Most people would say you should rent a campervan before you decide to live in one.
This is definitely some good advice... but we sure didn’t.
We’ve been known to do some “crazy” things from time to time – AKA go with our gut vs. doing exactly what society expects of us.
We knew deep down that we were meant to be vanlifers. So when the travel physical therapy market crashed because of the pandemic in 2020, we knew it was our time.
Our only problems were:
We can still hear people’s voices when we were searching online for our van:
This was just another classic situation where I’ll had to tune the voices out, follow our hearts, and take the plunge.
Just like when we sold all our stuff, left everything and everyone we’ve ever known, and moved across the country to California for Skip’s first travel PT assignment.
Now, don’t get it twisted. This process wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Quite the opposite, really.
Building our campervan from scratch was one of the most challenging things we’ve ever done.
We spent three months straight working from sun up to sundown.
And I’m telling you, we had NO IDEA what we were doing. I (Skip) remember googling how to know what types of screws to use, what the dimensions/nominal sizes of wood meant (I was very confused about how a 1x2 wasn’t 1 inch wide), and how to safely use different types of various saws.
While I was trying to figure out how in the world to build benches and cabinets (having barely used a power drill in my life), Jazz was learning how to wire a completely off-grid electrical system.
We have NEVER felt imposter syndrome so strongly in our lives.
But we kept showing up and putting one foot in front of the other. We tackled one brand spankin’ new project after the other.
With each project completed, our confidence grew, and next thing we knew, we felt like we (kind of) knew what we were doing.
After many (MANY) lessons learned, meltdowns, and costly mistakes made, we came out with a beautiful and fully functional tiny home on wheels.
It wasn’t perfect, but it was OURS.
If you’re thinking about building your own tiny home on wheels, here are some of our best PRO TIPS.
Mindset is EVERYTHING
There’s no doubt you’ll run into issues and obstacles while building a DIY camper van.
Our biggest tip is to go into it with a winning mindset. Know that no matter what happens or what challenges you face, you’ll figure it out.
You just have to show up, bet on yourself, and keep going.
Know that you CAN do it, and approach each project with certainty that you WILL do it.
We’re pretty laid back (sometimes to a fault) and can be indecisive generally as human beings.
But when we decide we truly want something, we go after it with everything we have. And we don’t stop until it’s done.
If you want to build a campervan, a bulletproof mindset is what will get you through the hard times.
But if you do scary things again and again, you become less reactive in the face of fear or hardship.
The more your practice, the more you learn to continue to act in the face of fear instead of letting it control you.
And that’s where true growth happens.
Everything Is Figureoutable
We’ve got to say this again in case you missed it. EVERYTHING is figureoutable.
Somebody has faced the challenge you are facing right now and they’ve figured it out. So can you.
When you’re building, even the most simple projects will take longer than expected. The Youtube video or blog post you read will make it seem oh-so-simple. But when it comes to executing, it almost never goes according to plan.
Between Youtube, blogs, and Google, we were literally able to build 100% custom cabinets and wire and off-grid electrical system with ZERO previous knowledge or experience. Is that NOT insane?!
In 2022, there is so much knowledge waiting to be learned on the interwebs. You just have to be willing to find it!
Now that you’re inspired (seriously, YOU CAN DO ANYTHING you put your mind to), here are three things we wish we would’ve known before we started building.
2. Live in the van before you complete the build
This way you know exactly what you personally need to live comfortably on the road. For example, some people are dead set on having a shower. But that means you have to have to carry more water on board and dedicate a large part of your layout to the shower. After you’ve lived in a van, you know how comfortable you are going a couple of days without a shower. Then you can decide whether your build needs a shower on board or if an RV park shower, Planet Fitness shower, or outdoor shower setup will fit your needs.
3. Good tools are 100% worth the investment
Speaking from experience, don’t use your uncle’s table saw that’s 30+ years old. Or your dad’s tools that are all corded (Who knew there were wireless tools?! Not us!). Do yourself a favor and spend the money on some nice, cordless tools. We spent way too much time unplugging one tool to plug in another and making sure the van was close enough to an outlet. Plus, tools aren’t as expensive as you think. You can get all that you need for $500-$600.
It’s hard to describe how much we’ve grown from building our tiny home on wheels from scratch. We truly came out different humans on the other side.
If you’re reading this, we want to remind you one last time that you’re truly capable of anything you set your mind to.
You’re the only person standing in the way of you and the life you want.
You’re the only person who knows deep down what makes you happy and what’s best for you. Or how we like to say it – what sets your soul on fire.
If you feel like vanlife might be in the cards for you, check out this blog post to learn about the pros and cons of vanlife as a travel healthcare professional. It’ll help you decide if the lifestyle is right for you before you pull the trigger.
Let us know how we can help along the way.
This lifestyle has transformed us into more well-rounded, empowered, and grateful human beings.
We would love to help you find your fire.
You can learn more about vanlife and/or travel therapy on our blog skipandjazzjohnson.com or follow us on Instagram and Tiktok @skipandjazzjohnson.
With love and gratitude,
Skip & Jazz Johnson