Van Life: Meet the woman who turned Airstreams into homes.

(CNN) – Being able to wake up to a different place every day, live and work in one of the world’s most beloved places, and feel free – it’s no wonder so many people dream of living in the road.

Not only did Kate Oliver become involved in van life – but she changed careers. Together with his wife, Ellen Prasse, Oliver founded The Modern Caravan, a company that took them around the United States as they repaired old Airstream caravans – a business built on the back of their design. beauty of their first Airstream, Louise.
Oliver has now published a book, “The Modern Caravan” – a reflection on the life of the van, which shows people returning their own cars, looking at their living and new advice. But it’s a guide to the beauty of Oliver and Prasse, and how to accomplish that kind of DIY. Because, they say, everyone wants a freeway – even if we don’t know why.

To dream of another life

Oliver says we all want the open road.

Oliver says we all want the open road.

Kate Oliver

Growing up in the Midwest, Oliver felt out of place. “I never felt like I was good, and I didn’t have an easy childhood,” he said. But he came back to his senses, calling the local library a “escape.”

“In the beginning it was just a story, and one day I wandered around and found home design books and interior design books, and I thought,‘ Oh my god, those are real places, they’re somewhere. with the people in them, ”he said.

“There’s something in those pages and pictures that I can imagine for myself. Obviously, the pictures are arranged, and I don’t know nine -year -olds, but there’s often food somewhere. I think I want that kind of life, full of groups. “

He had that kind of life – albeit in a different way than he had imagined, from looking at those libraries.

‘What if we buy everything?’

Oliver and his wife loved their daughter.  Along the way, they find it.

Oliver and his wife loved their daughter. Along the way, they find it.

Kate Oliver

In 2013, Oliver and Prasse started talking about the future. They wanted something more for themselves and their four -year -old daughter, but were not sure what it was.

“For six months, we sat down every night drinking tea, talking about what it was like,” he said.

“We never made it to the end, but one morning in January 2014, I dropped some pictures of a group on tour.

It was a time of light bulbs.

“Yeah – I thought, I know we don’t have a car but that’s what we need to do. I wrote to my wife at work, and I said, what if we sell everything , bought a car and went – and he said, “Yes.”

Well, as Oliver said, that’s it. The next morning, when Prasse went to work, Oliver started working, planning for them to change their lifestyle. In 2014, he said, “it’s not normal – van life doesn’t matter.” He agreed, “We do not know what is to come.”

Spinning to build houses

Some people always live on the street, and others are stuck in their garden.

Some people always live on the street, and others are stuck in their garden.

Kate Oliver

Because, from the photos on Instagram, turning an Airstream into a natty house would look pretty cool. In fact, Oliver says, it’s hard, not always fun, and hard work.

“We hope we can get a really good Airstream, or hit it off,” he said. After a few months, they find one that fits the bill – but they take it home.

“When we started digging, we said, ‘Oh my god, this is a better project.'”

The rats were bitten by the lightning, which meant everything had to be reassembled. It takes a lot of work inside.

“Within a few months we had taken everything down to the chassis and trunk,” Oliver said.

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

‘Sweat, tears and’ evil ‘

Oliver’s book travels to America, meeting people who have redesigned their own cars.

Oliver’s book travels to America, meeting people who have redesigned their own cars.

Kate Oliver

Oliver had no knowledge of rebuilding or construction, but Prasse – his mother – was an electrician, and he learned from his “repair” family. The love of photography meant that he was good with his hands and had an eye for work.

In his book, Oliver talks about the body of work – the hard work that transforms them into bodies. Her excitement was amazing, she said: “When I entered the stream I was so excited about the physical activity, and I was amazed at how well our strengths and weaknesses played out with each other. . work, and likewise. “

Today, people don’t see their finished product or the publication of Oliver’s book in the “anger, tears and insults” he says to go to a work car. again – not the least of which is due to the general procedures.

“It’s usually the builder who comes in to do the electrical work, the plumbing, the drywall, the traditional laundry, or the traditional appliances,” he said.

“We’re doing everything.”

The only thing they don’t do anymore? The upholstery. “We’re happy to use power tools but when it comes to the sewing machine we’re really into businesses,” Oliver said.

It was a difficult start

Oliver and Prasse re -edited 12 Airstreams, three of which were on their own.

