Van life: Meet the woman who turns Airstreams into homes.

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(CNN) – The ability to wake up in a different place every day, to live and work in some of the most beautiful places in the world and to experience complete freedom – it is not surprising that many people dream of life on the road.

Kate Oliver not only succeeded in making van life a reality – but she also turned it into a business. Launched by Oliver with his wife Ellen Price Modern caravanA business that took them all over America as they repaired old Airstream camper vans – a business that was built behind their first Airstream, their grand renovation of Lewis.
Now Oliver has published a book, “Modern caravan“- Something to look out for in van life, profiling by looking at the lifestyle and renewal tips of people who have restored their van. “Everyone loves open roads – even if we don’t know why,” he says.

Dreaming of another life

Oliver says we are all looking forward to the open road.

Oliver says we are all looking forward to the open road.

Kate Oliver

Growing up in the Midwest, Oliver felt he was far from the place. “I never felt like I was fit, and my childhood wasn’t easy,” she says. Instead, she retreated into her imagination, calling the local library her “escape.”

“Initially all this was fiction, then one day I wandered around and found books on architecture and interior design, and I thought, ‘Oh my God, these are real spaces, they exist somewhere with the people in them,'” she says.

“There was something in those pages and photographs that I can imagine myself. Apparently the photos were staged, and my nine-year-old mind didn’t know it, but often food was prepared over the counter, and I Imagine for a second you were transposed into the karmic driven world of Earl.

She found that different lifestyle – albeit in a completely different way than she had imagined, by looking at those library books.

“What if we sell everything?”

Oliver and his wife wanted more for their daughter.  Along the way, they found it.

Oliver and his wife wanted more for their daughter. Along the way, they found it.

Kate Oliver

In 2013, Oliver and Pras started talking about the future. They wanted something more for him and his four-year-old daughter, but they weren’t sure.

“For six months, we’ve been drinking tea every night, talking about what it means,” she says.

“We never really came to any conclusions, but one morning in January 2014, I stumbled upon some photos of the band on tour. Someone in the band had a baby and he was taking their baby on a tour.”

That was the light bulb moment.

“It simply came to our notice then. – And she said yes. “

That, as Oliver says, was it. The next morning, as the press went to work, Oliver went to work, planning a change in his lifestyle. Back in 2014, she said, “It wasn’t really normal – van life was nothing.” “We didn’t know what was coming,” she admits.

Grind to build a house

Some people live on the road forever, others park in their gardens.

Some people live on the road forever, others park in their gardens.

Kate Oliver

Because from the pictures on Instagram, it seems very exciting to turn Airstream into a neti home. In fact, Oliver says, it was difficult, not always pleasant, and a heavy duty.

“We hoped we’d get a really nice vintage airstream, and maybe paint it a little,” she says. Several months later, they found the one that seemed right for Bill – but then they took him home.

“Once we started the basic excavation, we said, ‘Oh my God, this is a very big project.'”

The rat was bitten by the electric, meaning the whole thing had to be re-wired. The interior also needed a lot of work.

“In a few months we’ll be moving the whole thing to the chassis and the shell,” says Oliver.

“You can stand with your feet on the ground but still in your trailer.”

‘Sweat, tears and curses’

Oliver's book Travels to the States meets people who have renovated their vans.

Oliver’s book Travels to the States meets people who have renovated their vans.

Kate Oliver

Oliver had no experience with renovations or building work, but Pryce did – his mother is an electrical engineer, and she learned from her “fix it” family. Shilpa’s love also meant that she was good with her hands, and had an eye on what works.

In his book, Oliver talks about the physicality of work – the hard manual labor that changed him physically. It was amazing what she enjoyed, she says: “Once I got into the stream I really enjoyed the physical labor, and I was amazed at how well our strengths and weaknesses played out. Where I didn’t have the strength. , And vice versa. “

Today, people looking at their finished products or looking at Oliver’s book “Sweat, Tears and Curses” will not see what she says goes into Van Rebuild – at least not because of all the levels of work.

“Usually a home building contractor has someone for electrical work, plumbing, drywall, custom cabinetry or custom furniture,” she says.

“We do it all.”

The same thing they don’t do now? Upholstery. “We will happily run power tools but we need professionals when it comes to sewing machines,” says Oliver.

Insidious start

Oliver and Press have renovated 12 airstreams, three of which were their own.

Oliver and Press have renovated 12 airstreams, three of which were their own.

