My joy and freedom van.

An interview with Melody Shapiro, What my Outside Van means to me:


“I would call it my joy and my freedom van.

It’s not just all the traveling. It’s how I use it everyday. It’s a retreat. I make long trips in it and I love making the trips because I have the freedom to stop anywhere I want. I don’t have to go to a campground. I love going places like Escalante, to Capital Reef and southern Utah. I have places on BLM land I go, and I can pull off anywhere, and have beauty and hiking, with no crowds.


I remember things like coming through the Bitterroot mountains coming home from Montana and coming into the Wallowas on the back road to camp out. Watching bears come through my campground. I used to be in a tent and have to chase them away and now I can be in my van and watch them with my cup of coffee. It’s helped me be able to observe, and be with, wildlife more. I’m in the van sitting there, not worried about them going through my food and my supplies. I can go out to the beach when it’s stormy and not have to be in a hotel room and when the sun comes out I can go for a hike. Even in my home town, anytime, especially in the winter, I take it down to the river just to watch the birds migrating and come in. I sit down there and read and walk and just hang out in my van for the day.

It’s a retreat.  It’s a retreat, even in the town I live in.

When the weather is right I just have my paddle board strapped to it. I can travel anywhere. I used to take a lot of kayak gear and tents and all of this.  Now I just throw my paddle board onto the rack system that Outside Van made and I travel. I can travel for months. If I see a place to stop over, whether it’s a river or a lake or ocean, I have it with me. It’s complete freedom and joy. I can stop at a beautiful place while I’m traveling and make lunch for myself. With my solar panel I can be off grid for 3-4 days and not be concerned about plugging in and when I drive it charges up again. I absolutely love it. The quality. I’m going to do a commercial.

OSV is a concept.  It’s not just a lot of features.  It has quality equipment.  It doesn’t break down.

This is why it feels so freeing to me. I’ve been in Escalante driving over bedrock and I have friends who don’t have the clearance in their RV and can’t drive over a hump in a campground without cracking a plumbing system. They are falling apart. I don’t have to worry about sewage and plumbing… it’s total freedom. I feel it’s maintenance-free and I love it.

I’m always packed, or just throw in some food and take off. That’s the other thing I love about it — it has everything I need. I keep my water tank freshened up, I love the stainless steel water tank. I don’t have all the maintenance for these people who want to take their houses on the road in these huge RVs, whom are totally bogged down. I was once traveling in Idaho along the Snake River and stopped off at a small RV camp to recharge and the owner came over to me and went crazy over the van. He said “I see all of these RVs in here, and they are all falling apart”.

I could live in my van.  I’m a minimalist, so the van suits me.  I love the simplicity.

At this stage in my life I’ve unloaded everything. I’ve fantasized about living in it. Or having property with a little pad to park the van and a little studio. I don’t need anything else. Sometimes when I come home from a long trip and I get back to regular living, I miss it. Even when I have a lot of guests coming to visit, I go sleep in my van. Or if I visit family, I sleep in my van. It’s my private room I can retreat to. I love it. That’s the freedom, the joy, it’s the whole concept going (you’re not buying features) and you see what you have. Everybody has a unique concept that fits them.”


The Mother video compliments of Skip Armstrong at Wazee Motion Pictures.  Biggest Gratitude!



Enhancing Your Creative Capacity

We all have creative currency.  This is where the juice happens in life; the moments of insight, of alignment and the instant where creation happens.  It is what we are energized and inspired by.  It is how we engage.

Those of us who have a van, get outside and breathe fresh air are helping ourselves enhance our creative capacity – more than we may realize.

There are four key ways to enhance our creative capacity.

1.  Be in nature

Nature is REAL – not artificial, digital or staged.  We resonate with what is real.  We have artificial lights in our house, electric screens, heating/cooling systems, refrigeration…being out in nature, helps us tune in to our natural cycles.  Cycles of the day, month, season, year.  There is a rhythm.  We don’t freak out in the winter when everything looks dead because we know spring is coming – it always does.  Nature is comfortable with the ebb and flow of tides, moon, cycles of birth, death and renewal.  Whether we are aware of it or not, we know when we resonate with something.  It is instinctual.  Primal.  We are literally connected to the pulse of the earth.  Walking barefoot on the earth is a great way to feel more grounded in our bodies and cultivate calm and quiet.

