MY NEW HOME!
I know what you're probably thinking. Are you crazy? How the heck are you going to live in that tiny van? What are you going to be doing? Is that safe? When are you living in it? Where do you pee? Do you know what you're doing? WHY? Don't worry, I'll answer all of those questions!
My parents talked to me about buying a tiny home and putting in their backyard years ago. I'm never home and I love traveling so it made sense. After doing a ton of research on tiny homes I realized how immobile they actually are. You have to have a big truck to move them and drive super slow and have special permits. It's not that I'm lazy, I just didn't want to deal with all that. I'm the spontaneous type that loves getting an idea and going for it and that sucker would take a lot of planning to travel with. Back in November, I had a friend tell me about a really cool wedding photographer that lives in a van and travels the country. I feel like I should have asked a million questions and been super confused, but instead, I instantly fell in love with the idea and was dead set on doing it myself.
I feel like this will be the biggest question, so let's get it out of the way first. The easiest answer is because I love to travel. I've been in Springfield, MO my entire life and have loved every opportunity to go explore the big world we live in. I feel like I connect really deeply with the Lord when I'm submerged in His creation. I also HATE commitment. I've looked at buying a house or moving to another city, but to be honest, I'd be bored in 8-10 months. For the longest time, I thought something was wrong with me, but I've decided that's just who I am. I love change and I love being uncomfortable. I also love Springfield, so moving away from here forever made me super sad. Timing is huge! I have the perfect job to travel with, I'm not married, I'm young, and I have nothing holding me back! It hasn't been an easy decision at all. I spent months looking for a van, getting my heart broken when the one I wanted was sold right as I was about to purchase it, and then having a 2-hour breakdown at the next dealership when they accepted my offer and I wasn't sure if it was what I wanted to do. The biggest thing throughout this is that I want to do what the Lord wants me to do. And I feel like He's clearly told me to make a choice and He'd be there to support me. More on that later! The last major reason is that, for so long, I've let possessions rule my life. I spent a majority of my life keeping every little thing and having tons of clothing. At one point I even had a storage unit to hold all of my stuff. It was a little over a year ago that I felt a huge urge to start getting rid of things. I'm not saying it was as easy as throwing everything in a dumpster. There were definitely lots of tears and breakdowns along the way and I still have some to do, but I feel so free now knowing I don't need things to fill me. "But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that." 1 Timothy 6:6-8
Won't You Be Lonely?
I feel like a lot of people wait around to start their lives until they get married, and I've just never been that person. I've always been extremely independent. I started my photography business right out of high school with no experience, moved out, opened an office, hired an employee, all while fully supporting myself financially. I've been through phases where all my friends are getting married, starting their lives, and buying houses. Meanwhile, I'm constantly being asked if I'm dating or thinking about getting married. After thinking about those things and having a pity party, I realized NO. No, I'm not dating, no I'm not getting married, no I don't have to have those things to start my life or buy a home. Maybe someday, sure, but I'm completely content with who I am and where I'm at. So, yes. There may be lonely days where I question what I'm doing or feel sad, but that's literally everyone. Married, single, living in an apartment, house, rich, or poor. We all struggle with fear and loneliness.
Is It Safe?
Is anywhere really safe? Someone could break down my apartment door as I'm writing this right now. It's a valid question, but I'm taking every precaution to be as safe as possible. The reason I got a white work van vs a camper is that I wanted something extremely stealthy so when it's parked somewhere, it looks like a work van vs a home. I'm tough. It will be okay!
BUT, What About Your Business?
Oh goodness. I LOVE my photography business. I started it from an idea and with a lot of help from the Lord and family, built it into something truly beautiful. So, I will never stop taking pictures but it's at an extremely unhealthy place in my life right now. For the past 3 years, I've worked 14 hours a day, 7 days a week, year round. I've missed birthdays, weddings, neglected friends and family, myself, and even missed my aunts funeral for a wedding. But, I've gladly done that because I love connecting and loving people through photography. So, I'm working on a plan to keep doing weddings, families, babies, seniors, and more, but I simply can't keep living the way I am. So, I'm excited to see what the future of traveling with my business looks like. Read more below about my specific plan >>
How Long Will It Take?
As of now, my plan is to spend the next year or so building it. I've had the van about 3 weeks (beginning of May 2018) and have done a ton of research on what I want and how much time and money it will cost. So, now it's just doing it. I only have about 1 day a week to work on it, so it will take me a while to complete it! After that, I plan on traveling a week or two a month to get used to the idea of living in such a small space (less than 80 sq ft!). After that, I hope to live in it full time. I'll be traveling wherever I book weddings and hopefully coming back to Springfield 1-2 weeks every month or two for regular sessions. Then I'll edit those sessions while I'm on the road. And yes, I do plan to keep my office as a home base for now! I think it would nice having somewhere stable to meet with clients and call "home." With all that being said, it's just a plan. I could finish the van, hate it, and sell it. Or I could love it and never look back. But, I'm just taking it one day at a time and trusting that's what's supposed to happen will!
What Van Did You Get?
I was originally wanting a Mercedes 140'' wheelbase hightop Sprinter because they will last up to 500,000 miles and are super durable. BUT, those are so freaking hard to find used and extremely expensive to have fixed. So, after some light research, I landed on the 2017 Ford Transit 250 with 21,000 miles on it. They run about half the price, have great reviews, run on regular fuel vs diesel, fit into a normal parking space, and drive like a normal car. They also make medium roof vans which are way easier to find and since I'm 5'4'', I can easily fit into the medium roof (which is 6' tall). So, if I magically get married somewhere down the road, my husband better be a shorty or know how to build a new van because I'm for sure not doing it again. Hah! I wanted something newer that would last at least 10 years with low enough miles that it wouldn't break down in the middle of nowhere. What I didn't do before buying the van was figure out how long it was. The standard vans that people build out are 140" wheelbase, so I had figured that's what it was. Welp, turns out mine is actually 130" and by the time I put up a wall, we're looking at less than that. So, it's tiny, but I'm committed!
What Will It Look Like?
So, I'm not an artist but here's a picture of what I'm thinking.
It will have solar power on top of the roof to run a fan, charging ports, water pump, etc. And it will have running water that is sourced from 5 gal tanks that can travel with me! It will also have a kitchen, fridge, stove, a bar table, dining table, and bed.
Curious what a converted van looks like? Check out some of my favorite Instagram van lifers!
Where will you go to the bathroom and shower?
I'm not one of those people who have to shower everyday to feel clean, and I hate doing laundry more than once a month, so I feel like it won't be as stressful as it sounds. I plan on getting a Planet Fitness membership soon. They have them in most cities, so I can shower and work out whenever I want. There are also a lot of truck stops with showers, washing machines, and bathrooms! I've also thought about putting a hidden toilet in the van, but I'm not sure yet.
Do I Need Help?
My stubborn answer is no. BUT I actually do need lots of help. I'm way in over my head and I have no idea how to build things, do plumbing, electrical, etc. Don't get me wrong, I will 100% figure out all of those things as I go, but if you are good with any of that and will work for friendship, pizza, and beer, I'd love to have you help! Just shoot me an email or Instagram DM me @kyndalchawkins I'd also love suggestions for where to go once it's built! If you have a driveway or piece of land I could come park on for a few days, I'd love to hang out and see new places!
So excited for this journey and all that it will bring! Make sure to keep up with the build and adventure on my personal Instagram @kyndalchawkins Also, if you have any questions, leave a comment and I'll be sure to answer those!