These last few months have been well spent. You may have read our recent post about why we decided to settle down for a bit. As much as our soles need to explore, our bodies needed to catch up. Myles was able to devote the time he needed to rehab his body while we escaped winter. With our heart’s longing for more, our brains knew how important this time was for us.
As the days grow warmer we are spending more and more time outside. We are surprising ourselves at how much we missed living 100% of our life outside. It’s not just us, our dogs feel it too. Despite their daily walks and endless love, they are BORED! We are moving into our van in a couple of days and Myles said to me “I can’t believe how much better I feel, I can’t wait to start actually living again.”
Just like that, I knew we made the right decision. Staying still wasn’t lavish but I am so grateful that our admittedly hectic life gives us enough flexibility to move (or stay) how we need to. As hard as it was to give up our life of mobility, I am so thankful that we were in tune with our bodies enough to know what it is we needed.
As our bodies began to regain their strength we found ourselves turning our talks and dreams into a reality. Lying in bed one night we started with a simple “wouldn’t it be cool to do this extended Euro trip, where we jump from the beaches in Sicily to the islands in Greece?
We can sip wine in Nice and get in a massive food fight in Barcelona (it’s a real thing and we couldn’t be more excited for it!)”. Somehow, this transformed into an overwhelming “holy shit we are moving in less than 2 months.”
I can’t confidently tell you how in less than a month we went from an idea to plane tickets and dog vaccinations. But I can confidently tell you one thing: Always marry someone as crazy as you are. Or don’t and save A LOT of money ;).
I am going to be honest here, Europe has never been at the top of my list of places to explore. I know, the history is amazing. The architecture, the food, the castles, the cobblestone streets… the list is endless. I have travelled to Rome and the Netherlands before and loved both trips.
The vastly different day-to-day life experienced in other parts of the world has always been appealing to me. Asia, Central and South America have always been the areas on my radar. Recently, my wanderlust has skyrocketed and you’d be hard-pressed to find a country I don’t want to visit.
There are 195 countries in the world and I want to explore all of them
The beauty of Europe is the range you can see in a shorter time. On our Canadian road trips, we drive for 6 hours and are still in the same province. In Europe, we could be in 3 different countries. Not ready to give up our time in the mountains and forests quite yet, we will be devoting our next two months to nightly campfires and getting lost in the woods (hopefully not literally FRECKLES). Mid-June we will be ON A PLANE TO… well, who knows.
This is how we see our next few months shaping up. Our plan as of today (keep in mind this changes HOURLY):
Throw our pups on a plane
Land in EUROPE – we’re thinking London or Amsterdam.
Hunt through the streets for a van #vanlife FOREVER
Spend the summer driving anywhere and everywhere throughout Europe
*DID YOU KNOW that Sweden has a “Freedom to roam” act. This allows you to camp on ANY land that is not privately owned!! That’s right the stunning mountains, coastlines and archipelagos are all fair game! GO SWEDEN! 🙂
Find an apartment in Barcelona for the winter to act as our home base.
*Their winter months average around 16 degrees, we can live with that!
When we left for a life on the road we knew we would be soon getting a crash course on minimalism. Our van full of stuff would be the only things we own. No more couches, big screen tv’s, king sized beds etc.
In the weeks leading up to moving into our van we went through everything we had and decided on that item’s importance to us. We ended up selling most things, donating lots, throwing out some and keeping even less.
The things that make up our everyday life is surprisingly minimal. We have a mere fraction of what we used to. For van life everything needs to have multiple uses in our life. Instead, you do everything to get outside and live.
This is us. Even though we live a minimal life we still travel with a van full of our gear. It enables us to not only work from anywhere but also enjoy life to the fullest.
When we were downsizing it was difficult to decide what was worth keeping and what was a mere luxury that we didn’t need. Some luxuries of course are worth keeping which further blurred the line. Since living in our van full time we are still constantly analyzing what has meaning in our lives.
Whether you are a weekend warrior or living in your vehicle, the gear you bring is all you have. Being in a remote location can be dangerous if you aren’t prepared.
