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

 

Honda CRV Camper Conversion

Honda CRV Camper Conversion

Here are the things we did for our Honda CRV Camper Conversion.  The first thing we had to do is remove the back seats.  Although the back seats fold down flat, we opted to remove them because we wanted to have more room for storage.  It’s a little tricky to remove them, and even trickier to re-install them.  Take notes and pictures to remember what you did.

The next thing to do is to build a platform for sleeping.  It’s important to know what you will be storing underneath as this would determine the height.  Don’t plan to store anything too tall, as you need space on top for sleeping on your side.  The hooks on the car floor that are used to hold the seats down can also be used to hold down the platform.  

Here you can see the second half of the platform.  In our case, the tallest item we needed to store was the cooler.  We cut a section out so that we could lift the lid without having to take it out of the car.

Both of the back windows have a screen taped on the inside, so that we could leave the windows open without bugs getting in.  For privacy, we cut out a black vinyl piece for each window and attach it with velcro.  The front window gets a sunshade if there are more campers closeby.  If not, we leave it uncovered for the gorgeous views.

Honda CRV Camper Conversion

The final thing to do is simply hop in and enjoy the view!  No hotel (in our price range, anyway) can compete with the views that we found on our travels.

How do we find places to camp?

There are many resources on the internet to help find safe and beautiful places for boondocking.  We use apps such as iOverlander, Campendium and freecampsites.net.  We also explore back roads on our own, and stop in areas where overnight parking is not prohibited.  As a last resort, if we can’t find anywhere to park for a few hours sleep, we head to the closest Walmart store.  Most Walmarts allow for overnight parking.  On any night, a few RV’s can be found at the back of the lot for a quick sleep.

 

Why do we love to camp?

Something pretty magical happens to us when we’re out in nature.  We feel happier, healthier, calmer.  We take a break from everyday life and concentrate on each other.  We spend much less time looking at all the various types of screens.  Our bodies and souls recharge.  And it’s not just us – research has shown this all to be true.  Take a look at this article at sport-fitness-advisor.com:  35 Amazing Benefits of Camping, According To Science.  Get out there, it will do you good!

 

Watch the video!

Feel free to  Contact Us if you have any questions or comments about this Honda CRV camper conversion, or anything else about our travels.  We’d be happy to hear from you! 🙂

Yours Truly …. Yula

 

The Last Days of our Florida Road Trip

The Last Days of our Florida Road Trip

After Charleston, our original plan was to head up the east coast to Myrtle Beach and Virginia Beach. But it was quite cool in Charleston, and even colder overnight. We were both thinking the same thing, “Let’s just go home, and come back when it’s a little warmer”. And so that’s exactly what we did, and this turned out to be the last days of our Florida road trip!

We change our plan, and figured out the most direct route back home. We zipped right through North Carolina, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York in 2 days. It was cold! We only stopped driving for rests and stretches.

Pilot Mountain in North Carolina was an interesting sight:

One of the nicest rest areas we’ve ever stopped at was Rocky Gap Rest Area. We had to cook very quickly though as it was cold and windy.

A fun thing happened somewhere in West Virginia – our odometer hit 111,111 km! (Check out the temperature… brrrrr!)

This little video shows us passing through the East River Mountain Tunnel. We entered the tunnel in Virginia, and exited in West Virginia!

The Last Days of Our Florida Road Trip

Travel Distances and Boondock stops

 

Days 15 & 16

Distance Travelled:  1500 km

The first night we had a quick stop in a Cracker Barrel parking lot, and the second night we were home!

 

And just like that, our Florida road trip is over.  We are already talking about going back in a couple of months when it will be warmer and we can SWIM.  In the meantime, we can reflect on all the places we discovered on this trip, including:

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Yours Truly …. Yula