Our Home

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
-St. Augustine

We live in a 2006 Mercedes Benz Sprinter Van
So many people ask us how we manage to live in such a tiny space without killing each other. The answer is a good sense of humor and a creed of loving-kindness. Living in a van certainly isn’t for everyone, but we absolutely love it and can’t image living any other way. One night we live in a San Diego zip code, the next night our front yard view is Baja Mexico. We don’t own couches, stereo systems or TVs. No coffee tables or lawn mowers. That’s the trade off. We’re light. Everything we own is in the van and we can move the van anywhere. That’s the dream of Sprinter Life.
We also estimate that, despite my bad surf board habit, we’ve reduced our overall carbon footprint for a 2-person household by up to 50%. We consume less of everything from electricity to disposables. We run on solar power and propane. We don’t use a lot of water nor do we heat/cool a big living space. What about gas? You would think we burn more fossil fuels by living in a van, but the truth is we drive far less actual miles than we ever did living in LA. Stevie used to drive 2 hours a day to and from school! When they say, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” we’ve got the first one nailed.
Here are some stats on our home, created by Sportsmobile
216 Square Feet including Roof Rack
132 Square Feet without Roof Rack
108 Square Feet of actual living space
Fuel – Diesel, receiving 21+ MPG
Power – 3×5 solar panel on the roof powers all systems
Stove – Propane 2 burner
Refrigerator – Runs on solar electric
Water – 2 holding tanks, 30 gallons of available water
Heat – Temperature controlled gas powered furnace 
AirCon – 2 Temperature controlled ceiling fans in the roof
Bed – Queen size Tempurpedic w/ Down Comforter
Kiki Bed – Lg Trail-pro Thermarest w/ Fleece Sheet
Shower – 1 hot and 1 cold water shower off the back of the van
Our home parked in a lot in Norther Baja Mexico
Under the bed is where we have the majority of our storage. We can fit 7 
short boards, 2 bikes, 4 fold-up chairs, 2 hammocks, 1 tool kit. We also have 
showers that are accessible. These are great for rinsing off after surfing. 
If we need a real shower we go to a campground, YMCA, fitness club, 
or hotel. But real showers are only needed 1 time per week 
when you’re in the ocean everyday. (Stevie does not agree with this)
We’re able to store several days worth of food in our small fridge. 
Above that we have a 2 burner stove that Stevie cooks on.  
Next to that we’ve got a big sink with hot/cold  
water for washing dishes, brushing teeth, etc.


Kiki has a nice little cave to call her own. She loves this space.

This roof rack is one of the best investments we’ve made. 
We’re able to move the long surf boards out of the van 
and store them on top. Inside the Silver box we have spare van parts 
including windshield wipers, fuel/oil/air filters, radiator hoses, headlights, 
tail lights, etc. Also Scuba gear, a shovel, repair kit, and luggage 
for flying home. We also have a platform for watching sunsets. 

Stevie is often forced out of her seat by my co-pilot


Our wall of pictures and of course our pan-american map.
Wouldn’t want to get lost out here!

Yes, it’s a queen. Oh, the bed is too.


Surrounding the inside of the cabin we have drawers
and a closet for clothing and other storage

Stevie’s shoe rack and other storage areas.

The Sunset Platform in action!

Comments

  1. Me encanta vuestro estilo de vida… bravo. Os seguimos de cerca y os admiramos. Suerte. Si pasais por Brasil, contactar.

    • Gracias. Nos gustaría conocerte en brasil. Estaremos allí pronto!

      • Anonymous says:

        Vivo en Novo Hamburgo, estado de Rio Grande do Sul… a traves de correo podemos hablar cuando querais (ingles, portugues y español).

        Un abrazo y buen viaje.

  2. True fact: I love you guys! My wife and I are Nomadic Souls. We had our own amazing journey that included, among many other things, crossing the Pacific on a 46′ sailboat. We came home, bought the house, aquired things, and realized “Welp…..this doesn’t work for us”. Our feet are itchy and our Souls are restless. Our time to again go explore this vast and beautiful world is nigh upon us. Though it will be a bit more tricky this time around (we are now a family of 4!), we are committed. I’m not jealous of your LIFEstyle, I am inspired by it. Perhaps we’ll cross paths along the way.

    Honor the journey, My Friends.

