MAX AND LEE
Meet Max and Lee, an Australian/Canadian couple who ditched the ‘normal lifestyle’ to travel the world for the mobility and freedom of living van life. Inspired by deep dives into Pinterest’s endless travel boards, the savvy DIY duo set off in their self-converted ‘home on wheels’ kitted out of a 2006-Mercedes Sprinter.
After finding the right van in April 2017, it took them about 5 months and $10,000 CAD to renovate the empty cargo van into a portable home ready to embody the joy of camping. What’s more? This 140" wheel base Sprinter was designed to be stylish, comfortable, and easy to drive. While the conversion added 1000 kg to the vehicle, its fuel efficiency of 24 MPG was hardly affected.
Max and Lee start their day like many couples: ruffling out of entangled sheets, a morning kiss from their pup Occy and boiling water in a tea kettle. But when they pause to look out their bedroom, their view is a little different — partly due to the windshield wipers but primarily because of their 80 sq ft sleek yet rugged interior space.
The rustic appearance comes to life with thin pine tongue and groove paneling adorned with an immaculate white-wash that makes the area light and bright. Moreover, soft white LEDs, a cute little bookshelf and soothing green plants make this van a ride any adventurer would be happy to live in.
Max and Lee master-crafted their kitchen to boast an indoor-outdoor set up that’s a notch or two above camping.
The portable gas burner stove top is fuelled by a 5 pound propane tank that easily lasts about a month cooking 2-3 meals per day. The kitchen has plenty of room for storage with overhead cupboards, a kitchen cabinet and a floor-to-ceiling closet which house all the basic supplies, containers, canned foods, a huge assortment of spices, Max’s coffee supplies, fruits and veggies, pots and pans, and cutleries. A basic but efficient space to say the least!
To start with, Max and Lee installed a compostable toilet which remained unused for three months, as the public washrooms were available in places they travelled. Later they added a “pee tube” or “pee funnel” in the van for convenience which curbed the hassle of dealing with emptying the toilet. Simply put, this is nothing more than a funnel clamped to a vinyl tube that runs through the floor of the vehicle. What’s more? They turn up to a portable solar shower bag for showering outside which suffices two quick showers.
The bedroom provides a homely feeling with a string of photographs hung on the white-washed panels. There’s enough room for a queen size 6" memory foam mattress and a floor-to-ceiling closet that makes this space really feel like a home. While there’s a decorative black curtain that separates the cab area from the bedroom, the dim recessed LEDs provide a postcard perfect bedroom setting.
A bland living space wasn't in the cards for Max and Lee. Not only did they want something spacious, but also wanted an off grid home that was packed full of features and amenities. So, they adopted an open concept to pave the way for their extra-ordinary living area!
Located right in the middle of the van, the living space lays testimony to a DIY L-shaped couch that is brilliantly set up to facilitate entrance through both the doors. Underneath the couch is a massive storage area which Max and Lee refer to as “a garage” containing all their camping gears, backpacks, winter jackets, tools and other miscellaneous items.
What’s more, the couch smartly provides enough space for a 12 volt Dometic refrigerator. The fridge not only runs effeciently off low power but is capable of accommodating as many as 72 beer (or soda) cans at a time. Lastly, according to Lee, the best feature of their living room is a convertible table that can be set up any time.
The vehicle is equipped with 200 watts of solar power and a 230 mAh battery bank. There’s a 400 volt inverter on-board for charging laptops, making smoothies and anything else that requires a 110 outlet. A Maxxair fan is mounted on the roof to help move fresh air throughout the van exhaust cooking steam and smoke out.
In an endeavor to fight-off the winters, Max and Lee have loaded the van with Mr. Buddy, a portable propane gas heater. Their only complaint is the hot air dissipates quickly after the heater is turned off. Therefore, Max and Lee are soon planning to welcome an Espar heater onboard in the near future.