5 of the Most Common Questions About Vanlife and RV Life
Van Life and RV Living are becoming more and more popular, we all crave the freedom. We love hearing about people journeys into this lifestyle, and we know starting out can be scary.
To help out, we thought we would compile 5 of the most commonly asked questions we get asked about traveling fulltime and vanlife.
🔸️How is it living together in a tiny space?
The positives here far outweigh the negatives for us. We have definitely adapted to being together in a small space. There have been adjustments to how we move around, the “van shuffle” often includes the dog. Cooking is a one person job. We have our family cuddles in the back on the king size bed. When we need our own space we have the rotating captain chairs at the front of the van, and Logan loves to sit up there and read. Really though, we live out of the van, not in it. So when we need space we are grateful to be parked somewhere beautiful with all the wide open spaces we could ask for.
🔸️How do you budget for life on the road?
We set a budget for ourselves before we left home. Our monthly budget of $3000 includes our van payments, insurance for the vehicle as well as our travel and health insurance, pet insurance, cell phones, groceries, gas, camping fees, and spending money. We know several people who live this lifestyle on bigger budgets, and many who are comfortably living on smaller budgets. Setting a budget is a personal choice, but we think it’s important to be realistic. We have always agreed that if we can no longer support this lifestyle then it’s time to change it.
🔸️How do you earn money?
Logan and I (Kira) both quit our “9-5” jobs before we hit the road. I was an office manager at a dental office, and Logan was a brewer at a busy craft brewpub. It was a priority for us to pay off our debts before making the leap to traveling so we did!! The first step was selling our home in October 2017, it happened very fast as the real estate market in our hometown was booming, and very overinflated.
Logan has been interested in the markets, real estate, and trading, so we decided to invest our money from the sale of our home, and manage our budget with the profits. Because we were just starting out, we started with mutual funds in RRSP and TFSA accounts, and have moved into self-directed investments. We also decided to finance our van, so that money could be invested instead of being locked up in the van. We considered finance rates carefully against the realistic rates of return we could achieve on our investments.
Since hitting the road we have also joined in affiliate marketing programs, and brand partnerships. To be clear, we don’t make this a main focus, because our goal is time freedom. Affiliate marketing and brand partnerships allow us to monetize our social media. It earns small commissions from products we use, and allows us to share those resources and brands we love with our community.
This is a very very common way for folks who work as digital nomads to earn income. It should be noted that it does take work and time. There are really no ways to earn money for doing nothing, so if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.
🔸️What do you need to take with you when you hit the road?
This is tough to answer, and in all honesty, I roll my eyes when I read a lot of peoples suggestions for “things YOU need for your RV” or “Gear You Need For Van Life” . In reality, you need so much less than you think. We have never really been minimalists, so it was hard for us to downsize. We felt like we needed so much to ensure we would be comfortable…
The reality is that the more stuff you bring, the more stuff you have in your small space. We have downsized multiple times since hitting the road.
Our suggestion is use what you have, you don’t need to rush out and buy RV specific things. There are definetely things you will pick up along the way, we have some favorite van life gear we suggest too…BUT, Don’t buy something because someone told you you need it, everyones living situation is different. You will be the one to decide what you need or want to make your RV feel like home.
We know people who love to cook. Instapots, camp stoves even a Vitamix you name it. If those items serve you, then great! Consider your space, I would love a Berkey water filtration system but have nowhere practical to store it. What will you actually use? We have bought a few little gizmos that ended up being donated, we thought they would be useful, but they were not daily use items.
When it comes to appliances remember your power source…the first time we made a pot of coffee in our van with our big fancy brewer from home, we blew the circuit and everything in the van shut off….we prefer boondocking to being plugged in, so we have to consider what our battery system can handle.
The things you really need and that we recommend researching are a little less sexy… Things like insurance, updated travel documents (ie. visas, passports) cellular coverage, first aid items (don’t forget your furry travel companions), basic tools (also think of flat tires, or boosting a dead battery) these are all pretty essential.
🔸️What’s the best place we have visited?
Oh man, another tough one!! This adventure has surprised us constantly. I think unanimously we were both blown away by southern Utah, the Mighty Five parks are really something everyone should see. Pictures just don’t do it justice.
We fell in love with Palm Springs and Southern California (though the coast and Redwoods are pretty amazing) the dry heat of the desert was a welcomed treat after being in the Pacific Northwest. The boondocking in the South West is also top notch making van life easy and budget friendly.
The Northwest Territories ended up being a place we spent the second most cumulative time on our whole trip…weeks of unpaved roads, seeing towns and villages only accessible by winter roads and tiny ferries, and the truly wild and untouched land was magic. Seeing the Arctic Ocean via the new road to Tuktoyaktuk was an epic adventure.
So there wasn’t one place, there were many….and the biggest reward in this experience is finding new places to fall in love with.
If you are thinking about full timing in an RV or Van, we highly recommend it! Also a great way to dip your toes in the van life experience would be to rent and take road trip to see how it feels for you.
If you have any questions let us know! And don’t forget to check out our post on Moving Saving Apps for van life travel.
A reminder that travel is a privilege and we have a responsibility to be put others first and pay attention.
These are uncertain times. Where should we go? What will the government do next? Will borders close? Will we have enough food and water? How will people respond and react to the unknown? Will our parents & grandparents be ok? Our family who work in police, hospitals and as emergency responders, are they safe? In this season of our lives, we are privileged to have choices. We do not have jobs and children to consider. We have the ability to self isolate in our van sure, but we still need food and gas… I am torn about what to post and what to say, I hope your social media is staying a positive place through all this. We don’t feel panic but we feel a heavy sense of responsibility right now. In being good neighbors, good citizens of the world, we have a responsibility to listen to legitimate sources like the WHO and protect ourselves and protect others. A big message has been limit unnecessary travel…and for most of us on the road, in the van life and rvlife community…
listen up that’s us…
Stay put, this might seem like a great time for a trip to wherever…it’s not. Your travels are not more important than the communities you touch along the way. This is an inconvenience to us, we’re missing out sure, but it’s so much more to so many others. Our hearts go out to everyone, people are being impacted physically, emotionally and financially, and we owe it to them to behave responsibly. Traveling is a luxury and a privilege, as part of the travel and van life communities I don’t want to spread fear, this serves no one, I want to spread the idea that, if this all amounts to nothing, you have lost very little by staying still and paying attention right now. You can use this time to catch up, rest, save money, learn something new, call your grandparents. It doesn’t matter what side of this you are on, hopefully, this all blows over and the decisions were overkill but in the meantime friends. Slow down, lay low, wash your hands and remember this isn’t just about you. Our family pretty much unanimously agrees that they want us back in Canada, and we are on board for that. So instead of finishing up our time in the south with epic adventures, we are finishing up with long driving days.
