The vanlife of Katie – a structured adventure.

A Mercedes-Benz Sprinter in the desert between cacti

Deep green lakes, dense coniferous forests and rust-red deserts – on her way through the USA Katie crosses breathtaking landscapes.

Mystery for some, lifestyle for others.

Long road and camping trips in the countryside. That’s what Katie’s weekends looked like before vanlife. Suddenly the idea came up to make this lifestyle into everyday life via a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter in 2016. Originally, she had saved enough money to travel around for a year. Katie now works as editor-in-chief and social media specialist for van blogs, also under her own name. “So we bought a van”. And so the idyll continues.

MYVAN: How did you come up with the idea of buying a van and making it your home?
Katie: I’ve always loved to travel and the minimalist way of life just attracts me. I was at a point in my life where I was looking for a change: In my life in general, at my workplace – and I needed a new car. Instead of continuing as before, my partner at the time suggested buying a van, converting it and travelling through the USA. The idea came at the perfect time. I figured, why not? I was ready for a big change. And the idea seemed fascinating to me: Exploring the country in my home on wheels.

A Mercedes-Benz Sprinter parked in Zion National Park, Utah

Sunset in Zion National Park, Utah.

Living a normal life – but just on the road.

MYVAN: How did the people around you react when you told them you wanted to live in a van?
Katie: For those who have never had any contact with vanlife, it is generally difficult to understand the concept. When I left back then, I still had a fixed destination. I wanted to visit all 50 states of America. This fixed number and the plan with the goal helped them to understand the “why”. But when I extended my journey to continue full-time after the year was complete, question marks followed. Park in a side street every night or sit in a van all day? A mystery to many. Some people even believe that I “want to escape life” or “get out of society”, which isn’t true. I still work and live a normal life, but today I experience a little more adventure than before.

MYVAN: You haven’t left out a state or a national park. How did you come up with your route?
Katie: I have to say in advance that I am a passionate planner and had a long list of places I really wanted to see. Some of which I still need to see. But the greatest adventure turned out to be the journey to these goals, rather than the destinations themselves. Now, I really don’t have a plan or route. I require daily cell phone reception for work, but for the most part, I can go wherever, whenever I want. The loose plan is to head slightly south for the winter but I’m not sure beyond that!

Katies Top 3 van spots in the USA

  1. Montana: The Custer Gallatin National Forest is pure camper paradise. Dreamlike hiking trails lead past rushing rivers and remote lakes.
  2. Wyoming: Lake scenery against a snowy mountain backdrop – this dream view awaits the vanlifer while camping in the Grand Teton National Park.
  3. Utah: One national park more beautiful than the other. And there is only a few hours drive in between.

Not that clean, but profoundly relaxed.

MYVAN: Are there also challenges in life on the road?
Katie: The biggest challenge is letting go, giving up control. You learn to simply allow this restlessness when it starts to occur. My van is great in my eyes, but there are external factors over which you simply have no influence, such as temperature. And I definitely had to lower my standards of cleanliness. But for all the dirt, dust and sweat, the lifestyle is always worth it. You give up worrying about little things; just make friends with the way of things. That really changed me. My priorities have changed. I live a much more relaxed life today

  • A woman walking toward the backside of a Sprinter
  • A woman next to a Sprinter on a road in Utah
  • An open Sprinter in the wilderness
  • A Sprinter besides a campfire

The conversion phase: When things came together.

MYVAN: How did you come up with a Mercedes-Benz?
Katie: My partner at the time and me had checked out a lot of different vehicles, but all in all we wanted something reliable. Not a van that we had to fix up first. We also had no great knowledge of mechanics and we didn’t want that to get in the way of our adventures. The Sprinter was exactly what we were looking for. Especially when we went in for the first time, we knew: That’s the one.

A girl working on a laptop in a Mercedes-Benz van

Since Katie has been working on the road, her life feels more uniform.

The best feeling: The finished van.

MYVAN: How did you tackle the conversion? How long did it take you to leave?
Katie: Research was actually the most extensive part of the rebuild. We relied more or less on the Internet. Browse blogs, forums and social networks. There it was able to ask questions and get an overview of the possibilities. Once the plan was in place, construction started, step by step. First we installed the windows, then the fan. Then it was time for the wall insulation, followed by electricity. Finally, the floor and the walls had to be refined. With the help of family and friends, the entire reconstruction took about half a year. For the cabinets we paid a friend of ours, although we designed and installed them ourselves. We really wanted the wall cabinets to be robust so that we could drive over rough roads without worries.

MYVAN: Did you ever doubt your plans?
Katie: Being patient really challenged us here and there. When we built our dream vehicle, it was the center of our lives, everything else stopped. The project was above all else and we could hardly wait to get going. But the conversion of the van was really a lot of work, everything took time and progress was slow. The construction “behind the scenes” is what took up most time: The electrical system, insulation, cutting and measuring wood. But then suddenly the moment comes when everything comes together. Seeing the finished van with all the hard work in it is one of the best feelings I have ever had.

“Ask yourself in advance why you want to live in a van. Why are you attracted to this lifestyle? Do you long to travel? Simplicity? Do you want to be closer to nature? This knowledge will help you on your journey and in life”.
A Mercedes-Benz Sprinter in white sand

White sand or snow? Katie's fleet-footedness gives it away.

A woman sits by the campfire and drinks tea

Finishing the day around the campfire – a real ritual for Katie.

A woman walks to her sprinter in front of a lake

Only a few steps from the "front door" into the cool water.

The shown conversions were carried out by independent third parties. The suppliers and conversions were not checked by Mercedes-Benz. In this respect, these illustrations do not represent an assessment of the supplier and/or conversions by Mercedes-Benz.

Photos: Katie Larsen

More Links to explore: soweboughtavan.com – @Facebook, @Instagram

Sprinter

Regardless of what job you have to tackle – the Sprinter will make your day-to-day tasks easier. And even if those tasks are weighty ones, together, you’ll move mountains. Thanks to a host of different variants and over 600 optional features, the Sprinter can meet a wide variety of requirements.

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