We Are Ready for VANLIFE!

We Are Ready for VANLIFE!

We are SOOO ready for vanlife. We started talking about it when we retired in February 2019. We watched YouTube videos, saw a LOT of Instagram and Pinterest photos and it really looked like a lot of fun. But was it for us? We had never done anything like this before.

Some of the research we came across showed people converting their SUV’s into little campers. We look at each other, “WE have an SUV”, we thought. Before investing in a van, we thought trying out the lifestyle on a small scale would give us a taste for what it was like.

And so we built a platform for our bed, bought a single burner propane stove and in July 2019, set off for Atlantic Canada. Our plan was to sleep in the car for a day or two, then find an Airbnb or motel to “rest”, and repeat. It turns out, “rest” was not required! It was pretty wonderful sleeping by the water, watching sunsets and sunrises every day, and cooking simple meals all along the coasts of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. In January 2020, we took another trip down to the Florida Keys.

Camping in New Brunswick, Canada

Camping in Florida, USA

We are often asked, “Where did you shower and do your business?” Finding bathrooms was very easy: gas stations, coffee shops, McDonalds, rest areas, local parks, and when we were in solitude, out in nature!  Showering needed a little more planning. In Canada we purchased a Discovery Pass which allows entry to all the National Parks. Most of these parks had shower facilities in their campgrounds or by the beaches. In the United States, we got Planet Fitness premium membership. This allows a member to always bring a guest for free. The gyms have hundreds of locations in the US, and most are open for 24 hours, so we showered whenever we wanted to. The bonus was taking a little time to work out, and also free wifi!  Both of our trips were pre-Covid, so the current concerns did not even exist back then. Because of the reliance on public facilities, it is not possible anymore to travel the way we did.

We Are Ready for VANLIFE!

Which brings us to our decision to buy the van. We determined that vanlife was for us, and so our next step was to decide on the van. We narrowed it down to the RAM Promaster and the Ford Transit. We drove both, we researched both, and decided on the Ford for the following reasons:
– we can choose an all-wheel drive for rougher roads
– higher clearance under the van, again for rougher roads
– easy to find parts and affordable for maintenance
– easier and more comfortable to drive

We are ready to order, but it seems Ford is not ready to take our order. The 2020 can not be ordered anymore, and the 2021 pricing guide is not yet on the Ford.ca website. Soon though! We’ll order, get the van in a few months, and travel as soon as we are able to again.

I have had time to plan 2 big trips. Our first will be to Western Canada, hopefully in 2021. Our second will be to California, hopefully in 2022. And there is a lot of talk about going back to Eastern Canada, back to Florida, and lots of places in between. So much to look forward to!

 

If you have any favourite places to visit and would like to share, we’d love to hear from you!  Thanks for visitng our site.

Yours Truly …. Yula

 

Van Life before #VANLIFE

Van Life before #VANLIFE

Long before van life was a hashtag, my dad knew that travelling by van was the easiest and most affordable way to travel with his family.  He bought the van pictured below and introduced us to Van Life before #VANLIFE!

There are hundreds of pictures of the beautiful places we travelled to in the van, but not very many showing the inside of the van.  If only Instagram was around back then, we would have made more of an effort to show it off!

I can tell you that he built bench seats along the back with a table that could drop down to make the bed.  There was blue shaggy carpeting all around on the walls for insulation.  My mom sewed all the cushions and the curtains.  It was very very cozy!!  Here we are being silly in our pj’s.

Van Life before #VANLIFE

I have so many wonderful memories of travelling across Canada and United States with my family in the van!

There were even a couple of trips after I met Alex.

The man behind the big blue camping van – My dad.

Teddy

 

Update:  After dad saw this article, he brought out this old road atlas and proceeded with stories about everywhere we visited, where we camped, and advice on what we shouldn’t miss when we pass the same way.  He has it all marked up with the roads we travelled on.  Here are the pictures:

 

We have a renewed interest in the work my dad did all those years ago because we’re just about to order a van of our own!  We’ve decided on a Ford Transit cargo van, and quite excited to begin a build of our own.  Stay tuned for more on that!

