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How to Live in Your Car, SUV, or Van while Traveling.. Adventure Van Dwelling

In late 2009 the downturn in the economy dramatically changed the overall substance of 30+ year business professional, Brenda Curtiss’s life.

In her words, “Even though I had always dreamed about and somewhat planned for the day I could be ‘free’ to full-time in a small RV or camper van, the need to do so financially, seemed to suddenly be thrust upon me when the once thriving Tax Planning Firm I managed for years, had to close due to the economic downturn.

I had bought a 2000 Astro High-Top Conversion Van with my meager savings and started my full-time vandwelling  journey in it at a membership vacation community in the scenic North GA Mountains where I had bought memberships in better times.

When I started out I was on shore power (electric hook-up) the majority of the time and not very well equipped without it. It was a beautifully scenic area, but after I had explored it extensively, and entertained family and friends who came to visit throughout the year (staying in the cabins there) the excitement began to wane and the nomadic side of me that had always longed to explore God’s amazing artistry began to rise up in me once again.

2000 Chevrolet Astro High Top for Van Dwelling - Brenda Curtiss

Photos Courtesy of Brenda Curtiss

By the end of 2010 I was ready to hit the road to travel across the USA in my little campervan! Some good friends helped me get a good battery system set up and further ready my van to live more self-sustainably.

Van Dwelling inside a Chevrolet Astro - Brenda Curtiss

So here it is just over a year later, beginning 2012… Wow, what a journey it has been thus far! I have enjoyed so many wonderful discoveries as I have meandered along exploring all kinds of eclectically picturesque places and people treasures on this awesome journey.

Brenda 100 Miles from the Canadian Border in her Astro

Even with it’s challenges, I love this lifestyle! Photo journaling and sharing my travels and experiences are amazing silver linings! And there are so many wonderfully diverse things, places and people yet to discover!

Blue Ridge Parkway North Carolina Mountains

Unfortunately, due to a mechanical failure I had a horrendous accident in Montana on September 25, 2011 that totaled my beloved van home and most everything I owned within it. My puppy Gabriel and I miraculously survived; so even though starting over has been more than a bit challenging, I am thankful beyond measure.

91 G20 Chevy Van for Van Dwelling Brenda and Gabriel in 91 G20 Van

I purchased a 91 Chevy G20 High-Top Conversion Van on October 15th, moved in two days later, and have been in the process of setting it up since.

1991 G20 for Van Dwelling - Interior - Living in a Van

Some people were surprised I chose to jump back into the vandwelling lifestyle so rapidly. But I truly enjoy the freedom this lifestyle gives me of meandering at will without the confines and costs of hotels, rent or mortgages.

Working out of Chevrolet G20 Van in Dalton GA

It’s not for everyone, but I much enjoy my life in my little van home. Hope to see ya’ down the road!”

Van Dwelling and Traveling

Van Dwelling and Traveling

Van Dwelling and Traveling

Brenda invites you to share her journeys via her blog & photo journal comprised of 1500+ (& growing) photos she captures along the way! Check out her Blog & eBooks @ www.LordandCurtiss.ws

If you found this post helpful or inspiring, “Like” on Facebook and share it using the buttons below. Thank you.

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Alex is a contributor and editor for TinyHouseTalk.com and the always free Tiny House Newsletter. He has a passion for exploring and sharing tiny homes (from yurts and RVs to tiny cabins and cottages) and inspiring simple living stories. We invite you to send in your story and tiny home photos too so we can re-share and inspire others towards a simple life too. Thank you!
{ 29 comments… add one }
  • Calvin R
    January 21, 2012, 2:35 pm

    Hi, Brenda. I enjoy your approach. Realizing who you are deep in your spirit seems to be the key to your well-being. You tell your story well.

    • January 21, 2012, 3:44 pm

      Glad you enjoyed it Calvin, thanks.

  • lucille cook
    January 21, 2012, 6:34 pm

    I love the photos and the blog is great also. Your photos are super good. Love you. Mom.

  • January 22, 2012, 4:19 pm

    In the spirit of the pioneer woman, God Made It, It’s out there, and you want to see it. You Go, Brenda!!

  • Theresa
    January 22, 2012, 9:50 pm

    Wow, love the bridge pic!

  • Theresa
    January 22, 2012, 9:53 pm

    I realy do envy the free wheeling, nomadic lifestyle!

