Nostalgia is one of the most powerful emotions – it can make you feel fully enwraped in a prior moment’s feelings. The echo of past laughter reverberates through your bones, the long-past sense of solace and serenity brings you peace in the present and that nostalgia blankets you.
This can all be brought on with the force of a car crash. You re-feel everything. Close your eyes and you’re there. That moment from years ago is resurrected.
A simple glance at the scars I earned on my thru hike brings back all my days on the Appalachian Trail. It fills me up, warms me and comforts me. At the end of my reverie, though, is a fall from that emotional high. It becomes apparent that all those emotions are past tense. The serenity, joy and peace suddenly leave a synthetic after taste. That momentarily blissful rollercoaster ride leaves me lusting after organic emotions. That nostalgia frees me and begs for me to search for the next earth-shattering personal experience and moment of connection.
With everyone saying that living out of your van is absolutely bonkers, I figured I’d put the worriers at ease by saying screw the Van Life. It was time to show that the tiniest can be the mightiest by converting my two-door VW Golf into a cozy apartment for one. Considering my ineptitude at carpentry, I’m not too sure why I thought this would be an elegant process. A nearly severed thumb and a few reconstructions later, the car is now a home. So, here’s a peek into how this all managed to happen in about a week. (Please disregard all of the awkward photos of me working on the car. And yes, I’m wearing basically the same outfit in every picture because I wore those clothes for a straight week. Judge me.)
Step One: Marie Kondo like it’s your job
Throw everything out. Take out the seats, the four year old receipts in your side pockets, the trunk foam and the memories. Bring the car down to square one. It’s a new leaf, and this new leaf has a zero tolerance policy for baggage.
Removing the seats was actually easier than I thought it’d be. I didn’t need a single tool until I had to unscrew a bolt that I could’ve sworn was welded onto the floor of the car.
Step Two: don’t slice off your thumb
Not even two minutes into making a cardboard cutout of my car, my blade got stuck. I ripped it out of the cardboard without realizing it would snap back and lodge into my fatty thumb tissue. What a classic start to any sort of Cat project if I’m being honest (please don’t ask me about the time I accidentally cut myself on a mayonnaise jar). I rallied, mummified my finger and trudged on. Creating the cardboard cutout was wildly helpful. Having a way to visualize the space is key in deciding how to work with what you have.
Step Three: measure, measure, cut and cry
The next step was to cut all of the plywood and 2x4s to size, which I didn’t assume would be as treacherous as it was. My car floor is as flat as an ocean wave, and my unenthusiastic attitude toward measuring things in general led to a lot of nervous procrastination. After finally cutting everything, I had to cut the plywood down to size again because I was five inches off. How was I five inches off? I’m going to blame my bum thumb for sabotaging my ability to properly process numbers. I may or may not have laid on the floor for a half an hour when I realized the mistake.
With things finally cut and ready, I made the wood 2×4 frame and slapped some piano hinges on the plywood. BOOM. We have some boxes with working cabinets.
Step Four: finesse, pack and primp
Here’s where you slap on the final touches: straps to open cabinets, tiny Target boxes I should’ve thrown away long ago to help organize and basic girl twinkle lights to make the whole thing a little more home-y. I honestly thought my backpacking gear wouldn’t fit considering I have two packs for work (a 36 L and a 70L) and a pack for personal backpacking (Waymark Gear Co. MILE 30 pack). I now have a set of heavy duty work gear and then attempting-to-be-UL gear. So, I did a happy dance that no one should ever see when everything fit like a glove.
If you think I should be sponsored by VW for showing the versatility of their tiny vehicles, please send them letters. You can also help by comforting my worried parents, letting me ship my Amazon orders to your house or telling me great places to park my car. Hit me up at @SeeBagsGo on Instagram to see all the excitement.
There’s a crazy range of what people believe is necessary on a backpacking trip. First, you have Jerry. You’ll see Jerry hiking with a 75L pack, sleeping bag dangling behind him and maybe a full-sized skillet. The second individual you may see is Carl. I once ran into a dude, now called Carl, on the Appalachian Trail doing a thru-hike. He had one of those drawstring bags you used to tote your middle school gym clothes around in. That was his entire pack. He was living out of that for 6 months straight. Carl was an animal, and also was not amused at how many questions I was asking him about his gear. I’d love to be that lightweight, but I currently have a base weight of 16 pounds which is a happy medium. Here’s a breakdown of what will get you through a backpacking trip:*
There you are. Staring at a picture of Alex Honnold completely smashing a route, with zero ropes of course, and you’re wishing you could rock climb yourself. It’s a feeling of desiring to do it, not knowing how to get into it and also not wanting people to think you’re an entirely incapable noob. What if you go to the climbing gym or hit up some outdoor routes and you suck? Isn’t that embarrassing? I know I’ve felt this way, but it’s time to slap yourself out of it and, thanks Nike, “just do it.” Here’s how: