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Van Life: An inside look

Folks have found a way to have beachfront property as well as gorgeous mountain views in their backyard. It's called Van Life. (ABC 7 Amarillo - Lia Kamana)
Folks have found a way to have beachfront property as well as gorgeous mountain views in their backyard. It's called Van Life. (ABC 7 Amarillo - Lia Kamana)
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Van life is often viewed as going against the grain.

In 2017, Liz Bryant, a former news reporter in Tulsa, just knew she needed a change.

"I realized that there was another option out there than running a rat race," said Bryant.

She lived full time out of her van from Aug. 2017 to Nov. 2018.

"It was an idea I had in the making for a year to a year and a half of full on research," explained Bryant. "Took the band aid off in March of 2017 and began the build process."

The van Bryant decided to call home, is the Mercedes Sprinter.

"So when I decided on the van, I was like well this is going to be my first home. My first ability to have a home, to have a nest, and design this how I want," said Bryant.

Helping make people's van dreams a reality are fellow van lifers Lacey Mayer and Breanne Acio.

"When we first started SD Campervans people would always tell us – you are living my dream, you are living my dream. And people should be living their own dreams," shared Acio.

Folks turn to SD Campervans to transform their vans to a vacation home or a full time home on wheels.

"Our builds start at $17,00 - which is far lower than any other conversion company out there for what we include," explained Acio.

Converting a van is no easy task.

"The curves and the intricate design of the inside of the van, it makes it really difficult to build, you can’t build square," explained Mayer.

There's flooring, insulation, electrical, cabinets, closets, and more to think about and consider.

"You can’t just put something in. You have to make sure it’s secure and that it can vibrate," said Acio. "Like imagine your apartment having to go through earthquakes every single day for multiple hours."

When traversing the country, quality materials can make all the difference. Marine grade block plywood like what is used to build boats, real Formica, and construction grade flooring is what you would get with SD Campervans.

"A lot of people get scared away from building a van because it’s going to get too expensive," said Acio.

But Acio and Mayer have seen people do it in a couple thousand. They say it all depends on your wants and priorities.

"Whatever budget you do have, you’ll be able to build a van," said Acio. "So build what you can and get on the road."

For Bryant, it was her desire to explore that led her to the lifestyle.

"My sole motivation for van life was to get out and adventure and not sit in one place and conform," she said.

Your van can take you wherever your heart desires.

"If I go to Utah it’s so I can go to Zion or I can go to Moab. It’s to be in the desert. If I go to ski, it’s to be in the mountains and be in the snow," explained Bryant. "Every place has a purpose and it’s what I need during that time."

Van life can take some getting used to though.

"The thing you miss most when living in a van is running water, unlimited water. I missed taking baths," shared Bryant. "I am able to cook in my van, I have a beautiful kitchen set up, however, the caveat is you only have so much water."

No running water also means no flushing toilet.

"One of the first questions we get is where do you park, where do you use the bathroom, where do you shower, how do you find campsites, where do you find community," said Acio.

In an effort to make van life more sustainable, Acio created the Van Life App.

"The app will help people find the specific resources for this type of lifestyle – campsites both free and paid, water, toilets, laundromats, propane, dump stations," shared Acio.

Somethings though, you learn from getting out there and just doing it.

"So one of the rules I have as a solo female driver, I always park somewhere with cellphone reception," shared Bryant. "The other thing I do, I keep my keys beside my bed at all times. I face the van out so if someone is knocking on the door, all I have to do is put the keys in the ignition, turn the engine on, and drive straight out.

Bryant says when on the road, always follow your gut and intuition.

On the road, the three van lifers have met many more like them and the Van Life App hopes to continue connecting people with gatherings.

"Every time we have a meet up we have people coming up to us saying – I didn’t realize there are people like me out there," shared Acio.

After attending a gathering in Washington during one of their trips, Acio and Mayer decided to start doing ones of their own in San Diego.

"The most recent gathering was 300 vans and 600 plus people. So we’ve really gotten to know more and more people in the community," said Mayer.

For comparison, their first gathering in 2017 had 50 vans.

"Really realizing that there are other people out there like you is a powerful thing," said Acio.

*All video for this story was courtesy of Liz Bryant and Travis Enck

More information:

SD Campervans:

The Van Life App:

Want to follow the ladies in this story on social media:

Liz Bryant: @wildbythemile on Instagram and Wild by the Mile on YouTube.

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Lacey Mayer and Breanne Acio: @theladiesvan on Instagram

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