Well, the time has finally come. I have caught up on all my blog articles regarding our van trips from June to September 2020. WHAT AN ADVENTURE!
We had initially planned to go 6 months but with border closures and pandemic related matters, a lot of places we wanted to visit were closed or not accepting tourists unless they would get a hotel to quarantine for 14 days (hello Alaska 👋, hello Yukon !). So by the end of August we reached a point where we knew there was really nowhere else we could go. It’s ok though because you’ll learn in this article that we spent enough of our travel budget during that time period. No regrets!
In the following article I’ll answer all the questions I’ve had on Instagram regarding our journey. I’ll get into the details of how we managed, what we loved most, what we didn’t like, if we have any regrets, how much it cost us etc… Let’s dig in!
How many States did you visit and how many provinces ?
Here is a map of our trip ! We went through 14 US States and we visited most of British Columbia & Alberta in Canada. We also took a ferry to Vancouver Island. That’s a total of around 20,000 miles in 3 months (more than 32,000kms)
How was it to be in such a tight space with your husband for 3 months?
Not as bad as people would think. Yes, it’s a small space and you’re kind of on top of each other. But the truth is our van is quite big. And we were busy enough that it didn’t matter. We got along quite well during the 3 months. Towards the end (let’s say the last couple weeks), we would have small fights about nothing just because we were tired of traveling really. Travel burn-out IS a thing. The moment we took a break from traveling, everything went back to normal. So no, tiny space living is not as challenging as people would think. It’s pretty awesome actually! It makes you grow fonder and more aware of each other. Because you get to develop your own small habits at the beginning. You learn how to walk throughout the space, minding what the other is doing and where they are at all time. And if you need a second to yourself, one can be on the bed with earbuds and the other can be on his/her phone or computer on one of the front seats or even outside – if weather permits.
How did you do without a shower or toilet ?
I thought I would really struggle without a bathroom and a toilet but it was actually totally fine. I feel like North America has great infrastructure in that sense. You always find restrooms everywhere. If I had to do it in Europe, I would definitely have my own toilet in the van because in France, you won’t be able to walk to a restaurant or bar and ask for the restrooms as easily as you would here!
Concerning the shower, we had a solar shower on the back door and it worked amazing. Impossible to use in cities but we weren’t in them that often anyways. So anytime we would have sun and a quiet spot, we would shower. Consequently, we showered almost everyday. When we couldn’t shower, we used good ol’ baby wipes and it did the trick (as long as you could shower the following day).
We also were able to use free showers in some places across both countries (US and Canada). Or we would take a dip in a lake with our trusted biodegradable soap. That worked too! The options are countless.
What did you like most ?
For me, it was definitely seeing new landscapes everyday. Being here for sunrise and sunset. We felt very free the whole time. We also saw a ton of wildlife, which is something we are so found of. If I had to pick a favourite State, I’d say Montana for the landscapes and Colorado for the diversity of the place (Part 2, 3 and 4 available here). In Canada, I particularly enjoyed our time on Vancouver Island especially the tour we took in Port McNeill. I also was mezmerized by Banff and Jasper National Parks.
For Bobby, it was being able to go to places such as alpine lakes where we had to drive up + hike a long time to finally be rewarded by blue and snowy lakes.
What did you dislike ?
That time we had to change our tires and brakes and ended up dealing with a shop that gave us the wrong size tires. We ended up remaining stuck for 5 days on a Walmart parking lot in Durango Colorado not being able to do anything. It was quite warm outside at the time as well so it wasn’t tremendously fun. But that’s part of having a home on wheels. Just like any home, it requires maintenance and it doesn’t always work the way you want it to.
Also mice. But no talking about it, those who do “vanlife” know.
How much did it cost ?
Read about how much the conversion cost was here. Other than that, we had a budget for our whole trip which was $10,000. We didn’t spend it all but I think this depends on what you’re planning on doing. We cooked a lot in the van at the beginning and then got into trying local foods more.
I’ll give you a few indicators :
Gas = $2,000
Activities = $1,800
Eating out = $1,200
Groceries = $700
Phone bills = $400
Laundry = $40
We spent $6,140 in 3 months so around $2,000 a month. Again, we did a lot of activites (kayak, whale watching twice in Victoria and in Port McNeill, took the ferry to Vancouver Island, wine tasting in Washington State, fruit picking in Okanagan, visit of the Butchart Gardens, beer tasting in Denver, and other State Parcs/museums entrances). This also includes our National Park Pass both in the US and in Canada.
6. Will you do it again? What would you change ?
YES ! We loved it and really, if we could have done 6 months, we absolutely would have (but weather and restrictions came in the way as I said earlier). It was very intense though because we knew we had to get out of the US because of our visas and enter Canada and then enjoy Canada while weather was nice. So I think we would definitely try to do it but taking our time more.
I think when we do it again (fingers crossed), we will build the van with an inside shower and probably with a bigger electrical system (we have 200W solar panels which is really fine but not if you want to live full time in the van).
Honestly, I could do it all over again exactly the way we did it. But that’s what we would pick if we had to makes changes.
How convenient is the van ? Does it go everywhere?
That’s why we picked the 2500 Ram Promaster 159″, it’s because it has an amazing turning radius (understand, it turns like a regular car, not like a bus) and it fits in a regular parking spot. So not only were we able to go EVERYWHERE but we are also only 9 feet high which allowed us to go get McDonalds (and others) at the drive-through whenever we wanted. And I swear that matters. The van is also only 20 feet long which is never an issue on difficult roads (usually it can be limited at 21 feet). We took a ton of dirt roads, you have to take your time but our Vanito is strong and can take on a lot, especially with its pretty new tires.
If you have any other questions, feel free to ask in the comments. I’ll be pleased to answer in French or English!
COPYRIGHT: All pictures belong to Fanny Cohen Sanchez, @fannychn on Instagram, Three Times Nine 2020.