That was me circa 1990 right after I graduated from the University of Colorado. My focus was to get "On the Road to Find Out" and decide if not what I wanted to do with my life when I grow up, where I wanted to settle down at least. Purchased a 1976 VW Westfalia pop-up with the idea that the window in my life I was currently in was a fleeting one and if I was ever to go on this wild adventure this was my one opportunity to do so. I had no immediate need to work, a few thousand in savings, two empty credit cards to get in serious financial trouble with, and plenty of time yet until I entered "the real world"... saddled by the monthly mortgage payment, meager paychecks that would leave me with more month than money, and all that comes along with a wife, children and raising a family.
My original plan was to leave Boulder and take a figure eight journey around the country, traveling as far North as Quebec, the French Gaspé, Turtle Island and Vancouver, and as far South as Key West, Pony Island and Baja California. I planned on following every inch of the US coastlines that I could, seeking out as many new adventures and experiences as possible. The estimated time table the trip would require was approximately 2 months to complete from start to finish, with many different family members and friends to stop in and visit along the way.
As one of my favorite quotes from John Lennon goes - "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."
A year and a half later I pulled in to my mother's driveway, marking the end of my little travel adventure. I was hooked on this new lifestyle I experienced and really didn't want it to ever end.
Begrudgingly, I settled in to my first salaried work position and slowly got numbed in to submission by the daily grind. My focus was chasing the false idols society told me I needed to attain in order to realize great happiness and joy: working towards owning my own house; acquiring and maintaining multiple cars; scraping together nickles to take that hard earned annual family vacation. I found myself working harder and sacrificing more and more of my time each day trying to generate additional income to keep up with my ever expanding list of "wants", consumed by work and career and putting that ahead of all else in my life. But at a core level I was empty. Never able to forget my care free days wandering aimlessly around the country, how I had relatively nothing yet was always so happy. Secretly I yearned to return to that way of life again someday, somehow.
Turn the clock forward 23 years. My ex-wife relocates from Connecticut where I currently reside to Nebraska (and since to Colorado), taking with her our two amazing children. Tough going from a part time father of both of the kids to a full time father of my son and not being able to see my daughter to both children now living thousands of miles away from me. It has left me with a sadness which is deep and unending. Both in high school, the only thing I was considering up to this point was providing a nice stable home, enjoying my time with and being available for the kids until they got their diplomas and set out on their own life paths, my youngest finishing up in May 2017. But major life change came unexpectedly and swiftly.
Wandering around my 2500sq ft house alone I realize more and more everyday how much I could shed about 2400sq ft of it and the quality of my life wouldn't be impacted one bit, the wheels started spinning in my head. I was finally looking at a clean slate and could create the life style I had been dreaming about returning to for the last 20 years. I began to put my plan in to action: Step 1 - Dismantle the empire, sell everything and head West.
My home is now on the market and as I await a buyer I have begun to spin the possible futures. They consistently come back to my care free travels around the country in my VW "Ralfalia" (my birth name is Ralph). Undoubtedly, the most wonderful chapter in my own personal story up to this point.
So with this newest chapter of my life fast approaching, I've begun to plan out what my ideal living situation would look like. After climbing the corporate ladder and being fairly successful at it, being able to accumulate endless things I was certain I "had to have" only to discover I almost never got the use or enjoyment out of any of them that I originally envisioned or that the joy quotient for having these things was completely outweighed by the accompanying burdens realized with ownership - as I age I've come to the conclusion less is more.
For me the valuable things in life are the intangibles - the laugh of a young child, the sweetness of an heirloom tomato at the height of the growing season, visiting a new place on the globe which I believed I knew all about only to discover it was far beyond what I had originally envisioned once I got there. For me the only things that truly matter anymore and of any real value are: interactions with my fellow man (and women of course!) making as many new friends as possible along the way and continuing to build on those I already have in place; wonderful culinary experiences; and travel. I also firmly believe if you aren't happy with your existence and current reality at a core level it's up to you and only you to change things around to make sure that you are. We are all 100% responsible for EVERYTHING which happens in our lives and never forget, this is a very short ride we're on - not a moment to waste to put everything possible in to motion to make your wildest dreams come true.
Luckily the only requirements of my "day job" are Internet connectivity and cell reception. With those two things I can do my work virtually from anywhere on the globe and it's been 15 years since I've had a need to commute daily in to an office. I travel quite often to meet with both prospects and clients alike, solely responsible for determining where I'd like to go and when I want to go there, and my travel expenses are always 100% paid in full by my employer. And most importantly, as long as I'm making my numbers, I really don't hear from anyone. Basically I can work from anywhere, structure my day how ever I want to, travel where ever I'd like to when ever I want to, and all travel and entertainment costs are fully subsidized.
My experience has shown that a home should never be looked at as an investment but rather a monthly expenditure, the window of opportunity for a huge potential windfall for selling a residential property (in Connecticut at least) is a thing of the past. So I have determined for the immediate future I will rent a 2 bedroom dwelling in Ft Collins so my home base is close to my kids, it's time to let someone else deal with the endless headaches associated with keeping a property fully operational. Eliminating a sizable re-occurring mortgage payment in and of itself will save me an untold amount of stress, not to mention several thousand dollars a month in terms of what I am paying to maintain my large home now and what it will cost me to rent a small place in Colorado. And instead of dealing with the endless issues associated with home ownership which I currently wrestle with daily, I want the toughest decision moving forward to be on the magnitude of - Sneakers or flip-flops?
