Welcome to the new life of living on wheels

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Campers, vans, buses, you name it — they’re rolling through the country, and you could be, too

Your home on wheels. That’s what started the camper and RV movement. People wanted to camp and travel in comfort instead of living out of a tent. Over time, motorhome units have changed and expanded, ranging from small to large, simple to luxurious. There is likely a style out there that everyone could get on board with.

However, many of us now see people taking on whole new projects, as they take old vans and buses and renovate them into these motorhome units. Others take the old and outdated and make them new. Even people here on campus spend time renovating and tapping into the trend. Quinn Bouwkamp, a sophomore here at Hope College, has spent some years renovating old trailers with her family. Specifically, her father is the one who helped Quinn get her hands dirty and learn the ropes of renovation.

The years of renovating have filled Bouwkamp with plenty of memories and make her unique. “I started renovating campers quite a few years back when we got our first Airstream trailer,” Bouwkamp said. “My family and I spent more than 200+ hours using a buffer and polish to shine the entire exterior, with my dad and I working through the night above scaffolding with lamps. It was a pretty large first project, but the experience made me fall in love with renovation. What started as something averagelooking turned into something super beautiful!” She also mentioned how the Airstream is a conversation starter and a great place for people to brush their teeth in front of on campgrounds, because it’s so reflective.

For Bouwkamp, and many others, the “trend” of trailer and van camping is something that builds bonds. It’s late nights under scaffolding lamps and the feeling of accomplishment. However, renovating projects are no small task.

“I would say a pretty common challenge is learning all the new skills it takes to fix different parts of the trailer,” said Bouwkamp. “It’s a lot about using the available resources around you and always learning from other people. Working on projects like these never just takes one trip to the hardware store to fix something.”

Although many people are interested in what it means to renovate a van, the project can be a lot more daunting than some would think. Doing these projects isn’t for everyone, but, for those who are interested, it’s worth a shot. However, a van might not be the best place to start. You’re better off starting with a smaller trailer with less work and slowly working your way to a full renovation like a van or bus. Plus, the convenience of trailers is that you still have your car to get around.

The downside to the van or bus is that there often aren’t showers or bathrooms in these tiny boxes, which is part of the reason many choose the trailer or RV as a more conventional mobile unit. However, there are people like pitcher Daniel Norris, of the Detroit Tigers, who spends his time in the offseason rolling around in a 1978 Volkswagen van which he calls “Shaggy.” Norris doesn’t need to live in a low-priced van, considering his professional baseball career makes him a millionaire, but he thinks there’s more to life than living with lots of cash, so he drives around, surfs and explores during his time away from baseball.

The nice thing about the van lifestyle is that it offers an easier ride than the trailer or RV. There’s usually better gas mileage and no worries of hitches. Thankfully, for whatever project you may want to tackle, there’s tons of videos, articles and information about what you need and how to do it. The most important thing is patience and the willingness to get your hands dirty. You may get frustrated at times, but at the end of your restoration and renovation you get to live in the work you’ve done, which is pretty rad.

The pros of van living is that it is simple, flexible, and you get to see so much of the world that is out there. However, the downsides are that you lack some basic amenities, there is little space, and it is a lot of hard work. Plus, some people don’t have the luxury of making money on the road, so the lifestyle can’t be for everyone. However, whether trailer or van, anyone can take on a restoration project and travel for vacations in their vehicle.

Whether you find yourself with the old or new, or you just decide to pitch a tent, camping is something recommended for all.

Camping is a great way to quiet down, focus in, reconnect and appreciate the simplicity of just being. There’s little technology (unless you get a really fancy setup), you are surrounded by the beauty of trees, water and so much more. You will likely be with people that you care about and will get to know them in such a raw way. Camping is affordable, too. Park fees are pretty minimal, especially the more off-the-grid you go. Plus, hiking is a great form of exercise. There is something so beautiful about living and existing without the modern conveniences we enjoy. You may think you’re not an “outdoorsy” or camp-oriented person, but it is worth a try, even if it’s just a long weekend. You may surprise yourself.

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