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Amazon Reviews van build

Amazon Product Review

Euhomy Mini Fridge with Freezer, 3.2 Cu.Ft Mini refrigerator with freezer, Dorm fridge with freezer 2 door For Bedroom/Dorm/Apartment/Office – Food Storage or Cooling Drinks(Silver).

This post contains affiliate links – we may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.

Welcome back for another Amazon review of the products we used in our van build. Today, I wanted to briefly review the refrigerator we selected for our mini kitchen. Before going over the pro’s and con’s of this specific model, let’s go over a things to consider before buying any fridge for your build. 


Things to Consider Before Buying any Fridge: You’ll want to consider each of these things altogether, like a circle rather than in a line. 


Energy Consumption vs Budget

As you shop different models, you’ll want to keep a close eye on the energy consumption of the fridge. The more expensive models have more efficient compressors, so they’re easier on your electrical needs. One day, we’d like to upgrade to something like this from Dometic or this from Whynter. However, this was an area where we decided to save on the budget for now and consider an upgrade at a later time.
I’m not super knowledgeable about the voltage/consumption/watt hours, but Ivan figured that if we could not recharge our batteries for some reason, we’d last about 3-4 days with the fridge running. So, you’ll want to carefully consider how you plan to recharge your batteries and how much fridge you actually need.
On the one hand, we have a less efficient fridge – but on the other hand, we’re using propane for our heating and cooking so we have a bit more electricity to give to the fridge.


Space

In the midst of determining your budget and energy needs, you’ll have to visualize your space. We built our van from scratch, so we knew we could essentially build around the fridge. We settled on the Euhomy model and basically built a cabinet area for those dimensions. If we ever do an upgrade, we’ll have to reanalyze the space and possibly do a little construction to fit it in. 
We decided to go with the cheaper, simpler option for a fridge. We got the 120volt. You have to take into account how much energy it uses, the cost, size. This is why we are using propane for things like heating and cooking, so we can give more electricity to the fridge. 
There are so many options and a lot will depend on your layout. Do you buy a fridge to fit the layout? Or, build your layout to fit the fridge?

We decided on the Euhomy 3.2 cu foot mini refrigerator with a freezer from Amazon. We purchased it at $199.99, it’s currently available for $189.99. I’ll briefly run through the pro’s and con’s. 

Pro’s:

  • Decent size fridge area and freezer area. This is a major pro for us. The freezer is a separate compartment with it’s own door. I’m surprised how much we’ve actually fit in there. We currently have like 8 pounds of elk meat and 2 (unboxed) Costco pizzas nestled in there. The fridge area is also decent. I do not think it would be enough if we had any kids or extra mouths to feed, but for the 2 of us we are able to keep quite a few ingredients in there. 
  • Slot for cans – we didn’t drink pop, until we discovered Zevia. So, the designated can area in the door is a nice little perk. It holds 6 cans. 
  • Bar on door – there is a swinging bar on the door that allows are bigger items to be stowed like a carton of milk or a jug of orange juice. I’ve been please a few times when I thought something was too big and then realized it would fit in the door.
  • Good size drawer/crisper on bottom and shelf in the middle. 

Con’s

  • You have to get used to the small size – we’ve lived with “dorm” fridges before, so it’s our first time scaling down from a full refrigerator. If this is the first time you’ll be using a tiny fridge, it’ll take some getting used to. Particularly, eating left overs before buying new food.
  • Not as efficient as more expensive models – Without any solar charging, we calculated that we could run the fridge for maybe 3-4 days on the batteries. This isn’t a major con, just something we keep an eye on.

That said, I’m enjoying our little fridge! Hopefully this gives you some helpful information while you’re shopping for your fridge. Questions? Let me know in the comments!


If you click this link to the oven and end up purchasing something from Amazon, we may get a commission at no extra cost to you. It’s a great way to support us on the road!

