Written by my cousin, Roberto Gutierrez
I had not seen my cousin in a long time. In fact, we had really only hung out a few times in our entire lives. He grew up in Saipan, a tiny island in the South Pacific, and I grew up in Colorado on a small farm. I had followed his journey as best I could. I knew he had been in the military and that he had left. I knew he was building a tiny home, but that was about all I knew. When we caught up at a family wedding in 2016, we decided we wanted to explore some business ideas. I saw the incredible craftsmanship and care that went into his house and I was sincerely impressed.
Aaron felt a like a person between steps in life—neither here nor there. I invited him to Outdoor Retailer in Salt Lake City in January of 2017 and we walked the floor together. He got a little sneak peek into the outdoor industry. We sat in a coffee shop across from the event and began talking about his tiny house and what he wanted to do in life.
We built a website (tetontinyhomes.com) where he could showcase his work. After a bit of back and forth, we both decided that converting cargo vans was his passion. He loved his tiny home so much, but building and selling them would take too much time and be too big of an emotional draw. So we started talking all things vanlife. I told him that we had a lot of details to work out, but that we were on the right track. I am a fan of rapid prototyping, but there isn’t a simple way to test, so I had a proposal instead.
I told him that I would buy a van, give him 30 days and a budget and his job was to make it awesome. If he could do that, I would start a van conversion company with him.
Well he did it. And we started Run Away Van.
Here are some images of the van in all her glory. I have since sold this van, (time to start looking at a family car with the financée), but you can follow her adventures on Instagram @Van_Francisco.
Photos courtesy of Peter Amend