Making the Dream a Reality

Water for Amp? – Check.  Doors locked? – Check.  Air vent on and open for the dog? – Check.

Tory and I climb out of the van and head in to the coffee shop in Deadwood, South Dakota.  Everything about us stands out in a small town: hair unwashed, dirt on our clothes, Tory’s face and my legs could use some maintenance, both entirely in athletic wear and flip flops.  

As we pass a family eating lunch on the patio we overhear their son exclaim, “Whoa!  They have a bed in the back of their van.  That’s awesome!”

His mom skeptically responds, “Uhhh, nope.”

This small exchange captures the two types of reactions family and friends have had when we told them about our dreams of building a campervan and again once we told them we made those dreams a reality.

In one corner we have the young twelve year old son’s reaction: eyes wide with wonder and opportunity.  Seeing the romanticism behind living in a van, people with reactions like this see the adventurous possibilities, the exploration that can happen in a world fully discovered, the ‘last frontier’, the 21st century’s embodiment of our ‘Manifest Destiny’.  In a world fully discovered, the van dream represents the new experiences that can still be had.

Van in Vedauwoo

Our first van trip!  Weekend trip up to Vedauwoo in Wyoming. (2016)

People in this corner are the ones who supported our van dreams without hesitation or thoughts of practicality.  These were the people who held similar, far-fetched dreams or enjoyed the poetic images of a campervan on the open road.

Tory’s mom was definitely someone with this type of reaction.  Before we had even bought a van, Jocie was behind us.  For Christmas 2015, she gave us a rug made out of climbing rope “for your van.”

Even when Tory and I were all talk, the closest we were to making it a reality was watching van videos online and saying “someday”, Jocie believed in us and our crazy van dream.  Her simple act of giving us a rug for our van seemed to push us from ‘dreamers’ to ‘doers’ as we ended up buying a van the next month.

In the other corner of van reactions sits those who reacted either with doubt or distaste similar the mother on the patio whose hopes for her son were bigger than him living in a vehicle.

Reactions from this corner were more subtle.

Questions came up about our construction know-how (non-existent), how it worked into our career plans (‘professional nomad’ is a career path right?), was it worth it financially, (to them probably not, to us hell yeah!), could we really handle living so close to one another for so long (free marriage counseling anyone)?

People in corner two weren’t trying to put down our dreams.  It was more them looking out for us, our safety, and our security.  They just based it off of their own comfort zones.

Van Frame

Building out a cabinet for storage. (2017)

This corner still loved us and supported our dreams, but wanted to make sure we had actually thought it all through, instead of buying a large metal box that would sit in our driveway.  (Again, we had ZERO construction skills going in to this so you really can’t blame them).

Now, based off of the fact that we didn’t listen to the second corner’s reactions, you’d think we would resent their ‘nay-saying’ and disbelief.  But it’s more complicated than that.

That mom on the patio didn’t necessarily disagree with her son because she doesn’t want him to dream of adventure.  I’m guessing she just didn’t understand that line of dreaming.  What parent hopes their child grows up to live in their car?

My mom had a similar reaction.

When we first talked about our van idea my mom was supportive, but couldn’t quite suppress the worry and doubt behind her eyes.

When I called to tell her we had actually bought a van she said, “I know you are excited to travel around in the van, but isn’t it a little too soon?”

The unwritten subtext being: Did you just throw away money on something you won’t use?  Can you really do construction on a van, when you don’t own any tools besides a hammer and screwdriver?  Is my daughter really going to live in a van??  Shouldn’t you focus on your other undertakings, such as your new job, new house, and finishing grad school?

Yes, my mom’s reaction brought down my excitement level, especially after my dad’s “I knew you two would actually do it!”

But before you start thinking otherwise, my mom’s reaction was completely founded.  Honestly, I think more people were honestly reacting like my mom but kept those reactions away from our giddy excitement.

As the van started to come together, I think my mom started to better understand just want our dream was.  Soon, when she would talk or ask about the van, she began to talk with this sense of pride in what we were doing.  Her daughter and son-in-law took on this crazy dream, this absurd challenge, and were actually making it a reality.


Final touches.  Tory prepping the ceiling for the fan/vent. (2016)

For myself, I don’t think we could have made this van happen without our friends and families reacting in such diverse ways.

Without unquestioning excitement and enthusiasm, we would have found the task too daunting and out of reach.  Those of you reacting with blind faith in our van dream made the dream more tantalizing and worth while.

Yet, without the doubts and hesitations from the second group, we would have had our heads lost in the clouds without much reality bringing us down.  The questions and skepticism made us do our research more thoroughly, had us questioning aspects we hadn’t thought of before, and made sure we had our feet on the grounds of reality, making us dot all of our I’s and cross every T.

To all of you.  Thank you.

Thinking about that family on the patio on South Dakota, I can’t help but smile.  Without reactions like their’s I’m not sure Tory and I would be spending our summers traveling and living out of a vehicle.

Without those very same reactions of anticipation and uncertainty, we wouldn’t be able to worry other mothers or excite and inspire their sons to dream crazy dreams themselves.


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