Wow, a lot has changed in the past few months. Sabrina is diving into her acting career and working to become a full-time working actress! We’re now in the southeast region of the US, since Atlanta is where just about every film and TV show is sho. Our travels have slowed down and become more intentional.

When we designed the Jeep, we designed it to travel to a new place every single day. We didn’t design it to be super comfortable, convenient or really easy to work in. Theres just not enough room for all that… Up to now, if we want to work, we find a coffee shop. If we want to eat, we find a restaurant, sleep, we find a national forest, shower, we find an Anytime Fitness. We designed the Jeep to ‘go anywhere’, and had done so phenomenally well, but we didn’t design it for extended stays and city living.

We LOVE our Ursa Minor, but it’s not the most stealthy when trying to sleep in/around a city!

Acting

Sabrina’s starting her career as a full-time professional working actress and we are both really excited. Acting, as an industry, is split between three primary cities; Los Angeles, New York, and Atlanta. As she starts her career, we’ve decided its best to start in Atlanta, the environment is a bit more friendly to new actors. As her career grows, we can then follow opportunities to LA and NY as needed.

Professional acting is essentially like becoming a freelancer. You offer your services (acting) up to a client (director/producer) and get paid for your time and the job. There is no guarantee pay, specified office, or rules. Similarly, acting is very competitive. There are a LOT of actors, but not a lot of jobs. You have to be flexible, professional and very intentional with your career. Building a community is crucially important, as is standing out in your own unique way.

Renting in Atlanta

We do not plan on being in a city for more than a couple of months/year. Because of this, purchasing a house doesn’t make sense. Renting an apartment in Atlanta isn’t super cheap, although it’s a lot cheaper than LA and NY, we estimate about $1500 to rent a one bedroom apartment. When you rent, its generally on a 12 month contract. You are contractually booked in for all 12 months. If you want to move, you have to pay a LOT of money to get out of your contract (often 1/2 to the full amount of the remaining months). This is the opposite of ‘being flexible’.

We’re planning on this new ‘lifestyle’ to be the same for about 5 years. Planning out beyond 5 years introduces too much uncertainty, so we will assume a similar lifestyle for ~5 years.

Renting for 5 years at $1,500 a month = $90,000. So, if we know we are not purchasing a house for 5 years, then the expected loss of money just to provide a roof over our heads is 90k. That 90k purchases you the ability to be in 5+ cities in 5 or more different apartments, but does’t actually purchase the ownership of anything.

The point is… RENTING IS EXPENSIVE

How do you have a semi-mobile lifestyle without throwing your money away on rent?

Isn’t that pretty? I just thought a nice photo would break up this post! 🙂

An Alternative

Sabrina and I have been rent free since July of 2017. We’ve lived out of the Jeep for a little more than 1/2 of that time, and spent some time with family as we were building the Jeep. The Jeep worked great as we were traveling North America as digital nomads, but now that we’re wanting to become more regional and slow down the day to day traveling, we need a different solution.

The initial obvious answer is to purchase an RV and sell it back at the end of the 5 years. But this only half fixes the issue. Living out of an RV is still expensive. Class A & C Motorhomes are cumbersome and generally made with cheap materials. 5th Wheels are massive and require a huge truck to tow. Popup trailers generally don’t have a bathroom, and would setting up each night, making them not any better than the Jeep.


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Van Life

Our current solution, and best idea we’ve found, is to purchase and build out our own Sprinter Van! A quick google search will result in hundreds of fully customized and homebuilt sprinter vans. Coming from the Jeep we love this idea!

Some benefits of the Sprinter Vans are:

  1. Stealthy: We can build the sprinter van look exactly like a utility vehicle, preventing us from standing out in a busy city.
  2. Huge Payload Limit: With a max vehicle weight of 12k lbs and 6k lbs payload capacity, we can put anything we need in there!
  3. Customizable: The sky is the limit… There are dozens of companies that make parts and modifications for the sprinter vans.
  4. Towing: The towing capacity of the Sprinter is 7,500 lbs, which means… we can tow the jeep with us when we want!
  5. Tiny House: We will be able to have all the amenities of a tiny house. From a full size bed, kitchen, table and even hot shower!

On the other hand, there are still some issues with this idea…

  1. Cost: Sprinters are expensive, and building a home inside one is going to cost a fair amount upfront.
  2. Production Delay: A new 2019 Sprinter from Mercedes Benz is 5+ months out from order to delivery.
  3. Labor: Converting a Sprinter is no joke… its complicated, and takes a lot of labor. Its complicated enough that there are entire books written about the process!

With all that being said, we think the sprinter van gives us the most comfortable, flexible solution for us. We’ve gone to several RV dealerships and haven’t found anything that would be anywhere close to fitting our needs.

Our Ideal Sprinter

We’ve already started our research on layouts, vehicles, options, etc. For us, we want our sprinter to solve a few, narrow issues. We don’t need it to off-roading, or be a ‘go anywhere’ van, thats what we have our jeep for! Rather, we want a stealthy, comfortable, go-anywhere home and basecamp. We want a large tow amount incase our needs change and we want to get some extra room, or we want to tow the jeep with us across the country.

The primary upgrades from the Jeep we are looking for are; a dedicated indoor shower, kitchen, work area and bed while being able to keep a low-profile and not draw attention (the jeep get enough for both vehicles!). We’re looking at the 2019 170″ 4500 Cargo Van with the 6-Cylinder Diesel Engine, which fits these needs perfectly!

We’ve already started planning! Here we taped down a layout to get a feel for it. Bed in back, kitchen to the left, storage and bathroom to the right.

Moving Forward

We plan on keeping the jeep! One of the main reasons we’re going with the sprinter van over the Ford Transit (which is another great van option), is the 7,500 lbs of towing capacity the sprinter can output. We’re still YouMeAndTheJeep, just now, we will be starting the journey to live out of a Sprinter van and keeping the jeep!

I’m excited because its a new opportunity to learn, design and build! I wish I had documented the Jeep build more and I wont be making that mistake again for the Sprinter.

Do you have any other ideas?! Know anyone thats converted a van, or have any tips for me moving forward? Leave us a comment below!