There are a thousand and one ways to travel and we make you discover a new one today with this series of articles dedicated to motorized travel at the Van Life. Who knows, maybe this modality will resonate with you!
Let’s talk about the advantages of going on a motorized adventure now!
We must try at all costs! If you’re “titillated” by the idea…
Our travellers in Van: the vanlifers
They are eight members of the milesopedia community to have answered our call. Eight who have known and most of them still indulge in their passion for motorized travel.
Westfalia, Winnebago, Adventurer, Chevrolet Express, Dodge Caravan, Jayco. Recent models and others who, let’s face it, have asked for a little love. Well done, mechanics!
Most of them are or have been owners of the car, other tenants. They rented their van from:
- Happy campers in Iceland
- Piwiwiwi in New Zealand
- Spaceships in Australia
First observation: they love or loved it. Those who sold the mount are bored. They’re thinking of renting.
One of them, who has swapped his Westfalia for a motorbike, is thinking of reconnecting with the beast through motorbike relocations in the United States or Canada. Do you know it? It also exists in New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom and Europe.
It’s about doing each other a favour: the company asks you to take possession of the RV at location X and bring it to Y. If the destinations are convenient for you, why not!
For example, seen on a site recently: you take a 4-seater RV in Montreal and the company gives you 20 days and 4,500 kms to get it to Vancouver. It charges you $10 a night and $0.41 per kilometer not needed. So do your calculations but it’s an option that can be interesting.
I would say, apart from the nostalgic, the offer seems very appropriate for people with small budgets or who want to give it a try for the first time.
Finally, we still have to think about coming back (hence the interest of the reward programs with travel points for our followers)!
Van Life and the call of the open sea
We must try at all costs! If you’re “titillated” by the idea: listen to your little voice and GO! Go for it! We have proof with the current situation that things can change so quickly tells us our vanlifers milesopedians.
All members agree to recommend this way of travelling to those who are tempted by the adventure. They chose her for a variety of reasons. Will they convince you of that?
Van Life: synonymous with freedom and independence
The Van Life stands for freedom and independence.
We stop when we feel like it. We’re leaving without a reservation. If the weather is good, we go to the beach; if it rains, we go to a brewery or a vineyard! It’s freedom, but in the vicinity of the van.Charles, vanlifer
Carolane tells us about a misadventure that happened just as they were getting away from their RV:
One of the worst memories I have of my road trip in Central America came three days after entering Mexico.
We are in Guanajuato, a beautiful city that is part of the UNESCO world heritage. After an afternoon walk, we return to the camper parked on one of the main roads. But, no more house on wheels: the vehicle is MISSING!
We’ve never felt worse. Our whole life was in it: it’s not a car, it’s OUR HOME.
Imagine coming home at the end of the day and your house is gone. Everything, even our passports and card s, were in it, and what breaks our hearts, THE sonny boy who has the reflex to say “they stole my panda”! I hadn’t brought anything but a few pesos.
Visit to a first police station with Google translate as an intermediary, because I’m unable to think about my Spanish, which is already quite basic, so in panic like that, you forget! I’ll spare you all the details, but after two visits to police stations who are blaming each other for what may have happened, we finally discover that we were badly parked and that our horse is with a tugboat. Thank God it wasn’t a robbery!
But now the tugboat only accepts cash, we don’t have enough, it’s all in the RV!
I am in tears, I try to make them understand that I have to go to my vehicle to pay them. They’re advising us that the RV isn’t even here, it’s in an impound lot 30 minutes out of town. An employee finally agrees to drive us there to collect the money.
Worst day of the trip, we even thought of coming back to Quebec, so much so that we were shaken to think for 3-4 hours that we had found ourselves on the street, without any identification, nor money, in Mexico!
I can guarantee you that afterwards we would not leave the camper without our passport and our card s. Son had a few days not to worry about leaving his pets alone in the truck.
Lucky in our misfortune, all the people we met were understanding and generous with their time, and we were able to find our house in the same state as we had left it!Carolane
Whew! Nice escape!
Our members have all found small golden sites to park for free:
- in parks
- along rivers
This is called Boondocking, a term defined by the Fédération québecoise de camping et de caravaning (FQCC) as being:
Caravanning in places where it is not possible to connect to water, electricity and sewerage. The hard-core would also say without the possibility of connection to a cable company or the Internet.FQCC
You can find these places yourself or through applications that direct you to secret corners.
Well, we agree that if you are several to use these applications, the secret is no longer a secret but all are unanimous: it is possible to avoid paying campsites with motorhomes strung up next to each other.
And that leaves room for nice little surprises.
Here is a funny example reported by Charles while the couple was looking for a place to spend the night..:
We’re in the Washington D.C. area, near Manassas. We found a place to sleep for free in an area equivalent to a ZEC in Quebec. Perfect place but requires a permit to enter. It’s online. Stopped at a McDonald’s for Wi-Fi, but not able to get the permit: the site crashes. We turn ourselves in anyway and say we’re gonna lay low. We drive, drive, drive through the woods and finally get to our spot.
Looks like a parking lot for a hike, with pancard and directions. Only one house at the end of the road. We take our shower with our great roof top installation and settle down to bed. It’s very hot, it’s sticky and the crickets sing at 200 decibels. Deafening.Charles
And oops, the occupant of the house is coming! He’s the game warden of the Zec: he gets out of his truck with his Ranger hat, badge in his neck like the Police in the movies and gun in his belt. He asks for a driving licence, vehicle papers etc.