    -Erik

  3. We are trying to decide between 4×4 camper truck like PanAm Notes crew, a sportsmobile, or a sprinter like this. has the lack of 4×4 held you back as far as getting out to remote places to camp? Thanks! and congrats on the new addition :)

    • Hi Meridith,
      We don’t feel like we’ve been held back by the lack of 4×4. We love having the Sprinter and think it may be the best rig to take down the Pan Am!

      • Hey Meredith…the one thing that I may add though is that we don’t often camp in ‘remote’ places. Tree needs to be online to stay in contact with Outdoorplay.com, so we rarely spend time in areas without internet access. If camping off the grid is a goal, then you may feel limited by the Sprinter, depending on how rough the terrain is that you plan to go. The Sprinter is pretty damn versatile and tough for its size and class, but we certainly don’t have the access that PanAm did. Personally, we love the Sprinter because it suits our needs and level of comfort (Read: Queen size Tempurpedic) quite excellently, but your expectations for a rig may be different than ours. If you have any specific questions, feel free to send us an email. Best wishes to you!!! Stay in touch.

        • Thanks Guys!!! I do love how comfy the Sprinter seems, but love the idea of being able to go camping in a remote place, especially remote beach locations. And those locations always involve soft sand. Hard choice. But thank you for the info! :)

  4. Great setup! Where did you get the bed platform and how does it anchor into the walls of the Sprinter?

  5. Os deseo una buena ruta a bordo de la Sprinter!

  6. Hi, I really like reading all about this, I have a few question. 1. how much does it cost, looking around, 80,000 to start, I don’t have any money, I work full-time, but all of it goes to rent and bills! No savings either, that is why, I would love to live in a van. I am alway in fear of being homeless, one check away from the streets. Please tell me how you started?
    Thank you

    • Anonymous says:

      Check out some used Roadtrek vans. (Roadtrek 190 (200) (210?) You can find them for about $18,000 – 25,000 or even less, (or more, of course) beds, kitchen, shower.

    • It’s incredibly simple. You buy a van, move into it, and get rid of the other stuff. I did it as a single woman of 63…what a great experience traveling this country and Canada, alone and with company.

  7. Great way of life!! where did you get the roof rack??

  8. very nice van…….where did you guys get the roof rack???

  9. Just in reply to Mickey’s post – it’s only US$80K to start if you get a converter to do the Sprinter conversion for you. Plenty of folks have done great DIY Sprinter conversions on the cheap, some for as little as US$15-20K for the van and US$5-10K for the conversion. See my DIY Sprinter gallery page for some inspiring examples: http://www.sprinter-rv.com/diy-gallery/
    But fewer still make such courageous journeys, or write insightfully about such profound topics on their travel blogs, you guys rock!
    Greg

  10. Steve & Annie says:

    Love the Site, just starting our ‘Worlds Journey’ with a conversion, (gotta be 4×4 tho’ for S.America) then sell the house and away. Done Oz & NZ before and really looking forward to meeting lots of inspirational people like you guys along the way.
    One night please stand on a beach at sunset take a deep breath of FREEDOMS air and enjoy your life’s gift; we’ll dream until we can. Good luck.
    Steve & Annie

  11. Anne and Steve says:

    You guys rock….you have been an amazing inspiration for us. We just bought a
    Sprinter and Steve is doing the van conversion….then….who knows….the Pan American
    hiway northbound and definitely southbound is on the agenda. Go in peace.
    xoxoxo
    a and s

    • Great game guys! Take that Sprinter and hit the road. The wold is your oyster. Keep us posted on your travels. TREE

  12. I’m interested in the Sprinter life too, hopefully soon; a step up from my old Landcruiser that I wander around in during the summer. Yours looks great. Some advise would be helpful. In the U.S. do you park at campgrounds along the coast or ??? In San Diego, for instance, it seems that most parking lots by the bays and beaches don’t allow vehicles overnight. I’ve done a lot of free road camping on BLM and other federal lands throughout the southwest and California but a Landcruiser has limitations in urban areas. Campgrounds at $20-$40 per night would seem to be quite expensive for long stays. Have you found other alternatives? Thanks. Cheers!

