Van Life FAQ’s: The Most Commonly Asked Questions About Van Life & RV Life

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?

Vanlife FAQ's

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?

van life realities

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?

van life freedom

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?

van life destinations

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.

van life northwest territories

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.

Email us: lifeasweroamit@gmail.com

Or comment below👇

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Van Life Travels: An update and reminder during uncertain times surrounding the Coronavirus

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.

Sending Love from the road,

Kira, Logan & Holly🐾

Follow us on Instagram for updates

The Best Money-Saving Apps For Life On The Road

Van Life Resources ~ The best money saving apps for fulltime travelers

Here are some of the best money-saving apps and cash back programs we use while traveling full-time!

Definitely use them whether you travel or not these money-saving apps are useful for everyone

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Gas Buddy:

This app provides current fuel prices at gas stations in Canada and the U.S. so you can plan ahead and avoid paying top dollar. American users are also eligible for discounts and free fuel offers!

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Get Upside

Fuel is one of our biggest expenses after 2 years on the road and 90,000kms (almost 56,000 miles). Every penny we can save in fuel adds up! Get Upside offers cash back that can be deposited to your PayPal account. The app is user-friendly and allows you to chose between different stations and different fuel grades. Just chose an offer, fill your tank, and snap a picture of your receipt! Earn an extra $0.15/gallon bonus when you sign up with our referral code: A2KEH

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Shell Fuel Rewards

This one’s a no brainer! Shell isn’t always the cheapest station, but we have come to rely on them. They are found from coast to coast, so it takes the guesswork out of finding fuel. The rewards program starts you off at $0.05/gallon discount at all Shell stations. You don’t need to carry a card you can use your phone number! Their app is also straight forward and easy to use, it also makes tracking your fuel spending easy. You can also earn extra fuel discounts when you make in-store purchases (if it’s a snack and fuel stop you could easily triple your savings!) Sign up here and Never Pay Full Price For Fuel again!

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Rakuten/Ebates

We use the American and Canadian versions of this cash back program. Hello online shoppers, this app is for you! Cash back offers on everything you buy online! From your favorite housewares stores, to shops like Sephora, save money planning your next trip, flight deals, hotels, car rentals ( we cleaned up booking our Ireland trip in 2019!) and of course Amazon !! If you are traveling or building out a van you are likely doing a lot of your shopping on Amazon so start earning cash back on the stuff you are buying anyway! Easy to use just head over to the app, find your store and you will be linked directly to their site (your purchases are still from the store, this program just tracks the purchase and gets you cash back! They have also started offering some instore offers, so honestly, there’s money to be saved any time you shop.
You can get a $10 bonus cash back for signing up when you use our affiliate links!

U.S.A shoppers click here

Canadian shoppers click here

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Fetch Rewards

This user-friendly app offers a super simple rewards program! Scan receipts from grocery purchases to earn reward points. Then redeem your points for great stuff like gift cards and prepaid credit cards!! Earn 2000 bonus reward points when you use our referral code: 3WURW

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Ibotta
We use this cashback app for groceries, but they have offers on a lot of different stores and branded items. Easy to use just check the app for offers before you shop, scan your receipt and start earning cashback! Get started by clicking here!

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Thanks for checking out these money-saving apps, never leave money on the table, happy savings to you!!!

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We also wrote about ways to Stick To Your Budget While On The Road click here to check it out!

Planning Your Visit To Big Bend National Park In Texas

Planning a trip to Texas? Don’t miss out on a visit to Big Bend National Park, one of the largest and most unique National Parks in the lower 48.

Big Bend National Park Van Life Travel Resources

Sharing a border with Mexico and spanning the Rio Grande in the Southwest of Texas. This park offers up everything from vast Chihuahuan Desert landscapes, to the stunning Chisos Mountains and of course the river. There are several trails, canyons, and even Hot Springs on the Rio Grande. This park is massive, there are two gas stations in the park and over 200 miles of paved roads! So if you want to feel isolated in the wild, you will find that here.