One of the biggest things we have learned is quality over quantity. As we shop so infrequently we find it much more worthwhile to pay for a more expensive high quality item than one that will fall apart. For example a bamboo thread shirt rather than your standard $5 cotton. After all, if you only own 6 shirts it is important that they feel soft and last a while without wrinkles rather than getting a hole in it after a couple wears.
As food is our biggest expense everyday expense, and our health is important to us, we thought it was appropriate to start off in our kitchen.
Even though we are living in small quarters, food is still one of the biggest parts of our life. We place a high importance on the quality of the food we eat and food is one of our biggest expenditures. Our first leg of the trip we spent far too much time at Taco Bell. Eating out became expensive and repetitive.
Plus you begin to feel as though you are on vacation instead of living a lifestyle. Being able to pull off the road, literally anywhere, and cook a full meal is one of the best parts of this life.
This post is one in a series where we will slowly release all the gear we carry and their level of usefulness in our everyday life. This is great for those looking to a life of minimalism or looking to take to their home on wheels.
As we do not have an oven or microwave we have learned to make practically every meal with only a two-burner stovetop. Believe it or not, this has not hindered what we cook in the slightest. From pot pies to spaghetti squash we have learned to make our stovetop our lifeline.
Even though we couldn’t customize our rig like in DIY van conversions we find that we have everything we need.
This has been one of the best purchases we’ve made since being on the road. Our fridge, even though it takes up a lot of square footage, allows us to actually keep food (and beer) cold for long periods of time. We’re literally writing this article in the middle of nowhere because we have enough food that allows us to not be tied to cities for weeks at a time.
We have a few mugsthat we use every single day. They keep our drinks cold for days and hot for the entire day. Safe to say we use our Yeti mugs for just about every liquid we drink. If we aren’t drinking from our water bottles, we use our insulated cups for anything from cold to hot. The only downside is they don’t fit in our cup holders.
This will keep your water colder for longer than plastic bottles. And if you are a coffee fanatic like us, it will allow you to have hot cups of coffee for up to 24 hours. While this is used by us often, we know it is much more of a luxury than a necessity.
These are the best for cooking over the fire. They last forever and are easy to clean – something we love. We have 1 regular pot and a pan as well as our enamel kettle which is all we use. We do however cart around an unused large enamel pot that we have hardly ever used.
We have four plates. They are all enamel as we have found that they are the toughest and can withstand our rough lifestyle. We love the diversity that this provides as we use them to cover our food while cooking to insulate heat rather than cart around a lid for our pots.
Our soap is one of our favourite and most widely used items in our van. We do a lot of dishes and are friends with the environment. We use one soap that doubles as an all-in-one for laundry, dishes, dog wash, hand soap and anything else we can think of. The best part is that it is safe enough to use in rivers.
We have two bowls. We honestly don’t use them very often and could easily do without them. They are most often used in times when we run out of plates and are far too lazy to do dishes. One thing these are great for is mixing. Our new favourite sauce is a honey mustard-mayo concoction.
We have one serrated and one smooth sharp knives that we use for everyday cutting. This gives us the diversity to cut nearly everything. We find that since we are vegans and do not cut through tough meat, this is more than we need to get by. The trick is to get a knife that has a blade sharpener built into the sheath. This way you always know you have a sharp knife to work with.
If you are anything like us you hate paper towels. They are expensive and unnecessarily harmful to the environment. Cutting up old clothes works great for us but we also have proper face cloths. We use these to clean our van and to wash our dogs feet when they play in mud.
Yes we have a sink, but it’s easier to bring our dishes outside and wash them on the grass in case we splash. Make sure to get a versatile tub (we have a collapsible one) so that you can fit a pair of pants in it to do laundry. We tend to use a bungee strap and hook it to our passenger door handle so we can stand up straight and do dishes freely.
This is so useful for both cutting our veggies and for acting as a place to put our hot plates so they don’t harm our counters. It fits perfectly over top of our sink so it is out of the way. As a bonus, it also prevents our stovetop from chattering as we drive.
Since our stove runs on propane it is necessary to carry matches and a lighter. There is no electric start to our stove so we manually have to ignite it every time we want to use it. It sounds like a pain, but we actually like striking a match. There is something satisfying about it.