    • Hey Rich. Since the campgrounds in California tend to be so expensive, we urban camped in stealth mode (window coverings up, no loud music, door closed) either in a nice neighborhood or in a 24hr. Fitness parking lot (we were members). I highly recommend the last option. Besides a place to camp, you get to work out and soak in the hot tub before bed. Living the dream on a shoestring!

    • Many…be observant.

  13. MARIAN says:

    I have one sprinter ,like yours , and i transform it in camper. I live in Europa and i discover again now . Its great !! Good luck !!!

  14. Anonymous says:

    Where did you get the roof rack?

  15. I am a 57 yo female considering a rig like yours to extend my travel range. I have been saying for years that I want a vehicle in which one can both stand up and lie down. A toilet would be wonderful as would hot and cold running water. These things are possible I think. How much technical knowledge would you think is required as I am not very gifted in that department.

  16. Paul Dunston says:

    I see lots of prople build their vans with rigid cabints so it looks like home but those cabinets add cost, weight, take up space, reduce mpg, etc. ..try to think outside the box and put everything in foam, wall mounted, velcro coolers. They insulate and quiet the inside, hold everything, can be d ringed and velcro changed any time and give you thousands of options. Make a shower out of a golfing umbrella and ripstop cocoon and you have a giant shower tha disappears until you need it.

  17. Susan Demster says:

    Go on Amazon.com and search “insulated cooler bag” , the options are endless. You can mix and match to hold huge amounts of stuff. Never have a box or rigid rectangle object in an RV . It costs you massive amounts of room. Put everything in bags and ziplocks to nearly double your space. Dont build cabinets into an rv. They may make it feel like a house but it isnt a house. Use soft goods fir everything in an RV or stealth van and you will living large.

    • None. I moved into my sprinter alone at 63. What a blast! It is what you make it. I choose to make it fun and easy.
      Awesome idea. Thx.

  18. Hi there,

    I have pondered this for awhile now but I was wondering if you are sticking it out in LA, are the areas plentiful where you can park your vehicle without risks of getting towed etc. Or are there long term parking situations that you can pay for to come back to.

  19. Hey, If you guys are in Oregon still and would like to check out Bend, you can come stay with us. (of course I realize you don’t know us…but isn’t that the point :)

    We just bout a Sportsmobile Sprinter and are loving it. That’s how I found your great site!

    Have fun!!!

    Travis
    (541) 948-9187

  20. Are you working as you travel to make end meet ?

    Me and my wife have been thinking about saleing everything we own
    And buying a sprinter van and seeing the country side and work as
    We travel to make thing ends meet … ski jobs in the winter and raft guides
    In the summer or work at a state park .

  21. hi there, I’m also considering a sprinter,2006 158 wb high top… the one i have an tentative offer on has 186k Miles.. My concern is that I have been reading a fair bit about the difficulty and cost of repairs.
    I’m thinking of going from the northwest to central america so the easy or repairs and access to parts is also important.. .any thoughts would be super appreciated

  22. Hey, Just purchased a 2008 sprinter van and I have set it up for camping,surfing,fishing trips. I am trying to find someone to cut a valet key so I can put it around my neck when I go surfing. I don’t like hiding the key under the truck.
    Any thoughts?
    Thanks Bill

  23. You guys are an inspiration I am 57 and currently shopping for a sprinter to convert, I was curious about your gas mileage do you get 21 mph with the roof rack loaded? It looks like a great space addition. I am going to start my travels on a more modest scale traveling around the US starting with the Southwest. I will be starting a blog covering my conversion of the sprinter as soon as I find the right one in the next month or two. I live just North of LA and can never see myself permanently leaving SoCal my Great Grand parents moved here in the 1880s so I have some pretty deep roots, but I have seen as much as I can from my current location and its time to move around a bit! Again thanks for the inspiration you sound like great people!

  24. We did a similar trip (one year with sprinter and family) in 2010, if you need/want something contact us in Brazil… check out our blog and enjoy the ride.

  25. Hi guys. I’ve popped by Sprinter LIfe in search of info about driving through Central America. We’re thinking about driving from Mexico to Ecuador, but just in our Outback Wagon. Anyway, I love this post and your cozy rig. When we RVd through Europe we bought a used camper and weren’t able to customize it at all. My dream is to do another long trip but fix up a rig so that it’s perfect for us…more storage, better internet options, etc. I love all your little clothing storage spaces…not to mention that stripey top, Stevie!