Big Bend National Park Van Life Travel Resources

Big Bend is known as a hikers paradise, with more than 150 trails that span to all four corners of the park. Wildlife? You bet; bears, javelinas, big horn sheep, snakes, lizards, birds, bears, mountain lions, the gangs all here! If paddling is your thing, hit the river and explore into the Santa Elana Canyon. If you’re into birding, you probably already know that this park is a hot spot for hundreds of species. During spring migration expect to see birders out in full force.

Let’s Take a Hike

Chihuahuan Desert Nature Trail
and Dugout Wells
This is a peaceful spot to learn a little history, and about some of the desert vegetation. It’s an easy and short walk around a desert oasis, and a great birding spot!

The Window

Up in the Chisos Mountains, there are tons of trails, and The Window is a highlight. 5 miles from the visitors center, the trail is well kept and manageable for even novice hikers. We started the hike at 9:00 a.m. and made it out and back with a nice break at the window by noon. We shared the trail with hikers of all ages [the eldest we met was 84 years old]. The view west from The Window will take your breath away.

Lost Mine Trail
This is one of the most recommended trails we have heard of in the park. There is super limited parking, and we have not been able to nab a spot. This trail is just shy of 5 miles and promises canyon views that are second to none.

Visit Big Bend National Park

Hot Springs Trail
Not far from the Rio Grande Village campground, is Daniel’s Ranch. Here the trailhead to a gorgeous 6-mile hike to the Hot Springs this hike takes you up into the hills and meanders above the Rio Grande. There is a bit of a climb and elevation gain early on, but the majority of this hike is level and clear trail. The payoff, of course, is the Hot Springs at the end.

Visit Big Bend National Park Travel Girls

Boquillas Canyon Trail
Take a little climb to a gorgeous overlook of the Rio Grande and Boquillas del Carmen. Watch for bighorn sheep, goats, horses and neighbors across the river. Follow the trail to the banks of the Rio Grande.

Things to Do

Take a drive
If exploring by foot isn’t for you, there are some incredibly scenic drives. The main roads through the park are paved. Drive up to Chisos Basin and see another side of the park. Take the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive and access some of the most popular trails, and unpaved drives in the park! Enjoy several scenic look out points and work your way down to Santa Elena Canyon and have a picnic lunch before checking out the historic sites like Sam Neil Ranch.

The Hot Springs
Take a dip in the 105°F healing waters on the bank of the Rio Grande. This spot was inhabited and was considered a major hub in the early 1900s. The spot is still popular today in our 2 visits to this park we have yet to see the Hot Springs without a ton of people, and a full parking lot. Our recommendation is hitting the Hot Springs early in the morning, or for sunset.

Day Trip to Mexico
Bring your passports in the Southeast corner of the park there is a border crossing to Boquillas del Carmen in Mexico. Spend a day visiting this little village hitch a ride on a donkey and enjoy a delicious meal.

Star Gaze
Big Bend is one of the BEST dark sky parks in the lower 48. Oh yes they’ve got stars. It is 10 miles from Terlingua to the west entrance of the park, and over 40 miles from Marathon to the north entrance. The surrounding small towns are far enough away and are also known for their dark skies. If possible plan your trip around a new moon, that paired with clear skies and you’re in for a treat.

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Let’s talk Camping

Did I mention this park is BIG? As such it requires some planning, but it’s worth it. There are 3 established campgrounds as well as ample backcountry spots. But know that ALL of the spots do fill up fast. Even if planning isn’t your thing, trust me reservations are a game changer. Being prepared is nice especially when cell service is almost non existant in the park.

The Rio Grande Village Campground

Reserve online to nab a spot for more than a day or two. This campground does offer some first come first serve spots, but be prepared to be there bright and early there may already be a line up. The spots are all dry camping, so no hookups for RVs. There are washrooms and potable water available. There is also an RV dump station, a gas station and general store, laundry facilities, wifi and pay showers just outside the campground. This campground is ideal for our friends with big rigs. We appreciated a few things about the Rio Grande Village Campground: The shade, more space between sites as well as bigger level spots.