The ocean and natural hot springs will reconfigure electromagnic field causing a calming effect.  Have you heard of ‘tree breathing?’ Or the concept of ‘forest therapy?’  It is literally being in the trees and taking them in.  Fresh air helps cleanse that lungs, bring clarity to the brain, is good for digestion and helps improve your heart rate (I’m not a doctor, but can you feel it?).

Depletion doens’t help creative capacity.  In the natural world, there are robustly productive years and deeply restorative years. For example, a tree tends to produce 1 year of abundance followed by 2-3 years reduced yield.  How does this show up in your world?  Do we take time to rest, restore, regenerate?  (Hopefully this is where your van comes in handy.)


2.  Feel Free – Not Fear

Restriction and constriction kill creativity.  If you’ve ever had a great idea, shared it and got shut down, what happens?  We tend to contract and not speak up again.  In a state of contraction, circulation is lessened, which means less fresh blood (ideas, joy, breathe) is getting to the outskirts.  Circulation helps cultivate health, literally.  Circulation is directly connected to the inhalation (inspiration).  With each inhalation, you fill your lungs with oxygen, which is then transferred into the bloodstream.  Fresh, oxygenated blood.  Life force.

Have you been brainstorming and had the best time?  No ideas turned down, lots of crazy thoughts (fun) and possibilities.  Feeling free cultivates possibilities.  Feeling free enhances our creative capacity.

3.  Tune In

When we listen, be quiet and practice stillness, the ability to hear inspiration and access “BIG mind” increases – dramatically.  This is an advanced practice.  It is when we learn to trust ourselves, we can make the leap to trust the whole/universe.* The universe is possibly the biggest soup of all creative potential.

Tuning into the physical locations of the body helps those of us who learn through our bodies.  The creative center, in physical form, is located in the same space as the sacral chakra.  A chakra is a step down transceiver. It literally translates to “wheel” or “disk.”  In yoga, meditation and Ayurveda, this term refers to wheels of energy throughout the body.  There are seven main chakras that align the spine.  In women, the sacral chakra is the place where spirit first becomes physical form in the case of having a baby.  In both male and female form it is the creative center.  The sacral chakra is the center of feeling, emotion, pleasure, intimacy and connection.  The energy of this chakra allows us to let go, to move, to feel change and transformation occurring in the body.  It allows us to experience this moment at it is, in it’s own fullness.  Being in the moment is a sure fire way to access and increase our creative capacity.


4. Collaboration

Collaboration is, to me, like the sum of the parts are WAY greater than the whole.  What you are dreaming up + what I am dreaming up = way more possibilities than either of us could dream up individually.

It is part of the cycle of giving and receiving, which are two sides to the same coin.  We cannot give without first receiving (tune in, listen) and we cannot receive without being in relationship to a giver (‘BIG mind,’ co-worker, partner, friend.)

In the dynamic of collaboration, sometimes a teacher/student relationship forms.  Regardless of the role we play, learning and expansion are happening, which are key elements to enhancing our creative capacity.

Our van has been a gateway to nature, to feeling free in so many ways, to being in quiet with lots of time to reflect and connect with great people – collaborating and dreaming up new dreams.

The essense, to me, of being in the van is getting to be my authentic self.

Free of a scheduled, digital world, free of ‘costumes’ and make-up, inspired by where we are and who we meet.  Sweating, sleeping and eating well.  This, in the biggest way, enhances my creative expression and capacity.


Many of these insights came from:

Tami Lynn Kent in her book Wild Creative:  Igniting Your Passion and Potential in Work, Home and Life

*Erich Shiffmann

Joy Inc. :  How to build a workplace People Love by Richard Sheridan


nichole e

Van love

We met Derwyn and Sabine on Christmas day.  As we pulled into the parking lot, Derwyn was giving us the super smile, and the ‘stoked on your van’ vibe. We say hi and learn that he and Sabine have just dropped their van off at Outside Van for their conversion.  We had fun conversation and a great day at the mountain.

That’s the thing about the tribe.  We find each other.  Easily.

This weekend we pull up and see Derwyn and Sabine, in the exact spot we met, in their brand new van.

This is it’s maiden voyage.  We are beyond stoked.

They already have systems in place and green smoothies in the fridge.  It was glorious, blue sky skating and the apres ski was more fun than usual.  Espresso was made (I’m so celebrating this),  stories, plans and ideas shared.IMG_5108

 Getting a new van is the BEST feeling.