  • sesameB
    January 23, 2012, 3:55 pm

    ALL THE BEST TO YOU, Brenda Curtiss. What a nice story. I use to be free wheeling, and very nomadic back in the 1980s and 1990s, but now I enjoy my very own (paid off) tiny home sitting in a meadow in rural south central sunny Arkansas, surrounded by the woods. I am glad you have joined the ‘tiny dwelling’ community here in the USA and beyond! If you continue to travel be sure to get to the state of Wyoming, North Dakota (not in that order) and of course, the state of Washington. I use to live on the Kettle Falls River in Kettle Falls, WA in a tiny cabin with a loft and a wood stove for heat/cooking (1992). I loved that part of the state of Washington.
    Barefootin’ in rural south central sunny Arkansas.

    • January 25, 2012, 2:42 pm

      Thanks sesameB, always love reading your comments.

  • Dominick Bundy
    January 24, 2012, 12:18 am

    People like Brenda I find amazing and inspiring. This is proof less is really more. I found that not needing anything more, than I have already….I want less. Key is pay off all that you own.(mortgage, car, etc.) never ever use credit cards except only in emergencies. then just sit back enjoy life as it comes…

    • January 26, 2012, 10:37 am

      Thanks, Dominick, great insights!

  • sesameB
    January 25, 2012, 4:53 pm

    The Weather of the Future: Heat Waves, Extreme Storms, and Other Scenes from a Climate-Changed Planet (2010) Heidi Cullen (Author) writes on page. 239: “In short, New York is an old city facing new problems.” (pg. 121-122) “Approximately 2 million people in the Central Valley count on levees for flood protection. And the capital city, Sacramento, which is among the fastest growing cities in the United States, is the major metropolitan area at the highest risk of flooding. And, (pg. 241), “Hurricanes illustrate some of the most dramatic risks to New York’s infrastructure, but there are plenty of everyday weather events that will become increasingly problematic for the city’s support systems—most notably the guts of New York, its sewer system.”

    I am glad I am off the east coast and live here in rural south central sunny Arkansas.

    • Sarah Jane
      January 27, 2012, 6:29 am

      I live in Sacramento. By a creek even! (We rent though) I’ll just go upstairs when the levies break. At least I’m not in Natomas.

  • Deborah
    January 26, 2012, 7:22 am

    Just saying Hello to show reader support and encouragement. Thank you for the hope you spark in your readers and friends you acquire along your merry way. 🙂 Happy Trails,

    • January 26, 2012, 10:38 am

      Thanks, Deborah, I feel lucky to have you as a reader.

  • Chas
    March 29, 2012, 3:11 am


    I have been planning a life like yours and believe it is absolutely empowering to read your blog. My van is almost fixed and ready for travel! The only reason I havent made the break away just yet is because I was holding on to someone who doesnt return respect or consideration. From reading your blog, I’d say you know a bit about this subject. Anyway, I’ve been moved and would like to stay in touch for any questions I may have, or just to consult a like mind. God bless, hope to see you out on the road! Thanks again for sharing your experiences with others, it truly is inspiring!


  • GW
    July 16, 2012, 10:24 am

    Awesome story! We are a couple with kids on the way out this year and are looking at extensive traveling in a van, so I am reading all I can!

    The Mr and I are curious as to what happened with your first van?!?! What type of mechanical failure? YIKES! Praise God you 2 were OK!!

    Also- I LOVE that you outfitted the van with regular camp style gear and household items (plastic drawers, chairs, ice chests) instead of going crazy with customized components to make it look like a shrinkydink RV!

    Yes, they look luxurious, but THAT’S what kept us from going forward with this sooner! We thought we needed that and the price was out of reach… DUH!

    Here’s to hoping we cross paths one day! Take care!

  • graham
    December 12, 2013, 12:45 am

    You go girl. I admire you. Breaking with all of lifes standards and conventions is no mean feat, but we do it and have an amazing and diverse life, sometomes not entirely by choice. Well done, enjoy your exploring. G 🙂

  • Troy kiss Downing
    April 3, 2014, 11:37 pm

    Awesome. Keep on trucking girlfriend. Less is really more. You rock!

  • Chris
    July 14, 2014, 9:32 pm

    I have also lived in a van, it can be challenging at times. I am in Texas and the Summer heat is terrible, I believe that colder climate is easier to tolerate when van dwelling. In a colder climate, if you get cold just clime in a warm sleeping bag. When it is 105 outside, it is impossible to stay cool in a van home.

    I am planning my next offline adventure again real soon, using the experiences that I learned last time. I discovered that a full size van just isn’t my cup of tea, I don’t enjoy driving large vehicles and actually had room to spare in the van, so I will be downsizing this time to an SUV.

