What I Discovered From My First Two Months of Vanlife

by jpc_touring-bicycle

Folks know me because the “Bicycle Touring Professional” as a result of, for the final 17 years, I’ve been touring world wide on my bicycle and educating folks such as you to conduct their very own unimaginable bicycle touring adventures. However this autumn, quite than happening one other massive bike tour in some overseas nation, I made a decision  to attempt one thing a bit completely different and journey in a means I’ve by no means performed so earlier than!

MY VANLIFE STORY: In late September of 2017, I took off  in a white 2011 Dodge Caravan that I bought from a used automobile lot in Oxnard, California. With two bicycles and all the pieces else I occur to personal loaded into the van, I set out on a three-month-long street journey throughout the American Southwest.

Beginning in San Diego, California, I traveled east towards the Anza-Borrego Desert, then on to the cities of Prescott, Sedona and Flagstaff in Northern Arizona. After spending a while bikepacking on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, I continued on to Monument Valley and the tiny city of Mexican Hat in Southern Utah. Then I drove east to Durango, Colorado and north to the resort city of Aspen, the place I visited with my sister and her boyfriend for a pair days. Then I drove south to the small, snow-covered city of Buena Vista, Colorado, which is the place I’ve been sleeping and biking for the previous 5 nights or so… and the place I occur to be writing this text from at this very second.

Winter Fatbike Cycling in Colorado

I’ve been on the street for a couple of month-and-a-half now and issues are going fairly properly. There have been just a few issues I’ve wanted to get used to with dwelling and dealing in my van, and there have been just a few small emergencies alongside the best way, however general, I’m loving the #vanlife and I can’t wait to do extra of it sooner or later!

Why Strive Vanlife?

“Why would I swap from bicycle touring to #vanlife (touring, working and dwelling in a van)?”

Effectively, that’s a great query! However it’s necessary to notice that I haven’t given up on bicycle touring solely. I’m simply bicycle touring in a barely completely different method for the time being.

Let me clarify: As an alternative of utilizing my bicycle as my one and solely technique of transportation, I’m utilizing my van to hold me and my bicycles to among the most attention-grabbing and bike-friendly areas within the American Southwest. As soon as in these areas, I merely unload the bicycles from my van and go on a trip!

Sitting on the roof of my white Minivan Campervan

In some areas I’ve performed solely brief day rides. In different areas I’ve performed in a single day bike excursions. And in some locations I’ve performed little to no biking in any respect, and have merely lived, labored and slept out of my van.

Finally, there have been quite a lot of completely different causes I wished to attempt the “vanlife” (as it’s referred to as) for myself.

To start with, vanlife is sort of within the social zeitgeist for the time being. It’s a preferred pattern on Instagram, YouTube and different standard social media platforms. Plenty of persons are doing it! In actual fact, I’ve at the least 5 completely different mates who’ve performed some model of dwelling out of a van, both in the USA or overseas, and it’s one thing that has appealed to me personally for a really very long time.

In spite of everything, vanlife is lots like bicycle touring. You pack up all the pieces you personal, cowl a sure distance every day after which discover a place to eat and sleep within the night. Vanlife and bicycle touring have much more in frequent than you may assume!

bikepacking in the united states

One more reason I wished to go bicycle touring with my van and do these brief mini-bike excursions in attention-grabbing areas alongside the best way is as a result of I wished to point out you and my different readers right here at Bicycle Touring Professional that you simply don’t want weeks, months or years of free time to go bicycle touring. When you’ve got a spare weekend, you’ll be able to conduct an epic bicycle touring journey near the place you reside! I’m hoping to point out that with just a bit spare time, a bicycle, and a wholesome urge for food for journey, there are some unimaginable biking locations near the place you reside!

The third cause I wished to attempt touring with a van is as a result of I’ve already cycled throughout the USA in six completely different instructions (north, south, east, west, and so on) on six earlier long-distance bike excursions and I simply don’t have it in me on the this second to do one other lengthy bike tour throughout the USA. I’ve performed that already… and I don’t actually need to repeat experiences I’ve already had up to now.

Nevertheless, I did need to do some bike touring in the USA and I wished to point out my readers at www.bicycletouringpro.com simply how good the biking could be in North America. Because it seems, driving round to among the greatest spots within the USA with my bicycles in tow has turned out to be an effective way to perform each of these objectives!

