Tom and Liana have a 7 month North American road trip in their Ford E150 („Stan the Tan Van“) mapped out and 3 months of international travel planned.
Key Data Ford E150:
- car manufacturer: Ford
- modell: E150
- year of construction: 1995
- how many seats: 2
- complete weight of vehicle: 2,268 kilograms (5,000 pounds) loaded
- how many kilometers: 263,935 km (164,000 miles)
- cylinder capacity: 8 cylinder
- output of the motor: 5.8 liter
- consumption at 100km: 16 liters (15 miles per gallon)
- driving license classify: Standard license – no special requirements
- top speed: 140 km (85 miles per hour), although we rarely drive it faster than 105 km (65 mph)
- motor fuel: Gasoline
- price: 2,646€ ($3,000)
- costs of repair per year: 1,323€ ($1,500)
- insurance: 57€ ($65) per month
- vehicle taxes: 64€ ($73) per year
Can you tell me a bit about you and how did you end up living this lifestyle?
We’re Liana and Tom. For us vanlife didn’t start with a van at all. It started with travel. We were both working a lot at our jobs.
We had minimal time to spend in the outdoors—where we are most happy—or with our families who lived 3,200 km (2,000 miles) away.
Our original plan was to take a year or two off work and travel (both around the US and abroad) and spend time with our families.
We thought a van would be easiest to travel in, so we took the plunge and bought one about 6 months before we started our travels.
We knew that people traveled in vans, but we had no idea that there was such a huge and welcoming vanlife community already established.
Why exactly did you choose the Ford E150 and not a smaller or bigger one?
We wanted something that could be driven in both wilderness and urban areas so didn’t want a set-up that required towing or was large.
We also didn’t know how long we’d be on the road, so wanted to minimize our financial investment. The Ford E150 fit our budget and space needs.
So, if not your vehicle, what camper-modell would you choose too if you could and why?
We’re considering a Ford Transit for our next van. It would be nice to have the ability stand in our home, but still be able to access to the narrow roads and sometimes small sites in the wilderness where we like to stay.
Also, parts are common, so repairs aren’t as costly as other types of vans.
Did you work anything on your vehicle yourself or did you get a carpenter?
We did everything inside the van ourselves (or with the help of my mom’s sewing skills). Anything major mechanical though, we take to a professional.
If you could rebuild your Ford E150, what would you change and why??
We’re actually planning to do some remodeling in the next few months. We’d like to better utilize our storage space by building (or adjusting) cabinetry and also want to add a fan for better air-flow.
How long did you work on your campervan before you started your trip and what was the hardest part?
We owned the van for 6 months before hitting the road, but we were working a lot and busy getting rid of everything we owned so we only worked on the van for 2 weeks or less. We like to call it our “mini-build.”
What do your friends and family say about your vanlife-choice?
We’re really lucky and our friends and family have all been extremely supportive. They might secretly think we’re crazy, but at least they keep it to themselves.
Which countries did you travel to with your vehicle? Which one was your Favorite by now?
So far, we’ve only taken Stan the Tan Van all over the US. We have big plans for some adventures in Canada next year though.
What was the most beautiful road you have driven with your Ford E150?
This is a hard one—there are so many! Probably HWY 50 in Nevada (also called the Loneliest Road in America). It travels through 17 mountain passes with only 7 towns over 515 km (320 miles).
It’s a high desert environment with wild burros and Jack rabbits all around, hot springs, old mining towns, and even a castle.
Some people prefer campsites for the night, others love free camping somewhere in the middle of nowhere. What do you prefer and why?
We stay at both but prefer camping in the middle of nowhere. We try to camp for free 95% of the time which usually means secluded areas of wilderness land but no drinkable water or bathrooms. Sometimes if we need to do laundry, get work done on WiFi, and take a shower we’ll pay for a campsite for the night.
What is the hardest part about living in a campervan?
Having to leave our cat with my parents. We wish we could bring her to the van, but she’s not an adventurous soul. She’s much happier lounging indoors with my parent’s other felines.
What is the best part?
People often talk about the nomadic lifestyle as offering true freedom. While that’s very true, it’s about so much more. I think the best part is the possibilities.
Once you start living this way, nothing seems impossible. You don’t have things to worry and stress over. Instead you’re focused on experiences, ideas, and actions.
Your perspective of the world shifts.
You realize how many kind people there are, how many gorgeous places exist, and that every day provides opportunities for special experiences.
In our old lives, we were always so busy that we were just trying to keep our heads above water and complete all the tasks that our lives required.
Now we have the space, time, and energy to explore not only this beautiful planet, but ourselves and others. I think this lifestyle promotes positivity, acceptance, kindness, and encouragement.
To me that’s the best thing about it, because these are things we all crave as human beings and these are things we all have the power to give one another.
How do you fund your travels? Do you also work online?
Initially we saved up money to start traveling. Now Tom does online work as an e-learning developer, which has allowed us to extend our travels, and I manage our website (whenyouwander.com).
How much money do you spend in a month?
It really varies mostly depending on whether we had to do big van repairs and what our travel plans are. 1,764€-2,646€ ($2,000-$3,000) is our usual average.
There are more and more people who want to experience vanlife. What is the most important thing you would wanna tell them before they start?
Examine your motivation for wanting to live in a van and make a plan for how you’ll handle daily tasks and routines. This will make a huge difference in the type of van you get and how you build it out.
For example, if your motivation is to save money and live in a city, you’ll most likely need to cook and have some type of bathroom in your van.
If your motivation is to live in the outdoors, you need to know “leave no trace” principles and basic outdoor skills (like fire starting).
Also, be prepared that once you start living this way, you’ll likely never want to go back.
How long do you plan on living in a van? Do you have a long-term plan?
Now that we’ve been on the road for a year and a half, we’ve realized that this has become our lifestyle and not just a long-term trip. We’re already making our wish list for our next van and are planning a multi-month journey to Alaska next year.
We’re actually thinking of getting a caravan together for the trip so if anyone’s interested in traveling to Alaska next year, hit us up!