Oliver and Prasse re -edited 12 Airstreams, three of which were on their own.

Kate Oliver

One year later the car was repaired to Louise’s favor. At that time, they sold their house and moved into the car, making their home while they lived in it. Eighteen months later, they are on the road. They traveled to the United States with Louise, sleeping in the desert and by the ocean, living the dream of van life.

While they were on the road they knew they could do a business without having to rework. The idea is simple: travel on their Airstream to customers ’homes, where they work online, working on transforming Louise’s style of old jalopies into campsites.

Nowadays, with the proliferation of the “van life” movement, and companies offering conversion services everywhere, it’s hard to make a name for yourself. But in 2017 it was easy.

“We’re in a cool place where tourism goes, not a lot of other people are doing what we’re doing, and Instagram is all about natural growth,” Oliver said.

They toured around the United States – now on their second redesigned Airstream, June – driving to customers ’homes and building their cars on site. Thankfully, most of their customers are women – combined but “with their husband to go with it,” Oliver says.

Seeking safety

The book engages van occupants, such as rockclimbers Gabi and Brandon.

The book engages van occupants, such as rockclimbers Gabi and Brandon.

Kate Oliver

But it was not the dream they had in mind. In his book, Oliver talks about perceiving misogyny and homophobia at work. “Sometimes we like to think we’re more successful and accepting than we really are,” he said.

In fact, it was a horrible experience that decided to quit their business to visit customers somewhere.

“When we started, we wanted to wrap our love of travel with business, and we said we wouldn’t take deals for more than two years because we wanted to evaluate if it was a job. or not, ”Oliver said.

“We knew before we went to that last job that it wasn’t very stable – we were working crazy hours, educating our daughter, working all the time. We weren’t looking. This wasn’t the way we were going. want to do things. “

About the same time, in early 2019, a friend told them about a new movie theater for sale – the man immediately said they wanted to buy, and make their own. .

“We’re starting to turn Airstreams around: buy, redesign and sell them – they’re more efficient and safer,” Oliver said. Their new car was called Hope. In the end, they sold him to a woman “to smoke in his own land, as a way to live in peace and solitude and grow deep within him,” according to Oliver in write in the book. Their next Airstream? Hawk, where he wrote.

Van survives a terminal illness

Having a car is a great opportunity to show your character, Oliver says.

Having a car is a great opportunity to show your character, Oliver says.

Kate Oliver

Because, as they begin this new chapter, Oliver is asked to write about van life. So they jumped back on the Hawk’s new wheel and spent next year in the U.S., picking up residents on the redesigned Airstreams. They first talked about living with their daughter, who was ready to start high school, when she became ill.

“Covid really demanded our hand,” he said. “We were back on the road when the world was closed. The camps were closed, everyone said go home, but for the nomads, where are you going back?”

They were held in the backyard of Prasse’s parents ’home in Kansas, and lived there for several months. Then they talked. The department needs to carry out their regulatory work, they decided.

“Living in my fathers’ backyard was not an option, so we said, Yes, it’s time to live, ”Oliver said. On June 4, 2020 – he quickly recalls the day – they moved into a house, back in the Midwest.

In almost two years, they are building their 12th car.

Compare the style with the van

Some keep their cars at their property, in order to fully express themselves.

Some keep their cars at their property, in order to fully express themselves.

Kate Oliver

For Oliver, the path is life – and he wants to bring that life into the projects they do for others. So how do you match the character of someone in a camper?

“I can’t plan for anyone if I don’t know who they are,” he said. “I want to talk directly – there’s one for that, not another. We start with the way they live now., And move to a wider area, so they don’t think their movement is going to move.

“I want to know what they do for work, what kind of work they do. They want to sit on a bed, at a table, do they need a space to work?”

When they talk about needs and style, they move on to design. Does the man’s finger touch it? Frosted Plexiglass doors separate the living spaces, and plenty of walnut wood to bring out.

Oliver had a strong belief in the power of walking the streets.

“When I went there for the first time, and I was so far away from the Midwest, everything I fed, I could breathe and see myself for the first time,” he said.

“I was able to see my character because I had the time and the opportunity to think. [want]. There are so many distractions for us, and we lose ourselves with ease.

“I think people are going to see who they are apart from all that. I think we need to live that calm.”

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