I began to spin out the possibilities of customizing a 19' cargo van or even a common mini-van like the Caravan or an AWD Toyota Sienna. My requirements were to have a vehicle that I could comfortably work from where ever I was, with a 32" monitor and WiFi reception even in the most remote locations, complete with a full sized bed to sleep and galley area to prepare food, but that what ever I ended up using for my outer shell could pull in to the parking lot at the local mall and blend in virtually unnoticed with the other cars. The idea was to be able to take off from my driveway and in a few short hours to pull up alongside the Pacific Coast Highway and be completely self-sufficient, calling it home for a week... or two... or three.
Many hours of research on the Internet were expended, parsing though image searches for "van conversions" and "camper vans", "sportsmobile" and "cool mobile living spaces". I took bits and pieces from different vehicles, collecting various ingenious ways to maximize space and multitask items like a futon couch that could turn in to a chase lounger that could turn in to a pantry eating area that could turn in to a bed. And always with the understanding my goal was to create a comfortable mobile office that was small enough and non-descript so that although it would have everything I now do in my home/ office, I would be able to pull in to a parking lot and no one would ever discern me from a normal daily driver - stealth camping.
This research uncovered web sites which showed totally tricked out Mazda Bongos and Ford Fredas as well as other US and UK-based companies which are doing incredible things to vans.
...which led me to finding a very cool Class B specialty vehicle which was made in Detroit from 1987-1989 that I immediately fell in love with. It's called the "BMW" Vixen and full disclosure: although I am trying to pare my life down to a suitcase and a hockey bag, removing logos and labels and the need for endless consumption from my world, I have always had a weak spot for all things BMW.
When I saw the Vixen it was absolute love at first site. One of those rare moments in life when from the second your brain processes what your eyes are seeing you feel strangely connected, with an accompanying feeling in your gut that you're meant to be together and it's meant to be yours. An RV that gets 30 mpg, could fit in to a normal garage space for storage, had a really cool pop-top option (1987 turbo diesel model) which reminded me of my Ralfalia, and of course, ties to BMW. I was hooked.
Slowly... I started to shift my sights from a van conversion to envisioning a much more comfortable living space I could create in a the larger 22' Vixen motor home. And even though it was a bit bigger, the Vixen was still manageable enough of a size that it was purportedly easy to maneuver around in traffic and could be parked in a typical 19' parking spot. What troubled me the most though and something I just couldn't raionalize was the age of the vehicle. Closing in on 30 years, even a low mileage one would still have issues with things like all of the rubber components deteriorating and needing replacement which brought up a more challenging issue to consider - parts for such a small production vehicle would be hard to come by. If I smashed the front windshield driving through rural Wyoming I could be stuck for days trying to locate a replacement before I could push forward.
But every step in the right direction is inevitably rewarded with the uncovering of more and more options. The continued research on the Vixen then opened the doors to other 22' RVs for consideration which led to my introduction to the VW Rialta. Further Google searches led me to Tynan's remodeled and completely tricked out 1996 Rialta which he has posted a walk through tour of up on YouTube.
After seeing that video I was sold. My vehicle of choice for my new mobile office would be a VW Rialta which is a bit larger than what I originally had envisioned but not even close to the size of a traditional RV. The additional space and amenities like a full bath and working stand-up kitchen completely negated the challenges the added size had raised initially.
Still in the research stage and yet to pull the trigger and purchase my Rialta, at this writing I'm definitely leaning heavily in that direction. My plans for remodeling are one part Tynan one part space shuttle and one part Matryoshka (Russian nesting doll).
Originally I was thinking about the 22 FD model (like Tynan has) but now am convinced the 22QD would suit my needs even better and definitely want a 2002 model or later with the 201hp engine as the earlier options were only 140hp and a bit underpowered when navigating mountain passes. The interior will be completely redone, removing all of the furniture provided by the factory and putting an oversize chair with ottoman in the forward compartment behind the driver's seat for chilling out and reading, and building a Star Trek-like flight deck office with an expansive desk area and wall-to-wall monitors in the back that also doubles as the sleeping quarters with a full sized bed that lowers from and rises back in to the ceiling for storage when not in use.
Example of a retractable bed down in the sleeping position
In this picture the bed is put away and tucks in to the ceiling
The next chapter of my life is close upon me now and I'm feeling very blessed to have stumbled upon this new community of like minded travel adventurers and minimalists at tynan.com. Every day my vision of my new life style gets clearer and clearer, and all the pieces to make it a reality seemingly all falling in to place. I'll continue to post and provide updates on what vehicle I do end up purchasing and share all of the modifications I make to my new mobile virtual office as things progress. I'm sure I will be reaching out to you fellow Rialta owners who are a bit further along this path than I am, but trust me, I'm not far behind.