We will also self isolate for 14 days when we get back as recommended by health authorities in Canada.
The Realities Of #vanlife is a series featuring guest posts from full-time travelers
There is a movement happening. It has become both trendy and for some folks necessary to leave behind the confines of the 9-5 and hit the road #vanlife style. Why the hashtag? Because up until the last few years this term wasn’t a thing. Though people have been traveling and even living in vans for years, but thanks to social media (mostly Instagram) it now has a name, and a massive following.
RV travel has been around since the ’50s but used to be more for people in retirement, or families on the weekends. But now more and younger people and us “in-betweeners” are stepping out of societal norms and creating a little taste of freedom.
Rising housing prices and more and more work being done remotely are big factors for many. Also, the accessibility to travel and travel inspiration again thanks to social media has made anything seem possible.
We chose this lifestyle because traveling was our biggest shared passion. We worked conflicting schedules but we had good jobs. We bought the house, filled it with the things and thought we were following “the steps”. We rarely saw each other and a week of holidays here or there was difficult and left us in debt every time.
So we sold it all (well most of it, some sits in storage) picked out our van and have been on the road since 2017. We made a big decision to take control of time, and create the freedom to live the life we were dreaming of.
We are constantly learning more about how to exist in this tiny space, and how to navigate the challenges of life on the road. There is a learning curve no matter how prepared you think you are.
I worry that there is a side to this life that isn’t always clearly reflected. I don’t just mean where to shower or where to do your “business” when you live in a van. There’s so much more to consider. Because social media is often about the beautiful shot or a way to grab attention, and now that everyone throws the word ‘authentic’ around so much it’s almost lost its meaning. We sometimes miss out on the real why’s and the real lessons.
We love this lifestyle with all its ups and downs. I have written about some of our favorite aspects of van life before. But I wanted to start a conversation, so I reached out to some of our friends who also travel fulltime and are living #vanlife. I asked each of them to share the good and the bad of living this way.
Their responses are personal and honest. They are reflections of different people from different places, with different backgrounds and very different lives. What started as a question inspired a little series to help share a true picture of this lifestyle, and a useful resource for anyone considering it.
Chapter 1 will be posted tomorrow and features our friend Amanda, who has been on the road for over 6 years.
Our friends Orry, Carroll Marie, and Etta Rose have been on the road since 2018! We have known them since before they started their van build, not only are they full time they also built out their first rig all on their own! These three are our favorite full time family and share great inspiration and resources for traveling and living in a van with a little one!
Living in a van full time as a family is full of the good, the bad, and the ugly, but to us it couldn’t be any more glamourous. Our biggest motivation to quit our “9 to 5” lives and hit the road full time was getting to spend more time together as a family. The thing about van life is, the positives are often also the negatives. For example, we get to spend every day together traveling and exploring new places; however, it is hard to get alone time and impossible to have a date night while traveling full time. Our house is super tiny and takes approximately 15 minutes to clean the whole thing; however, put one thing on the countertops and the place looks like a wreck because it is so small.
Luckily for us, the cons don’t really bother us at all. We’ve always been a “better together” type of family, so the more time together, the happier we are. Our ever changing front porch view and seeing the world through the eyes of our daughter has brought more happiness and joy to our lives than any date night or dream house could. The biggest tip for traveling full time with a kid? It’s cliche, but have a good attitude. The same negative/positive principle applies. Kids are going to get upset, have a melt down, throw up, take a nap, or be hungry; however, they will also make you smile bigger, adventure more, love better, and remind you that even the smallest things (including a tiny home) can really be the best.
Chapter 4 in our Series The Realities Of #vanlife features our friends Jess & Greg who have been full time since 2018!
Our friends Jess and Greg have been on the road fulltime since 2018! They balance working and freedom and have been sharing realities in Vanlife since the get go! We have included links back to a couple of great articles they have written. Be sure to check them out and go follow their journey:
When it all started, we wanted to live in a van so that we could travel and do more things. We wanted to hike and bike new trails, soak in new hot springs, eat more tacos, check out new National Parks, you get the idea. Being able to do all of those things, and more, is definitely one of our favorite things about vanlife. In the last year, we’ve been all over the United States, and several other countries as well. We finally visited several places on our bucket list including New Zealand and we couldn’t be more thrilled about our adventures to come.
But there’s so much more to it than that. Living in a van and traveling has given us the opportunity to join a family of nomads that we didn’t even know existed. When we struck out on the open road, we had no idea that we would meet so many amazing people and end up with lifelong friends and travel partners.
Caravanning with other nomads is a really fun way to travel and we enjoy spending time with other people that have a similar take on life. We finally found a community that “gets us.” Not only do we have a nomad family, but we’ve also found a ton of people to mountain bike, climb, hike, and camp with!
The absolute freedom that we experience while living in a van is, by far, our favorite thing about this lifestyle. Since our living expenses are minimal, we don’t have the financial burdens that we used to have. Without a mortgage or a stationary job, we have the freedom to travel and do as we please. Being able to make choices for our own happiness rather than our obligations is something that we’re incredibly grateful for. It’s a characteristic of this lifestyle that we didn’t expect, but has become very important to us.
