The Nomadic Nester: Camper Vans and Caravans

I’m writing this post on a train running parallel – but counter-current – to the mighty Columbia. I’m on the Washington side of the river, watching Oregon rush by across the expanse of water. The palette changes as we head east – green treed hills giving way to yellow cliffs with their armies of stick insect-like windmills marching over the rise. It has been ages since I’ve traveled by train and I can’t help marveling at both the ingenuity and hubris of humans who would blow a hole to go through a mountain rather than find a way to climb over it.

Through the train window, from west (left) to east

Through the train window, from west (left) to east

My body is on this train and headed east, but my heart and head are longing for the red house in its little valley to the southwest. I’ve been so transient all of my adult life – setting up a pattern of moving almost every year, of constantly relocating and reinventing – that this feeling of being so tied to a home is unfamiliar, but not unwelcome.

My yearning for home has been somewhat assuaged by a couple of recent adventures – a week-long road trip around Washington and Oregon camping with a friend in her van, and a four-day backpacking excursion into the Wallowa mountains with another dear friend. Both were great experiences, and good reminders that no matter how much I love my house and the home we’re making there, I am also someone who revels in change.

Wallowa hike

Lake Basin in the Wallowa Mountains last week

So today, to help mitigate my fierce longing for my red house, and also to honor that strange juxtaposition of being a total nester and a total nomad, I’d like to share some mobile homes I’d like to call my own.

When Cameron and I started dating, he was living in a converted city bus parked in the woods on the edge of town.  He hadn’t changed the outside at all, so it was hilarious to drive down a dirt road and suddenly see a big silver bus with the Lane Transit District logo still on the side sitting in the middle of the forest.  The inside was lovely – he had put in wood floors and cabinets –  and I admit that his unique living situation was a real selling point in our early courtship (totally awkward outdoor sawdust-filled bucket/toilet behind a tarp notwithstanding).  The photo below is not from Cam’s actual bus (unfortunately there are only a couple pictures from that time and they’re still down in Eugene), but it’s similar in both feel and layout.

bus similar to Cameron's

This bus is similar to the one Cameron lived in when I met him. I found this image here

I loved the long rows of windows and how everything fit so neatly together.  I might have loved it even more if it had had the rough-hewn wood floors and brightly colored textiles which give this converted bus such a homey, comfortable feel.


Image found here


Image found here

One of my favorite things about campers is that they include most of the same amenities found in a house, but on a smaller scale.  There are some really ingenious space-saving ideas out there, like this table that pulls out from under the bed:

Image found here

Image found here

This little trailer is so bright and simple, and I adore the vintage curtains and colorful blankets:

Image found here

Image found here

This perfect bed set-up found over on Moon to Moon is so dreamy.  The size and heft of the boards make me think this might not be a particularly mobile home, but for the stained glass and cozy blanket I’m willing to make an exception.


This tiny house truck is both too much truck and too much house for what I’m dreaming of, but hoo-wee I love the style and craftsmanship.  Paint that siding red and we could have Red House West: the Mobile Edition.




This Dutch camper is also a little larger than I’d actually like to drive around (or pay the gas bill for), but it is certainly darling and well thought out:



Images found here

I couldn’t find any interior pics of this bio-fueled honey over on Mother Earth News, but the exterior is plenty amazing:


And finally, it might be a bit ornate, but if wishes were horses I’d harness my team of high-trotting steeds and pull this gypsy caravan cross country:

Via Elle Decor

Via Elle Decor

What about you – any fellow nomadic nesters out there?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments!  Hope your week has started off well –come back on Wednesday when Mera will be sharing a tour of a truly exquisite and artistic home!

5 responses on “The Nomadic Nester: Camper Vans and Caravans

  1. Pippin

    Those campers are lovely, but would love to see a pop-up camper decked out. That’s what my family used as our traveling home for many adventures. Our family would live out of it for a month at a time when camping along the west coast. There were many cozy rainy nights with all six of us (and a dog) playing yahzee! Comforting memories, and in awe of how my mom kept the camper in order with four kids! Now my husband and I use a simple tent to camp, but if the weather is clear we sleep under the stars. I always love coming home after camp trip to a hot shower and a comfortable bed!

    1. k80bennett

      I love pop up campers too! I spent the year after high school traveling the country with my friend in her ’78 blue VW pop up (that we called Jimmy). I searched for images, but – perhaps because they’re small and hard to photograph – I didn’t find any pictures that did them justice. I’ll keep hunting! Your memories of family trips are lovely – the cozy rain and board games sound just right. Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. Carol Crump Bryner

    These little houses on wheels prove that you can be nomadic and nesty all at the same time. (I think spell check wanted that word to be “nasty.”) All these interiors are so sweet and so tidy! We had friends come stay with us in Portland two summers ago. They parked their VW van in our driveway and plugged the refrigerator in through the living room window. There was a place for everything in that bus, and nothing that was not needed. It must free your mind up to travel that way. The closest I ever got to such a thing was our big red station wagon when I was in my teens. We spent much time riding in the “way back,” as they call it. Making faces and waving at passing cars. No seat belt restriction in those days. Another wonderful post!

  3. Susan Glassow

    As you know from family lore, your parents(27 and 29) traveled( for three months the summer of 1972) from the West via the Southwest and the South up the East Coast, across Canada, then down and back through Montana to Oregon in a 1959, built in Germany, pink and white VW Camper bus. It had maple cupboards and shelves and I chose paisley red fabric for the dining benches which along with the table folded down to make a double bed. We glued a patchwork of carpet squares to the floor.I have a memory of cheery red and yellow curtains at the pop open windows. We were both in graduate school and across the back we’d arranged a row of books books, held in place by a wooden slat designed to keep them from becoming missiles as we drove. What fun that time was…our little home, cozy with the rain on the metal roof, or on a clear night the skylight over the table/bed opening to the air and the stars.

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