toilet. It makes van living so much easier.
What would we change? We are actually in the process of downsizing… to another van, a smaller Sprinter van. Our current van is great! To us, it feels very spacious and there’s a ton of storage. For us, the more storage we have, the more we fill it, often times with things we don’t necessarily need to have along with us. I think we like the challenge of being more minimal and not carrying around excess items that are seldom put to use. People think we are crazy when we mention that, but let’s be honest, if you live in a van people are going to think you’re crazy no matter what. For us it makes sense to go a bit smaller, but you bet we will still make room for our toilet to come along in the next van.
7) How do you support your lifestyle of full-time travel? How much time do you spend working each week and how do you find balance between work and play?
We have a few different ways we generate our income. Each avenue, although small, does its part in supplementing our full-time travels. We work with a small variety of partners (brands) on and off social media. Generally, that would entail sponsored posts on Our Home On Wheels social media channel, licensed images for their website (and other use), contracted photo and video content, etc. The Our Home on Wheels blog sees a good deal of traffic as we document our travels and we use affiliate links to certain items we use and love and write about on there. We also own a small online jewelry business, Carteo Handmade, which we started about a year before we even started “vanlife” and have continued it on the road. Our first year of travel we were fully supported by Carteo Handmade. It was our only income. But we now make most of our income from photography and social media partnerships. Finding a balance is hard. It seems like we are almost always working, because when you work for yourself it’s nearly impossible to keep your business out of your mind. But we remind one another when it’s time to stop and get back to why we originally set out on traveling in a van… to play!
8) What are three things do you have in your van that you couldn’t live without?
Giddi: Stove, heat and a bed. I could do without everything else but these.
Jace: Stove, bed, fridge. After years and years of ice chests, I don’t think I could ever go back to having soggy food and buying ice every few days. 12v fridge is a game-changer. Life changer if you ask me! Haha
9) You’ve recently been doing some international travel. How did vanlife in Europe compare to the US?
To be honest, it’s all really similar. We know what we need and how to live simply so adjusting and moving to different locations is not difficult for us. We love traveling in vans internationally because, just like back home in the states, it doesn’t require as much planning or sticking to a schedule. Its undoubtedly the best way to explore any new country. We are looking into hopefully doing an extended (maybe 1 year) trip all across Europe next year. That being said, if we are making just a general statement, Europe does not have as many open and wild public lands as the western United States. We still found many epic campspots, both near beach and in the mountains, but the vast amount of land you’re able to access and camp on west of the Rockys is pretty incredible.
Our trip to Iceland
10) What are your top three pieces of advice for people who want to do what you do?
- Don’t move into a van with high expectations of beautiful scenery and amazing experiences every single day. #vanlife on Instagram isn’t always the most accurate representation of your day to day.
- Be conscious of your surroundings. The van life community has grown so much and it’s so important that we are constantly caring for the spaces we are allowed to visit. One- so people don’t hate us and, Two- because we should always show some sort of gratitude for the things that have given us opportunities to experience everything we have. Both good and bad.
- Wet wipes are life.
- Learn and live by Leave No Trace
- If you’re thinking of getting a van for the primary purpose of more likes/followers and making a buck on the ‘Gram because #vanlife is hot right now… you’re thinking about it the wrong way. Although grateful for it, making some form of income from social media was never our intent from the start. We just wanted to travel and play. If that’s your primary focus and goal, then do it! Make it happen! Travel and play everywhere!
- Pick a van with a good condition/reliable motor. Your van can be “totes cute” in photos and all, but don’t overlook whats really important: your house is a car and if you’re stuck on the side of the road and always at a mechanic… you get the point.
11) Where is Our Home on Wheels headed next and what upcoming plans are you most stoked about?
We are currently in Norway so the stoke has been high! After Norway, we will finish building our smaller van when we get back to the states. Meanwhile, we will be van-living in the mountains of Utah for a good while before heading to Bali for the month of October. That’s as far as we know right now. We don’t always know what the next few months are bringing and it’s pretty exciting. The unknown is beautiful. Maybe Mexico for the winter??
12) Where can people find you and how they enter this incredible raffle?
People can enter the giveaway/raffle on our website Our Home On Wheels. Residents of the USA, 18 years of age or older are eligible to enter between now and end of day on September 1, 2018. We will fly the winner out to Salt Lake City to pick up the van!
We are also on Instagram and would love to connect with people here.
Hope you enjoyed this interview with Our Home on Wheels. Know a Sprinter Van Lifer that should be featured? contact and let us know!