Sincerely, Hanna

Categories
A Little Lost, A Little Found van build

Consciously Incompetent

When starting a new project, there are several levels of competencies:

Unconscious Incompetence – you don’t know if you’re capable or not, you don’t know where the gaps are in your knowledge. The problem here is that you might not recognize your mistakes. If you’re a person filled with false pride…then this can be a dangerous place to be!

Conscious Incompetence – a humbled place where you recognize, “I have no idea what I’m doing.” This is the place where Ivan started as he jumped into the van build. He pursued the knowledge of others and tried to absorb and apply the things he learned.

Conscious Competence – you’re now able to do the things that seemed impossible, but you still need help and you still need to consciously think through each step you take. Ivan is getting closer to this conscious competence regarding the van build. He has built up experience with plumbing, carpentry, and wiring – but he still needs to tread carefully.

Unconscious Competence – now you’ve arrived! If you can hop on a bicycle and peddle away without second thought, you have unconscious competence. The training has been internalized and you can proceed unconsciously, without making mistakes.

As we began the van build in a state of Conscious Incompetence – Ivan purchase blueprints from Trent & Allie. He proceeded with caution, made some mistakes and fixed them, and planned to follow the blueprints exactly.

However, now that he’s been in the van almost everyday for about 3 months, he’s starting to recognize where he can step away from the blueprints and make his own decision.

Not to be too sappy here – but, it’s a little like that transition from teenager to adult. Day by day, you start recognizing “Oh, I can make this decision myself instead of copying my parents.” Comedian Christina Patsziski referst to this as the “Patsziski Effect”.

Example: Why do I keep moving my dang charging cable around the house, when I could just buy another one?

Or: Hm, nothing is stopping me from buying and eating Pop Tarts for dinner.

In our case: Well, maybe we don’t need a closet here – maybe we want more counter space.

The van really started to feel like our van build when we decided to change the original layout from Trent & Allie’s design. We will now have 1) no closet, but more countertop; 2) a L-shaped couch instead of 2 facing seats; 3) a semi-convertible bed; 4) a sliding pantry inspired by Tio Aventura.

I’m excited about the bed we are doing! It took Ivan quite a bit of puzzling to tease it out into a plan. Half of the bed will be mobile – it will pull out and in. We will attach a harness to the mattress so that when it scoots it, the mattress slides up the wall and becomes a back cushion for sitting.

slide the arrows to see this pushed in/pulled out frame

This bed change allows for extra seating under the bed – hence, the L-shaped couch. The L-shaped couch was inspired, because it helps us maneuver around the inverter and wiring that was set up prior to these changes.

Being able to have the freedom and confidence to say, “I’m doing something different.” makes me feel like we really are part of Van-iverse. There’s nothing wrong with the original design, but it now feels like our van will have more of our personality.

Have you experienced that transition from (Un)Conscious Incompetence to (Un)Conscious Competence? If so, please comment and share!

Until next time,

Hanna

Categories
van build

3 Things We Wish We Would’ve Checked Before Buying our ProMaster Van

We knew there would be unforeseen maintenance, but as amateurs at care buying, here are the three things I wish we would’ve checked first, because it might have given us a bit more negotiation leverage. Maybe, maybe not. 

A little background – these tips are personal to our buying experience as we shopped for a Ram ProMaster to convert into a tiny home. So, it was a bigger and more “industrial” purchase than a regular car.

It was pretty obvious the side door handle needed replacing, since the handle itself had been broken off. I did a quick Amazon search, thinking it might only be $50. In fact, the replacement part was $115. If we opted to have someone replace it for us, we were looking at a $200 ordeal. When settling on the price, we were able to get $500 knocked off. The salesman was pretty ready for that move and pulled out the, “This is the best price in the country on this type of van.” Which, was true. But, it’s still $18,000 coming out of our pocket.

Here are three more unforeseen problems, that we probably could have checked while at the lot.

