At 24, I checked all of the boxes. College? Check. Internship? Check. Another internship? Check. Fulltime salaried job? Yep, check. But I wasn't satisfied. I met all the benchmarks, but I was going through the motions rather than living my life intentionally. A recent breakup also helped fuel my "I need change" mentality.
So there I was, sitting in an air-conditioned cubicle plotting my next step. I had been thinking about building a camper van for a while, and whenever I brought it up to family or friends, it was met with one of two reactions: "Do it while you can!" or "Where will you go to the bathroom?" These reactions quickly spiraled into concern when I mentioned I was thinking about building it out myself--despite not knowing how to use a power drill.
I'm glad I didn't listen to the cynics because I did it. I built myself a van. And though it wasn't perfect, it was my own personal ticket to freedom. I hit the road and set out to explore the southwest for a year and a half.
My story isn't special. In fact, it's a broken record for many millennials seeking an alternative way of living. When asked about the rise of the industry and where it is headed, Vance Brand, owner of Venture Van Outfitters, explains: "It has to do with society and where we are economically. Let's look back to the Mystery Machine from Scooby Doo. There were a lot of custom vans in the 70s but that disappeared. I think it will be something that comes and goes. A lot of it also has to do with millennials not wanting things but wanting experiences."
Exploring Utah in my van ultimately led to me to Salt Lake City, where it's fairly obvious that the van life craze is especially prevalent. Transplants nationwide are Sprinter-speeding to all the crags, trails, and streams that Utah offers. Because of this, retrofit companies across Utah are meeting the demand head-on, offering professional conversion services to turn vans and Airstreams into personalized "homes on wheels." In many ways, I wish that I had turned to professionals such as ACME Overland to help with the build of my van. I was inexperienced, and because of this, I spent unnecessary time and money...