Author: 10nicolette

Van Life

10 things you didn’t think about when designing your van!

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So after living in the van for awhile there’s just a few things/tricks we’ve learned to think about for when designing you van!!

Everyone knows about the obvious things you need for van life – fridge, electricity, water, bathroom situation etc. but here’s our personal top 10 list of things you might not have thought about for van life or that have deemed absolutely necessary in ours!!



  1. Spin around chair


Being as we are two people in a small space it’s nice to have the option to make your living space a bit larger or to accommodate another person on top of just us two!! We don’t have a large sprinter van so we use all the space we can get! We use the spin around chair every day even when its just us two! Sometimes one of us works in there when our “desk” space is occupied or we prep dinner in that chair too. Or its a good chair to turn around and enjoy the view out the side.  If one of our butts isn’t sitting in it, its also a great landing spot for things as well! We don’t have a dog, but when we take Pearl – John’s family dog – that’s her chair when theres no more room in the back and then she still feels part of the group verses stuck in the front of the van! We found ours at an old junk yard and pulled it out of an old beat up van and put a slip cover on it! Costs us $40. $40 well spent.


2. Reflectics / Curtains

Right now we live in the desert. This is an absolute necessity. These make the inside of our van 10 – 20 degrees cooler when the sun is beating down on us. I never wanted them because I liked all the windows in our van but boy do they make a difference. We have a reflector for every single window in the van – even the windshield and the driver/passenger seat. We keep them in the windows and just pull them back when we want light let in! Something we didn’t think about though was where to store them when we didn’t want use them – so they are tucked away in random places throughout our van! On top of that we have curtains as well! This allows for privacy and still helps keep some sun out if we didn’t want to put up the reflectics! I hand made these out of fabric and found the rods at big lots. Super cheap and work great!

3. Laundry Basket

Missed this one too. I thought we would just put a laundry basket in the bottom of the closet.. Wrong. Needed all the closet space. So no we have one underneath our bed. It works ok! Just don’t forget about this when laying out your van design! You use a laundry basket a lot!


4. Outdoor Rug

This might be the thing that has made the biggest difference in van cleanliness. I would sweep out the van almost everyday from just dust or dirt or something. Daily sweep no longer! We just got a rug to lay outside of our side door where we leave our shoes every time we step into the van. We actually have two to make our outdoor space a bit larger and I made sure to get super thin rugs that roll up and store on our side door step! Functional and cute! Found these at World Market – they were a little pricier then I wanted to spend but worth it – $50 each.


5. Laptop tray!

If you’re Netflix bingers like us…. don’t forget this one!!! This is one of the newest things we added to our van. Again being two people in our van our bed isn’t super large. We would lay in bed with the laptop between us or propped up on a pillow at the end of our bed and if someone would move to much… laptop would topple over. Not a good situation. So we build a little tray table over one of our bench seats off of the bed. Folds up and out of sight. We use this a ton!!! Let the binge watching continue!!


6. Awning

If you have a van that you can’t stand up in.. this makes all the difference. With an awning you expand your “living space” a ton! You now have a whole outdoor room with so much space for activities! This is great for getting out of the heat as well as not feeling cooped up inside on rainy days!! We love our awning and got it off amazon for $150!


7. Magnetic knife holder

I didn’t realize how convenient this made our lives. Theres nothing like digging in the silverware basket and grabbing hold of the end of the knife!! Think about your knife situation!!! Found this on amazon – practical and cheap!!!

8. Lights!

When evening hits theres nothing like sitting in your van with the lights on full blast and a cloud of bugs making their way into your home becoming disco balls on the ceiling. Yummmmm! We turn on battery operated twinkle lights at night! Having the option to have twinkle lights in the van makes it so you still have light but not so bright to attract every bug within a 100 mile radius! We also are big night readers and they work perfect for a soft light before bed! These are also great for winter mornings when one of us needs to get up early in the dark and get ready for work – we aren’t blinding the other person with the full van lights. We hung photos on our lights as well! 🙂

9. Screen Door

While on the topic of bugs.. depending where you live this is super necessary. We like to sleep with the doors and windows open and really enjoy not being eaten alive by mosquitos. Our side door has a screen from the as seen on TV screen called Magic Mesh – the magnetic screen door. We altered it a bit to fit our large opening and then sewed velcro strips on so we can easily take it on and off. Our back door just have a regular old screen with magnetic strips sewn on so it magnetizes to our back door!

10. Fruit/Veggie Holder

So after you build your cabinets and decide where all your dry goods, pots, pans, dishes etc are going… don’t forget about your fruit and veggies!! We have a basket that goes in our sink when we are driving that holds are veggies and bread! And then we have a fruit hammock (that is on the brink of dying) hanging underneath our cabinet! Tip – don’t mount your hammock to close to the window.. we learned the hard way with bananas smashed in our window!!



And that’s it!! Before, during and after your van build tag us in your photos!! We love meeting other van lifers on the road and would love to see your smiling faces out there!!


-Nic & John


Our Words

Solitude in the Sandhills

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Three years ago, John introduced me to the Sandhills of Nebraska. I’ve lived here my entire life and had never really experienced them. I’ve driven by them on I-80 heading to Colorado many times but never actually stepped foot. I’d imagine that’s the case for many who grow up in Omaha or Lincoln on the East side of the state. We grow up thinking theres nothing to do in Nebraska so lets drive 8 hours west til we hit the good stuff. We forget about all the space in between, all that history the plains hold and bestow. We forget how special and unique the Nebraska plains actually are. 