  1. The Spare Tire – This is one I wouldn’t have thought about, unless someone mentioned it. How often is the spare tire flat? Actually, I don’t know. I don’t buy cars that often. But, repairing the spare tire cost us $183, rounding up to $200.
  1. The Headlights – These might be hard to check during the daytime, but try to get a close look at them. Are they scuffed and scratched? Does it look like some elbow grease will shine them up? We didn’t know it until our overnighter road trip how dim they were and not just because of the bulbs. Ours were pretty worn and needed replacing, which added up to $330. Whew! Who knew they’d be so pricey? If it’s obvious your desired car will need new headlights, do a quick Amazon search to get an estimate. 
  1. Brakes & Oil – ask the dealership when they last changed the brakes and oil. It may be standard practice, it may depend on the dealership. You might need new pads, or new calipers too. But, changing the brakes to make sure they were fresh and ready to go cost us $390.
Our brakes really weren’t terrible, and it gave Ivan something to do/learn while waiting for the weather to warm up.

All in all, the repairs we were responsible for added up to $1,000. We got a bit knocked off the price, could have negotiated another couple of hundred dollars if we knew to look for these three things? Maybe, maybe not. 

But, at least I will know for next time. (Hopefully, there’s not going to be a next time to soon!!)

Any other quick checks people should do when buying a car? Maybe ones that are less obvious than checking tire tread? Comment below. And, good luck on your next car purchase!

Love,

Hanna 

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Categories
A Little Lost, A Little Found van build

3 ways before/after photos are like magic

I fell prey to the magic of before and after photos. For months now, Ivan has been watching YouTube videos, reading articles, researching parts and plans. He’s been building an arsenal of knowledge about processes and products required for a van build. On the flip side, I’ve been browsing van builds as they come up in my Instagram feed. I started following a few van lifers (see below) and periodically read their happy, dreamy content. I didn’t realize I was succumbing to the magic of before and after photos until Ivan put his hands on the van and started cutting, drawing, sawing, and buying all sorts of equipment. For example, this week Ivan installed the solar panels and the air vents.  It took a couple of days, but the sense of accomplishment was palpable when Ivan finished. Hours and days go into the build, and then it can be summed up in a sentence or a 10 minute video – if only big projects could be actually be done that quickly. 

Ah, bare bones.
Look how fast it was to insulate! (not)

We know social media provides a distortion of reality, we know this deep down. If you’re like me, though, we let ourselves forget it in day-to-day scrolling and liking. So, I had this little idea that before/after photos act like magic tricks and here are three ways it reminds me of magic. Afterward, I’d love to hear (read) your own examples of social media magic!

  • It’s actually feels like waving a wand

The magical part of swiping, is that you literally wave your thumb and the magic happens! Look, it’s done! In the first picture, the project seemed daunting and huge. However, in less than a second the finished product is there before my eyes. Wow, it must have been a lot of work, but here it is. I love swiping back and forth between the images, it’s like undoing the magic and reapplying it instantaneously. The unfinished product won’t be there for long, because I can wave my magic wand (thumb) and voilà! It’s inspirational, it shows us these projects are doable, but it teases the mind like a delightful magic trick.

  • It skips the mental work

There are several days here and there where the productivity is invisible – meaning Ivan is thinking and planning. Each stage of the build requires fore knowledge of the next two or three stages. Before Ivan makes a move, he visualizes Ivan the carpentry, wiring, and plumbing. Some days he didn’t build or paint or saw anything. I’d find him walking around inside and outside the van with a furrow in his brow and arms crossed. The “thinking air” is almost palpable. At the end of the day, we’d talk a little. I would asked, “How did it go? What did you do?” to fire up a small conversation.

There’s a sense that “thinking a lot” isn’t productive, that it’s wasting precious time to get the build done. Swiping between a before/after image or watching fast-paced clips in a project video, skips the thinking time. And, thinking is absolutely critical! Without thinking, double-checking, replanning, trying different angles, there would certainly be mistakes – and this project is too permanent for mistakes. If you’re getting ready for a van build or project, it’s okay to take a day or two and just think. This is why Ivan is better suited to the building task than myself. I tend to jump in and figure things out along the way, I like the sense of discovery and learn through trial and error, although this process is often inefficient. 