    A cool thing I learned was that a new $20 plastic insecticide sprayer makes a great shower. 🙂

    • Calvin R
      December 28, 2014, 1:14 pm

      I will ask if there’s a reason a person would stay in a single area when they have wheels under them. My basic idea is to stay in reasonably comfortable climates by traveling.

    • Carol Vanderwalker
      March 9, 2015, 11:04 pm

      Mine was stolen while my DH was visiting me in Hosp after I had surgery. I had great difficulties with the first insurance adjuster believing the things I kept in my “vehicle”. I simply explained we went camping a lot and it was easier to keep things in than packing up every weekend. Chris, I Love the idea of the compression sprayer as shower- especially as it saves lots of water rinsing one’s backside and thoroughly rinses the lady bits and pieces!

  • July 20, 2014, 5:39 pm

    Hi Brenda, interesting website. I would like know what was the mechanical failure of your Astro in Montana on September 25 2011?
    Roland Hofer

  • Tom Seleck's Ulcer
    December 27, 2014, 8:24 pm

    I got annoyed with the cheap college crowd after 6 years of trying to keep a 3 bedroom apt afloat with roommates.
    Packed up in haste, jumped into a 4 door Hyundai (fold flat rear seats lined with 3 bed toppers!) and left the East coast for a trip that resembled an EKG readout.
    No idea how nice it was to call your present location home and be able to decide your next one in the morning.
    Visited at least 15 states in 2 months. Hit and run random locations, events, restaurants and sights.
    Met a cool chick in Chicago who was coming back in June to tour the Cali coastline.
    I met up with her and within a week, sold my little car and got a cheap conversion van.
    It had problems but it did what it needed to do.
    It made the trip BECAUSE of the problems – diversions we took over those 7 weeks were on behalf of fear of “the beast” dying.
    The seats were removed little at a time followed by the bench.
    They were replaced with happenstance stuff along the way.
    Santa Monica’s two IKEA tables left for the freshman became the foundation for the $20 Craigslist queen mattress that became our mobile, covert hotel/hostel/tent.
    Saved tons on housing. $50 to $70/night! Hostel prices.
    Showers at my gym or on the beach side rinse showers (c c cold!).

    I cant tell you how addicted I became to the vagabond way of life.
    The money you save on housing is more than enough to visit places and experience things, memories you will never forget.

    If for nothing more than a month, jump into a small van like an Astro or a bigger van like a Chevy 1500 and experience something that will enrich your life for years to come.
    You’ll realize that the basics of life are quite basic.

    Traveling with a hot blonde girl with no inhibitions isn’t a downer either!!

    Loved it!

  • February 16, 2015, 10:32 am

    Thank you so much to all of you that have made comments to me. even though most of the comments are from quite a while ago, I wanted all to know I read and appreciate them. I have been 5+ years fulltime at what I call Adventure Vandwelling. I am now beginning phase 2 with expectations of settling into NW SC, still vandwelling but with thoughts of developing an outdoor extended living space on a rented plot of rural land. This lifestyle has definitely taken hold of me. Even if I get something further than my van as a dwelling it will most definitely be a tiny home. 😉 Thanks again to Alex for featuring me in his awesome TinyHouseTalk Blog! (For those interested, I have thousands of pics including that accident I was asked about in my facebook at http://www.facebook.com/brenda.curtiss ~ Please let me know you hear about me on TinyHouseTalk. 🙂

  • November 8, 2015, 10:32 pm

    Wow I’m really impressed with the van dwelling lifestyle. I’m strongly considering doing it very soon for a while (for several reasons). I’m a bit apprehensive because I’ll be doing it alone but it doesn’t scare me enough to detour the prospect. I’m looking into vans now. I know I want a Chevy. If you can, would you mind sharing more details on this subject. I’m soaking up all I can. I’m also considering blogging/vlogging my experience. More than ever, I’m glad the internet exists. Where would I be in this situation without the resources I’ve found thus far.

  • shelby
    April 16, 2016, 12:41 pm

    hey Brenda I am wondering what kind of gas mileage you get in your camper van?

  • mama byrd
    March 14, 2017, 3:41 pm

    HII! oh my I love this post. I am gearing up to this similar adventure with my husband! but even though we have some crafty skills, we cant figure out how we will pay for car insurance each month. how did you do this? gas as well I suppose, even though this isn’t as much of a priority.

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