Visit Big Bend National Park Van Life

Chisos Basin Camground

Reserve your spot online.
First come first serve spots available, even though it’s up the mountain and not big rig friendly, you will need to get there bright and early and be prepared to move after a day or two.
The spots are all dry camping, so no hookups for RVs. There are washrooms and potable water available. There is a general store and visitors centre here as well for some supplies (even wine!). The road up the mountain has a size restriction, so while it is possible, it isn’t big rig friendly. The spots here are more geared to smaller rigs, vehicles and tent campers. The sites are small and often unlevel. If you need some creature comforts, there are also rooms available in the lodge, and reservations can also be made online. They also offer a restaurant for some apres hike eats, and a beer.

Cottonwood Campground

This campground is dry camping only and no reservations. There are pit toilets and potable water available. This campground was closed during our visit. There is a small general store and visitor centre at Castalon, though the visitor center is closed in the summer.

Backcountry Spaces

These are ideal if you’re able to boondock. These spots have to be booked in person. For $12 to stay up to 14 days, the price can’t be beat. You will have to choose how long you are staying when you book, you can’t really extend after the fact.

Depending on your set up this could be ideal. Last year we tried to stay at Grapevine Hills past balanced rock. But the 6.4-mile road in took us 2 hours out and back. Without high clearance and 4×4, we opted against camping here. We wouldn’t be able to come and go and explore the park and this was our goal. This was the only spot that was Van or RV accessible that was left when we arrived. These spots also fill up fast. I would say and it’s an ideal situation if you have a vehicle that can easily manage the rough gravel roads or at least mountain bikes to be able to come and go. If you want the gorgeous wide open space check in regularly at the visitor center for availability.

The Road To Big Bend
Visit from the North via Marathon, Texas.

This small town offers fuel, supplies, accommodations, hiking trails and dark sky opportunities. It is worth noting that gas at the Rio Grande Village in the park was actually cheaper when we were there. A small grocery store for supplies and a little stock up expect to pay slightly higher prices here. We highly recommend Marathon Motel and RV park. Full hook-up RV spaces, nice showers, and laundry facilities. Furthermore this is a Passport America park with a great discount price. They also host dark sky parties and stargazing on a clear night is top notch.

Visit from the West via Terlingua and Big Bend Ranch State Park.

There is an awesome piece of history here in the ghost town in Terlingua. Plan to stay a few days in this funky spot with a great cafe, restaurant, and some of the friendliest people. We highly recommend Big Bend Ranch State Park either on your way in or out of the National Park. This area is so vast and diverse, give yourself as much time as you can.

We have met several people who were born and raised in Texas and have never been to this park. While it is a big trip to visit Big Bend, it is well worth it.

Regardless of how much time you have, this park needs to be seen. Next time you’re planning a trip to Texas: fill your tank, stock up on food and water, make reservations and get your butt to Big Bend National Park.

Visit Big Bend National Park

We hope these suggestions help. Keeping in mind that we are restricted traveling with our dog, temperature control is always an issue and as in most national parks, dogs are not allowed on trails.

We would love to hear your experiences and tips from visiting Big Bend National Park in Texas.

While planning your visit to Big Bend National Park in Texas we have another great suggestion for you! Check out our post on Free Camping In Junction, Texas.

Finding Free Camping In Junction, Texas

So excited to share this free camping in Junction, Texas!

We have now made the journey across southern U.S several times. We have taken different routes but often find ourselves at some point on Interstate 10 in Texas. It is a long stretch from San Antonio to El Paso or from the Guadalupe Mountains to the Gulf coast, and finding free spots along the interstate can be a little underwhelming.

Free Camping in Junction Texas

Fort Stockton Walmart & Dominos Again…

Most of the spots you find along the way come in the form of rest stops, picnic areas, truck stops and Walmarts. We have stayed at the Walmart in Fort Stockton on 3 separate occasions now. Rest stops in Texas are also really nice and well maintained. We appreciate these types of stopovers to break up a long driving day and rest our heads for a night. But they aren’t really the places we hope to camp along the way.

Free Camping in Junction Texas Van Life

Our most recent trip from the Guadalupe Mountains along I-10 heading East brought us to the little town of Junction, Texas. This sleepy little town lies on the shores of the Llano River.

Free Camping in Junction Texas Van Life, Texas, Roadtrip,

We were fortunate to make it to Junction and have a few quieter days to enjoy our free campsite and explore the town.