On the other hand, vanlife isn’t all unicorns and rainbows. We’ve written an entire post about the Real Worst Things About Vanlife. The short answer to that question varies by the day. It depends on the challenge we’re up against that feels insurmountable at the time. For us, there’s not one thing that bothers us all of the time, but there are a few things that tend to come up often.
One of the worst things that happens regardless of where we are is clutter. Keeping the van tidy is usually a lower priority than adventuring, so it can get out of control quickly if we don’t stay on top of it. The unfortunate nature of living in such a small space with two people and all of our gear is that sometimes there isn’t a place for everything. As much as we wish we could keep the van clean all of the time, it’s just not realistic. There are times when the clutter causes us anxiety and frustration. Mostly because we have a pile of stuff that gets shuffled all over the van throughout the day because it’s in the way. A tidy home is a happy home!
In addition to that, finding a level camping spot can be a chore. Just when we’ve found a good camp site, it will take us another 10 minutes to find a level spot. Even worse, sometimes we have to break out the leveling blocks and try to level the van manually. We know it sounds like a petty thing to be annoyed with, but we’re usually tired and hungry when we’re looking for camp. We both need shirts that say, “I’m sorry for the things I said when we were setting up camp!”
In the end, there’s so much more to vanlife than this short list. Vanlife is a lifestyle. Nomadic, minimalism is a movement. It’s a way to choose your own path and experience the freedom and happiness that comes with it. There are highs and lows, both of which feel extreme compared to the spectrum of “normal” life. The best experiences always outweigh the worst and we are more resilient for it. We’ve put together some Advice for Couples New to Vanlife for Go-Van that will help any couples who are looking to vanlife together.
Our advice for aspiring vanlifers is to get used to spontaneity and lack of control. Finding a routine might be difficult, but that’s part of the journey. You will be challenged, but you will grow. It’s true that vanlife or nomadic living isn’t for everyone. It requires sacrifice and hard work to maintain. But for those that are drawn to it, it can be the most rewarding life imaginable.
Looking for more tips and tales from real full time vanlifers get the here!
Van Life – On the road again, our first week back on the road, heading to Mississippi
We are finally Back On The Road & Mississippi Bound!
From Ontario to the Gulf Coast of Mississippi in 3 days.
Well, we did it. We watched for a “warm” gap in the weather and went to pull the van out of storage the first day we saw above freezing temps.
Our experience storing the van overall was pretty good, sadly it ended up being insanely expensive. The storage facility only offers seasonal contracts, so we paid for Sept-May even though the van only ended up being there for just shy of 2 months. It was a price we paid for the peace of mind of our van being tucked away indoors and warm.
So we brought the van back tot he apartment and cleaned it out properly, every cupboard drawer, and surface was cleaned (still soo much dust from NWT, I think it is in the walls, and have no idea yet how we will get it out. Holly was at a boarding facility we were testing out for Ireland. So for a few glorious hours, the van looked shiny and new, and predominantly free of dog hair😍.
We organized all of the cupboards, some slight changes from last year, but overall the system we have seems to work. It is insane how much food we store in this van.
Everything fit nicely, and I am especially happy with my clothes cupboard. I included our new packing cubes in our last post, but honestly, they make my heart happy every time I open my clothes cupboard.
After cleaning and packing the van, we cleaned the apartment and dropped off the keys, and said goodbye to our temporary home. Picked Holly up and hit the road.
Our first stop was at Logans mum’s house. We packed up all our winter gear from our time in Ontario, vacuum packed them and are storing them in her basement. We also stocked her fridge and freezer. We had done a Costco shop not too long ago, and now had way more food than we could fit in our fridge, and some items we knew couldn’t cross the border. One last yummy supper with the family and we were off.
Our First Night On The Road:
We slept our first night at an “On Route”, these are the top-notch rest stops along the 401. We were still winterized so we didn’t have running water in the van. Being close to 24-hour restrooms was nice 👌. Also having Tim Horton’s and Starbucks in the morning is a treat.
The next morning we carried on and crossed the border in Windsor.
This was our first time being stopped and inspected at the border.
They didn’t like hearing that we were not working, and we were traveling for 2 months (though we have crossed three other times, and they never seemed too concerned). We were also honest about the food items we had in our fridge and thought we had remembered to unload everything, that was a no-no.
We had to put Holly in an outdoor kennel, and head into the building. The border guards were mostly friendly and helpful to the people they were dealing with, ours wasn’t, but that’s just luck of the draw. The guards who inspected our vehicle took a few cherry tomatoes, avocados, and peppers…they were from the U.S and we didn’t think anything of it. They let us know that we hadn’t told them about those items and that the fine for lying to them about food is $300. Thankfully they knew weren’t trying to hide anything, so we got off with a warning.
Tip: They suggested making an itemized list of the contents of the fridge and freezer next time. In all honesty, we usually don’t cross with any food in the fridge, that big Costco shop, and the sudden change in weather left us overstocked…we will empty the fridge next time.
The silver lining in all of this is that Holly did amazing. Our biggest fear since day 1 of traveling has been Holly. She has a history of being reactive, so we worried about her having a meltdown at the border. She sat so calmly and sweetly in that little kennel and watched the guards searching our van without making a peep. She looked super sad, but overall that was a huge win. The training we did with her in B.C has been life-changing.
We watched the weather along 3 different routes south. The first day made it as far as Kentucky, the rain was insane! We were staying out of the freeze that seems to be affecting everyone right now, so that was good. We thought we would visit Mammoth Caves National Park, and do some bourbon tasting, but the majority of Kentucky was under flood warnings. With freezing temperatures two days away.
The next morning the driving conditions were horrible and we switched routes twice. We actually had to pull off the highway a couple times because the rain was so heavy we literally couldn’t see. We are from the PNW and have never seen rain like this.
Our route took us towards Memphis, we made a quick stop, and then straight on to Mississippi…and 75° weather! We forgot about the humidity in the south! We instantly delayed, picked up a couple of brochures at the visitor center, where we were greeted with “Y’all are so welcomed here, Y’all are a long way from home! Welcome to God’s Country”. Southern hospitality is real folks.