  • It glosses over the beauty of physical labor

Even though the magic swipe piques interest, curiosity, and amusement – it glosses over the beauty of physical labor. You could purchase an RV that’s livable. You could purchase a van that’s already been converted. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I could easily be talked into it as long as we had enough money saved to use cash for it. Ivan and I even had a conversation along those lines. But, from watching the YouTuber’s he enjoys so much, he wanted the experience of building up the tiny home from scratch. It would be boring to see videos of someone sawing out a square in the side of a vehicle, but that’s what the van build is. YouTube videos show the hard labor involved, but even then it’s cut and shortened to accommodate our attention span. Admittedly, no one should be expected to watch someone else measure, remeasure, and cut. I’m just saying the magic of swiping cannot impart the beauty of physical labor being poured into a construction project. 

Prior to our own build, I’d see a video here or there and look through before/after images. While a person can appreciate the enormity of building projects, I certainly did not have any sense of the time involved. Swiping between photos gives the illusion of magical transformations. It’s not magic, it’s long, it occurs inch by inch and minute by minute.

I’m still going to swipe and like as much as I please, but now I have a greater appreciation for everything in between the photos – the sweat, stress, mistakes, and boring days of painting. I would not have understood the magic trick prior to owning a van – and that’s okay, it’s not a bad thing at all. But, now my curiosity is piqued. Are there any other delightful magic tricks you’ve noticed on social media?

Comment and share!

Talk soon,

Hanna 

Popular YouTubers – Eamon & Bec, Trent & Allie, Tio Aventura

Products to Shop – click here!

Categories
A Little Lost, A Little Found van build

Time to Move

We were laying down to sleep, upstairs in his parents’ unfinished attic, when I was overcome by sadness. “I miss our home,” I whispered. “Me too,” he replied. I felt lost.

When we were skipping around packing up the van with “just the essentials”, something in the back of my mind knew we were moving out – but my conscious self hadn’t accepted it. I didn’t let myself understand that, “We will be in Idaho for 2 months” actually meant, “We are moving out of this home.”

On the other hand, was it really home? Our landlords were nice enough, and just picky enough that I felt a regular reminder whispering, “You are a guest here.” So, while the apartment was comfortable, clean, and big, it wasn’t really our home. Despite the conflict of emotions, I still missed our nice little place in Farmington, Utah. Laying down to sleep that night, I realized I would need to set up a new routine yet again to manage my diet needs (and preferences).

We’ve been here about two weeks now. Ivan installed two back windows in the van. Yesterday, he cut some boards and drilled them in to essentially create studs for the walls. We get 4-5 Amazon packages almost every day, it feels like Christmas. There are moments where I’m excited for this next adventure, moments I regret not doing it sooner, and other times where I wonder if it’s going to be a good thing. 

I haven’t exactly been super helpful. Ivan has so far done the work himself, though I expect the tasks to gear up pretty soon. Everyone seems excited for us, curious and intrigued. No one has said anything critical or negative, which is nice. Even though we’ve received nothing but encouragement, I still anticipate some passive aggressive comment about our choices. It hasn’t happened yet, so why do I keep thinking it’s coming?

Lying in bed, missing our home that wasn’t really our home, I recognized that we are on the edge of a great adventure. I think part of my sadness came from the speed at which we left. The two months of missing Ivan dragged on and on, then suddenly he’s home, were driving home from Chicago with a brand new van, my current job becomes my former job, and we find ourselves living in another state.

Perhaps the sadness I felt in the night was more like the ache of goodbyes left unsaid – which, I’ll admit is weird to feel about an apartment. I think once we go “home”, finish emptying the apartment, slow down, and say, “Goodbye” I will be able to close the chapter of Rooted Life and open the chapter to Nomadic Life.

Have you gone through an exciting transition, then sadness took you by surprise? Maybe it’s a symptom of looking too far into the future, that you/I miss the present. Let me know your thoughts, I’m genuinely curious.

