Van Life: More Than Just a Hashtag

For more than four years now we’ve had the pleasure of telling stories about the people and the places of Travelers Rest. Although we genuinely love sharing the news and events of our town, what really motivates us to keep at it are the people. Y’all. The folks we meet at the market and, lately, online via Instagram and Facebook and through emails you send us.

One of those folks is Dave McAda. Our first notice of Dave came through his beautiful photos on Instagram – of sunsets and landscapes, and of the escapades that bears routinely bring to his backyard.  (Give him a follow – it’s sure to be entertaining.)

When we noticed he and his wife were embracing their retirement in an unusual way, we thought you guys might enjoy following along just like we did.  




Story and Photos by Dave McAda


Like millions of others living through this pandemic, we found ourselves with a lot of extra time on our hands—perhaps too much!

Back in March my wife inventoried every meal or source of protein in the freezer while I estimated the use of toilet paper squares per event and extrapolated usage over four months. (Thinking the worst would be over by then. Ha!) 

Then in April we manicured the flower beds, removing weeds almost as quickly as they sprouted.  While waiting for more seeds to germinate we also purged the closets, Zoomed far away friends, and alphabetized the spices. 

By May we needed a new project.

That’s when we first learned about converting cargo vans into campers and living the #vanlife. 



All my life I had been taught to work hard and to save all I could so that I didn’t end up living in a van down by the river.  Imagine my surprise when I learned there was a whole social movement geared EXACTLY towards doing that!  

The more we read about van conversions on social media, the more we were bit by the wanderlust bug (or infected by the van virus?!).  This was a project we wanted to take on!  It would be a chance to prove we’re never too old to master some new skills as well as provide a means to travel the country at our own pace, not subject to advance hotel reservations and the need to be somewhere else by tomorrow.  Freedom!



Later we learned that some people research and plan van projects for 2-3 years before making the leap.  Not us.  We had two Honda Civics, one of which had been driven 11 miles in two months, so we traded one in and bought a used cargo van that had once served a plumbing business.

Over the next three months, YouTube was our friend as we learned how to do carpentry on curved walls, add power lights and fans without an extension cord, and plumb a sink for a moving vehicle.  Some people have said converting a van to a camper is like building in a permanent earthquake; that’s pretty accurate.



Remember that desire to travel the country at our own pace?  I found that “freedom” to be one of the most stress-inducing experiences of my retired life on our first trip.  Where would we sleep?  Wal-Mart? (check) Cracker Barrel?  (check) A casino parking lot? (Uhhh, no. Keep driving!)  Could we find a relatively flat spot?  (meh) What if raccoons got on the roof? (Actually never even thought about that–until THEY DID!)  But in the end it was all worth the fretting as we meandered the East Coast not really sure when we would go home.



If your preconceived mental image of #vanlife is all suntans, man buns and bikinis – don’t look at our profile pictures.  Sorry to disappoint.  But vanlife is an opportunity to experience America in a different, exciting way if you open yourself up to being spontaneous.  

Stay tuned. 





Want to hear how the rest of  their trips have gone? Follow along on Dave’s blog right here.

Plus, the van has a name – it’s Wanda – and an Instagram account too.

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