Do the arguments for joining Van Life presented in our previous article appeal to you? To see if you’re ready to move forward, let’s get started by discussing:
- everyday life in a motorhome
- budget issues
Our 8 vanlifers and milesopedia members give us their advice and recommendations so that we can take the step, just like they did. Here we go!
What to expect when you choose the Van Life?
Van Life: everyday life
What do our vanlifer members have to say about what daily life entails when you live in a RV?
- washing oneself
- washing our clothes
- stocking up on food
- disposing of grey water
- getting network access
- finding time for ourself
For personal hygiene: public swimming pools, showers on the beaches, water games when no one is around, gyms, truck stops, lakes with organic soap so as not to destroy the ecosystem and hot springs in Iceland!
Some will also stop at campsites or hotels, offering to pay for the much desired shower. Finally, there comes a time when any washbasin is enough for a shampoo and washing with a mitt.
There is also the option of a shower in the Van.
But we have to watch our water consumption, as our members remind us, otherwise we are doomed to constantly look for places to refuel or end up with soap on our bodies.
And when you’re deep in nature, stocking up is not always as easy as you would like it to be!
When the shower is in the bathroom and items are put away because space is limited, the little routine can become rather labourious.
- start the water heater
- get everything out of the bathroom
- wash ourselves quickly so as not to fill the waste water tank and empty the other one
- wipe the walls
- put everything back
- don’t forget to turn off the water heater to avoid wasting propane.
Ingenious people have installed portable showers on the roof of the vehicle and others, jets of water heated with solar panels while the caravan is in motion. Nevertheless, the combination of truck stops and gyms seems to be the best solution for many.
As for doing laundry, light hand washing with a scrubba was favoured by some, but as the spin-drying became deficient and our brave people sometimes had to put the still wet clothes back on them, using a laundromat became a popular option!
Particularly interesting on dull and wet days…Charles
Van Life: ah, dear Walmart
It is well known that many motorized vehicles spend nights in superstore parking lots, especially at Walmart.
No, it’s not one of the little treasures found during the trip but it’s rather practical in anticipation of the shopping to be done the next day. Good to know: it’s forbidden in California.
Our members point out that in the United States, these businesses are open as early as 7:00 a.m. and close late. Convenient when children are asleep. In addition, using their bathrooms saves water and help preserve the capacity of the wastewater tank.
Finally, it is a large playground for a small ball game before bedtime. It also lets the parents get some fresh air. Because let’s face it, privacy is an issue!
Van Life: privacy
Let’s address this aspect of intimacy when we travel as a couple or as a family and we are together 24 hours a day!
Our members remind us of the following:
It is necessary to communicate and tell each other if we need to go out alone for a moment because this way of travelling can put a couple to the test.
Space is limited, time is rarely spent alone, many decisions have to be made on a daily basis.
Besides, what makes one person feel insecure or annoyed is not always an issue for the other.
Van Life: staying connected
For network access and internet data management, there are different solutions for different needs.
Our members did some digging:
- SIM card
- 16 GB with Rogers on a cell phone that have made it possible to get internet everywhere, but REALLY everywhere in North America
- GlocalMe, a portable router from which one buys data directly from the countries in which one is located, has enabled the production of the required telework. You can connect cell phones, laptops and tablets to the emitted wifi. Reliable but not very economical.
Van Life: budget
But how did our members who were away for several months manage to live without a salary?
First, a few sold their house, condo and/or cars. Let’s say it gives you a good headstart. This did not prevent them from having to work on a tight budget.
For some, there was the possibility of taking a sabbatical year at work, with deferred salary. A deduction from salary for X amount of time allows access to funds during the trip. Anik uses this strategy. She is preparing her fifth escapade, each of them lasting between six and twelve months.
Others were able to work remotely.
Van Life: advice and recommendations
Let’s say that you’re still feeling tempted by the adventure. Here are our members’ recommendations to support your reflection or preparation.
Van Life: assess your needs
Assess your needs before buying or renting:
- How many seats do you need?
- Is it important for you to stand up in the motorhome or would leaning or even crouching also suit you?
- Do you want to reach more difficult places to sleep and would you then consider buying or renting a 4×4?
- Can you go 2-3 days without washing?
- Do you need a toilet inside your vehicle?
Van Life: driver's license
For the required driver’s license, you need a Class 5 regardless of the vehicle.
However, for large motorized vehicles, some practice is desirable before taking to the road. Some even mention taking a course.
Van Life: maintenance
Have the vehicle you want to buy second-hand checked by a mechanic.
Test it over short distances. And if it’s a Westfalia, a little 101 class will save you a lot of trouble. These vans have their own personalities and equipment. Injector, alternator, belts.
Bring spare parts and tires in reserve because you never know what the road has in store for you. Otherwise, there are always the towing services and long-load dollies. We, as milesopedian vanlifers, can attest!
The radiator broke between Banff and Jasper, with no shoulders.
The story ends well, as we returned to the Skywalk Glacier in the opposite direction. While we were waiting for the tow, a Skywalk employee came to offer us a guided tour (it would have been $125 if we had had to pay for this service).
We finally stayed 4 days in Jasper instead of 2, and we found that it was the best spot to break down.
We had to rent a minivan, the last one left in the whole of Jasper. You know, when stars align…Maude
Van Life: plan your route
Check distances between gas stations if you are in a remote area.
Subscribe to CAA. IT’S A MUST.
Van Life: join an association
Also join an association such as the FQCC (Fédération québécoise de camping et caravaning).
The website offers good insurance discounts and remains the reference for information about recreational vehicles. The website is very useful although it is not always up to date.
Van Life: insurance
You must have good insurance. Aviva was recommended for the speedy settlement of claims. The Globe Trotter option covers longer term travel outside of Canada.
For Mexico, Lewis & Lewis, an American firm, is more economical than Canadian firms with the same coverage. For all countries south of Mexico, there would be no short-term “damage” insurance. It would only exist in the long term.
Public liability insurance must be taken out at the borders, depending on the length of stay in the country.
Do not forget
Then, if you want, an itinerary that, even without Internet connexion, follows your journey.
You can put free places to sleep on it and find activities to do along the way. You can also add notes such as price, approximate duration of the visit, copy and paste from blogs and other sites. Of course, you don’t always have to stick to the plan!
It has to be a vacation with little surprises!
Let's travel responsibly during our Van Life
Find out about each country’s caravanning practices and their tolerance of boondocking. The rules have become much stricter, even for some countries that tolerated it very well in the past.
For example, in New Zealand, a country that accepted the phenomenon, frustration is growing in the face of the lack of respect shown by many Van Life enthusiasts (waste, encroachment on nature, invasion of land, etc.).
Some inhabitants (in NZ as well as in Iceland) have even started to honk their horns when passing near sites where motorized vehicles are gathered early in the morning or late in the evening.
The growing popularity of Van Life is creating waves among locals.
Between two trips to Oceania in 2010 and 2018, Anik saw firsthand that the rules had changed a lot.
There are still free sites in NZ, she reports, but they are increasingly popular. Otherwise, there is now a $250 fine.Anik
Our group of milesopedian travelers adds:
Let’s remain respectful of the environment by not using toilet paper in nature because it’s bio-degradable, by not leaving waste on site, even if the places are remote (that’s what being eco-responsible is all about; we’ll find garbage garbage cans later). By not parking virtually in someone’s yard.
And for goodness’ sake, let’s empty our dishwater in designated areas, parking lots are not one of them.Les vanlifers de la communauté milesopedia
The Van Life is a way to travel that won’t suit everyone, we agree.
The adaptation it requires in daily life can make many people think twice about this type of travel. But this way of travelling pushes us out of our comfort zone, to embrace adventure, and allows us to get closer to those who accompany us or those we meet along the way!