The Van

My Story – Searching for Inspiration 

The Executive Summary

We headed to Frederick, Maryland to hike a small piece of the Appalachian Trail and check out an Airstream restoration in progress. The Airstream is a beautiful piece of work and provided good inspiration.

The Details

The build out of the van has been coming along, although slower than I would have liked. Trying to squeeze in time to work on the project between work and other priorities has proved to be more challenging than I expected. The weather hasn’t been a big help either. With the weekends being the primary time I get to work on things, a cold and rainy Saturday can be a really big setback. This past weekend, however, I took a break from building out my future home to be. Instead of jumping in the back to put up the vapor barrier, I jumped up front to the driver’s seat and set out for Frederick, Maryland.

It’s about a 5-hour drive from Cleveland to Frederick. I had forgotten how much fun it is to drive the van. We were headed to Frederick in search of inspiration. I have a family member there who’s been slowly restoring an old Airstream trailer and I was hoping to gather some ideas, tips, and tricks for my own project.

When we arrived, we were shown this beautiful piece of industrial engineering. The Airstream looked right at home sitting on a wooded plot in a loose residential area near a forest. While it was apparent, even from the outside, that it still needed work, I could already imagine it as complete. It was the kind of thing you see in nice photos on Instagram or inspiring posters showcasing nature and preaching of simple living.

The exterior was gorgeous, but the inside was still quite bare. There was still much work to be done to make this metal model a home, but much of the hard work had already been completed. The lights were wired in, although not yet mounted, and the plumbing was in place. All it seemed to need at this point was some wall paneling before the real fun of building the layout could begin. This is roughly where I’m at in my own project and so it was nice to see another project in a similar stage.

Looking around the Airstream made me realize several things about my own van conversion. The first is that I’m glad I decided to convert a van. While the Airstream is beautiful, boats far more space, and has plumbing, the work required to get the Airstream to where it is now was certainly monumental. The van took relatively little prep by comparison before I was able to actually start building. The next thing I thought is that I’m glad I went with the Yeti from Goal Zero. I know nothing about electricity and the wiring in the photo above made my head spin. The last thing, related to the electrical again, is that I was reminded to keep my project simple. It’s far too easy to let grand ideas push out your completion date and push up total costs. I had been thinking long and hard about how to hang and wire the lights, but now I had a new idea. The Sprinter is a large vehicle, but it’s not so large that it can’t be illuminated with just a couple lights. Rather than taking the time to wire in and mount lights, I can just mount a few lamps and snake the cords over to the Yeti in a manner that keeps them out of the way. This is a simple solution that won’t take any time at all. This lets me move on with paneling the walls and the ceiling. As I mentioned in the post about purchasing, you can get too bogged down with the details. Sometimes you just need to keep it simple and move forward.


On the last day of our short trip to Frederick, we made time to hike part of the Appalachian Trail, seen below. Looking out on that last day, I thought about the Airstream we’d seen the previous day. It was gorgeous but too complex for me. One of my major goals in transitioning into van life is simplicity. The Airstream reminded me of this and for that, I’m grateful.


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