With the amount of salads and wraps we eat, large mixing bowls are important. We have three mixing bowls of various sizes that stack into each other. We use these big bowls to make lots of our food and although they take up a huge amount of space, we find them quite important.
We have far too many spatulas. We typically only use our white spoon with a stunted handle that fits perfectly in our drawer and tongs that we use to flip our cooking. In addition, we cart around a flipper and a pasta spatula that we need to purge as we never use them. The Dollar store has these for ridiculously cheap prices.
Ok, this isn’t exactly kitchen related but we don’t have a laundry room. Having a rope on hand will make it so that you can use the tub and your biodegradable soap to wash your clothes. This will also act as your clothesline.
As we live with our windows and doors completely open the majority of the time, having these veggie bags are incredibly important. They make it so that our fruits and vegetables stay safe and bug free during the day. They also allow us to get creative and hang our produce all over the van.
Our van, like any Westfalia, comes equipped with two swiveling tables. These have been specifically designed to fit perfectly. They are able to reach the passenger seat when it is facing backwards, and over our bed when it is transformed into a seat. This is the area where we do everything from work on our computers to prepare and eat our food. This also works as our only counter space making them even more valuable.
It has been said that the kitchen is the heart of the home. This is true in our tiny home as well, despite our minimalism lifestyle. Cooking may look a bit different in this small space but it has become more important than ever. Our life as vanpeople has shown us the importance of minimalism.
Are you a vanlifer? Let us know what your essential kitchen gear is in the comment section below!
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links which means we may get a commission if you make a purchase at no extra charge to you. Our opinions are our own and we only share what we believe you’ll find helpful. We also use all the products that we have links to. You can even see them in the photos we post.
After living a life on the road for around 3 years, we now consider ourselves experts in finding the best free campground. If you add the fact that we have only paid for about 4 nights of accommodation – boondocking is our specialty. There are many aspects you should factor into your decision about where you should spend your time in the woods.
Whether you are looking for a new unplugged experience, or just want to find some of the most secluded campgrounds, going off the beaten path works wonders for your mental health. Since we travel with dogs we prefer public sites rather than private ones where we don’t have to keep them leashed all the time. We have been asked so many times how we find the sites we stay at so we thought we’d let you all in on all of our secrets.
This is for weekend warriors and Vanlifers alike. No matter where in North America you are these tips will help you find the best campground near you. Some places are going to be easier to camp in than others. Depending on where you are going, there are certain things you should know.
Not in North America? Check with local bylaws for rules on camping. When we were road tripping through Scotland they have a freedom to roam act that allows you to camp on any public land.
There are tons of land that you can camp on for FREE in North America. If you are in Canada most “Crown land” is free to camp on as well as any forest service roads. For example, 94% of land in British Columbia is considered Crown Land. This means the government owns the land. The USA has a similar thing called BLM land. This is land that isn’t owned by a single person. It is owned by the government, considered public land, and is free to use.
Not all maps will show you where this is or how to get to it, but trust us it is some of the best land to camp on. Some of this land is simply that, bare land that you can set up a tent or park your van on. The cool thing about this land is that you will find campgrounds that have everything provincial, or state, parks have. This can include picnic tables, fire pits and even outhouses. Don’t expect electricity or running water though.
* A few things to consider:
Do your research to see if there are any fire restrictions in your area. If there are you can be fined for starting a fire. It is your responsibility to find this out. This is especially true in Canada where there are fire restrictions every single summer in most places.
For both Canada and the USA, there is usually a stay limit, typically around 14-21 days. This, at least in our experience, isn’t strongly enforced but rather a way to keep it fair for all campers to get an opportunity to experience the site.
There are no garbage services at these sites. It is your responsibility to pack out what you pack in. Keep in mind that someone has been at your site before you. If they left the site a mess you’d be upset, so treat your space with respect. One thing that is great to leave behind is the extra firewood you didn’t use. This is always a welcomed surprise for the next camper or RV.
Rangers and police do not usually patrol these areas. This doesn’t mean that they are dangerous, it just means you have to be courteous to your neighbours. For example, don’t party until 2 am right beside a family with young children.
