I’ve called lots of different places ‘home’ over my lifetime. Different states, apartments, college dorms, tiny houses, big houses, lofts, cities, small towns….and now a camper. It’s tiny, rent free, portable, and truly home.
When my boyfriend and I first made the decision to live full time in a camper, traveling and exploring the US, I didn’t anticipate the real attachment I would develop towards this tiny 9×13 cabin. His name is Skamper, we aren’t sure of his exact age (or gender for that matter), but we are often caught talking baby talk to him. Though he’s drafty, sometimes a little leaky, and very small, he’s got everything we need.
We purchased our vintage camper off Craigslist from a very nice guy who picked us some of his tomatoes off the vine to take home. Originally used as a hunting trailer, it was adorned with antler knob fixtures and posters of rifles on the walls. Unique, but not quite the look we were going for. And with two twin beds, it wasn’t exactly the ideal arrangement either. But the price was right, o we pulled it home and began to make it ours.
Customization is key as you begin to consider the transformation of your camper, van, or RV into a livable home. You must create a space that fits your needs, whether that’s living on the road full time or simply weekend getaways. Our first endeavor was to almost completely gut the inside, though we left most of the kitchen in tact. We then began building a full-sized bed frame and several shelving units for extra storage. We also added extra kitchen cabinets, a shoe rack, a solar panel, and some LED lighting. All of these additions have made transitioning to life of the road a little easier.
Weight-testing our newly built bed frame
Another important aspect to creating your perfect mobile home is adding a little individuality to the exterior. After finishing up the construction on the inside, we decided to paint a bold stripe around the perimeter of our camper. The paint color we picked was aptly named Fairy Queen Green, and we felt it captured Skamper’s personality perfectly. Other distinctive touches you could try are awnings, stickers decorating the back bumper, or commission a piece of artwork for the side.
I’ll admit, my boyfriend Mike did most of the actual construction, and a majority of the painting, with a little input and assistance from me. The part I was most looking forward to was turning it into a place I could see us living. Though storage and setup are very important, what makes the camper truly feel like a home are the unique aspects that make us smile, give us comfort, and remind us of home. The Navajo print curtains I crafted one rainy weekend, the adorable log cushions I sit on to eat my meals, the thick hand-woven blanket from Portugal that keeps our toes warm at night- these are all personal touches that make Skamper livable and comfortable.
It’s also vital to keep reminders of home visible—the charcoal drawing my brother did of our camper winding through Yosemite Valley, the evil eye from our good friends hanging by our bed protecting us from harm, the succulent my mom helped me pick out before we left. These pieces of our old lives make us a little homesick from time to time, but remind us of all the family and friends we have supporting us.
There are also tokens we’ve picked up along the way- our rock collection stacked in a Mason Jar, the vintage postcards we’ve collected from each National Park tacked above our bed, the feathered dream catcher hanging by our window. These treasures remind us of all the miraculous places we’ve been fortunate enough to explore together.Though we sometimes look with envy upon those airstreams decked out to the nines and RVs with actual living rooms equipped with satellite TVs, we don’t need any of those things. We just need a place to call home in between adventures.
Emily White is a writer, climber, hiker, and all-around adventurer living life out of a camper wherever the road may take her. Follow her journey on Instagram @emilyelizwhite.
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