Monument Valley bike tours

Lastly, the final (and possibly the largest) cause I made a decision to attempt #vanlife now’s as a result of I used to be lately identified with most cancers and I’ve been within the restoration course of ever since. Since getting most cancers, having surgical procedure, and receiving remedy from my docs, I’ve cycled throughout 9 completely different nations in Europe, North America and South America, however, to be utterly sincere, I’m getting drained.

I spent the primary few months of 2017 bicycle touring in Colombia and Ecuador, and despite the fact that I loved my biking experiences in these two nations, I used to be actually struggling on the time. I couldn’t discover a lot wholesome meals to eat, I used to be battling anxiousness assaults and dizziness, was hospitalized on two separate events, and finally misplaced greater than 12 lbs by the top of my bike tour in these two nations (as a result of I wasn’t consuming sufficient – as a result of I couldn’t discover any meals that I appreciated).

I got here residence from that bike tour in South America… and I used to be beat! I spotted at the moment that possibly going off to those tough overseas nations at this level in my life shouldn’t be one of the best thought on the earth.

I did, nevertheless, find yourself spending three further months this summer season biking throughout Sweden, Finland and Norway in northern Europe, however the circumstances there are a complete lot nicer than they have been in South America – the meals was good and I felt comparatively wholesome.

So, when it got here time for me to start out planning my subsequent massive bike tour, I made a decision that I used to be going to keep away from these far-off, tough bicycle touring locations for some time, and I used to be going to do one thing a bit nearer to residence. Not solely would touring across the USA with my bikes within the van be a complete lot simpler on my physique, however it might enable me to hurry again to my docs in Southern California if there occurred to be any indicators of the most cancers returning.

bikepacking alone

I notice that is all fairly unfavourable and a little bit of a downer, however the fact is, I’m nonetheless within the 3-year hazard window during which my specific sort of most cancers is most liable to return and/or unfold to a different a part of my physique, so driving round the USA for just a few months is my means of constant to bike tour, whereas on the similar time staying near residence and caring for my well being.

Fact be informed, I’d quite be off biking in some overseas a part of the world (like Morocco or Siberia), however in the interim, I’ve made the choice to remain near residence, take it simple on my physique, and discover among the greatest biking locations in my residence nation.

What Kind Of Van Did I Purchase?

I spent a very long time completely different camper vans, cargo vans, and utility vans on the Web. I watched all of the vanlife movies on YouTube and talked to my mates who’ve performed some #vanlife touring of their very own within the current previous.

In spite of everything of my analysis, I made a decision to not purchase an official camper-van or perhaps a cargo van of any variety. As an alternative, I made a decision to purchase a minivan!

Bicycle Touring Pro's 2011 Dodge Caravan Bicycle Campervan

There have been three predominant causes I opted for a minivan as a substitute of a giant cargo or camper van:

Campers and cargo vans are fairly costly. I simply didn’t need to spend some huge cash on a brand new van… and, on the other-hand, I used to be a bit nervous about shopping for an inexpensive used van which may have mechanical points as soon as I acquired out on the street. So, I wished to spend much less cash! (PS – Sure, I’m a cheapskate.) Finally, cash had lots to do with my determination.
I wished a car that was going to be comparatively fuel-efficient. I didn’t need to have a giant car that sucked up gasoline and cash like there was no tomorrow. I wished to have a car that acquired a great gasoline mileage and wouldn’t be too expensive for me to drive lengthy distances.
Lastly, I wished to get a car that was comparatively stealthy. I do numerous stealth tenting on my bicycle excursions and I personally love this type of touring. I wished to the identical factor in my van! So, I wished a car that, if somebody have been to see it, they wouldn’t immediately assume, “I wager you there’s somebody sleeping inside that van.” I wished a car that I might park in an city or suburban surroundings and nobody would even suspect that I used to be inside and sleeping.

In the long run, I settled on a white 2011 Dodge Caravan that I discovered on the market at my native CarMax. The automobile had roughly 55,000 miles on it and it got here with quite a lot of the additional options I wished in my van (similar to a roof rack, a 110 Volt electrical outlet, and fold-down center and rear seats).

desk built inside minivan

In actual fact, the explanation I settled on the Dodge Caravan over another sort of minivan is due to these fold-down seats behind the van.

Usually, the 2011 Dodge Caravan (and each Caravan mannequin since 2011, I consider) has featured center and rear row seats that fold down into the ground of the van with they aren’t in use. So, if you wish to carry a bunch of stuff behind the van, you’ll be able to fold the seats down into the ground and the whole again of the van in flat and open for storage. However then, if you wish to carry a bunch of children (or mates within the van) you’ll be able to simply fold the seats out of the ground and have seating for seven folks.