Recreation Sites and Trails are a halfway point between completely free off-grid sites and Provincial/State Parks. They usually come with a small fee per night – usually in the $15 – $20 range. Rules are usually more relaxed at these recreation sites but also have fewer amenities than at Provincial Campsites.
Their website is a great resource to find areas that have a lot of campsites. These are nearly all first come first served so we recommend finding areas that have a few Recreation Sites close by – there’s nothing worse than having packed and drove to the site only to find out that it’s full.
When you click on a site that you’re interested in you’ll see all of the important information. Some postings have more information than others, including photos. The cool thing about this is that the driving directions sometimes include information about the vehicle you need to access the site (ie. 2 wheel drive vs 4×4 and if a motorhome or trailer can access).
Provincial Parks (Canada) & State Parks (USA)
These are the sites that you are going to have to pay for. They are typically closer to larger cities and come with more amenities (but not always). We rarely stay at these sites since there are plenty of free ones. Paid campgrounds can range from $15 all the way to over $50 – and that’s without hookups.
In Canada Provincial Parks (and State Parks in the US) will always cost you money. Most people think these are the nicest, and easiest, places to get to but that hasn’t been our experience. However, they are well maintained and supervised by Park Rangers, and usually have showers, RV hookups, Wi-Fi service and flush toilets.
The downsideto these sites is that they are strictly regulated. If you bring an extra car or have more than 4 people in a site be prepared to pay extra fees. Pets are required to be on a leash and stay in the designated area; you can’t bring alcohol to the beach, and you have to be quiet by a certain time.
It has been our experience that even with these rules Provincial and State parks are usually louder and more cramped than free sites.
If you are on a road trip or need a place to rest a Walmart or Highway rest stop is a safe place to stay. In our experience, both of these places are welcoming (unless otherwise posted) and allow you to catch up on some sleep. It’s not recommended to stay for longer than you need, or set up lawn chairs, but are a real option if you are desperate. We only ask that you are respectful of everyone around you. If you take over their parking lot the establishment will change their rules, ruining it for everyone.
Finding your ideal free campsite can be a bit of a challenge if you aren’t familiar with how to do it. There are many different ways of searching for the best sites.
We talk to everyone we can and ask them their secret spots. Driving an old Volkswagen van draws a lot of attention. People come up to us and strike up conversations nearly every day. You do not need an old van in order to start talking to everyone and getting all the insider secrets of where to go. Listening to the locals is an excellent way to find out the best spots.
We try to use this one the least however it is often the most reliable. Spending time on our phone or computer trying to find a site, especially at night, can be a frustrating task. Trying to find a reputable website is not the easiest. Some campgrounds close down, don’t look like the pictures or cost significantly more than they say online. Coupling this with not having a phone plan makes it even more difficult. If you are planning to look online, a simple free campsite website should help you find what you are looking for.
AllStay and FreeRoam app
We saved the best for last! These sites and apps are our secret gold mine and the thing we rely most heavily upon. While the AllStay app isn’t free it will undoubtedly be the best purchase you make for an extended road trip or camping experience (note: this is not a sponsored post, it is just that good!). This is a smartphone app that has proved to be one of the best purchases we’ve made. It works much the same as the Maps app on your phone but shows you every single campsite around you both free and paid.
Just keep in mind that this app is only available through the Apple App Store.
There are lists of search categories to choose from. If you are wanting to opt for free campsites only there is a button that will allow you to filter and view only the free campsites in your area. It has information like toilets, by a creek, elevation, how many sites, fire pits – everything you need to make your decision. It also gives you detailed directions on how to get to the sites. We have found that it is completely worth the $13 which is less than one night’s stay at a paid campground
The FreeRoam app is a free option that has done a great job of compiling many free, and paid campsites. Their app is available for Android and Apple devices and is easy to operate. Many listings through the app will have links to government sites that contain information about the site including how many sites, toilets and even the vehicle you need to access the site. This is an easy-to-use application that even has an option to sort sites by cell signals for all of you digital nomads.
All of the photos in this post have been from free sites. How do you find a campground near you? Let us know, and post your photos, in the comments below.