**Side note, rest stops in Mississippi have free dump stations!
We decided to stay in a state park for the night, we wanted to camp, we needed access to water and sewer so we could finally de-winterize our tanks. So we chose George P. Cossar State Park. Full hookups for $30. Free showers and they even have laundry facilities. The campground was amazing, right on Enid Lake. Huge sites, quiet, and the day we arrived, almost empty! We found out later that the weekend was fully booked out, event though temperatures were dropping again, I kid you not, “it’s ‘coon huntin’ season”. It is a very real thing, and all fill up for it.
Our first time de-winterizing wasn’t too bad. We drained all the antifreeze from the lines and fresh tank. We added water and bleach, flushed all the lines, and the water pump, and drove around the park to slosh it all around, and left it overnight. The next morning, after a perfectly quiet sleep, we drained again and added fresh water to rinse. We added some vinegar to the fresh water this round, one more rinse and it should be good to go. We started using the water for flushing, and washing dishes, man did I miss having our washroom!!!
From there we made our way to Pass Christian down some of the craziest backroads (thanks Google Maps). We got in after dark, which we usually try to avoid, but we knew the spot we would be sleeping from last year). The Walmart in this town is beach front…so we arrived after dark, walked the dog, went grocery shopping, late dinner and off to bed. I think this Walmart has the most beautiful view of any Walmart. It is a quiet spot, not a ton of RVs park there and it’s tucked away on the coast.
So here we are now on the Gulf Coast, we are excited to be back and have more time to spend. We don’t really have a plan, but we will likely head towards Texas first. We are checking out Gulf Islands National Sea Shore as it was full when we were here last time. Logan is in bird nerd paradise. His list for the year is already around 100, and we were in Ontario winter for the first month.
I should start off by telling you that when it comes to traveling in a van, less is truly more. We have put together our list of the best van life gear for our fellow travellers.
To be honest we often cringe a little when people ask us what they need, or when we hear or see folks telling people what to rush out and buy for their van or RV. The reality is you will find what you need, and what works best for you. Use as much of your own stuff as you can. Don’t rush out to buy things until you know your space and needs.
We really do still use a lot of items that we packed from home. When we started we thought when we started out that we would be rushing out to find all the collapsing items that have become synonymous with tiny living. But the reality is we needed less than we thought. One example I will give is a collapsible laundry hamper…yes they serve a purpose, and to each their own, but we are glad we saved the $10, and headache of finding a home for it constantly. We use an old pillowcase from home for dirty laundry, it works as a bag to transport the laundry to the machine, it is washable, it is compact, and when it’s empty it takes up no space, and it cost us nothing…
My little rant aside, there are definitely some items that we have grown to love, rely on, and found pretty essential in our van life adventure. We are sharing them here, we find this stuff useful and hope you will too. You can click any of the images below to get more information on these items.
1) Quick Dry Towels
We actually can’t imagine vanlife without these towels. We have two sets of multiple sized towels. We use them for everything. They are lightweight and dry fast so we can hang then on 3m hooks in the van. They work for drying ourselves off and miss Holly too. We also use them for dishes and cleaning. They are anti-microbial so they don’t get that funky smell that regular towels tend to take on. They are easy to wash and dry and take up little space in the van. We so miss big fluffy towels sometimes but honestly, these are so practical we couldn’t do it without them.
2) Packing Cube Set
These are quite possibly my new favorite thing. There’s no doubt that when you move into a van, you downsize your wardrobe to the essentials. We have never really considered ourselves minimalist but it comes with the territory of tiny living. Even after downsizing numerous times, my clothes cabinet has been a point of anxiety for me from day 1.
Enter Packing Cubes. These are such a great way to keep organized. A big glass of wine and a folding tutorial from Marie Kondo have turned my clothes cabinet into my little point of pride. Staying organized is so easy with packing cubes. Underwear, bras, shirts, pants, tanks, shorts, and socks each have their own cube.
No more digging through the cluttered cabinet of doom! These cubes are compact, lightweight, washable and have handles for ease of moving. The best-added bonus is that these cubes are great for organizing luggage…so we will be able to pack efficiently for our trip to Europe!!
3) Neoflam Midas Pots and Pans
We actually found this set through fellow vanlifers. We have a two burner propane stove, and love to be able to cook our own meals inside.
This set from Neoflam is great because the handle can be removed. This feature makes them easy to nest and store in our tiny kitchen. The lids are great for preventing a mess. They are also non-stick, and easy to clean (the colors are also fun). We have actually downsized to 1 pot and 1 pan, they can both fit on the stove at the same time, and cover our cooking needs perfectly.
4) No Rinse Bathing Wipes
We are lucky to have a shower in our van, and while it’s tiny, we love it. That being said, we still have to conserve water and worry about finding dump stations, so van showers are typically short and sweet. When we had a house we showered every day, and some days twice. So this has been a big change for us. Not every day needs a shower, but we like going to bed feeling clean.
We use gym showers, and try to check in to parks with hot showers every now and again. Of course, swimming in lakes and rivers is awesome whenever you can.
No Rinse Bathing Wipes are also a good van life tool to have, after a day of hiking, no one wants to smell stinky feet. We have used everything from baby wipes to dude wipes. Finding wipes that are gentle on your skin, that can wipe away any grime from the day, can help freshen you up on non-shower days.
5) Dr. Bronner’s Mild Liquid Soap
I am happy any time I can find this magical stuff on sale. It is a little pricier than some soaps, but, it’s natural, it’s biodegradable, and it’s multi-purpose which is a necessity in a van.
You can use Dr. Bronner’s for dishes, and to make your own cleaning products. I know a lot of folks may disagree, but I will say I don’t find it cuts grease as well as say Dawn dish soap (so we usually have a little bottle on hand just in case). But otherwise, it is on par with regular dish soap, without all the nasty chemicals.
