Roll with Naomi & Lopi in a Ford Van

Square Feet: 60

I want to help people. I want to help the extremely impoverished. And giving just my money isn’t enough. I want to physically help. I want to live simply and give everything that I am.

Where are you currently living?

I am currently living with my dog, Lopi, in California. Seventy-five percent of my time is spent in the bay area and 25% in Tahoe or Yosemite. I'm hoping to shift that to 100% in the Sierras.

Name the make, model and year of your home.

I own a 2000 Ford E150 van named Gunther. He enjoys long drives through the mountains and sleeping at high altitude.

What were you doing before you went mobile and why did you make the change?

I was/still am working as a software engineer in San Francisco. I decided to start making the change when I realized how very little time I spent in my very expensive apartment. To be honest, I was having a bit of a life crisis and impulsively bought the van.

I've been making upgrades and improvements but have a lot more I want to do.

The van is my freedom. If at any moment I want to pick up and go somewhere and never come back, I can. It gives me the freedom to run and always have a home.

Maybe I have commitment issues.

How long have you been living there and do you live there full time/part time?

I'm currently only living in my van part time with plans to move in full time in the next few months.

What was the process like to move into your mobile home?

Moving into the van was a learning process. There are a lot of little things you don't think about until you are actually living there. I'm constantly changing the way I do things and learning from my mistakes.

Peeing into a bottle took some serious practice.

How do you balance work and living in a small space?

Easy! Don't work. No, but really. Having a job has its pros and cons. It is really nice to have financial security. It allows you to be able to drive where you want and not worry too much about the cost of maintenance and repairs for the van because they will happen.

The con is that you don't have as much free time or you are pigeonholed to a specific part of the country for a few months, a year or a few days a week. Van life in the city isn't that glamorous but I always have a shower and stove at my office. Being able to work 100% remotely as a software engineer is the ultimate end goal.

What are your hobbies on and off the road?

I love to run, rock climb, blog and eat. I tend to go in intense waves with my athletic hobbies. I'm always running and rock climbing but I often focus heavily on one or the other depending on what's going on.

I'm currently in an intense running wave. I still rock climb on the weekends but mainly mellow, fun and long approach climbing.

Blogging is an on-the-road hobby because I live alone. I have downtime between runs or climbs to share the excitement through my writing with the community.

As for eating ... eating should be everyone's hobby.

What are your top three go-to items in your tiny home?

Stove: I've genuinely tried to spend many days without ever cooking anything and it really sucks. Even just being able to boil water makes eating so much more enjoyable. You don't realize how great a warm meal is until you haven't had one in weeks.

Piss Bottle: Because nobody likes getting out of the van when it's cold or dark. Or maybe I'm just super lazy and don't mind pissing into a bottle. Not to mention I often park my van in places where peeing outside the van isn't an option and when you got to go, you got to go.

Books: This was a hard tie with my double-wide sleeping bag. Let's just say van life gets lonely.

What has been the most rewarding thing about living small?

It's been fulfilling to live very simply and use available resources. I find it fun to try to figure out ways to get things done—like filling water in gas station bathrooms, spending hours at a coffee shop using their WiFi, or even showering at a truck stop or campground.

It’s pretty rewarding to just have less stuff. You really don’t need much to live.

The most rewarding part though is having extra money to give to the extremely impoverished. It feels good to use less and give more to the people who really need it.

I highly recommend the book, The Life You Can Save. It will not only make you want to live small, but also educate and motivate you to help the poor. They have a website, but you can also get the book cheap on Amazon.

What is the most challenging thing?

It can be hard having a dog. You can't leave a dog in a van like you can leave a dog in your house. It's been challenging to make sure everything I do includes him but it's also very rewarding.

I love Lopi and being forced to make a lot of choices around him has really enriched not only my life but also his. He's the best running partner a girl could ask for.

What is your advice to future homeowners who want to live small or hit the road?

Do it. Be impulsive and buy a van.

Thinking about it and planning it all out will make you over-think things and chicken out. Let the adventure drive the planning. At the end of the day you'll figure it out and everything will work out.

What's next for you guys? Any news you want to share?

I just got back from a big scouting/training mission in Colorado. I will be spending a few weeks in Yosemite before driving back to Colorado to make an attempt on the Nolans 14—a run I've been training for. It's essentially 100 miles and 44,000 feet of elevation gain while summiting fourteen 14ers. Weather dependent, I'm making my attempt in mid-August.

Never give up. It’s not that bad. Just keep moving.

Follow Naomi & Lopi and their adventures

Edited by Kate MacDougall.
All photos credit to Naomi Plasterer.