Kate Oliver

It took a year to renovate the van they would name Lewis. During that time, they sold their home and moved into a van and built their home as they lived in it. Eighteen months later, they were on the road. They traveled all over the state in Louis, lying in bed in the desert and by the sea, living the dream of van life.

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When they were on the road they realized they could do business with innovation. The idea was simple: to travel to customers’ homes in their airstream, where they would work onsite, transforming old jalopes into sleek campers in Lewis-style.

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Nowadays, with the spread of the “One Life” movement, and companies providing transformation services everywhere, it will be difficult for you to make a name for yourself. But in 2017 it was easier.

“We were at the sweet spot where the travel lifestyle was starting, what many others weren’t doing, and Instagram was all about organic growth,” says Oliver.

They traveled across the states – by this time in their second renovated airstream, in June – driving to customers’ homes and driving their vans on site. Interestingly, most of her clients were women – joined but “her husband was with her,” says Oliver.

Wants safety

The book follows van residents, such as rock climbers Gabby and Brandon.

The book follows van residents, such as rock climbers Gabby and Brandon.

Kate Oliver

Still, not everything they expected was a dream come true. In her book, Oliver talks about experiencing abuse and homophobia at work. “Sometimes we want to think we’re more progressive and accepting than we really are,” she says.

In fact, it was a terrible experience that led him to abandon his business model of visiting customers.

Oliver says, “When we started, we wanted to combine our love of travel with business, and said we would not sign a contract for more than two years because we wanted to evaluate whether it was working or not.” , “Says Oliver.

“Before we got to that last job, we knew it wasn’t very sustainable – we were working crazy hours, homeschooling our daughter, working constantly. We weren’t exploring. That way we didn’t want to do things. “

At the same time, in early 2019, a friend told them about the new trailer for sale – the couple immediately said they wanted to buy it and wanted to do it themselves.

“We were going to start flipping the airstream: buying, renovating and then selling it – it felt more possible and safer,” says Oliver. They called their new vehicle the Hop. Eventually, as Oliver writes in the book, they sold her to a woman “as a way to live in peace and solitude and to go deeper into themselves, to park on her own land”. Their next airstream? Hawk, in which she wrote it.

Van life in the epidemic

Oliver says being a van is an opportunity to express your personality.

Oliver says being a van is an opportunity to express your personality.

Kate Oliver

Because, as they were starting this new chapter, Oliver was asked to write about Van Life. So they jumped on Hawk’s newly restored wheel and spent the following year in the US snapping photos of people living in the renovated airstreams. He was already talking about potentially settling in, his daughter was ready to start junior high school when the epidemic hit.

“Kovid really pushes our hands,” she says. “When the world closed we were back on the road. The campgrounds were closing, everyone was saying go home, but for the nomads, where would you go home?”

They parked in the back yard of Prasa’s parents’ house in Kansas and stayed there for a few months. Then they talked. They needed a studio to do their renovation work, they decided.

“Living in my in-laws’ back yard was not an option, so we said, ‘Well, it’s time to settle down,'” says Oliver. On June 4, 2020 – she immediately remembered the date – they moved back to a house in the Midwest.

After almost two years, they are working on their 12th vehicle.

Van-matched personality

Some keep their van on their property, as their full expression.

Some keep their van on their property, as their full expression.

Kate Oliver

For Oliver, the road is, obviously, life – and he wants to bring that life to the project he works on for others. So how do you fit someone’s essence into a camper van?

“I can’t design for someone if I don’t know who they are,” she says. “I really like to have intimate conversations – some are ready for it, some are not. We start with how they live now. It’s crucial – it’s important for customers who want to use it as a home to understand the way. They work, and pass through space, so that they do not feel that their movements are changing.

“I want to know what they do for a living, what their style of work is. Do they prefer to sit in bed, at the desk, do they need a separate workplace?”

Once they talk about needs and style, they move on to design. Touch the couple’s signature? Snow-capped Plexiglass doors separating living spaces and lots of walnut wood to bring in outsiders.

Oliver is a firm believer in the power of getting out on the road.

“When I first went out there, and I was so far from the Midwest, I could breathe in everything where I grew up and see myself for the first time,” she says.

“I could see who I was because I had the space and time to think about it. I think a lot of people think of it as escapism. Did find out. [want]. It distracts us a lot, and we lose ourselves really easily.

“I think people are going to find out who they are away from all this. I think we need to sit quietly.”

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