Imagine being surrounded by miles and miles of golden rolling hills that go on forever. You see a horizon that literally never ends, very similar to the ocean. Above you have an endless sky that displays hues of blue you could’ve never imagined and the sunsets and sunrises aren’t even explainable. Imagine all of that… and now… imagine being alone. So alone that if you didn’t want to.. you wouldn’t have to see a soul for days. 

Sandhills, Valentine NE


That is my upmost favorite part about the Sandhills. 

Snake River 01

I’ve never been to the desert, but I imagine the draw is very similar. And technically the plains are a type of desert. Alone in the desert, with you, your thoughts, the land and shitty cell reception. The disconnect is my second favorite part. While in the plains, you are forced to put down that black box we all constantly have in our hand and just be. Soak it in. The simplicity of life is remembered. Our circadian rhythm begins to line back up with the sun. Stress free. We are thankful for the sun, the glorious vast blue skies, the land around us and our ability to explore and utilize the surroundings. And because we are fisherman in the Sandhills, we appreciate the life of a catch and are thankful for the bounty we will use to nourish. Removed from over stimulation and easy access of food, we remember how precious life is. And we are grateful. 


The simplicity of the Sandhills remind us of what the ones before us crossing the plains may have experienced. Besides the few telephone poles and roads here and there, the land basically looks untouched, even though it is. The land here mostly belongs to ranchers who were most likely settlers living and preserving land that has been passed down for generations. The deer, antelope, eagles, mice, fish, snakes and who knows what else all flourish here. The cattle are allowed to graze freely. They aren’t interrupted by concrete buildings or interstates or kept in feed lots. Their natural circle of life is permitted and protected. Out here they just get to be. 

Valentine NE

Out in the Sandhills, WE just get to be. 

Nebraska tends to be forgotten against the many “destinations” places in America and according to our new tourism board slogan “Nebraska, it isn’t for everyone” they might just be right. It’s not for everyone. Some don’t see luxury in solitude but rather they thrive in the chaos. Or their idea of a getaway isn’t to disconnect and recenter themselves.. and thats okay! If Nebraska was for everyone our Sandhills would be tainted with people and buildings. Their magic would fade away and become a place where footsteps wouldn’t be the only thing left behind. 

Merrit Resevior

But with all that being said..

Come to the Sandhills. Appreciate the Sandhills. Feel the Sandhills. And lastly Respect the Sandhills.

“Anyone can love the mountains, but it takes a soul to love the prairie.“- Our good friend, Willa Cather 

Our Words, Van Life

Why we remodeled.

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One night, close to the end of our 7 week test jaunt, while laying in bed, I rolled over and said to John “I think we’re going to remodel” The look in his eyes was… well you can imagine. We had just finished 3 months of working on the van every weekend to get her ready for this first phase of our adventure and the last thing John or I wanted to do was tear apart what we had just built. 

But we needed to. 


We had watched SO many youtube videos and followed so many van life accounts trying to nail down our perfect layout and when we thought we got it.. we didn’t. You just don’t know how it’s going to live and function until you are actually in it full time.


Our bed layout before was U shaped benches that had storage underneath and a table that dropped down to fill the hole. We then assembled all of our cushions from the benches (backs and butts) to fill the holes and voila, that became our bed! Sounds fun right! Wrong – so if I’m going to take a mid afternoon nap I have to squeeze on the slender bench- because why we made our table so big was beyond us MISTAKE #1- or I have to put down the table and disturb the other person who might want to work, forcing them to sit in the front bucket seat with no table surface to work on. The back was livable if we both wanted to do the same things at the same time. That rarely happened. Plus is was no fun having to take a part and remake our bed every single night/morning. I don’t even like to make the bed in a normal house.. who wants to do it everyday in a van!!! What were we thinking??!!!

We started leaving the bed down full time to eat on.
Along with leaving it down when we drove too! More comfortable for pearl too!

Clearly we got caught up in watching all these van lifers who basically don’t get up at the crack of dawn, chase the sunrise and stay out until dark like we do. It just didn’t fit for our life style. It’s enough work getting all our gear assembled for our early morning fish or late evening climb, we don’t want to have to come back and make the bed every time.

So we changed it. 

And now we love it. 


Now the bed is turned, runs the width of the back end of the van and is now a permanent. No assembling or dissembling. By doing this, we don’t have to store our bedding and pillows, thus gaining storage- first plus. We raised the bed utilizing the height of the van and gained space underneath adding even more storage – second plus!! Turning the bed sideways gave us the perfect little nook to add our dining/office space. We now have a table that can be stored away under our bed and pulled out easily as needed. Now, we technically have 5 separate seats in our small 78sf home (counting the bed as a seat!) 


As far as money goes, we definitely lost some on this remodel. Before our benches were made out of that green cushion foam you can get at any hobby store and that stuff is pricey let me tell you. We thought we were saving money by making our own cushions but turns out.. that stuff isn’t very comfortable or worth your buck. Luckily enough, I checked craigslist and found a futon mattress for $25 that has twice the comfort as those cushions and just happened to be the perfect size! It even has the most perfect outdoor pattern. It was like it was meant to be!


If anyone has a need for green cushion foam… we’ve got a lot! 🤷🏽‍♀️