We’re trying to explain to him that we applied for the permit online and it didn’t work. He drives around the vehicle and sees the Quebec plate: a smile appears on his face. No problem, no one will bother you: there’s nobody there. Have a good night Folks!Charles
Ah well! A Quebec Ranger!
Favorite places? Our members have provided dozens of examples:
- with views of glaciers and the midnight sun in Alaska.
- at Lake Willoughby in Vermont
- during a stop at a viewpoint on Route 1 in California: with the bonus of dolphins and killer whales that came to give a show just below the cliff.
- beaches in Mexico and Louisiana
- on the Miguasha Strike in the Gaspé Peninsula, where our travellers found themselves alone in the world.
And in all these places: the BBQ, the sunset, the little fire, the stars and the moon’s arrival with the sound of the waves in the background. You don’t need an apple turnover with that.
My best memory is in Iceland where my boyfriend said to me: “I think I heard the breath of a whale”. But it’s cold and already almost black, I’m under the duvet and don’t dare go out.
The next morning, we’re alone in a cove. And then, as we’re having lunch, we see two whales, the mommy and her baby.Anik
Van Life: Feeling at home
The second reason to indulge in Van Life is to feel at home.
The Milesopedian vanlifers surveyed report appreciating feeling in their business. They move with what they choose to bring while trying to aim for the minimum. To travel light, as they say.
We bring the dog for some, the children’s school equipment when required and the computer equipment, whether it is intended for work or not, for others.
And then there’s the day-to-day management. For parents, the motorized would be safe for children who keep a certain routine just like at home.
24-hour access to washrooms, snacks, meals with movies in the evenings as needed. Of course, after enjoying the experiences that the new places offer.Maude
For others, it’s the fact of having everything at hand!
Since many people avoid restaurants, integrated kitchens allow them to save time and money:
During the long roads, I would leave a dish in the oven and when it was ready, we would stop on the way and eat before leaving!Kelly
A house that moves, therefore, from Eldorado to Eldorado.
Van Life: developing autonomy and appreciating what you have
In third position to plead in favour of this way of travelling in Van Life: living in a motorised vehicle would help us to develop our resourcefulness.
Talk to Emmanuelle, who adapted her vehicle for her trip to the Great North:
In the hidden places, I had put urethane, on the walls aluminum foil, in the windows plastic and on the floor a carpet and under carpet. In the windows at night, I would put big lined curtains that I had made.Emmanuelle
Don’t forget to remember the daily use of water and electricity and to refuel if you are away from the big cities. Would you like to take a shower? Um, maybe I’ll make it to tomorrow.
Melody’s family had to improvise a small bath in a storage bin, following the freezing of the pipes in the trailer. The kids had a great time, but their 6’2″ dad was a little less.
Some members are of the opinion that this life brings us closer to the essential, even to minimalism. Appreciate what is available and often free rather than what you don’t have and what you want.
Nature and human relations first.
Van Life: free accommodation and sightseeing in the city
And finally, one of the reasons for travelling by motorised vehicle is the large free car parks near the cities.
Suppose you have no more points Marriott Bonvoy, BMO Rewards, AIR MILES or Best Western Rewards. And that you have four children.
Last summer, on Confederation Day, we slept in a parking lot in Gatineau with many other motorized people like us, right next to the bridge to go to Ottawa. We took advantage of the festivities of the capital by going there by bike for 2 days in addition to visiting the museums which were free.
We then headed to Tremblant, where we slept free of charge in a quiet parking lot for buses and motor homes. A shuttle bus came to pick us up to take us to the village, where we saw the fireworks and celebrated the 1st of July.
Three beautiful days totally free, except for the gas.Maude
However, be sure to choose your parking lot carefully and not to repeat Anik’s mistake:
We were looking for a place near a town in Australia. After going around in circles for a while we finally saw a group of vans. Bingo! We park, we open the wine, we eat and suddenly I think it’s weird that we can’t hear anyone.
We realized after the fact that our neighbors were all motor homes for sale. We were in the parking lot of a car dealership! But no more moving around, too much alcohol!Anik
Van Life: the budget
If you notice, I did not bring the argument of economy as a reason to opt for the life of nomads on wheels because the subject is not unanimous among the members questioned.
For some who lived full time in the motor home, there were certainly savings in rent and car costs. Accommodation and cooking 100% of the time during holidays also tilted the balance in favour of an economical mode of travel. What’s more, there are six of us!
But others question the astronomical cost of petrol vs. the number of kilometres covered in a short period of time. The eloquent example of the 14 litres/100 km with 90 horsepower and $3,000 spent on repairs/maintenance per year does indeed startle us.
Westfalia 1986: paid $16,000 with a blown-up engine. It was the very good condition of the vehicle and its resale in the United States because of high demand that made the owner get his money back. But that’s not always the case.
Finally, let’s say that a good credit card with no conversion fees that can be used anywhere in America for gasoline or diesel is necessary, to say the least.
To learn more, please feel free to ask your questions in the milesopedia community to our members who participated in the development of this article.
We thank the following vanlifers milesopediens : Joelle, Emmanuelle, Carolane, Kelly, Melanie, Maude, Anik and Charles.