  26. Anonymous says:

    I purchases a 2012 Sprinter cargo van and had it converted to a camper with windows, solar panels, refirg, 3 burner stove, microwave, sink. Didnt do a shower or toilet because of space concerns. Has a queen size couch that pullls out to a bed. Retiring in 25 days and will hit the road. Very cool site and very cool people.

  27. John Decker says:

    This is a great article and I love you mobile home. What do you use as a heat source or to cook food? Do you guys grill when you get to different locations? I grill a lot of foods using a propane heat source and it has always worked out. I also like using propane a lot and I recently decided to use it has a heat source in my house. I decided to research Propane Suppliers in PA before doing so because I wanted to find the best options.

    • Hey John. Thanks for commenting. We use propane as well. It gets the job done. We don’t grill, but I’d like to get a small Hibachi eventually.

  28. John Ratto says:

    Hola! From Oakland, CA….thank you so much for the pics and the life….I have been romanticizing about this with my wife for the last 10 years ( she wouldn’t let me buy the last year Eurovan Westphalia when we went into the VW showroom…)….I will definitely follow your site and adventures and once again dream about the open road after our 6 year old finishes private …..(yeah it’s Oakland…) school. Thanks again…

  29. hey guys.. where did you get the mesh storage bags shown? We’re looking for a couple for around our bed for books/ mags/ glasses, etc and are finding either crap or ridiculously expensive ones from our camper manufacturer. Yours look like just what we’re looking for.

  30. hey guys…where did you get the mesh hanging bags? We’re looking for similar for the camper by the bed for books/ headlamps/ glasses, whatever and are either finding crap or super expensive ones from the manufacturer.

    • Hey Rhonda. God, I’m so sorry. I can’t remember for the life of me where we got those bags. Good luck finding something though. I know how hard it can be to find the perfect van accessory. xo.

  31. I have plans in the making and noticed that you have folding bicycles. What kind? do you like them?

    • We have a Dahon bike. I really like it, but Tree finds it a bit too small. It’s great for city riding but not so good on dirt/gravel roads.

      Sounds like you have fun plans in the works! Very exciting :) Keep us posted.

  32. I am about to purchase a 2009 Sprinter ~ unfortunately, the owner died. I will be retiring in less than three years. The attorney is beginning probate proceedings to sell the vehicle from his estate. I am so excited after reading your blog. Ya’ll are an inspiration. The vehicle is a luxury conversion.

  33. hi, if you are to cross the atlantic and do europe, the southeast port of europe is 25 Kms fem north africa and you are WELCOME in Morocco. and in my house. don’t hesitate to mail me if interested for hints and so on. nice van, keep traveling
    Hicham (surfer, cycler, diver, snorkler, skater and photographer)

  34. Awesome guys! Where did you get the roof rack if you don’t mind. We have a Sprint van we are looking to put a roof rack on and the solution you’ve found is perfect!

    Thanks in advance for any help.

  35. Brian Thomen says:

    Hey you kids, long time no hear or see just checking in love seeing your posts from time to time and the last I heard Tree was going state side for business. I’m still surfing San Onofre and its not the same without you their I wish you were still here doing surf trips together.
    Peace & Love Brian T.

  36. What size is your Sprinter? Width/length? Which Sportsmobile did your conversion? And… last but not least – What’s it like living in a van with a baby? I lived in a small apartment when my son was a baby and can’t imagine going even smaller.

    • Hey Bea. We have the full-length Sprinter, so 170in long and maybe around 65in high inside? Definitely tall enough for Tree to stand comfortably, and he’s 6ft. Our conversions were done between a combo of three places: a private ‘converter’, van specialties, and Sportsmobile in Fresno. Living in a van with a baby, moving in and out of hostels, and slow living for a couple months here and there in small apartments is all we know, so it’s hard for me to say. Our van doesn’t have a separate sleeping area for the baby or a bathroom, or a play area/dining area or kitchen, so yeah..it’s rustic with a family. That being said, when we’ve had access to the outdoors like at Piedra Parada, it was AMAZING. Traveling long distances with a baby can be very trying. After spending countless hours in her “silla” (car seat), sometimes I think Sol is going to grow up with a fear of being restrained in a tight space. It can be a form of torture for her, no doubt. Consequently, we try to limit our long driving days, and we’re in the market for a bigger, more family-sized vehicle. If you have any more questions, let me know!