Other uses include body wash and shampoo! I love the lavender Dr. Bronner’s for this, and a little goes a long way. It doesn’t bother my skin, which seems to get more sensitive as time goes on.
Again one bottle that can be used for so many different things, is a must for van life.
6) GSI Outdoors Infinity Plates & Bowls
We started out with our old dishes from home and quickly learned a few things…Regular dishes are heavy, we were constantly worried about them rattling and breaking, and we really only need enough dishes for the two of us.
We quickly made the switch to these lightweight camp dishes instead. They are super easy to clean and very lightweight.
We no longer worry about breaking dishes. This brand from REI is great because you can mix and match and buy individual pieces, so we didn’t end up with extra dishes we don’t need. I know plastic dishes don’t sound great, but these GSI Outdoor Infinity plates and bowls are BPA-Free, and they nest so they don’t take up too much room in your cabinets.
7) Klean Kanteen Wide Vacuum Mug with Cafe Cap
These are two of our most used items in the van. These insulated vacuum mugs are must-haves for road-tripping and camping. They are super insulated so they work for keeping your drinks hot/cold all day. They don’t hold smells, so you can switch from coffee to tea, to water, to wine and back again without weird flavors. We also love that the lids come apart so you can clean them thoroughly.
8) King Camp Chair
Camp chairs are a necessity for vanlife. The way we travel has landed us in some amazing places, and the goal of this lifestyle is to live out of the van as much as possible. We hauled around our old Roots camp chairs from our homeowner days (they were literally falling apart when we replaced them.) We wanted something that was comfortable and compact. These chairs are a less expensive take on the chairs at REI/MEC. They are mesh and quick dry. One arm has a cup holder, essential for beers around the campfire. They assemble easily, although when brand new the material is tight, and a little muscle is needed. The high back is super comfy, and this chair supports Logan’s 6’3 frame.
9) Mattress Topper
Our van actually houses a king-sized bed! How lucky are we? We use this space for sleep, and for lounging. Our bed is not a fixed bed, it converts up into a sofa and two seats. Because of the way we travel we have opted to leave the bed down and made up all the time. This space has to be comfortable, for the amount we use it. When we first started out I think we slept two nights on the folded down bed, and then popped into Walmart to buy a mattress topper.
This round we opted for a Lucid 4″ Gel Memory Foam Topper. So far sleeping on this is a dream. It is very soft though and being memory foam sitting on it can really sink you in. The best option for us would probably be a proper mattress but the layout of the van, as well as our need to access the storage under the bed, has us opting for the mattress topper.
The Weeboost Drive 4G-X! We picked this game changer up after 1 month of cell service frustrations.
This cell booster was super easy to install, no drilling into the van. The antenna is low profile so you can’t see it peaking over the roof, and it adds no height.
The booster works by grabbing any cell signal that’s available and boosting it through a receiver that is installed in the van. As an example any time we have 2 bars, the Weeboost usually tops us up to full bars of signal. It has bumped us from 4G to LTE. If you rely on the internet for pretty much anything, you want one of these. It works with any cell carrier. Remember it will boost a signal…if you are in an area with no signal, this won’t create one for you.
11) National Geographic Road Atlas Adventure Edition
We use our Google maps for GPS almost exclusively. The van does have a TomTom system in it, but it drives us crazy.
Google maps helps us with directions and finding specific locations, but we love having a physical map to refer to. (Not to mention Google Maps has a fun tendency to send us down some of the craziest roads.)
This National Geographic Road Atlas has a map of all the National Parks, and it includes side roads, public lands, historic sites, monuments, and campgrounds.
We also love using this Atlas to document our travels, we go back and trace the routes we have taken, so it’s practical (works without cell service) and is a cool keepsake from our time traveling.
We use this pretty much all the time. Reflectix is an inexpensive option for insulation. We have cut pieces to fit all of our rear windows. This has helped with keeping the van cool or warm depending on where we are. It also helps with blacking out the van, which makes sleeping so much easier. There are some great ideas out there for making these a little cuter or covering them to be more decorative or stealthy.
13) NOCO USB Charged Battery Booster
We picked this little guy up at the start of our journey. We don’t ever worry about a dead battery, we have only had to boost once and it worked like a charm. We charge this booster from a USB port while we drive, and it gives us peace of mind knowing it has more than enough juice to boost our battery. It also has a flashlight, and extra ports so it can be used to charge other devices. Multi-use, and there in case of emergencies, this booster is great and takes up very little space.
14) Air compressor
I wish I could say we didn’t need this, but again in case of emergencies, this little fella is a life saver. It plugs in through our 12V DC outlets so we can use it for all 4 tires easily. It kept us topped up when we had a slow leak up North. Another time we really needed this was getting stuck… we have gotten stuck in sand more times than we are proud to admit. One trick for getting out of that sticky situation is letting some of the air out of your tires… you will want to make sure to have an air compressor to top them back up when you get out so you can drive away safely.
What are some of your favorite essentials for traveling in a van or RV?
We are participating in the Amazon affiliate program, which means that if you click on a product in one of our posts and purchase something, we get a small commission at no added cost to you. We only link to products that we have in fact used ourselves. I also don’t want to blindly send you shopping.
The goal here is to give some helpful suggestions and start you on your way to researching what works best for you 😊
January is wrapping up, and we are getting ready for a fresh start in February!
January is wrapping up, and we are getting ready for a fresh start in February!
We haven’t posted much since we arrived in Ontario, it has been tough.
We have had the van in storage for over a month, and it’s been the strangest thing.
It was a big shift adapting to living in our tiny space, and finding our flow….it was equally strange readapting to living back in a condo.
We were lucky when we headed out this way that a couple who lives in the same building as Logan’s dad offered to sublet their condo to us while we were here, and they wintered in Florida.
The concept of having more than one room, doors to close, light switches to flip…all a little foreign to us.