Yours Truly …. Yula

 

Test Driving the Dodge Ram Promaster 2500

Test Driving the Dodge Ram Promaster 2500

The last few trips we have taken have been with our Honda CRV camper conversion.  We converted the car we already had mainly to take a few trips and see if we enjoyed travelling this way.  It turns out we love it.  BUT… we do need a little more space.  We believe that the best solution for us is to buy a cargo van, and convert it just the way we like it.  We’ll take a look at a few different models, but on this day, we had fun Test Driving the Dodge Ram Promaster 2500.

The dealership we visited didn’t actually have the 2500, so we drove a 1500 which is just a little bit shorter.  Height and width are the same in both models.  It’s actually quite a cute van!

We really only have 2 key requirements for our build:

1: We want the bed to be across the width of the van.  The Promaster’s width is 6 feet which makes it perfect for the two of us.

2: We want to have a shower and toilet, so we need the height tall enough to stand in.  The Promaster’s ‘tall’ version is 6″4″ – again, perfect for the two of us!

Test Driving the Dodge Ram Promaster 2500

It was great fun to go home with our measurements and imagine how we’d build it.  I found the Ram Promaster Forum online with SO much information from others who have used this van for their campers.   I also found the layouts that others have used to put ideas on paper.  Click here for the link to those plans.  It looks something like this as a starting point:

 

We loved the van.  We will still likely test drive Ford Transit, and the Mercedes Sprinter, and make our decision after that.  We’re both looking forward to buying, building and travelling!

Yours Truly …. Yula

 

Plan a Road Trip with Google Maps

Plan a Road Trip with Google Maps

The internet makes it SO easy to plan a trip, especially when you Plan a Road Trip with Google Maps.  Let me show you how I do it.

First, I identify the main road that I will be travelling on to get to the final destination.  In this case, the shortest route is to travel through the USA, but for this particular trip we want to stay in Canada. 

I add a couple of stops that I know I want to pass through (Winnipeg, Jasper & Kelowna), and now I have a general route.

Then I take an area at a time and identify the places that I’ve always wanted to visit, as well as places recommended by travel sites.  For example, if I’m passing through Edmonton and I would like to visit the West Edmonton Mall, I search for it in Google Maps, click on “Save” and choose the Favorites list.

After I identify all the places I’d like to visit, I can view all my Favourite spots on the map.  I simply click on the Google Maps Menu (top left), Select ‘Your places’, then click ‘SAVED’, then click ‘Favorites’.  

Now I have a big picture of what my trip will look like.  I can adjust the route based on my favourite places that I identified.  For example, I would love to visit Whistler, BC.  My original road plan didn’t pass by there, so I will adjust the plan to drive a little more north in BC to visit.

Plan a Road Trip with Google Maps

If you have the Google Maps app on your smartphone, you can also view all your favourites there.  All phone display the app a little differently, but if you can find ‘Saved’, and ‘Favorites’, you can view them by List, or by Map.  This is very helpful when you’re travelling.

 

And that’s how I do it.  As you can see from the screenshots above, I’m currently planning a trip to Western Canada.  I’m always looking for secret hidden gems to visit – if you know of any, let me know!  Thanks for reading!

Yours Truly …. Yula

 

Inside the Kingston Penitentiary

Inside the Kingston Penitentiary

Date Visited:  July 29, 2019

Thousand Islands National Park

Well, it’s our 29th day on the road and we are back in Ontario, far from the ocean, and we both decided it’s about time to head home.  We just have a couple of places more to visit.  First we head to Ottawa to visit a friend that I’ve been missing.  Second, we have often talked about seeing Inside the Kingston Penitentiary.  On our way to Kingston, we take our time passing through Thousand Islands National Park.  We see many little islands scattered here and there.  This is a park we would definitely want to return to, and spend more time here.

Inside the Kingston Penitentiary

We booked a 1.5 hour tour to see Canada’s oldest and most notorious maximum-security prison, which was home to many of Canada’s most dangerous and notorious criminals. The tour guides were very knowledgable and told us about the history of the jail, and stories of riots and escapes.  All along the tour there were additional guides, most of who worked there as guards in the past.  They had more stories, and quite interesting to meet.  It did feel somewhat uneasy, especially being in the jail cells.  All in all, a very interesting tour.

On the final night of our trip, we settled in a little park in Kingston, Ontario where overnight parking was allowed.  It was quite a busy park with many people around late into the evening.  There were not many other options in the area, so we stayed here for the night.  We found this spot on the iOverlander app.

 

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Yours Truly …. Yula