For Ryder England, high rent wasn’t going to keep him out of the sleepy, surf-centric town of Cardiff-by-the-sea in North County San Diego. After a three-month bikepacking trip down the Yucatán Peninsula with a friend, shooting a short film along the way, England returned with a notebook full of stories, ideas, and — like many travelers often do — a rather thin wallet. Rent, especially along the coast, has a way of rising exponentially by the day. It prompted Ryder to think of more creative ways to live and sustain himself in sunny Southern California.
England’s connection to vanlife is an unconventional one – his intentions were not to use the home as a means to travel and sleep on-the-go, but to live affordably in a place that he loved. An avid surfer and aspiring filmmaker, the immediate Cardiff area and its inhabitants provided a key source of inspiration. When paying rent was no longer an option, he turned to his prior experience building out a van while living in the Lake Tahoe region.
England’s skills as a carpenter, craftsman, and mechanic complemented his creative drive and imagination, enabling him to turn some plywood and cork board into a home of his own. Often referred to as a “jack of all trades,” he quickly took to turning his old 1982 Toyota Chinook pickup truck into what would become his custom-built, tiny-home-on-wheels.
First, England needed to construct his home to fit his 6-foot-1-inch frame and allow him to comfortably stand. The resulting abode seems oversized relative to the ol’ Chinook, precariously placed yet geometrically unique. And, yes, it drives on the highway accompanied by a slight sway. The added decor — from the flower boxes beneath the windows to the mailbox by the Dutch door — only help capture the attention of neighboring cars. A bystander’s window roll-down to snap a photo is normal; England’s become well accustomed to the attention.
A small truck bearing an impressive amount of weight, he fondly thinks of it as “the little truck that could.” The home reflects England as a colorful palette of various interests, styles and quirks. The interior is adorned with mementos from his travels: drinking vessels from pueblos in Mexico, old records, tattered (but still functional) suitcases, vintage mirrors and guitars. For many, the items would serve little purpose, but for England they define a unique character and showcase his many burgeoning pursuits and skills.
But don’t get the Chinook wrong. The build itself is packed with intention. Every item has its place and every aspect of the layout has a purpose. For instance, the cabinet above his window holds roughly 20 hats, a staple to his daily attire. His telescope, used on numerous trips as a more fantastical yet functional alternative to binoculars, sits perched upon his window. His tattered suitcases nest perfectly under the table, which store clothing and a few leftover trinkets intended to one day be repurposed.
In fact, many of the materials used in his build-out are repurposed, often old artifacts given a second chance at life. A 1980s aluminum cooler England found a few years back, he cut, welded and sealed to become his kitchen sink. The walls (cork tile) and most of the electrical components were taken from previous construction jobs, and the astroturf floors were leftover from the previous truck topper.
The setup is not perfect. Getting from Point A to Point B without its fair share of road cries is not uncommon. But to England, it’s his home. It is exactly the way he wants it to be, so it enables him to do exactly what he wants to do.
Isn’t that the point?
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