What inspired me to turn a Chevy Astro van into a Custom Stealth Camper Van Dwelling and Road Trip Full Time?
It all started when I realised how alive I felt when I was out exploring on my motorcycle. I lived near Portland Oregon and was getting close to graduating college. My major had changed several times, and I wasn’t sure what I really wanted out of life, or who I really was. I felt this immense pressure to figure out what I wanted to do with my whole life, and what roles I should fill. When I was out riding my bike on country roads none of that mattered. I was completely free to be exactly who I was, and I there was nothing to figure out. This eventually led me to taking longer camping trips when I wasn’t studying.
After several trips around the Pacific North West,
I decided to take summer off of college and ride my motorcycle to New Orleans! I sold what I could and moved the rest to my parents’ house, moving out of my apartment. I didn’t have much money, so I planned to camp most of the time for free at BLM and National Forest land. I planned to get a cheap hotel once a week or so to catch a hot shower and clean my clothes.
The first week or two of this was the best time of my life until that point. I almost died in Death Valley due to heat exhaustion (it was 116 degrees and I was in full leathers!), but was saved by a what I would later call a “road angel” with a hotel room to keep me cool. I flew over The Grand Canyon in a freaking helicopter and that same night woke up to mountain lion tracks circling my hammock. I even met some crazy people living in a van outside of Mesa Verde National Park on blm land who got me super stoned and asked my what I do if someone came up behind me with a hatchet after tossing a rotting deer head in the camp fire! Talk about an adventure!
All the definitions of who I was supposed to be no longer applied on the open road.
With endless horizons and roaring engine beneath me, all that mattered was the moment. Soon the initial ecstasy of adventure wore off I found myself overstimulated, and very much in need of a good rest.
No longer in climate controlled boxes free from the threat of mountain lions and bears I was in harms way
I had made it all the way to Colorado before I decided to find another way to live on the road and still be able to sleep without needing hotel rooms every day. Those three crazy people (well only one of them crazy, the other two were guilty by association) mini-van and was convinced something like this was the answer. So I headed back to Oregon Country, after what would be almost a month living off of my Yamaha R6. Luckily my parents let me stay at their place for free while sorted things out. I found myself falling back into the definitions and roles I had before. This lasted for a few months before I started to get the itch for the road again.
Something was missing.
So I started researching vehicles and decided on a Chevy Astro Van. It seemed like a good compromise of fuel efficiency and living space. I was so excited I bought the first one I saw! It had high miles but ran great on the test drive. After I paid for it and put my motorcycle in the back and drove it off the lot it started running horribly. I had just signed an “as is” bill of sale though, and the dealer would not give me my money back.
My grand adventure was threatened, but I was on a mission and nothing could stop me!
I sold my motorcycle to get the van running better. Now there was no going back! Not knowing much about mechanics I learned from YouTube, internet forums, and blogs about how to fix basically everything on the old van. I completely outfitting the living area so that it would be my new home on the road. I fully insulated the inside, added a solar panel on the roof, wired in a power inverter and auxiliary battery, a roof vent, and make of bed platform out of wood. The van seemed good enough, and I could not wait to feel the freedom of the open road again.
So I headed to New Orleans once again!
I got all the way down to Death Valley from Portland Oregon and realised I had left without testing the van much. Not only was the van not running well, but I was having panic attacks every night. It turned out sleeping in a van was a scary thing for me. From worrying about being eaten my coyotes to serial killers, my imagination had its hand around my throat. The van had been misfiring and the steering was wondering all over the place making it very stressful to drive on the highway. So again, I headed back to Portland to figure things out.
Once I got back I was a mess. I was so stressed out, and not having the escape of the motorcycle made things even harder. For the next two months, I hardly left the house. Even going to the grocery store nearly gave me a panic attack. I wasn’t giving up though!
I knew the sweet promise of freedom lied just beyond my fears.
During this time I got the van running and driving much better. Most of all I started to take control of my mind. I realised thoughts and beliefs create emotional states, and that the body responds to imaginary danger exactly the same as real sensed danger! I learned at lot from the Australian Buddhist monk Ajahn Brahm, Tony Robbins, and Carl Jung about how the mind works and I started to change mine very fast. I also found that by just observing the present moment without judgment or labelling I could create a feeling of deep peace within myself at any time.
Soon the anxiety was fading, my confidence soaring, and the van was finally running better than ever! This time I was ready for anything!
So now that I’ve conquered my fears and found a balanced way to live on the road I’m not sure I could live any other way. I love living in my custom stealth van and travelling the United States full time! I am on an indefinite road trip! I definitely plan to keep going, and eventual travel internationally. At the time of writing this, I have been on the road for over a year and a half and loved every moment of it. I hope that my story can inspire people to step out of fear and create a life that sets them free too. I designed this website and my youtube channel to not only share my story, but to help people interested in this lifestyle have all the tools they may need to do it. I hope to make this journey easier for anyone else who wishes to break the chains and step into radical freedom.
The Video version of my story: