Six months ago Myles and I were sitting in our basement suite both injured and both extremely unhappy. Our injuries, although very different from one another, left us feeling in very similar ways. We were too young to feel like this, we felt bed ridden. Blinded with self pity we hardly ventured outside, we barely did anything. With no plans for a future, we certainly didn’t think anything positive.
In the past two months, we have traveled across five provinces and driven through eight states. Seen everything from frogs and vultures to bear cubs and elk, climbed up mountains, swam in lakes and got lost in the forests (more times than we care to admit). We’ve been euphoric, humbled, even scared. We have stopped in the most incredible cities, and some we wish we didn’t (a wrong turn just before getting into Colorado combined with a car that wouldn’t run turned a lot of heads and left us more than a little nervous). We’ve broken Gurt, and then fixed her more times than we can count.
Leaving Calgary, it becomes very clear that you are in the prairies. Playing “I spy” becomes challenging as the only thing yellow is the wheat and the only thing blue is the sky. The alphabet game becomes impossible as there are no signs on the road. I was bored. My once blissful love affair with these beautiful big farms became more like an over played song on the radio.
Anyone who knows me, knows to not be around me when I get bored because I quickly make some vane attempts to amuse myself through making up songs (note: I have absolutely no creative song writing abilities) and playing with my dogs (even they know to just play dead and accept it now).
Driving on the highway, we saw a sign that said something about a border crossing. Myles decided he wanted to try driving through the states for a bit of change in scenery. Without clearly any real thought, I jumped on board dreaming of crossing this invisible line into the states and being in the middle of some lush unexplored rain forest. The border crossing was surprisingly pleasant despite having three dogs in the car and in a matter of minutes, we were in the land of cheap gas and greasy burgers. About five minutes driving in the states and I had a hard jolt of reality, apparently this invisible line didn’t hide the tropical haven that I had dreamed of, in reality it looked exactly the same with long wheat fields, only this side had more oil drills and less Tim Horton’s.
In preparation for the lack of Steeped Teas our southern neighbour carries, Myles and I had recently begun acclimatizing to McDonalds double-double only to have an almost nightmare-ish realization that when ordering in the states and saying you’d like “one large double-double” they don’t know what you mean and the worst part of all, when you receive your large coffee, it isn’t nearly as good as what you have become accustomed too.
Life driving through the Prairies without good coffee, I don’t know how Americans do it! I suppose the prairies wouldn’t be so bad, but driving through it at the high speed of 80 km/hr turned what would be an eight hour experience, into a twelve hour experience. Crossing back into Canada at the North Dakota – Saskatchewan border crossing was, again, a very fast experience, making the border guards giggle at our attempt to escape the Prairies. Before long we were in Manitoba and all the wheat was replaced with sun flowers.
Everywhere you looked, there were hectares of Sunflowers in the most beautiful dance of color. Looking up at the darkening sky, Myles and I quickly pulled over and sat in the complete darkness of the fields to watch a storm roll in. We were in Manitoba for four days and every single day we were there the weather was the same. Beautifully warm, dry mornings that was followed by a giant storm every afternoon. Sheets of warm, nickel sized rain poured down while beautiful strikes of electricity lit up the sky and loud growling thunder shook our van.
I was in love with the moodiness of this province. Myles would get so mad at me for sitting outside of our van in hot puddles of water watching the night sky light up. It wasn’t the periodic lightning like I was used to – it was a constant and steady light show that left me completely speechless. The town of Winnipeg was a blissful surprise as I had no idea what to expect with this little city. Granted that after the prairies, I would have been happy with anything that had “unclaimed land” but what I found was even better. Every single residential street, both downtown and in the suburbs is lined with trees, and all the people were unusually friendly.
The downside to the city is it has the worst streets you have ever driven on, and it is home to the most bugs you will ever in your life see. Since leaving for this adventure a month and a half ago I have been stung by six bees (on a hike Myles accidentally stepped in a bee hive), four wasps (they’re just assholes) and probably eight million mosquitoes. After stopping in for a wonderful time spent with some of Myles family, we are ready to leave Manitoba and drive east in search of some much needed lake time.
To our friends and family and all our readers we greatly apologize for the lack of communication from us since our departure. This trip has been a roller coaster. Incredible highs met with unexpected lows. Vanlife, for us, was a way to disconnect; to completely unplug from our everyday lives and focus on our priorities, our little family.
When leaving we had a naïve excitement for what’s to come. A blissful work free, stress free easy lifestyle. We knew there was going to be an adjustment period but we thought mostly of the bright early wake ups and tripping over each other with the lack of space. What we actually found was something greatly unexpected and something that I believe we had to learn along the way.
For us, we began our second attempt at vanlife northbound up the coast of British Colombia where we visited all the major tourist attractions in Squamish, Whistler, and Lillooet (if you haven’t already done so, add the drive from Pemberton to Lillooet to your bucket list – a steep climb up a mountain rewards you with unbelievable views and many places to stop and relax) in an effort to get to our main destination: Kamloops. I wanted to visit some amazing friends of mine to say goodbye before departing into the great unknown. Only what we didn’t realize at the time was that we were already on our trip. Always living for the future is a hard concept to shake. Always having a destination was something drilled into us, it was unexpected and even while on our trip we didn’t realize we were still living by.
After spending two nights in Kamloops we had our next destination in mind, to go visit Myles grandmother and family in Vernon. Myles passport was lost so we were forced to spend almost a week of our trip in Vernon. Luckily, we met with both of our families to visit vineyards and help us pass the time. While we were oh so impatiently waiting for his passport to arrive we had the time to have one of our infamous worldly discussions where hours pass by unknowingly and we discuss every dream and worry we have.
We realized that silently we were both having the same doubts and concerns about our trip thus far. We were rushing through towns in an effort to find our next destination, we were not set up in the van how we wanted to be (completely over packed) and we didn’t actually believe we were on our trip; This meant we were not doing it how we wanted.
We were surprised however how much space we truly had, not once had we tripped over each other. In one afternoon we cleaned out our entire van (cutting what we had currently packed by about half). After (finally) getting Myles’ passport, and doing some much needed maintenance on the van (including a fuel pump and fixing our water pump), we were on our way with new eyes and hearts full of hope.
We set sail Southbound to Osoyoos stopping at local fruit stands and always finding time to jump in the unbelievable lakes, even in a storm. We learned a few things: cleaning was a constant and important task in such small quarters; opening up our blinds helped to make everything feel much bigger and brighter; and most importantly to never forget about the excitement of what we were doing. With having no more places to stop, nowhere to be, we continue with a little experience and a ton of anticipation. How vanlife should be lived.
We promise to write more often now that we have our life in order 🙂
After six long weeks, we finally have her back. Our new soon-to-be home on wheels, back from the repair shop. With only a week left until we leave, we were incredibly eager for her return and our excellent mechanic was just about ready to have two new employees in us. We purchased Gurt for such a great price we decided to put in some extra money to make her as reliable as an 1984 vehicle can be. With a newly rebuilt engine, we are the most excited we’ve been.
Being able to finally start cramming our possessions into every nook and cranny, testing our new solar panel (yeah! we got one, thanks to Samara’s family), this is feeling real.
As you could probably tell we’ve spent the last few weeks taking turns panicking about this trip. Luckily, we never seemed to panic at the same time and always found the voice of reason. We won’t be able to sell all of our stuff, what if we don’t get our van left, do people really do this, holy crap we just sold all our stuff, holy crap WE are really doing this. In the last few days, pieces have been falling into place. Our stuff has been selling, we got our van back, and we have people lined up to show Relish to (our second Westy).
This has been a whirlwind project that is finally coming to fruition. Life was either going to get harder and push us to rethink our plan or reassure us. Thankfully it was the latter. Now there are just small things to do like sell two cars, clean our two-bedroom suite, pack our life into our van and start our journey (can you sense the sarcasm).
We had many fears, many doubts about this trip. Well, we have them still but every single day that passes those fears get smaller and our excitement gets bigger. In about a week we no longer have a home address which only magnifies every feeling. Our “bring” pile seems to get cut in half every day as we realize how little of what we once filled our home with actually matters. Having only gone camping for weeks at a time (at the most) we can only guess at what we will need but it is extremely important to both of us that this doesnt feel like a temporary camping trip but feels like our life.
Living with three dogs and two humans in about 80 sqft leaves us with about 16sqft each. With an ever encroaching fear of claustrophobia we have decided to do quite a few test runs to help get us, and our dogs, acclimatized to our new life. After our first hour our fears completely evaporated, leaving behind only excitement. We are all able to walk around and find places to sit without tripping over each other. Our biggest fears were about how our dogs would handle this trip. We can’t sit them down and explain what’s happening, making them nervous and shaking especially seeing their dog beds being sold. But like any move, they’re being showered with treats, love and reassurance that we are bringing them all with us. They have now become very comfortable in the van and while we see us spending the majority of our time in the mountains and out of the van, it is very comforting to know how adaptable they have been.
Ever sat there and thought about your life and realized how much you lived for “one day”? Saving for a house, waiting for the right time to get married, to have kids, for school to start, for a big promotion? I consider myself a decently aware person, of my surroundings and actions and habits, I make an effort to be present and aware. However until today, I have never realized how much I put my for now on hold in hopes for my some day to come true. While I sit here and watch all my stuff get sold and talk about this trip, it doesn’t quite feel real to me yet. No way, I’m not the girl who is going to pick up my life and move it into a van with my family and travel my little corner of the world! Yet it is happening – just over two weeks from now! We have uninsured our vehicles and made our little van our daily driver. Spending more and more time has done something completely unexpected. I realized that for possibly the first time in my life, I am living right now and loving every second of it.
The date is set, our van is in the shop, our notice has been given, we are selling our possessions. There is a lot of worrying, excitement, and anxious time that goes on behind the scenes. Preparing for life out of a van is a mixture of every emotion. There is so much unknown that you are overcome with feelings you never felt before. Much like weeks before you’re about to fly away to an unknown land, the feelings are overwhelming.
There has been some hurdles we have had to overcome. From our hearts telling us this is right, our head telling us this is not possible and our dogs panicked about us packing, our house being in shambles. Imagine having to sell pretty much everything you have accumulated in your life, sounds stressful right? Now imagine having to sell it all in only 30 short days. Yes, spontaneity sounds fun, but the unromantic reality sets in when you are scrambling to sell/donate/throw away almost everything in your 2 bedroom apartment in order to down size to life in around 50 sqft. The reality of your prized possession getting a quarter of what you value it, knowing you can’t bring it with you.
With still having three vehicles, and a house full of stuff we can’t bring with us we have a lot to do and not a lot of time to do it. On top of that, worrying about where money will come from and getting our van back in time before we have to leave our basement suite. Trying to focus on the positive and good has been our everyday struggle. Breaking down what we have to accomplish into smaller pieces has been key. Yes, we’ve gotten overwhelmed. Yes, we’ve broken down. Yes, we’ve become closer than ever. No one told us it was going to be easy, but you better believe it will be worth it!
In these stressful times we love hearing from you! Please don’t hesitate to message us. Much love.