Packing the gear.  Preparing the food.  Gathering the layers.  Putting things in place.  Getting coordinated.  It’s liberating and expansive and full of possibilities.

Derwyn and Sabine have their own blog of adventures and list getting their Sprinter as the top event for 2016.  Right on!

Here’s to all that is to come. Life is rad and fun in a van.



nichole e.

Stoke and Gratitude

These two words don’t always go hand in hand, but in the Outside Van world, I think they do.  To feel stoked is a peak experience.  Some of us live in that space more than others.  A few people live their life that way – in a state of stoke.  Reggie Crist, an international athlete and rad human is a self-prescribed “stoker broker.” Love this. Reggie takes clients around the world, gathering powder turns.

A few official definitions of stoked are to ‘add coal or other solid fuel to a fire,’ ‘to encourage or incite,’ and an informal ‘to excite or thrill.’  It is a verb.  Active.  Present tense.  Now.  I am stoked!!

Two different times I have polled our HIGHLY stoked friends to ask “what are the 7 top-most experiences that stoke you.”  The results:

1. Being in Nature

2. Moving

3. Choosing LOVE

4. Gratitude

5. Living in the NOW

6. Quiet

7. Creating


Being in nature is the driver for those of us with Outside Vans.  To access BIG source.  Big nature.  The ultimate stoker, nourisher and inspiration.  Moving our bodies, sweating, feeling the flow.  Choosing LOVE.

Being in gratitude.  This week of Thanksgiving, is an easy time remember the gifts.  It’s also time to close the chapter on dirt season and open the door to POW.

I think more than anything, stoking is our natural state.


My personal experience is I feel the most stoked when I’m stoking others. Isn’t that why we are here?  To connect, to stoke, to feel love, joy and to have huge gratitude for it all.

We are so grateful for you, for all the adventures together and for all that is to come.


nichole e.

The Family Logo

The Niederhauser family has their own logo.. and it’s so great!

We interviewed Mason and Carrie to find out more.

How long have you had a van?  What was the inspiration for that?


We purchased our van 12 months ago and have put a little over 12K miles on it already. We have 4 children that range in ages from 11 years down to 2 years.  Carrie and I have always felt strongly about spending time together as a family and exposing the kids to a variety of people and places. Living in Utah full-time, we are lucky to have diverse geography and landscape, but finding variety in culture and people requires hitting the road. Last fall we were finally at a point where we were ready to commit to a plan or idea that would take us to new places and help disconnect all of us from electronics more. Our timing in meeting the great folks at OSV was perfect!


As I drove our van home to Utah from Oregon, I felt like we needed to have a name for the van that was meaningful to us as a family, reflective of our goals, and was something that each member of the family could take ownership in.  The van was definitely going to be “ours” where every member of the family had ownership.  Our ancestry is Swiss, and having spent three different summers in the Alps and Dolomites, I have always felt a strong connection to the beauty and majesty of part of the world.  As the national flower of Switzerland, the Edelweiss thrives primarily above 8,000 feet in elevation. Carrie and I know that we also thrive when we are above 8,000 feet and wanted our kids to experience that for themselves.

Please tell us about your logo.

screen-shot-2016-10-30-at-7-13-04-pmWe took the next step with the help of graphic designer friend who helped us create a family logo that was reflective of what we thought was important. Romy, our oldest, liked the imagery of the mountains, while Ivy felt like the house represented our safe place. We added the swiss cross as a reminder of our ancestry, but Payne says he likes it because its like we are emergency workers than can help other people when they are in need.  Aren’t kids the best?  I would not have considered that, but hopefully we follow his example with a willingness to help others along the way.  We had a large graphic printed and installed on both sides of the van which certainly sets us apart and is easily recognizable to our kids.  We even have cycling kits made up with the graphic, which obviously everyone wears with pride and a sense of ownership.

What are some stand out trips in your van?


In the winter we use Edelweiss nearly every Saturday in the winters to go skiing somewhere. We generally always tailgate with friends in the parking lot, and 8LWEISS is the perfect base camp. In fact the first trip to the ski hill was last year on Christmas Eve.  Each of the kids remember that being so much fun as we skied most of the day before heading home and enjoying the holiday.


This summer we used Edelweiss regularly as what became known as the Green Canyon Shuttle.  There is a killer single track just 4 miles from our house.  It’s a gentle up and back with a dirt road that parallels it in Green Canyon.  We throw in all the kids and their friends, bikes and helmets and either Carrie or I drive to the top to drop everyone off. Then all the kids bomb down with their mini Camelbacks and bike gloves that are too big.  Its a ton of fun and the kids get to use the van just like mom and dad do when we go on more epic outings.