There are several options for camping around Junction. These included Llano River State Park and a few RV parks. We were stoked to find a super picturesque free spot right on the river.

Free Camping in Junction Texas

Schreiner Park is a county park located on the west bank of the South Llano River. The park allows 3 days of free dry camping!

Van Life, Texas, Roadtrip, Fulltime Travel, Living in A Van, Free Camping, Boondocking, Junction Texas, Traveling with pets

The park offers: an outdoor community pool, the home of the women’s softball team, beach volleyball courts, playgrounds, a huge picnic area, and a massive community smoker.

This area was devastated earlier this year by flooding, and we did see some of the aftermath. The city park across the river as well as the RV Park were being repaired.

But as far as free camping in Texas goes this spot was pretty perfect.

When we arrived most of the pull-through spaces with covered picnic tables and barbecues were actually being used by locals. So we opted to pull right along the bank of the river. I think the park is actually more dedicated to day use, but no one seemed to be spending time in the area we parked.

We enjoyed hot Sunny days with the park basically all to ourselves. Got to take a few dips in the river to cool off. Long walks with Holly, and she loved swimming in the river. Park workers, as well as police randomly made rounds throughout the day so we always felt safe. Every time a local drove by they smiled and waved.

Van Life, Texas, Roadtrip, Fulltime Travel, Living in A Van, Free Camping, Boondocking

The park is clean and well kept. There are restroom facilities that leave a little to be desired, but if you need a free washroom this park has it. Covered picnic tables and BBQs are scattered through the park.

The pool was not open while we were here but if the timing worked out it’s $2 to use the public outdoor pool and I would assume that there are showers available here.

While you’re here pop into town grab a bite at the local diner, visit quaint local shops, take a scenic drive, grab an ice cream cone and slow down. Don’t forget to take your camp chair over and cheer on the Eagles Ladies Softball Team!

If you enjoyed this info on Free Camping in Junction, Texas check out our visitor guide to Big Bend National Park

Louisiana ~ Off The Beaten Trail

Full-Time Van Life Travel: Louisiana has so many hidden gems!

Visiting Louisiana ~ Off The Beaten Trail. Last year we saw New Orleans and Natchitoches in Louisiana. Both offered amazing history and culture (and a visit with my rad cousin). It was awesome, but this year we decided to take a slower quieter route through the south.

Louisiana ~ Off The Beaten Trail van life dog

Logan has been really enjoying birding this year, it is something he has always been in to. Now with decent binocs and a new spotting scope he is stepping it up a little.

Louisiana ~ Off The Beaten Trail Birding, Free Camping,  Vanlife

So we found some new great spots. We experienced a quiet, wild and beautiful side of Louisiana. This trip included almost 100 birds species, and some amazing free camp spots.

Big Branch Wild Life Refuge

Our first stop. There is no fee to visit the refuge that is located just outside of Slidell, north of New Orleans.

Birding, Louisiana, Travel Tips, Free Camping,Wildlife Refuge, Vanlife

For birders, Pelicans, Egrets, Herons, and other waterfowl are out in full force. A highlight was seeing the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker, which is rare and considered endangered.

Birding, Louisiana, Travel Tips, Free Camping,Wildlife Refuge, Vanlife

There are boardwalks and trails throughout the refuge. Access was easy, narrow paved roads lead to large gravel lots. No garbage or toilets so these areas are pack in pack out.

We also drove south of Lacombe and watched the birds put on a show during a gorgeous sunset. We boondocked at a boat launch which is also an area where manatees can some times be spotted, though we didn’t see them.

Birding, Louisiana ~ Off The Beaten Trail, Travel Tips, Free Camping,Wildlife Refuge, Vanlife

Our spot was quiet but buggy, as we learned that is to be expected all along the water and bayou areas.

Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge

Tucked way off highway 10 just east of Lafayette. Driving out to this spot was a little intimidating. You are in hunting territory.

Birding, Louisiana, Travel Tips, Free Camping,Wildlife Refuge, Vanlife

Trailers and hunting cabins have a real backwoods vibe to them, we even saw hog heads mounted on someone’s fence posts.

