Building the perfect adventure van
Meaning we pretty much had to start from scratch (again) Somehow a few months ago when we talked about starting a business building out 4x4 sprintervans (whether it be for a weekend adventure or a multi-year overland journey) we thought we already had many things dialed in. After all, we spent the last 5 years living in two different vans and traveling countless miles around the pacific northwest (and all the way to panama and back)... surely we should have things dialed in by now, right?
Well we do, maybe 96%... but we also have a short list of things that we track along our journey that could make for small improvements. If we've learned anything over the years it's that the perfect van conversion is always a work in progress, and if we wanted to pass along the best possible campervan to our new clients we felt like that list needed to be included.
So...back to the drawing board, at least a bit. We ripped everything out of our existing van (yes, everything) both to start tracing templates and to rethink those places for improvement. As it turns out... almost nothing went untouched/unchanged. Our van will still have the same overall look and feel, but we are making modifications and enhancements to almost everything along the way.
For most people, the idea of tearing your campervan or RV (and home) apart would be an absolute horror, but early on in our build my focus was making the whole package easily removable just for times like this. Whether a complete overhaul is needed or a simple rewiring for a lighting upgrade or additional switch...I wanted to make sure anything from a few ceiling panels to the entire interior could be dropped (and easily replaced) without struggle and without making more screwholes (and future rust opportunities) in the van.
We got to work redrawing and rethinking components, chopping up and rewelding frames and rebuilding the panels within them. Raising the bed a few inches meant we could store full bikes and kayaks underneath (in addition to the surfboards and snowboards we've already been hauling around for the last two years), and a sliding gear drawer makes access to all gear far easier. On the list since last winter's epic snowboarding trip were insulated wheel well enclosures, and while we have never missed a sink in our travels, we're aware that others find it a necessity so we started the process of planning for a sink (and even a hot water shower out the back of the van). We had both productive days and maddeningly slow ones, but overall made lot of progress in a few short weeks! Sadly in this case, it also meant we've been mostly homeless for that same period of time. I know, most people probably think we we're homeless anyway, but we've never felt that way when we're in the van. It is our home and our place of comfort...and somehow not sleeping in it lately has felt very very strange and unsettling indeed.
That might all have been okay if the weather was holding out for us, but it's also been pouring down rain and freezing cold for days... which makes the whole process seem less "luxurious" by far. Add to the mix the fact that almost every traveler we know or follow on instagram is already headed south for baja (and doesn't mind writing to tell us about it) and we might just occasionally question our decision to focus on creating the world's premier campervan.
Regardless...we do continue feeling more and more confident about the partners we chose for this endeavor, and are more and more excited about some of the things to come in terms of upgrades and partnerships. We are currently booking events/shows for the summer when our first few vans will be complete; and we are enjoying the process of redesign while talking about possibilities and enhancements for the future and having conversations with potential clients about custom builds to come.
I'm sure much of the ZENVANZ excitement has been because of the timing/release of a video about our garage home and van conversion by Kirsten Dirksen on her YouTube channel. I've never been a huge youtube follower but hers in one of the channels we're aware of (mostly because she covers all things small living from ADUs and tiny homes to campervans) and when she asked us for an interview we couldn't possibly say no. The video got well over 200k hits in under a month and as a result, there has been a ton of immediate interest in ZENVANZ and the emails have been almost nonstop.
While I hesitate to drive people to video that involves us (especially when I somehow end up doing most of the talking instead of jen's always cute commentary)...it was both enjoyable and interesting to go back and watch the video about the zenbox design garage conversion and our initial ZENVANZ campervan build.
After a few weeks of hard work, we finally had to tear ourselves away from the shop. As always, our focus is on travel and keeping the live/work balance we've worked so hard to create and hold onto. We had plans to spend a long weekend in BC with friends, so we got to work putting everything back together and reminding ourselves of maybe the biggest value of our system... from empty shell to complete van in only a few hours (perfect for our lifestyle)!!
More to come, but for now we're back on the road!!