Another favorite memory was last Halloween.  We had just purchased the van and it quickly became the hit of the neighborhood.  We used it as the ultimate Trick or Treat mobile as we blasted Halloween music and drove slowly through the neighborhoods while the kids and their friends ran house to house.  With the sliding door open and interior lights on, it was a party.

What do the kids think of it?


The kids love it when we pull in to a gas station or stop for food, because invariablly some stranger comes over and wants to talk about it and see inside.  The kids ask if we are famous.  Obviously we aren’t famous, but there is no question we are very lucky!

What would you recommend to other families about van design?


Because hauling people and gear are our priorities, we have had to sacrifice some of the nicer conveniences available in Outside Vans.  We love our bed, all of the seating options we have, all of the gear connectors and racks, but the kids say their favorite is the Webasto heater to keep us cozy regardless of whether we are camping overnight or
eating a quick lunch in the parking lot at our local ski hill Beaver Mountain.

We have successfully figured out how to sleep all 6 of us inside Edelweiss, though it is a little tight with having gear on board as well.  We are strongly considering a roof-top tent to allow a couple of the older kids to sleep up top and free up more room under the 3-panel bed. Ultimately, we love the simplicity of our van. It gives us a lot of options.

 What else would be fun for us to know?

You can follow our comings and goings on Instagram @8LWEISS.  And if you see us along the way, please say hi. It strokes our kids egos.



Some of our other highlight trips this past year have included:

Moab / Arches National Park / Canyonlands National Park

Pikes Peak Colorado for the hillclimb race

Big Sky, MT

25 Hours of Frog Hollow mountain bike race

Camping at Tony Grove with friends

Bear Lake, UT on the beach

St George, UT

Brian Head ski resort

Sun Valley, ID

Bloomington Lake, ID

Escalante/Capital Reef National Park, UT slot canyon hiking

Park City, UT mountain biking


nichole e.



It’s in my blood

Two days ago, I said good-bye to my Grandpa.   As of this moment, he is still here, in his physical body, with his character still in tact, and  I know I won’t see him again.

It was my Grandparent’s who first introduced me to nature.

To walking sticks, being with the ferns, looking for 4 leaf clovers, skipping rocks, endless hours by the river and time in the garden.  My Grandpa’s garden was abundant.  He knew how to plant with the cycle of the moon.   He learned it from his Grandma, and I never learned it from him.  He would call the goods from the garden ‘nature’s candy.’  When I was an adult, I asked him which vegetable was ‘nature’s candy’ and he said, “all of them.”  We played canasta and bowled a lot.  Sang while my Grandma played the piano and felt loved in the small ways that Grandparents know how do to by making dollar size pancakes, having gum and playing hang-man and tic-tac-toe in the car so we weren’t ever board.

When I was about 5, I learned to ‘buy low, sell high.’  My Grandparent’s would buy homes, fix them up and sell them.  They were retired when I was born, by choice – not from being rich (monetarily) , but  by choosing time/health and life-style over what other’s were striving for and buying into.  They did the same for motorhomes.  Buy them, fix them up and sell them.

It was my Grandparent’s who introduced me to camping in an RV.

They called themselves “OF’s” (Old Fools) in their “Moho” (motorhome) and would travel many months of the year.  Traveling in their Moho, then coming back to their home base was their rhythm all the years I was a kid.  Living in the same town, it had a big influence on me.  .. the freedom to go, explore, see new places.. then come home to the garden, the animals and a simple home.

I remember one specific trip when I got to go with them in the Moho up to Port Angeles, Washington.  Getting to move around while we were driving and having snacks (way before seat-belt laws) and having my own bed were some of the things that stand out as memories.

Now, we travel in our van, coming and going from our simple home (and simple garden), enjoying our own cozy van bed, the snacks we love, the comfort of our own space and I can’t help but think we are the modern day version of my Grandparents – and in many ways, I hope we are.  They have been married 70 years.  They laughed a lot, played by their own rules, stood up for the common man, appreciated nature and loved each other deeply.

The freedom of being on the road, in a Moho, or in a van, is part of my heritage – my family.  It is in my blood and I am so grateful.

For my Grandpa…. with biggest love

nichole e.


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