That being said the reserve is really beautiful, it is a forest on the banks of the Atchafalaya River. It was very quiet overnight. Our free spot backed onto the river. Practically perfect except for hunters we hear shooting in the morning. Update** There are designated free campsites in the WMA please find them here

Birding, Louisiana, Travel Tips, Free Camping,Wildlife Refuge, Vanlife

Also, this was the first time we saw warnings in the south for Bears!

Lorraine Park

We discovered that there is a Parish Park system that is made up of small parks with limited sites for RVs and campers.

Birding, Louisiana, Travel Tips, Free Camping,Wildlife Refuge, Vanlife, Travelling with pets

This little park outside of Bell City and Hayes has 9 spaces with power and potable water. It also offers shower, washrooms, and a dump station…for $12 per night!

The park has a boat launch and backs onto Lacassine Bayou. Owls, gators and the chance to see manatees. This park was perfect.

You are tucked away, it felt like a bit of a locals secret. The park is next to the Lorraine Bridge which is a historic spot. A resilient little bridge that has been knocked down and rebuilt to connect two parishes several times since the 1800s.

Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge

This was an interesting loop drive with birding aplenty, and gators galore. Whistling ducks were a highlight during our visit.

The loop is an unmaintained dirt road and it is overgrown in a lot of spots. Bumpy doesn’t begin to describe it, we actually drove on the grass in certain parts, following the lead of vehicles that were way better equipped to handle it.

From Lacassine we wandered down to Rutherford Beach, it is a pretty popular boondocking spot. Our experience was short and not great. It was intensely foggy and buggy. Beach camping and porta-potties, for free. But our van actually got overrun with mosquitoes and we had to high tail it out of there. We spent the night casino camping and clearing out the van in Lake Charles.

Sabine National Wildlife Refuge

We stopped off and did a couple of walks through this refuge. This is part of the Creole Nature Trail. We spotted some Rosette Spoonbills but missed the local gators. Definitely, a nice spot to stop and check out.

Birding, Louisiana ~ Off The Beaten Trail, Travel Tips, Free Camping,Wildlife Refuge, Vanlife, travelling with pets

Holly Beach

Our last night in Louisiana we boondocked at Holly Beach. There is hard-packed sand at the end of the road, it was super quiet, and we only had one neighbor. It was free and with no one around Holly finally got to run and play in the water.

Beach Camping, Louisiana ~ Off The Beaten Trail, Travel Tips, Free Camping,Wildlife Refuge, Vanlife, traveling with pets

The downside to this area on the gulf coast is being able to see the offshore oil rigs.

Next stop Texas!
Tell us some of your favorite places in Louisiana!

Back On The Road & Mississippi Bound

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.

On The Road & Mississippi Van Life

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😍.

Vanliving, Fulltime Travel, Van Life On The Road & Mississippi

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.

Vanliving, Fulltime Travel, Van Life, packing tips, minimalist wardrobe

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.

On The Road & Mississippi Van Life Tim Hortons

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.

The Best Vanlife Gear – Our Favorite Items For Full-time Travel

Bestgear for full time travel

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

Travel tips, vanlife, travel gear, best gear for vanlife, living in a van, fulltime travel tips

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.

  1. 2) Packing Cube Set

Travel tips, vanlife, travel gear, best gear for vanlife, living in a van, fulltime travel tips

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

Travel tips, vanlife, travel gear, best gear for vanlife, living in a van, fulltime travel tips, cooking in a van

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

Travel tips, vanlife, travel gear, best gear for vanlife, living in a van, fulltime travel tips

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

Travel tips, vanlife, travel gear, best gear for vanlife, living in a van, fulltime travel tips, eco firiendly

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.

10) Weebost

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.

12) Reflectix

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.

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What are some of your favorite essentials for traveling in a van or RV?

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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 😊


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Wrapping Up Our Winter In Ontario

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.

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Full Time Van Life: Staying Connected On the Road

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.

van life travel staying connected, cell service, wifi

*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.

van life travel staying connected, cell service, wifi, life on the road,

Thankfully in this day and age wifi is becoming more and more accessible, but sometimes it means thinking outside the box.

More ideas:
*Libraries,
*Community centers
*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.

van life travel staying connected, cell service, wifi, life on the road,

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!

If you enjoyed this article check out our gear guide for van life and full time travelers