The following is the origin story of Orange Crush and its ongoing evolution
We were searching for vans - hard. Every night, scouring Craigslist in CO, OR, CA, FL, NYC and overland communities for a van/rig that fit our specs. Many crossed our radar, but nothing seemed right. The VW Syncro seemed to be the best - but everyone who owned one discussed the love/hate relationship and recommended something more reliable - and could we really live in it with 2 kids and a dog? I had a penchant for the 23+ year old Japanese Toyota Hi-Ace Diesel, but those were rare and required cross country travel or importation to purchase it. Our dream was stalled for months until, on a sleepy back road just 30 minutes away, Orange Crush caught my eye and prompted an immediate stop to my vehicle. I ran over to the house to inquire about the wildest van I had ever seen knowing full well it did not have any signal that it was for sale.
Upon my last knock, I was greeted by a high energy gentleman who responded excitedly to my interest in his van and I was immediately given the royal tour. Upon laying my fingers on the door handle, I knew that this was it. That my life was about to change. That this vehicle was our ticket to our new destiny. Matt showed me the systems, the sirens, the bed, the shades - oh the simpler German manufacturing on just the shades. So about 15 minutes into my tour, I found the space to make the ask, “So Matt” I said, “How much is it?” To my dismay it was absolutely not for sale and if it was it would be a lot of money. At this moment I knew that there was an opportunity - so I laid out my story in the aforementioned paragraph - that I was flying to Portland, OR that weekend to buy a Japanese Toyota Hi-ACE Diesel High Top to convert for the trip. What trip? Oh you know, the trip where we spend a couple years on the road with our beautiful young bi-lingual children getting lost between here and Argentina. Now Matt fell in love with this concept and while the conversation stayed high level and friendly - the gears went into motion on both sides.
Upon his agreement, Sofi and the kids went up the next day to confirm what I had seen was real and strategically nudge negotiation. Sofi reacted in the same way I did and we were 100% committed to realizing this dream. Matt spoke to his family and they agreed they would consider selling us the dream wagon under one condition - we could only make one offer as he didn’t want to sell it, nor haggle back and forth and lose our instant friendship. Now shit was real.
We drove up one last time to make a more thorough inspection, take it for a test drive and kick the tires before fully committing to a new life direction. As with all major decisions, we let our intuition guide us. The hours trickled by after we submitted our offer, but the response email arrived in our living room. Offer Accepted. And the inertia began to flow.
Making it work
We gave ourselves six weeks to close on the vehicle and immediately started making sacrifices and preparations. Our math was simple. Sell our second car. Sell the boat. Move into the van and rent the house on Airbnb for 5 weeks. This all was achieved and by the time we picked up Orange Crush, we knew we would have it paid off by the end of the summer. But balancing vanlife with a 9-5 and no day care for either child proved testing for us as parents and partners. We were constantly moving, sleeping in new spots most nights and putting a huge amount of stress onto ourselves.
Fortunately we were able to cash in on a paternity leave at the end of the summer and we spent a couple weeks actually vanlifing in Nova Scotia. By the end of this trip we felt absolutely sure that this was all going to work out for us. Upon our return, Colin left his job as a Producer for the Creative Agency, KINGSPØKE, and we began the full time transition into our next step - which has included launching Affuera Vida, strategizing Moment Exchange, hustling on one off jobs, fixing up our properties for rent, being full time parents, shooting weddings and pro-bono work while also trying to maintain relationships with friends and family - you know that thing called life. We worked incredibly hard the last years to purchase our own home along with a piece of investment property and this is what is allowing to gracefully move into this lifestyle while sustaining a bare bones income. It is by no means a salary, but it is something to keep the gas tank filled and food in our bellies. I share because I always am curious how families make it work - financially.
But, this transition is a commitment to engage in life in the way we seek. To illustrate to our kids that anything is possible. It’s about confronting fears - new fears re-discovered after parenting and proving to ourselves we are capable of overcoming them. This journey right now is our most important work and we are so honored to be sharing it. Check the video below to get a glimpse into our first film project with the van, a couple weeks into our transition; film directed by Jeremy Parmley.
Enough about us. You want to know what the hell this van is. Here are some stats:
1978 Mercedes Benz 508D kitted out as a “Mission Lead" vehicle for German Fire Forces.
Approx 16 MPG
Sirens (lights and horns) work
11 ft tall, 7 ft wide, 23 ft long
10,000 LBS unloaded
It came with two twin beds in the back and that was it. We installed a VW twin bench seat for our kids as a transition step. We also just hacked together a <$50 vanlife interior design for our first summer by just throwing in spare furniture, hanging a couple make shift shelves, a 5 gallon jug, a coleman stove, some choice closet organizers from Target and whatever camping equipment to round out the kitchen/outdoor living set up.
Currently we are in the process of building it out. We are on a tight budget and timeline, but solar power, running water and a propane stove remain our priorities. Stay tuned for more features as progress.