Love,

Hanna

Categories
A Little Lost, A Little Found van build

Our New Van Won’t Start!

We did it! We bought the van and drove it across the street in search of food. We walked in to Panera, then back out with some dinner. We hopped in the van, analyzing how far we could drive through the night before stopping. Ivan turned the key and heard a long beeping sound. Click forward, nothing. We each take a deep breath, glance at each other, and he tries again. Turns the key, nothing. Neither of us are quite ready to say it, but, “We own this piece of junk now. What have we done?” I had just written a check for something in the area of $18,000 for something that won’t start.


An hour earlier we were “inspecting” the van. We took it for a test drive and didn’t hear any scary noises. We glanced over the body and at the tires, but nothing seemed to say, “I’m a problem”, except for the missing door handle. We stopped in a parking lot close by and tried to talk through any concerns we might have had. We couldn’t talk ourselves out of it. Nerves tensed from head to toe, but tummy jumped in excitement! Ok, we decided. Let’s do this.

After waiting in the office for 7,000 hours while the Financing department ran a credit check (and who knows what else) they handed us the keys and waved goodbye. How is it that only 30 minutes later the van doesn’t start?


I texted the salesman right away. He tried to assure me that the battery was new, everything had been checked out, but he knew and I knew – this is was not okay. To his credit, he drove right to us even though he was off the clock and ready for a relaxing evening. He dropped us off at a hotel and promised to reimburse it.
That night and the next morning we couldn’t help but wonder, “Did we just make a huge mistake? What could possibly be wrong with it? Better now than halfway through Nebraska.”


In the morning, we Uber’ed back to the dealership with bags in tow. They assured us they checked the engine, batteries, etc. Apparently, Ram ProMaster’s have a key issue. If you turn it too fast, it locks up. They promised this was it and that it was even a recall issue that could be resolved.


Tentatively, we took the keys back and rumbled out onto the road in hopes that we would make it 1,400 miles back to Utah.

So, we bought the van. It’s a 2017 Ram ProMaster 2500, extended. We bought it for $16,500 and ended up paying another $1,500 or so in fees and taxes (yuck).


We are ready to take on the challenges that come our way. For better or worse, it’s ours now and there’s no going back.


Much Love,

Hanna

Categories
A Little Lost, A Little Found travels/travel nursing van build

Back in Action

He’s home! He’s finally home!


It could have been 4 weeks or 18 weeks, once Ivan walked out of the airport and into my arms the pain of missing him dissolved into relief. Like putting on a favorite old t-shirt, we fit together just right as if no time had passed – but, we also felt a little more tender and little more grateful to be together.

Moments after reuniting at the airport

In no time we were planning for the future. I put in my noticed at school that I would not be returning in the fall. Ivan and I felt like now is the time to do something a little daring, a little crazy.

We spent a year traveling in the past. Ivan is a nurse and there is a position called, “travel nurse”. A travel nurse gets hired with a company who has relationships with hospitals. The hospitals come say, “We need nurses” and the company sends the nurses. Ivan had an employed, but worked at 5 hospitals during the year. We lived in Maine, California, Idaho, and then back to Utah.

With this experience under our belt, we had been toying with the idea of traveling nursing again but this time, with a trailer or camper. We had fun living in different apartments and AirBnB’s. There was something satisfying about knowing, “I can only keep what fits in the car.” On the flip side, we had to hunt for the perfect furnished apartment and be willing to pay a premium for said furnishings.

Ivan’s recent contract in New Jersey gave us just enough cash to buy a Ram ProMaster van – this has quickly become our next adventure. After a few weeks of emotional recovery and van hunting, Ivan found one that might work. After a few days of me applying a bit of wifely pressure, we agreed to buy a ticket to Chicago. We texted the dealership on Sunday to set an appointment, bought the flights, and will land on Monday. I’m so anxious, but excited.

