Once you’ve procured a camper van and outfitted it as a functional adventuremobile, it’s time to make it feel like a home.
Hopefully you’ve dialed in the living systems you and your traveling partners will require on the road less traveled. A toilet, heat, fan, fridge, running water, and a comfy bed are the essentials for a comfortable four-season life on the road. With all this in place and the vehicle ready to roll, consider a few finishing touches. Then the adage “home is where you park it” can become a reality.
The best thing about living in a van, or any camper-style adventuremobile, is always having a comfy bed and a roof over your head. Being able to get away from weather, bugs, and other people will make your mobile home a refuge.
Make your bed
Having a comfortable bed on which to lay your weary body is critical. I’ve found that you can create a comfortable low profile mattress out of memory foam relatively inexpensively, which provides you with the most support, comfort and spare interior room. Covering your mattress, or cushion system, with bright fabrics also helps to brighten a small living space. Light grey and earthy oranges work well for me, but you can go as vivid and wild as your style dictates.
While it is perfectly fine to crawl into a sleeping bag every night, I find more traditional bedding feels much more homey and less temporary. I even use a blanket my Grandmother knit me, as there is no better way to make a house a home than by incorporating family.
Another key to making a four-wheeled vehicle into a home is to do everything you can to create a space separate from the outside world. Guarding against outside noise and light creeping are the two biggest challenges. While you already have solid walls of separation, you still need to block out sunlight and prying eyes to feel comfortable. Window shades and quality insulation will help add another level of privacy.
Display art in miniature
While you might not have the wall space to hang large format art pieces, don’t let that get in the way of decorating your living space with visually impactful art. My top tip is to buy postcard and greeting card sized prints of your favorite art and photography. I’ve used postcards of my favorite Ansel Adam photographs. I’ve also picked up amazing local art on my travels. My favorite van art to date are Alaskan landscape scenes painted with octopus ink; prints of which I found in the form of greeting card while in Homer, Alaska. A set of four only cost me $15.
Another great and inexpensive option is to make prints of photos you’ve taken on your travels. This provides a tangible reminder of where you’ve been and what you’ve experienced. You can also quickly swap out and update these exhibits, and give the old photos to family and friends as gifts.
If you don’t mind a bit busier look, stickers are a fun way to remember people and places. Many travelers bring a stock of their own stickers to share, trade and post on the odd sign they find. An alternative to stickers are patches which have grown in popularity.
Map your route
One of my favorite ways to personalize an adventuremobile and keep the travel bug alive is to hang a paper world map on the wall or ceiling. I then highlight the routes that I’ve traveled. Over time this allows me to see where I’ve been, and quickly visualize where I have yet to go. It is also an amazing conversation piece, and a great way to share your travel story.
Au naturel (looking)
I love smooth, durable, and easy to clean surfaces in my adventuremobile. However, industrial materials with these qualities can contribute to a sterile-looking environment. So try to incorporate materials that appear natural into your camper van build. Adding wood accents is a relatively easy and inexpensive way to do this. In my four-wheeled home I’ve incorporated wood into the table, trim and the teak looking vinyl flooring, which creates a lively feel, while still being extremely durable and easy to clean.
Here’s a parting adventuremobile decorating tip: in a camper van, throw pillows serve a utilitarian purpose. Small pillows are great for propping yourself up or your laptop. Plus, I’ll admit, they add a little flair to what little room you have to spare.
Featured image provided by Bryon Dorr