Man Packs Up His Entire Life And Dog Into A Single Van With One Wild Explanation


Comedic genius George Carlin once joked that a house was just a big box where you keep your stuff. True as this description may be, most people still refuse to leave behind the security of their home and steady job. It takes a real explorer to break out of this mold.

Amid the most turbulent period of his life, one Oregon artist decided to just hit the road and go. As rewarding as this path was, it threw obstacles at him that he never saw coming. He was almost ready to give up hope.

Ben Moon couldn’t be confined by the mundane affairs of conventional life. A self-described free spirit, he wanted to wake up every morning and seize the day in whatever way he liked. He even turned his adventurous streak into a career.

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Ben worked as a photographer, and he was a talented one at that. It was certainly a challenge to establish himself in a competitive field. But Ben had one quality that set him apart: his willingness to chase down any shot.

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That sense of adventure convinced him to live out on the road, with nobody to lean on except for his trusty dog Denali. Of course, they weren’t exactly living in the lap of luxury at first.

The two companions lived in a beat-up old van. Though it was great for getting them from A to B, the space wasn’t ideal for sleeping or working. More often than not, it got filled with sand and jumbled with Ben’s various possessions.

Twitter / Ben Moon

Still, this mobile lifestyle really helped Ben’s career take off. He landed gigs taking cover shots for big publications like National Geographic. By the time he turned 29, his career was really heating up, until a piece of devastating news stopped him cold.

Ben Moon

Ben started feeling weaker and experienced unusual pains all over his torso in 2005. At first he suspected that hard living on the road was taking its toll, but as the sensations grew worse, he feared there was something seriously wrong with him.

He set aside his itinerant adventures to consult a doctor. The diagnosis was bleak; Ben had colorectal cancer. He’d have to undergo chemotherapy immediately, and the odds of survival weren’t exactly in his favor.

Ben nobly tried to continue working during his treatment, but one night, he collapsed by his campfire. He put his dreams on hold, though Denali never left his side. The photographer credited his pup for giving him the will to fight back.

Over the course of a year, Ben turned the tide. The tumor completely receded, giving him a second chance at life. He swore to keep chasing his dreams and to make more of an effort to connect with friends — one of whom really need his help.

Twitter / Ben Moon

It was Denali, his closest pal and confidante. Well into his teens, his own health declined to the point where Ben feared his dog was running out of time. If that was the case, they’d go on one final journey.


He drove Denali back to all their favorite spots around the United States. The dog seemed completely at peace during those last few months. When his final night arrived, Denali laid his head down on Ben’s lap and fell asleep.

The loss devastated Ben, but he knew he had to keep his life together. He told himself the best way to honor Denali was to keep traveling around the world and connecting with people. Even so, one thing had to change.

Facebook / Ben Moon

By 2018, Ben figured he was due for an upgrade. He had his eye on a Ford Transit van, which was far more spacious. However, it would require a whole lot of elbow grease to make it livable.


As luck would have it, Ben had plenty of inspiration. His dad took on plenty of big home improvement projects when he was growing up, so the photographer was no stranger to a toolbox. He’d deck out this van until it was nicer than most apartments!

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Granted, it wouldn’t be easy. Because there’s no IKEA store out there specifically for vans, Ben had to custom-make every fixture in the vehicle. He also had to account for insulation, limited plumbing, and electricity.

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The photographer needed plenty of power, too, since he had all kinds of camera equipment to charge. For his tech needs, Ben outfitted the roof with a series of solar panels. Still, that didn’t address all the living requirements.

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Ben’s way of life often required him to park in all kinds of areas overnight. To keep out unwanted lights and noises, he installed magnets in the window frames with removable blackout panels. These allowed him to enjoy the cozy interior.

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At the same time, Ben aimed to give the inside a sailboat aesthetic. With sleek wood and retractable tables and storage spaces, the van did take on the character of a ship. It was both utilitarian and comforting in its own way.

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These improvements took several months of hard work, but Ben was ready to head back out on the road later that year. He had a portraiture project that he couldn’t wait to start — except one piece was still missing.

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Ben needed a companion. The photographer couldn’t open himself up emotionally for a long time after Denali’s passing, but he saw it was time for a change. Ben adopted Nori, a puppy rescued from the California desert. He couldn’t wait to show her everything that was out there.

National Geographic

After all, there’s something so romantic about calling the open road your home. Like Ben, Kyle Cropsey of Lindenhurst, New York, always appreciated this lifestyle. He was constantly on the lookout for one missing piece that would make his dream lifestyle a reality.

YouTube / CBS New York

Back in 2010, Kyle hit the waves at Rockaway Beach, one of his usual spots. But when he took a breather, he finally spotted the treasure he’d been searching for his entire life.

Flickr / Shinya Suzuki

It was his dream car: a 1971 Volkswagen Type 2, also known as a ‘minibus’. It was a legendary vehicle, and quite rare — Volkswagen stopped making them years ago!

Even though he was just sixteen, Kyle had a passion for automobiles and vintage car culture. Now that he was of driving age, he wanted nothing more than to someday get behind the wheel of a Type 2.

He quickly jotted down a note, stating his interest in buying the minibus if it ever went up for sale. Kyle slipped it through a gap in the window. Rather than landing on the seat, however, it glided to the floor.

Of course, Kyle knew that he’d probably never hear anything back from the van’s owners, even if they found the note. As a consolation prize, he took a photo of himself with the car.

YouTube / CBS New York

Eight years passed by. Kyle unsuccessfully contacted dozens of other Type 2 owners, and he even bought a similar van. But it just wasn’t the same. He needed the real thing!

Meanwhile, in Oakland, California, Cris Mead was busy getting his recently deceased father’s affairs in order. While going through some old things, Cris opened up a book and a crumpled note slid out.

ABC RN/Jeremy Story Carter

It was the same note that Kyle had written eight years ago on Rockaway Beach! Cris figured that his dad, Cornelius Mead, must have found it inside his van, placed it inside the book, and forgotten about it.

So what was Cris to do? The minibus was his father’s prize possession, something that he probably loved as much as his children. He was so attached to it that he even named it Matilda.

He and Matilda went on adventures and drove across the country many times over. Cornelius spent more nights than he could count sleeping in the back of the minibus.

Cornelius put so many miles on Matilda that the odometer ran out of digits to track its progress. Now that’s a lot of zeroes!

Fortunately, Cornelius put a lot of money into the vehicle to keep it in decent shape. The engine and transmission still worked like a charm. The van deserved to hit the road again.

Cris, who had no use for the Volkswagen, found a potential buyer with this note. But would Kyle still want the van after all these years? Would he even have the same phone number?

Cris managed to reach Kyle, who was floored by his dream car finally becoming available. Cris figured with the right buyer, it could fetch up $1,500. However, Kyle worked as a teacher and had limited funds. Would they be able to strike a deal?

They did because Cris gave Kyle the minibus for free! He figured that the best way to honor his dad was to pass on Matilda to someone who would value the van as much as Cornelius did.

Kyle felt overjoyed and said that only fate could have brought the Volkswagen back to him after all that time. He celebrated his new ride by decking it out with a fresh coat of paint.

Matilda is the perfect ride for Kyle, as he’s able to transport all his friends and their gear on surf outings. Plus, they are definitely riding in style.

Flickr / allisonhasabox

Kyle still keeps in touch with Cris about the minibus’ travels. Touched by this generosity, he also hopes to pay forward that same type of kindness someday.

He knows better than anyone that there’s nothing like getting behind the wheel of your dream car to put a big smile on your face! Especially when you have no idea it’s coming.

YouTube / Charlie Rockey Jabaley

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