By Paul Strubell of Dirt Orcas – 2/19/18

For the sixty fourth installment in our ongoing interview series here at Dirt Orca’s, we are very pleased to share the story of Jason McNamara, his son Ashton, and their Sprinter van called Stanley. Along with their dog Sammie, they make up the team of @stanleythesprinter.

I am excited to share their story because, while they have a killer Mercedes Sprinter Van that does it’s share of great off-roading, it is also a great look into the time spent between a father and son. To see the adventures they take and the bond they have.

The best way follow their adventures is on Instagram. You can view and follow their gallery here. They have an excellent set up for overlanding and adventure. Living and travelling around California, making the most out of time spent outdoors in Baja, The Sierra Mountains, and the many beaches and natural areas there.

Jason and Ashton are great reminders that there is no one way to overland or to adventure. Overlanding isn’t just about the rig and the terrain you cross over. It is also about the people who make those traverses happen. Just simply getting after it and making it happen is the most important thing.

Check out our interview below.

What do you consider to be your place of work?

I work from home, so I don’t have a physical place of work (hence my ability to explore the world more).  I manage several positions and roles across the Healthcare Technology sector and all of the positions allow me the flexibility to work from home (or on the road). I also run a non-profit for veterans that helps them transition back to their community. I run that organization with my best friend (he’s in Chicago).

Tell me about your vehicle. What do you call it?

Stanley (the name of the van) is a 2017 Mercedes 4×4 Sprinter short wheel base (144″) with a low roof that has a Sportsmobile Penthouse Top built into the roof.

What other vehicles did you consider and what made you ultimately pull the trigger on the one you bought?

I looked across the entire market for many years (I have a healthy obsession with cars, motors and things with wheels). It wasn’t until my son was born that I started to seriously evaluate which options would be best for us.  I rented everything from traditional RVs to travel trailers to different van builds.  Ultimately, I ended up with a van because of the true utility of the vehicle.  I was about to purchase a custom made van but then hit some life challenges and needed a vehicle ASAP.  So I decided to go down the DIY route and it’s been a great journey filled with learning at every step.

Have you made any upgrades or changes to it?

Yes, I built a platform in the back for sleeping and storage underneath.  I also added the Sportsmobile top (as of this month!).  I also replaced the wheels and tires for more off road capability. Next up are the bumpers, body armor (underneath), new windows, and then we tackle the interior.  Just like us humans, these vans evolve and grow with time.

Photo by @tareq_overlanding

What is your favorite part about it living/working out of your vehicle?

Two parts that stand out (without question): 1) the people you meet while on the road and/or on an adventure and 2) the simplicity of life.  Life around us is so complex and noisy.  Being with my son and my van is really all we need to be together and in the moment.  I guess I would add a distant 3rd topic of learning to be ok with getting lost and not sticking to a plan.  Sometimes plans just don’t work out and being on the road helps you with that.

What is your least favorite part about it?

The system we live in today contradicts those seeking a modern nomadic life (or even a weekend adventurer lifestyle).  Defending, navigating, and explaining myself is the least favorite part of this all.

How many miles have you put on your vehicle?

I average 25-30k a year at this point.

What is the best place you have taken it?

Hmmm, the list is long.  I would have to say Baja Mexico.  It was my first time nomadically venturing out into Mexico and discovering another country from the roads less traveled.

Is there just one?

HA!  Of course not!  I think central California has some great places to explore (Sierra National Forrest, Coastal communities, and the mountains).

Favorite road you’ve driven?

Ever?  The autobahn. 🙂  California Highway 1 is simply amazing, especially when you break north of San Francisco.

In one word, what describes your approach to life?

Experiences. Growth through experiences is my approach with my son and was how I came to manhood.

If you could give a person one piece of advice when thinking about living from a vehicle, what would you tell them?

Listen to your calling and your heart – that compass is stronger than anything else the world has in front of you.  People will think you’re weird, lost or whatever.  Maybe it’s them that are lost, weird or whatever, and you’re just awakened. 🙂

It takes a special kind of person to recognize that the journey, not the destination, is the point of life. Travelers know this. Was there a point in your life where you became conscious that you were those people?

Strangely, last year.  It took me 36 years to be awake enough to explore that part of me.  That’s part of being on the road and a mindset you learn to embrace.  At first, it’s scary but then you find comfort in the journey that often makes you smile, even when things are going as planned.  As my man Clark Griswold, from National Lampoons Christmas Vacation, says, “it’s all about the experience, honey.”

You have found a strong place in the community of travelers. What values do you think your home or family instilled in you, that you take on the road?

Coordination and conflict resolution.  I think that comes from being a United States Marine, but also having to live on my own at a young age.  Being able to coordinate plans (even with your small family) and handle conflicts quickly, while still moving forward, are important values.  If I had to say it in a values statement, it would be that I take my successes and failures in equal measure.  I think we often times like to shy away from our mistakes or over glorify our successes.  Or even worst, sit in our failures without allowing progression.  Taking successes and failures in equal measure, and quickly, allows you the best pathway for growth.

I admire your outside the box approach to career and home. Do you see yourselves as people who took a leap of faith to live in an unconventional way or do you think it kind of just happened?

It just kinda happened.  I know others have a calling to it and they just pull that proverbial trigger, but for me, it was an evolutionary process that peaked when I had my son.  It was a moment for me to talk to myself about the life I wanted to show him.

Where do you want to go next?

The big trip planned with the van is Alaska this summer.   Once Ashton is a bit older, I want to ship my van over to Europe and explore Europe with him (and also southern part of Africa).  It’s not as expensive as folks believe, and I think it’s a great way for him to explore other countries.

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