We’ve seen plenty of Skoolie families, or tiny house families, but a van family? They are few and far between! And this one didn’t just jump into tiny living a year or two ago — they’ve been doing it for seven whole years. They’ve proved any naysayers wrong, showing that a family of 4 with two school-aged kids can happily share a Sprinter as a home.
The kids’ even have their own room in what’s normally the “garage.” And yes, this home has a toilet and shower! We got to interview mom, Julia, and she said she can’t imagine being as close to her kids if they lived a “normal” life in suburbia. And because they’ve been parenting tiny since their oldest was one, she said she doesn’t know any other kind of life with kids!
Be sure to read our Q&A with her at the end of the post, and follow the family’s amazing van journey on Instagram.
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Mom, Dad, 2 School-Aged Kids, A Dog & Their Sprinter Van
Family game night with cookies. Yum.
Big sister storytime in the kids’ room.
View from the entrance of the van.
Love all those patches!
You can see mom and dad’s bed above the kids.
View from the back.
They have a stove-top and oven.
I love that they made room for books!
The interior of this van is so different from many we see.
Here’s the safe spot for the kids to sit.
Love the map on the fridge/freezer.
They have booster seats for the kids.
Another look at the kids’ space.
Bike rack for adventures.
Looks like such a fun hangout.
Drawers for storage under each kid bed.
Some awesome constellations.
What are your name(s)?
We’re Julia, Marcel, Emmi, Sam and Cody the Border Collie-Lab mix
How many people (and animals) are living in your home?
That would be two full-sized people, two small people and one dog.
How long have you lived tiny?
We’ve always lived in less than 600 sqft, but we’ve been tiny living on the road for 7 years now.
What do you do for work? Or do you travel full-time?
We travel full time and work as software engineer and customer support/social media management.
What are you hoping to get out of living tiny/small?
At this point it’s more about what we don’t want to loose any more 😉 I don’t think we could live as closely together in a residential life. And I don’t mean the space but the closeness of our family. We’re together 24/7 (except for solo exploring every once in a while) and I appreciate that I get to really know my kids, experience life and learning with them and they know that I’m here whenever they need me. I also love the traveling and exploring, seeing new things and changing our backyard every couple days, and that wouldn’t be an option in a “normal” life.
Describe your decorating style and philosophy.
Simple, black, kid friendly and functional. Generally speaking: you can fit more into a van than you’d think, and yes, the kids can have their own room and we add a big fridge and a bathroom and a full range. It’s all about how well you’re at playing Tetris.
What inspired you to choose a van (rather than say a tiny house or an RV)?
Our priority was always to travel, and a tiny house isn’t necessarily made for that. We did travel in a travel trailer and a Class A before buying the van, but like everything in life our requirements evolved and so did our choice of vehicle. The Class A was great for getting an idea about the whole “traveling with kids” dynamics, and the trailer were great for downsizing and exploring. The van gives us way more options on where we want to travel and how spontaneous we want to be, plus we are more mobile. We also thought about doing more international travel with our home in tow, and shipping a van is way cheaper/more convenient than a trailer.
How did you acquire your home? Did you do a lot of renovations?
We’ve moved into our Sprinter last year, and we did the renovation ourselves. We bought it from a dealer, the first new car we’ve ever owned. Before that we had a shiny trailer that we also renovated and restored ourselves.
What are bills/utilities like compared to before?
Obviously we don’t pay rent or utilities, since we don’t usually stay in campgrounds. Food budget has gone up, but the growing kids account for that. Other than that we don’t have the expenses for sports/extracurricular activities on a monthly basis, but we do like to explore the places we travel to (museums, pools, National Parks), so that was added. I feel like we spend way less money on a monthly basis though, but I have no experience of living a stationary life with two kids, so I wouldn’t know.
Before going tiny, what was life like?
I was still in college, Marcel just started his first real job, Emmi just turned one and I was pregnant with Sam. Basically the cookie cutter life of soon buying a place in suburbia and settle down and live for the weekends kinda thing.
Is there anything from your old life that you miss?
Just leaving the apartment to walk to a bakery or the market, instead of driving 30 min to the closest supermarket, mostly over washboard dirt roads is something I miss. Other members of our family miss long showers, and constant access to playgrounds.
What benefits are you experiencing after going tiny?
I’d say the main benefit is the traveling, thanks to living in a home on wheels, no mortgage or unnecessary bills and remote work. We get to choose our backyard for the day, sometimes even our season for the week and we get to see so many different amazing things as a family. Other than that I love how close we are as a family, and how well we know each other. And I don’t have to walk the dog in some park.
What about some challenges?
Money was definitely tight, and remote working did not make it easier to make money (the job market was very different in that respect 7 years ago). We also started on the east coast, which is not boondocking or free-camping friendly. If we would’ve started in the west things would’ve probably been a little easier in some aspects.
I feel like we grew into this lifestyle, so challenges were more like chances other than downsides. We adapted to limited water and space, but we only ever knew tiny parenting, so we never really focused on what’s a challenge.
Have you dealt with any push-back from friends and family about your choice to live tiny? How do you respond?
Miraculously, we did not. I guess everyone thought it was a phase after college and that we’d grow out of it. And then when it became clear that we didn’t, we’ve been at it for so long that it became obvious how well this life suited us (and how happy the kids are, kudos to the grandparents for acknowledging this).
What makes your tiny home special?
I guess four people living in a van is pretty rare, but I love how cozy our home is. It’s a true home on wheels, not just a vehicle, and it’s a setup we can see ourselves live in for the years to come.
What is your favorite part of your tiny home?
The fact that we have a proper bathroom with shower and toilet, and that the kids have their ow space with desk.
What helpful advice would you give to others interested in going tiny?
Plan on being resourceful, plan on lots of things going wrong and enjoy the journey in between. A common saying is: On the road, the highs are higher and the lows are lower. The earlier you accept that, the better it will be.
Oh, and don’t listen to the naysayers.
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- Family of 4 Sold It All To Live in a Bus!
Our big thanks to Julia for sharing! 🙏
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