Some luxuries we had forgotten…. unlimited hot water and water pressure for showers, even a hot bath… a dishwasher (we only used it twice the entire time we were here) we are totally programmed to wash dishes by hand as we use them. Fluffy towels that have space to dry. A full kitchen, with a stove top and oven! A huge fridge and freezer. Being able to take our time, hang up our clothes in a closet and not have to worry about packing up again the next day…
Luxuries aside, we have missed the road. We are conflicted, there’s something nice about the structure and ease of living back in a condo, but we also feel trapped. We went from living in our campervan, to not even have a vehicle to drive.
We had family who let us borrow their vehicles for a couple days here and there, and even paid to rent vehicles to allow us to do errands, grocery shop, and generally get out.
It’s been a crazy experience being here. We remind ourselves constantly that we were here to spend time with Logan’s dad. And we did, we got about 5 weeks with him before he passed. That time is invaluable and we wouldn’t trade it for anything.
It’s been an emotional, exhausting, devastating and draining time. It was expensive, and just all around tough. But those negatives are overshadowed by the time Logan got with his dad when he was still here. The time we spent with his wife’s family, hours and days of round the clock hospital time.
The time we got to spend with the girls, and our niece, this experience created a closer bond. While we wish it was under better circumstances, we are eternally grateful to Logan’s dad for bringing us all together.
So now we try to start to move forward. We have a lot of great things to look forward to this year. It’s hard to be excited about things, but we are trying.
We are going to be getting the van ready to hit the road to try to catch some sunshine. We have friends who are traveling in the southern U.S. and we can’t wait to meet up with them.
We booked our flights to Ireland, making plans for my sister’s wedding. We are going to be renting a campervan for part of the trip too!
We will be heading to the East Coast of Canada for the summer and reaching some pretty remote and stunning places.
We have been out of commission for a while…and we are excited to get back on the road and share our adventures.
What are you looking forward to this year???
P.S. We have been doing some Amazon shopping for the van, and the trip to Ireland, and I will put together a short post with those items soon.
Finding wifi on the road can be a challenge, here are some ideas to help you stay connected
Staying connected and finding wifi on the road…
Working while traveling full time requires that we are connected. So we have come up with some suggestions for finding wifi on the road:
*Our first stop in a new place is usually a visitor center. We like to get a lay of the land, and tips on what to see in the area. Often times they have reliable (though basic) wifi. Typically for emails, checking and messages.
*Most of your favorite coffee shops have wifi, Starbucks isn’t your only option, but they are still pretty reliable.
*Many restaurants, especially chains (think fast food locals) have wifi, and usually, you can access the signal from outside their 4 walls.
*Walmart, yep we’ll just say it, sometimes we camp in stunning locals with breathtaking views, and sometimes, we are camped out in a Walmart parking lot. These guys offer wifi in all their stores and we have even been able to upload and download on this connection.
Thankfully in this day and age wifi is becoming more and more accessible, but sometimes it means thinking outside the box.
*Recreation centers (maybe catch a workout and shower),
*Many retail stores,
*Park visitor centers,
*Laundromats (multi-purpose visits are an added bonus)
If RV parks are more your style, many offer free wifi. We have also encountered some that charge for wifi, restrict website access(no Netflix and chill here) and time limits are often placed.
Lastly having your own hotspot. You can cover your bases by working with multiple service providers, signal on more than one network is ideal. Our cell service is through AT&T and we will be purchasing a Verizon Hot Spot. As long as we are in service areas with the help of our weeboost this should cover our data needs!
If you have any suggestions for staying connected on the road we’d love to hear them in the comments!
Even we questioned our decision to downsize into a campervan as much as everyone else. We were lucky. We have great family and friends. Our jobs, the gym, life was easy.
What about our jobs? How will we get along in this small space? Where will my clothes fit (I miss our walk-in closet)? Will we have what we need? Saying goodbye to our nice new house, our dishwasher, his and hers sinks, I loved our shower. Will I even like living in such a tiny space?
I would definitely never have categorized myself as a minimalist before, in fact, I have always had a really hard time letting things go. No alarm clocks, no cable, no wifi. I would also not call myself a girly girl, but the idea of giving up the girly things that had taken up space in my life… No more straightening iron, curling irons, cabinets full of makeup, lotions and potions, my washroom at home was like visiting a Walgreens or a Shoppers Drugmart, I had variety and options for everything I used.
Everything about home life was simple, lights everywhere, a long hot shower, a bath maybe? A big stocked fridge and freezer (we actually had two) laundry whenever you wanted, and our comfy sectional to curl up and binge watch Netflix.
You definitely give up some of those creature comforts when you move into a van. But pretty amazing things happen just outside of your comfort zone.
That all being said our van has everything we need and then some, but there was definitely an adjustment period. Finding the spots to store our things. Being creative with groceries, and learning the “van shuffle”. But we love it. We have spent all but two nights in this van over the past 10 months (two nights the van was in the shop). There’s been exciting moments, and stressful ones for sure.
Yes, we still miss those creature comforts sometimes, but the freedom we have created is priceless. Without question, worth it. We have removed so much stress in our lives, it’s actually hard for us to envision what life was really like before we hit the road. For me the change is monumental, I was taking medication daily for inflammatory issues, and haven’t needed them since our second month on the road. I was a borderline insomniac, and now, for the most part, I sleep and sleep well. I will admit I have gained a few pounds, my activity level is totally different then it used to be, and that’s ok.
This lifestyle is certainly not for everyone but here are 7 things we love about van life.
1. We abide by a “no plan” plan, which means we rarely know where we will end up
In 10 months traveling around North America, there have been gorgeous beaches, stunning red rocks, forests, canyons, old cities, small towns, big cities, ghost towns, museums, three oceans, you name it. There have definitely been some spots that were less idyllic, rough neighborhoods, rough roads, and Walmart parking lots. But when you create room for the unexpected, more often then not you are rewarded with amazing experiences and a great view…
Taking a dip in the Arctic Ocean was a stellar reward for making it up the Dempster Highway (over 900km of gravel roads) every morning of that trip, we just agreed we would go as far as we could, and if we had to turn around, so be it. But we didn’t, and it was worth every minute driving that crazy road.
