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Kayaker builds Hobbit Van with butterfly windows for vanlife

When Canada’s top-ranked whitewater kayaker Ben Hayward decided to pursue his Olympic dream, he began a life on the road racing in Europe. To afford this itinerant lifestyle, he crafted a 72-square-foot wooden home on the back of a flatbed truck, dubbing it the “Hobbit Van” for its big, round door and butterfly-style windows.

Hayward, and a friend from Wales, worked “7 straight days to source, insure, design, and construct every component for a homemade demountable camper”. His new home cost him 9,500 Canadian dollars (about $7,300 U.S.): $2000 for the truck, $1500 for the wood and $6000 dollars for the appliances, solar panels and wind turbine.

The insurance was an additional $3000. “After buying the truck the first thing I did was spend 3 days trying to insure the thing. It was incredibly difficult to insure a crazy, wacky vehicle for a non-resident of the UK, especially because this was my first car I’ve ever bought, I have no driving record whatsoever.”

With only a small nest egg, Hayward raised most of the funds through crowdfunding on his site (he continues to solicit donations to cover living expenses).

The tiny space has been an easy fit for Hayward. “I live out of a suitcase so much of the year so I’ve been kind of doing this for a long time. For many years prior to this I was really trying to figure out what are the bare essentials that I need while I’m over in Europe for a month or two months at a time. I was like well I’ve got my bare essentials suitcase, it was really an additive process rather than a subtractive process.” Now when Hayward is back home in Canada he says he misses his house on wheels.