Scott Adamson makes us want to build out a sprinter van and hit the open road with our coffee accoutrements in tow. That said, he’s also quick to caution that the journey from wanderlust daydream to full-on van life is difficult and unpredictable, and part of the reason he co-created The Wanderful. It’s through this project that he seeks to help guide others to live more simply, and stress-free, and literally, guide them on the how-to’s of van builds. We talked with Scott about how he went from a “more traditional” lifestyle, to one in which he, and his faithful pup Ellie, travel the west coast chasing adventure, and crafting cups of delicious coffee along the way.
How and when did your van adventure begin, and what were you doing before you started this travel/living experience?
For me the van thing started about four years ago. I was living what I call the more traditional lifestyle, and something about it just left me feeling like I needed a change. I had been grinding away on a past business, and even though the business was doing well my personal life and mental health were sacrificing. Myself and a few friends started a software company, so before being able to live out of the van, I had to find a way to transition my roles and responsibilities to something that I could manage and maintain from the road. That was probably one of the biggest challenges I had to face.
I initially came across the Vanlife community when I saw a Kickstarter Campaign for a Vanlife coffee table book created by Foster Huntington, and the more that I looked into the lifestyle, the more and more I became fascinated with it. The entire thing began with me just telling a few people about my idea to sell everything and live in and van and the more people I told the more it began to start to feel like a reality. So fast forward two years, and it marked the first date of my venturing out in the van.
Vanlife for me has meant a lot of different things over the past four years. I have really tried to not let the van define who I am, but look at it as more of a tool that allows me to do the things that I really enjoy, which are surfing, snowboarding, and mountain biking.
What kind of van do you live in, and how have you transformed it from a “car” to your home?
My van is a 2016 Mercedes Sprinter Van that I converted myself over the course of five months with the help of my Dad. When I first got the van, it was an empty cargo-style van, so everything you see behind the drivers and passenger seats was installed as part of the DIY Van Build. It was a really fun project, and seeing it all come together was a very rewarding project, and something I tried to enjoy as much as the lifestyle it was going to enable me to live.
I think a lot of people put their focus on the outcome or the end goal, and unfortunately don’t find a way to enjoy the process of reaching that goal, which can ultimately cause them to lose motivation.
So, when I designed my van, because at the time I was still working (have since sold the software business), I really needed to design a space that allowed me to work comfortably, and be productive. I put a lot of emphasis on designing a space that fit those requirements.
Where have you traveled to in your van, and what are some of the most memorable experiences that stand out to you?
I tend to stay on the West Coast just because of the activities I enjoy, but this past year we did a trip from Baja all the way through Alaska, and to the northernmost point in Canada you can access by road, which was a pretty special trip over the course of two and a bit months with some amazing friends.
What is it like sharing a van with your dog, Ellie?
I don’t know any different, ha, so….it's good. She's my best friend, and we do everything together, so I couldn't imagine life without her. In fact, I’ve got her tattooed on my arm.
Can you tell us more about how The Wanderful came to be? Did this grow out of your own Sprinter Van build out/living experience, or were you already helping others build out vans before moving into your own?
So, The Wanderful, is still evolving, but our plan for the brand is to become an online destination for people interested in this lifestyle. We originally launched a guide that teaches people how to build their own van, as I had documented my entire process and from there it just evolved. We are soon to be launching the blog content portion of the site, which features various writers from the outdoor van life community. The blog will have regularly updated content, and we have also begun the process of having some physical products manufactured for the van community. So, it's hard to say where this brand and company will go, but we will always be focused around the outdoor community.
What about The Wanderful Team? Who makes up your team, and how did you all come together?
We have a team of five right now if you count Ellie… ha. We have a few writers; Travis Wild, and a few others that do more one off pieces. Then, myself, one of my best friends Gareth, and Vanessa.
As the business grows, we really want to focus on employing more people in the nomadic community as writers,community managers, and brand ambassadors, as one the biggest struggles for people looking to take on this lifestyle is finding a way to sustain it financially.
What should someone who is interested in building out a van be prepared for? Tell us about the ups and downs of your own experience!
Haha, like anything in life, it's full of ups and downs. I think most people really underestimate the amount of work that building out a van is going to be. Whenever I hear someone give a timeline I usually need to tell them to double it.
My biggest advice would be try to not give yourself a hard deadline, stuff like a move out date, end of the rental term etc…because you are going to miss that date and stress yourself out.
We have to know…how do you maintain your coffee routine in your van? What is your favorite way to brew?
I didn't start drinking coffee till I was probably 27 or so…I tried in University, but just hated the taste. I'm not sure why I decided to give it a try again, and things were quite a bit different the second time around. I always say people that don’t like coffee are just quitters...ha!
One thing over the last six years of drinking coffee is that I enjoy the overall experience of coffee. I enjoy the people, visiting new coffee shops. I enjoy grinding the beans, the smell, boiling the water, the time it takes, just everything about it. Because of this, I have become a bit of coffee snob, so I really do enjoy a good cup of coffee, and part of that is because I don't need the caffeine to get going in the morning. My first cup usually isn't till after 10, so if I'm going to drink it, I'm going to make sure it's good.
In the van, the easiest way to make a single cup of decent coffee I've found to be the Aeropress, but over the last year I've been getting more and more into pour-over, and its become the clear winner.
What have some of your most memorable coffee experiences been when traveling in your van? How often do you stop for fresh beans?
I try and grab beans every time I get to a new place, or cool coffee shop, so it really depends. But I'd say, the average is about once a month.
I’ve had my coffee in some pretty amazing places. Sometimes, I bring my Jet Boil with me just so I can make a cup at the top of a mountain while hiking or splitboard, or down on the beach by the ocean. But I think the biggest thing is just all the miles I have logged on the open road with my coffee mug sitting on the dash, whether the coffee is fresh, or two hours cold, it's always sitting there, and just brings back so many memories of the places and lifestyle I have been able to live over the last four years.