2. You create Freedom, and it’s a game changer
When we left home one of our first rules was, NO ALARM CLOCKS. For the first time since we met, our time is our own. We don’t have a schedule to stick to. Sometimes we sleep in late, some days we are up at the crack of dawn. It shouldn’t seem so strange, but we fall asleep when we are tired, and we wake up when we are rested. Goodbye insomnia! The knowing that there is an alarm waiting to go off in a few hours was definitely a source of my sleep deprivation.
No rigid schedule means, we can catch a music festival without asking for time off. Lunch at the beach? Sounds great. We can plan our days however we like. If we want to take Holly on an epic hike we can start when the weather cooperates, and we can keep her comfortable and happy.
If we don’t like the weather, we escape it!
We basically lived like snowbirds this past winter, and really, its was a dream. We woke up to snow our first night in Olympic National Park and decided it was pretty and all, but we were done with it. We made our way south and nestled in near Palm Springs with the toasty warm weather. We watched the weather again to plan our trip to Utah, and got to enjoy the red rocks with a dusting of snow, in t-shirt weather! We even took advantage of a sunny day when we convinced my folks who were visiting to randomly road trip to the Grand Canyon with us. There was some grumbling over how cold it got at night, but again, we got a sunny clear day, and the chance to experience an awe-inspiring spot with mum and dad.
3. It’s the friends you meet along the way…
The happiest benefit of traveling in our van has been the incredible people we meet. I would honestly say that we are a little reclusive, so this one kind of caught us off-guard. Since being on the road we have actually formed some really strong connections with new friends. A big part of it is likely that we are meeting fellow travelers mostly. Travel is a great shared interest. Sitting around a campfire, hearing stories of the places they have been and adventures they have had is pretty much the best.
We have met a variety of people, young, old, families, friends, couples, single folks too. Fellow full timers remind us we aren’t crazy for living this way, and even though we came from totally different places, and backgrounds, we all chose this lifestyle (or maybe it chose us) It is definitely a common denominator that we all wanted more time, and more adventure in our lives.
Our friends Cheryl and Jeff from Sarnia, Ontario, who also sold their place and a lot of their things to full time in a travel trailer. They have documented their adventures ever since on YouTube, we became fast friends when we finally met in Alabama of all places. They hosted us with Cheryl’s mom in Sarnia, Ontario and let us join in on our first family dinner in months.
Dave and Irene whom we idolized on YouTube before taking the leap into the van. We felt nervous and excited to meet them in person in Arizona, even though we rolled in after dark to our remote camp spot, they came out with their pooch Pistol and greeted us with open arms (which is great, because it turns out, I am a hugger) We hit it off instantly, the boys even wore matching clothes. They actually interviewed us for their YouTube channel, they are total naturals, we were awkward as could be. These guys have taught us so much about our tiny home on wheels and inspired us to hit the road. We camped out, shared a campfire, and though we joked about it, I am fairly confident that Logan and Dave will be lifelong hiking buddies, while Irene and I will be the traveling support crew having our own adventures.
We met another famous YouTube couple Joe & Kait when we saw them in the parking lot at the gym in Tuscon. These guys took time out to meet us, and have yummy dinner at Chipotle. We later found out they had sadly lost their fur baby that very same day. They still included us in their day, and they didn’t even know us. These guys are a wealth of knowledge when it comes to van life and RV living, they are also successful digital nomads, and we really can’t wait to meet up with them again.
We also met some traveling friends from Switzerland, two couples, both on very epic and very different adventures.
Claudia and Jann are on a 6-month multi-continent tour, and we met them over a Muskox burger in Tuktoyuktuk. We also met Mirjam and Stefen in Yukon, and they were on a 6 week holiday and chose to see the crazy remote areas of Northern Canada. These guys reminded us again how big the world is, and how little we have seen. We felt like we had known them forever, even though we are from very different worlds. We shared Mirjams first Caesar in Dawson City while enjoying a Cancan show. We shared our first Muktuk experience in Yukon with Jann and Claudia, and had a great campfire with their first S’mores! We will be seeing them next year when we travel to Europe!
This was a long one, but it is really the big one. For people who really keep to ourselves, we feel so incredibly lucky to have met these and other new friends along the way. I honestly feel like it is exceptional for an adult to meet other couples and all make friends, and all genuinely enjoy spending time together. We have learned from all the people we have met along the way, and created some of our favorite memories, and I think this is pretty special.
4. There is a learning curve
They say growth happens outside of your comfort zone…
Have you dumped RV tanks before? Well until my first time, neither had I. My first time was in Oregon in a crazy rainstorm (picture me standing with my feet submerged in water, while the wind was howling and blowing someone’s awning off their rig) It was almost as romantic as it sounds 😉
Parallel parking a 22-foot van on a crowded city street in San Francisco…challenge accepted.
Why have we not had hot water in the van in a month?? Reaching out to new friends, and even manufacturers, and Roadtrek constantly, because, our valves don’t look like everyone else or the ones in the manual.
Trying to understand what lights and indicators mean when something isn’t quite right in the van, thank god for Google and YouTube.
You learn a lot about the places you visit, the history, and the culture. We dive hard into bedtime documentaries and reading about every new place we visit. We want to understand more about what we are seeing, and how things came to be. You are constantly reminded that the world is big, and you are in fact very small, and that’s ok. The places you go and people you meet are inspiring as hell, and that basically fuels the desire to keep seeing more.
And of course, you learn a lot about each other. It’s actually surprising how much you’ll learn, we have been together for almost 8 years, and are happy to report we haven’t run out of things to talk about yet. We didn’t even need driving music for the first few months of being on the road, we just talked. Being together 24/7 in a tiny space is testing, sometimes its downright hard. But you find out so much about each other, you start learning all those isms, you embrace being in a tiny space with nowhere to hide. You even get used to listening to your partner singing along to your driving playlist.
5. You consume less, you get by with less, and you are happy about it!
So I mentioned earlier, that I have always had a hard time parting with things. We were those people who were working hard to fill that new house with things. I was never a girly girl, but my cosmetic department stocked cabinets would have told you otherwise.
