I had not seen my cousin in a long time, in fact, we had really only met a few times in our entire lives. Aaron grew up in Saipan, a tiny island in the south Pacific, and I grew up in Colorado, on a small farm. I had followed his journey as best I could. I knew he had been in the military and that he had left; I knew he was building a tiny home (Facebook told me), but that was about it. We caught up at a family wedding in 2016, and he showed me pictures of the tiny house he had built to live in. His craftsmanship and attention to detail was unlike anything I had ever seen. I was sincerely impressed.
Aaron felt a like a person in-between stages of life, neither here nor there. He loves the outdoors as much as I do, and so it made for an easy friendship. I invited him to Outdoor Retailer in SLC in January of 2017 and we walked the floor together and he got a sneak peek into the outdoor industry and all that it can offer. Sitting in a coffee shop that afternoon, we talked about his tiny house, his passions, and what he wanted to do.
It became obvious that he loves building things that have equal parts function and beauty. His penchant for disappearing into the wilderness for weeks at a time on backpacking trips confirmed the underlying wanderlust he has, and that so many of us crave. We went back and forth and forth with our own anecdotes on what the dream is, not just for ourselves but for anyone yearning to get out of the city or neighborhood and onto the next adventure. Enter, vans. Their ease of use and mobility made it an obvious transition from tiny home to adventure-mobiles.
Obviously much different that a stationary home, the basics of wood-working, electrical, and an eye for a beautiful and functional design still applied. We had a lot of details to work out, but that we were on the right track. I am a fan of rapid prototyping and gave him a proposal: I would buy a van, give him 30 days and a budget to make it awesome. If he could do that, I would start a van conversion company with him in Colorado.
Well, he did it. And we started The Vansmith.
Here are some images of the original van in all her glory. The prototyping and evolution has not and will not stop as long as there are people looking to travel and get outdoors. There is heavy consideration and testing in every single component and decision for what goes into these vans. We take them out ourselves and reiterate based on the newest technology and needs of fellow adventurers. Our dream van is now available to anyone who is looking to get to the next mountain, climb the next crag, cross the country or just live sustainably.