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  • Writer's pictureLee Eel Eisler

My Van Life History - Lee Eel Eisler

Updated: Aug 8, 2018

May 10, 2014. This is a day that I made a decision that changed my life in a really good way. I got home from work, grabbed a sheet of paper and made a pros and cons list about living in a van.

I had already seen a few buddies move into their vans. My boss at the time was also always talking about moving into his trailer on the side of the building. I had done a ton of research and watched countless videos as well as visiting countless websites. My lust for the freedom of not having to pay rent as well as the freedom to go anywhere was being overcome by fear of the unknown. I sat and filled out the pros and cons list for about 15-20 minutes and came to the conclusion that I could get a van, put all my stuff into storage and try it out. I figured if I didn't like it I would go back to doing what I was doing before.

June 24, 2014. I bought a 1978 Dodge Tradesman 200 for $1,500 off craigslist that I called the Mystery Machine. This American Classic came with nothing inside. A lot of the components didn't work. It was a blank slate but it seemed to run good. This would become my home on wheels for an indefinite amount of time. I spent the next 2 months doing some basic repairs to the engine, insulating the van, sealing leaks, grinding out some rust and building a basic interior so I could move in.

August 26, 2014. This is the date I officially moved into the van. I still had my steady job, I got a gym membership and the spot I worked at had a shower there. I remember the first couple months being pretty weird. After all it was a complete lifestyle change. Things like showering, using the bathroom and cooking were a challenge. With time you get really good at living in a van and figure out all sorts of hacks.

I started out in Southern California. Huntington Beach area to be exact. I worked a few different jobs in this area, dealt with lots of breakdowns and learned a lot about the engine on that van and how to work on vehicles.

One day I got a call to go work in San Francisco. A few weeks later I was there. Driving up the coast of California was the first real road trip I took in that van and it felt really, really good....It was also really, really expensive due to the poor gas mileage of that van. I worked in San Francisco for a few months and enjoyed it. I was finally feeling like I was on an adventure.

September 26, 2015. On this day I wandered into SPCA, the local shelter and saw Wander the doggy for the first time. They called him Bradley though. I wanted a doggy but wasn't sure I was ready so I went back to my van that night and made a pros and a cons list about living in a van with a dog.

September 27, 2015. This is a significant date because I adopted Wander the doggy on this day. It took a lot of talking and convincing. I literally was shut down on adopting him by the employee, got to the parking lot, walked back in to talk to the manager. Got denied again. Went back out to the parking lot. Turned around and talked to the manager again until I convinced her Wander (still Bradley at the time) was going to get the best life ever. Long story short I left the shelter with the best doggy ever! After a few months of being in San Francisco one day I was at a doggy festival. Me and Wander spent a couple hours there then were figuring out what to do with our day. After getting out my phone I realized there was a ski and snowboard festival that day. We walked 5 miles to it. That's where I realized I had to go to the snow for the winter.

December 1, 2015. I woke up in Lake Tahoe ready for my first day of work on the mountain and most importantly the season pass to start snowboarding. After having van problems, siphoned gas and a few other things I barely made it to Tahoe. A trail of smoke followed me the whole way but I made it. Living in a van in the snow was intense.

December 28, 2015. My van broke down in the middle of a snowstorm and I couldn't get it started again. Then while sleeping in it, the van got hit by a snowplow leaving a small hole in the back corner. I looked at it as a sign to sell that van and get a new van.

January 5, 2016. I Hitched a ride with some friends back to So Cal where I got a job working for Greenpeace and starting saving up and looking for a new van.

May 1, 2016. I bought a 1996 Bubble top Dodge Ram conversion van for $4,000 that ran perfect. I ripped all the seats out and built a short term solution interior. I lifted it and put a locker on the rear so that both wheels spin. Right now I am still working and building my van into my dream van. Follow my adventures and remember....Vanning Ain't No Joke!!!!!!!

It's been a few years since I wrote this post. See what I've learned over that time from Van Life (link shared below):



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