My mind leans toward worst case scenarios, so let’s play Worst Case Scenario: we arrive and the van has been sold, and there are no other alternatives. In that case, we would find lodging and a ticket home. We spent $550 getting there, so that would be easily $1,000 for nothing but a story. Maybe such a story/failure/mistake wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, but I certainly dread it. Now, I have to focus on belly breathing so my body doesn’t stress and switch to sympathetic mode. Next scenario – we go, the van is there but for some reason or another, it’s not a good fit and we walk away. The consequences are the same as above. Final scenario – we go, we just spent $550 getting there, so we talk ourselves into something we don’t actually want just because of what it took to get there. I guess this isn’t worst case scenario, because the price of the van is $16,000. That leaves us $4,000 in the budget for fixing up unseen problems.

This brings us back to our original decision making. There are new vans with lots of miles, old vans with less miles, higher cost, lower cost – so it becomes a matter of fitting all those pieces together. We were debating between a $20,000 van and a $16,000 van. We settled on the cheaper one with the understanding that there will likely be those pesky car problems you don’t foresee and we’d at least have an extra $4,000 to put toward it. $4,000 goes a long way in car maintenance.

Now, we are sitting at the airport, waiting minute by minute for boarding to begin. I’m scared, excited, I feel a bit reckless, but I also feel like an adventure-seeker. Sure, I’ll be skipping out on work and haven’t thought through those consequences. Sure, we’ll be setting ourselves up for a 20 hour drive back and haven’t thought through those consequences. But, away we go.

Much Love,

Hanna
#vanlife#newadventures

Categories
A Little Lost, A Little Found van build

Are you a little lost?

Hi there! My name is Hanna, and lately, I’ve been feeling a bit lost. Quite a bit lost. Can you relate? In fact, getting older hasn’t helped much. I seem to feel more and more like a wanderer.

Right out of high school, I went into college not quite knowing what my major would be, so I blended three of them. Upon graduating, I didn’t know what career field to jump into between teaching, business, or government, so I applied to a Master’s program. Upon being accepted, I bought an extra two years of safety in schooling. It was nice to know, “Here I am. Here’s where I’m going. I’m in school, I’m going to get a degree and for the next 2-4 years, I don’t really have to think about other things.” I graduated with a Master’s degree in French Language and Literature. This is the degree you get when you are considering teaching, and generally teaching at the upper levels. Are you surprised to find out I didn’t end up doing that?

I hesitate to continue this introduction, because I’m feeling a bit vulnerable. Perhaps you as a reader may be thinking, “Oh wow, six years of college? Poor you.” I’m not complaining about my education, I value it! I love the content of the things I studied. I just didn’t know what that would look like as a career trajectory.

After graduating, I worked as a bilingual credit specialist, meaning I made companies pay their late bills – and sometimes I did it in French. Talk about imposter syndrome (we’ll get into that later). One year later, I decided to take the plunge into teaching! I taught Kindergarten, French immersion for 2 years. This is where the real wandering begins. My husband and I decided to take a chance on travel nursing. He would get 13 week contracts at various hospitals, and I would teach online with VIPKid. We missed our home and family, I missed the Kindergartners and stability of the classroom. We traveled for a year and came back. I thought I had been found! Yay! Back in the classroom! This is where I belong.

Then again, maybe not. One more year of Kindergarten, and the first 4 or 5 months I was utterly exhausted, super stressed, and dreaded the day. The days are so long in Kindergarten. I went from complete freedom, going wherever I wanted to go and any time, back into the classroom regimen – Monday through Friday 8-4.

I’m a little embarrassed writing down the changes year over year. How can anyone respect a person who changes her mind every 1-2 years? Am I the only one who is so lost? I love kids and I love teaching, but maybe not for 7 hours a day, five days a week, with a combined total of 50-60 students (AM and PM classes). I look around at my colleagues on our Zoom meetings and wonder, “Am I the only one here who’s kind of enjoying these quiet moments of remote teaching?”

So, here I am on the internet with binoculars on gazing around to see if anyone else can relate. My hope is with this blog, we’ll be able to journey through being lost & being found together.


Much Love,

Hanna