You know you’re re-sizing when you plan on moving into a space 8m², then share that with somebody else, which means thats 4m² each, right? Then, throwing a slight curveball, add a dog, who takes up all 8m² to himself unashamedly. In this gargantuan 8m², you’ll need to build a bed, a kitchen, a bathroom, dining area and storage for all of our worldy posessions. Oh and you’ll need power, gas and plumbing. And what do you end up with? A self built off grid adventure van called Liberty!
The thought of living in such a minature space would both intimidate and frighten most people and to be fair, it did Han and I. I remember talking to a friend who had a 63″ TV and realising that that TV wouldnt even fit sideways into our van, never mind the L shaped couch in his living room. Its only when you realise how much stuff we have in our homes that the magnitude of the task becomes all too apparent.
When we first set out on this journey i’m not sure we realised how hard we’d find it designing and building a space in which we could fit our lives, but more importantly, make the van fit around our lifestyles. We heard repeatedly, just go buy a motorhome rather than build one. And, I see their point, but it just wouldnt have fitted our requirements specifically around Chief and all of the activities we want to do. If we were going to undertake this journey, we were going to do it on our terms. So, we chose the hard route.
Everything within the van has been designed within a millimetre to fit us perfectly and the entire van is adorned with spacesaving tips, multipurpose furniture and unique touches. Part of downsizing is making sure you maximise every millimetre of space. Some spaces need to be multipurpose, others have to maximise the space we have. Our sofa contains our electrical system, a shoe rack and a fridge. Being able to multipurpose one space makes a huge difference when you’re trying to fit your entire life into a van.
One of our favourite features is the raised floor. We realised in our hightop van that we had lots of headspace and originally thought, why not fill it with cupboards. But some quick calcualtions and reasoning showed us that raising the floor and placing storage underneath it could provide us with more storage and wouldnt be intrusive or an eyesore. It turns out that the floor is the coldest part of the van, which makes an excellent place to store food.
Another aspect of the design that we’re very proud of is its all year round capability. We wanted a van that we could use in the UK and Europe in the height of summer along with the cold harsh winters. The van is equipped with three layers of insulation, providing protection in the summer and warmth in the winter. We even managed to fit in a blown air heater for the cold nights (a definite luxury).
Having lived in the van for five months now, there’s nothing we would fundamentally change. Sure, we’ve repaired and improved a few of the things we did in the UK that make life on the road a little easier. One such ‘mod’ was to rewire the tap so it was triggered by the electric switch in the tap rather than pressure sensor in the pump. This slight change eliminated a pressure buildup behind the tap when you close it.
We do have and there are some further improvements we’d like to make when we return, we’d already winterised the van but there are some further adjustments we’d like to make, such as upholster the entire sliding door so that the whole metal surface is covered. This should eliminate any condensation spots that can form. We’ve not had a problem in 30 degree heat, but on a few occasions it’s been cold we have observed a little bit of condensation.
That’s the joy with building your own van. You can mod, adjust, play and customise it until your hearts content. You become one with the van, which is great. Be warned, when people ask you about the van, or you ask them questions, you realise how much of a van nerd you’ve become and you start using words like amp hours and discuss layout options, swap preferred locations and joke about when the last proper shower you had was…