We downsized our lives dramatically. Seriously we went from a three bedroom townhouse with a yard and two car garage, to under 100 square feet of living space. We packed all the things we thought we would need into the van, and have made a few purchases along the way. Here is the crazy thing, we still have too much stuff!!
I stressed so much about clothes because this wasn’t packing for a vacation, it was packing for life. But in reality, I wear the same handful of outfits most of the time. I live for leggings, loose tops and things that breath for hiking. I have little use for cotton (it gets smelly and wrinkles), I have an ever growing love for merino wool.
I have had two occasions on this trip where having something a little cuter or fancier might have been nice, such as our nights out in Vegas. My one pair of jeans and only semi-dressy sweater did just fine, and my feet thanked me for walking in my Nano’s instead of crazy high heels.
I actually get frustrated with my clothes cabinet, because even though I have donated and given clothes away, it is still packed with too much, and things I don’t wear. I live in a tiny space! That cabinet is about to get overhauled and reduced big time. The two takeaways I have about clothing are: Less is more, and we do laundry super regularly so I am never going to run out. What the hell was in my walk-in closet back home??? The second is if it wrinkles, and that is a problem, it basically has no business being in a van.
Our kitchen has been downsized too. Again we had all the cool little gadgets, appliances (though I miss my dishwasher) all the dishes (though we never entertained guests for dinner) we had 5 different vessels for brewing coffee! Okay, we still dedicate a lot precious real estate in the van to coffee, but that how we start every day. The rest of our kitchen has continuously changed. We switched to camping dishes and stopped worrying about our plates and bowls rattling around on a washboard road. We each have one spoon, one fork, and one knife. We have one pot, and one pan (and they are almost never used at the same time) we love one pot meals, and doing dishes is not an option, it happens as soon as we are done eating, so again, less is more.
Our next change will be installing a water filter. The biggest and saddest waste for us on this trip has been bottled water. We should be able to drink the water from our holding tank, but I can’t wrap my head around the idea. We have been using bottled water, and refilling with potable water as best we can. Despite our best efforts and our fondness for recycling, this consumption just doesn’t work for us anymore. We also learned that several states do not have recycling in place, and in the U.S and Canada you are charged bottle deposits by the bottle, but many places do not have bottle depots where refunds are offered. It’s not like its a big expense, but saving money is a perk of this lifestyle, those deposits ad up to $4/case sometimes and that is a slow drain on our budget that we are happy to put a stop to!
6. Your relationship is bound to change
When we were working full time, by the time we were both homes we were usually bagged. We were like most people, more than happy to change into comfy clothes, get on the couch and binge watch Netflix. While I am all about the Netflix and chill, we basically ignored each other. All we wanted was more time together, but the time we did get was being wasted.
We are also both pretty strong headed individuals. If I am not happy, there’s a pretty good chance I am not hiding it well. Logan, on the other hand, gets quiet, or so I thought. When we lived in a big house and had hectic schedules, we could hide, hang out in your room, head to the gym, go for a drive or stay late at work (boo). If there was a problem, it could get pushed aside and avoided if we wanted.
For better or worse that has all changed. I will never ever claim to have the perfect relationship, but if you want to practice dealing with your own shit and patience in dealing with someone else’s, van life could be for you. If one of us or both of us is upset or just having an off day, there is nowhere to hide. We will talk about, fight about (oh yeah, it still happens), laugh about it, cry about it, whatever needs to happen, happens. There is really no space in our tiny home for extra drama, so if its something dumb (and really it often is) you learn to let it go. Sitting pouting and staring out the window on a driving day, is a laughable offense, punishable by loud off-key sing-alongs.
Privacy is kind of a thing of the past. We do all the things in that tiny space, so you learn to get comfortable in your own skin in a hurry when there is always someone else around. Having a washroom in the van is amazing, (and I may never own a vehicle without a toilet in it again) but kicking your partner out to use it, is a habit that dies fast and hard.
You also understand the actual value of alone time. We recharge in different ways. Logan has logged 65 KM hiking in the last week (yes, we are okay, I have been there for some, but not all of it). When he needs alone time, he gets outside, and he loves it. I do not take it personally at all if he wants alone time, to check out a trail, go birding, or be alone and read even. I again love to black out the van, and watch a girly movie, or read. My recharge or alone time is my little escape, and Logan is more than happy to oblige. We joke that our van has many “rooms”, if we are stuck inside on a rainy day I may hang out in the bedroom, while Logan is 3 “rooms” away in the “living room”.
The short version here is this, you definitely get a lot closer. You learn patience for dealing with your own shit and your partners. You will have more energy to devote to each other when it’s not being expended on work and everyone else’s drama.
The silver lining in my mind when it comes to this relationship piece is that if you get to stay with someone forever, in the end, it is likely just the two of you. So hopefully that person is your best friend, and someone you can handle being alone with, in the best and worst of times.
7. You become a creator
This seems like an accidental byproduct of traveling. We take thousands of pictures and hours of video of all the places we see.
It seems like everyone we meet is in the same boat. We frequently have retired seniors handing us business cards with their contact info and social media handles.
We had the opportunity to speak with a class about social media and traveling at NSULA. They had great questions and a lot of great feedback for us.
We have met an entire community online of people like us who are traveling full time in vans or RVs. They are creating amazing content and sharing their stories and experiences. Social media can be a little freaky, but this is definitely a positive.
The ability to monetize the content you create has also become a very common thing. It’s no wonder many of these people, who are spending way more time then you think (seriously, it’s actually a lot of work editing videos, and photos and writing posts) will eventually make some money from it too. Digital Nomads are everywhere because they can be. The internet and social media are for more than just scrolling. If working online sounds interesting, check out our post.
We are still finding things we love about vanlife, and we still have a lot to learn. We would definitely recommend it to anyone, maybe not full time, maybe rent a camper for a weekend, or your next holiday, and see where your tiny home on wheels takes you.