      • I love how this couple in Australia (www.stealthsprinter.com/van-build/electric-bed-hoist) made their bed store up on the ceiling to create room for a full dining room / living room area.

  37. I love how having 7+ surfboards is a priority in such small living quarters. I also think its extremely important to have a diverse quiver, especially when peeping such a variety of breaks. At one point we had 5 in our taco, and are now down to 3. I wish I could buy more at the moment but the road budget is dwindling, and the taco is now for sale. Big ups to you guys!!!

  38. I thought this was the life we all wished we could live!
    Having done this myself for four years, I know what it is to have another beachfront property every day. I just wonder about safety, especially in Central and South America. I traveled in Canada, the US and Mexico, but would reconsider Mexico today, because of the violence.
    After a two decades I started missing my RV, so I am in the early phase of converting a new cargo van. Hope to be on my way next year.
    Any advice?

    Van Williams

  39. Great inspiration, you guys!

    Driving from TX to Central America in 2007, there was not much info online about doing this, so it was a difficult journey for me alone, especially someone without too much Spanish. Now it seems like more and more people are coming onboard with the idea. I drove a SUV there, taking nearly a year for the trip. Of course I want to do it again, going further South and I am starting to make plans but I see mostly pleasantries of such a trip published online blog-wise and not a lot about details. I have a very old 28′ motor home that I am seriously considering taking to Fin del Mundo, so all this is in the idea-forming stage at this point.

    I know in MX and Guatemala, a lot of my effort was spent running from border to border after my car pass or temp visa expired, staying outside the country the 3 days, etc. Also a concern of mine, the issue of insurance while driving to these CA countries. An even greater mystery is obtaining liability insurance further south. I entered a few CA countries with no insurance whatsoever which made me more than nervous. Otherwise the biggest hassle traveling I found was dealing with the swindlers at the borders which tried to trick me into paying them to help or misrepresenting themselves with false IDs to charge me fees that did not exist. Parking was always a problem and particularly in cities, but never enough of a problem that I wanted to give up “my wheels” to be relieved of it. I thought theft would be an issue but all I lost was a magnetic bumper sticker in San Miguel de Allende, MX and my metal CB antenna in Granada, Nicaragua. Well I did lose a backpack out of my front seat in Union Jack, MX but because I forgot and left my car unlocked.

    So the biggest problem I see with starting a journey like yours and expanding my experience driving Central America and further south is in getting across the Darién Gap. I hear tell there is a new drive-aboard ferry that opened last month, but the online phone number doesn’t return calls and their email bounces saying “invalid”. Now I know the Sprinter, or I believe is too large for crating, so how did you get it across and at what cost? What about liability insurance, country to country? What forms were required at each border crossing? (I understand that if you try to exit Columbia going south and completed the wrong kind of export certification in Panama, that you can be sent back to Panama for the correct papers before exiting Columbia to anywhere else? Also what about parking? Where would you leave the RV to explore the larger cities like Rio and Buenos Aires or where online or otherwise is it documented as to what is available? How in the world did you find places to park your rolling home, how often was power and water available, how often did you leave it for days while traveling on side trips via taxi or bus? Was theft ever a major issue?

    Thanks for any insight or info you can share!

  40. Forgot to ask, what navigation aids did you rely on? If a GPS, what source for maps outside the normal USA do you recommend, etc? (They seem rare …) Thanks!

  41. Hi there. I found that website by accident and I was wondering…. wah were you doing before deciding to live in a camper? Do you have any long-term plans for life?

  42. Anonymous says:

    Hello Tree. Any advice on locating WIFI outside of McDonalds, and the usual Noerth American free providers? Did you have a wireless data subscription? (Verizon, Sprint) What did you do in Central America for an internet connection?

    • Hi there. In the States, we used a USB internet stick and poached wifi from coffee shops. In Central and South America, we did our best to find it in hostels. You can almost always find a place that has it. If we were going to be in a country for an extended period of time– like we were in Peru, Argentina, and Brazil–we bought USB internet sticks. We often had to sweet-talk our way out of a contract, which is possible down there. Todo es posible, nada es seguro :)

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