Downsizing: From a Condo to a Van and now a Tent

Every time we tell someone that we will be doing a thru hike together, we tend to get a similar reaction. “WHAT?!” People are in awe of us living together, in a tent, for an extended period of time. However, our transition of moving into a tent might not be as abrupt as you think. Ryan and I have been living together for about one year and have continued to downsize with every step we have taken together in life.  Before meeting each other, Ryan lived on various ships as a deck officer and was well settled into the life of a semi-nomadic merchant mariner.  I could be considered a compulsive mover — hesitant to settle down in one spot for too long.  I have lived in Delaware, Maryland, Hawaii, Virginia, and California, moving about every two years, taking a new job with each move. We are both pretty used to picking up stakes and moving to the next spot, though we had limited experience doing it with another person.


Condo Living

When Ryan and I first started living together we were sharing a 450 square foot condo in San Diego, California. I had owned the condo for about one year before Ryan moved in and it was really only set up for one person to comfortably live in.  Little did we know, the COVID-19 pandemic would soon be pushing us indoors together into a tight little space for an extended period of time.  Many modifications to the condo had to happen for the two of us to live in the space comfortably — we built a bike rack in the kitchen to make space for our road bikes. We installed “built-in” clothing storage around the bed to make room for Ryan’s things in the bedroom. It quickly began to feel like OUR home as we crafted it to our needs.


Van Life

After deciding to embark on a 2021 AT thru-hike, we decided to sell my condo and move into Ryan’s 2015 Ford Transit Van which comes in at a generous 132 square feet. Ryan owned the van when I met him and had done a “quick and dirty” renovation of the van during his time in between ships as a mariner.  We knew that we had some work cut out for us to move into the van full-time.  Together, we decided our must-haves for van living: a toilet (my FAVORITE van addition!), storage for our clothes, somewhere to cook, somewhere to eat, somewhere to work, and heat for the winter months.

Piece by piece, we re-built the van together. We pared down our belongings, keeping the things that were most utilitarian and most important to us. We re-used or re-purposed as many things as possible– the covers on the cushions to our bench-seating are made from the fabric of my college duvet cover and our dark-stained counter top is from my dad’s old kitchen.


Thru Hiking

Starting in March 2021, we will be parking the van and moving into our backpacking shelter together, roughly 37.5 square feet. What we’ve learned most through our journey of downsizing is the importance of communication and patience. With so little physical personal space, we are forced to make space in our hearts and in our minds to be patient and to communicate how we are feeling to the other person. Maybe it will require us to hike ahead and find some space in nature before sharing our shelter at night. Maybe it will be an zero day in town. We know that there are tough days and nights that lie ahead. With patience and communication we hope to tackle them as gracefully as possible but most importantly, together.

I am looking forward to sharing what we’re bringing with us on our NOBO adventure in an upcoming post. So, stay tuned!

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Comments 6

  • JhonYermo : Jan 28th

    Oh great article. And y’all are doing such great things. Condo, Van, Tent. I have ENVY–but only in the nicest way. 400 sq feet is what I have and believe me. It is plenty. Thanks for your article. I will subscribe.

  • pearwood : Jan 29th

    Liv and Ryan,
    Sounds to me like you have the hard parts figured out, which is the part in your collective heads and hearts. Go for it!
    Steve / pearwood

  • John Sakowicz : Mar 16th

    So proud of you guys. Love — Dad

  • Shannon : Mar 17th

    It looks like loads of planning and the guts to make it real!!! I’ll be following !! Love you both

  • Cheryl : Mar 20th

    So excited for you both, loads of best wishes for clear skies and beautiful vistas

  • Judy : Mar 20th

    So very very happy you.two are embarking on this wonderfully exciting, grueling and satisfying adventure together…..what a great learning experience..
    Best Wishes for good sleeping, minimum blisters, ample clean water, friendly hikers & animals, and great views.


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