Over the last year, 23-year old filmmaker Zach Both has had the privilege of living out of a cargo van he converted into a mobile home and studio. As a filmmaker Zach’s lifestyle saw him regularly travelling, so he decided to create a home he could take wherever he goes. The result is a fully-functional living and work space complete with a bed, kitchen, wifi, and even a home theatre system. Additionally, since building his van Zach created an online platform called The Vanual, which is aimed at providing information to those wanting to do the same.
We recently caught up with Zach to discuss all things van conversions and living life on the road.
First off Zach, I have to admit I’m super jealous of you. How long have you been living life on the road?
I hit the road last July, so I’ve been doing this an entire year. Kind of crazy if you ask me.
What inspired you to do this?
I left my job as an art director at a tech startup to pursue my own personal filmmaking projects. The filmmaking process is inherently nomadic, so living and working out of a converted van was a natural fit. I typically don’t travel for travel sake. I tend to follow where the work or an interesting story is taking place.
Although most people love the idea of a home on wheels, it takes a certain type of person to actually follow through with something like this. Did you find it hard committing to this lifestyle?
I’m sure a lot of people would find it difficult to commit to such a big lifestyle change… but thats not really my style. Whenever I get too comfortable or uninspired with what I’m doing I find something drastically different to jump into. I’ve been doing that long before the van, so I didn’t have much of a problem getting started.
There’s a bit of a stereotype that if you live out of your van you must be a tree-hugging hippie who doesn’t take showers. You’ve proven these as misconceptions by creating a contemporary, highly-functional living/workspace. What’s the general reaction when people discover your living situation?
When I initially tell people, I usually get a mix of biased hesitation and intrigue. But then I pull out the phone, show them some photos and they immediately drop any misconceptions or prejudice about it all. It happens every time.
Did you build out the van solo? If so, do you have a history in building?
I did most of the conversion myself with some occasional help from my very knowledgable father. Before this project I had touched a power tool less times than I can count on one hand—so no, I didn’t have a history with building or carpentry.
Is this your first van conversion?
This is my first and probably only van conversion. But never say never haha.
How long did it take to build out, and how much did it set you back?
Build out took about 9 months on-and-off, in between other projects. The total cost was around $12k.
Using the knowledge you’ve learned from building out your van, you created The Vanual, a free online guide created to help those wanting to do the same thing. How long has The Vanual been running now?
The Vanual launched at the beginning of June and has been received very well. Around 500k visitors in the first month and countless emails/comments/messages from people who have found it useful.
Does waking up to a different view every morning inspire your work?
I would say waking up to a different view every morning doesn’t really inspire my work—the new people I meet on a daily basis do. The changing scenery is just the cherry on top.
Where has your van taken you thus far? Any big trips planned for the future?
I’ve been all over the US and spent the last six months up and down California and other parts of the west coast. Next month I’ll be directing a project in India, but obviously won’t be bringing the van there 😉
How often do you move about, and do you have a favourite location to park your home?
The rate at which I move around differs drastically. Sometimes I’ll move to a different area every day. Other times I’ll stay in a single city or town for a month or longer. My favorite spots so far have been the Grand Teton Mountains and Big Sur.
Gotta ask, what’s the most people you’ve squeezed in your van at one time?
I’ve had three friends over for a small birthday celebration in the woods. Luckily I had a fridge to keep the champagne cold.
Finally, do you have any words for people out there hoping to follow in your footsteps?
I would say read thevanual.com front to back and rent a car or van for a shorter several week road-trip to see if this lifestyle is really right for you.
Thanks for taking the time to speak with us Zach, it’s been a pleasure!
For the complete guide to living the van life, head to The Vanual here: thevanual.com
Also be sure to check out Zach’s portfolio here: zachboth.com
And instagram: www.instagram.com/zachboth/