I, nevertheless, knew I wouldn’t want seating for seven folks. As an alternative, I knew that I used to be going to wish plenty of room for storage. And I knew that if I might rip out the center row seats, I might have an enormous space within the flooring of the van the place I might safely retailer all my belongings.

So, that’s precisely what I did throughout my first day with the van. I ripped out the center row of seats and was stunned by how a lot room I out of the blue needed to retailer all my belongings within the flooring of the van. Increase!!! – On the spot storage answer.

Which Bicycles Are You Utilizing?

As a result of I’m touring in a van and since I’ve acquired the house for it, I made a decision to journey throughout the American Southwest with two very completely different completely different bicycles.

cycling in Prescott National Forest

The primary bike I introduced with me is my Co-Movement Cycles Siskiyou touring bicycle, which occurs to be the identical bicycle I used on my current bike tour throughout Sweden, Finland and Norway this summer season. That is my road-based touring bicycle for my vanlife/bike tour.

The second bike I introduced with me on the van journey is a bicycle that I truly simply obtained initially of this tour. It’s a Chumba USA Ursa 29+ mountain bike… and it’s a bicycle designed particularly for off-road bikepacking adventures.

darren alff bikepacking with chumba usa and wanderlust gear

So, I’ve one bicycle for conventional road-based bicycle touring… and I’ve one other bicycle designed for mountain biking, off-road using, and brief bikepacking journeys.

I’ll be publishing a whole evaluation of each my Co-Movement Siskiyou and my Chumba Ursa 29+ right here on www.bicycletouringpro.com someday within the close to future, however for now, simply know that I Iove each of those bicycles and I might advocate them each to anybody.

The place Do You Retailer Every part?

Storage has been considered one of my greatest issues with touring in my van. It’s not that I’ve numerous issues, as a result of I don’t. It’s simply that there are lot of issues I’m nonetheless not 100% positive the place to place them in order that they’re out of the best way… and so it doesn’t seem like there’s a homeless particular person dwelling in my van.

The large distinction between myself and so many different folks dwelling the #vanlife is that my bicycles are a giant a part of what I’m doing out right here. In actual fact, my bicycles are my job, my supply of revenue and my predominant ardour. As a result of my bikes are so necessary to me, and since my two bicycles are value greater than $10,000 USD collectively, I wished to ensure that my bikes have been by no means stolen.

Touring Bicycle on a Thule Proride Rooftop bike rack with Mexican Hat, Utah in the background

I purchased two Thule Proride bike racks so I might retailer the bicycles on the highest of my van, however I additionally knew that I wasn’t going to need to maintain the bikes on the roof of the van always. I knew that there can be situations after I’d be stepping away from my van for lengthy intervals of time, and I didn’t need to go away my very costly bicycles simply sitting on the roof of my car, out within the public and drawing consideration to themselves. So, I knew from the very starting that I wished to have the choice the shop the bicycles both on the roof or contained in the van (the place nobody would be capable to see them they usually’d be safer).

So, immediately, I’ve acquired two very massive issues taking on numerous house contained in the van. Fortunately, if I decrease simply the one seat within the far right-back nook of the van, each bicycles slide into this house and stay there (even when the van is in transit) thanks to 2 small bungee cords I’ve acquired mounted on the right-hand aspect of my car.

This leaves me with a barely bigger empty house on the left aspect of the van the place I can sit, work on my laptop, put together meals, retailer a few of my further belongings, and on the finish of the day, fold out my mattress and fall asleep.

This arrange has labored properly for me. I don’t actually thoughts having the bicycles contained in the van with me (and I definitely sleep higher realizing that the bikes are secure contained in the van), but I nonetheless want there have been a way for me to retailer the bikes exterior the van always, with out having to fret about them getting stolen. If the bikes have been at all times on the roof, for instance, I’d have a complete lot extra room contained in the van for meals storage, a small kitchenette, or among the different luxuries you oftentimes see in different folks’s campervan setups.

The place Do You Sleep?

To start with, like I stated on the high of this text, I’ve been on the street for about one-and-a-half months at this cut-off date… and I’ve but to pay even a single cent for lodging, tenting or sleeping. As an alternative, I’m sleeping in nationwide forests, state parks and free campgrounds situated on land owned by the USA authorities.

Can you see my white van parked among the many bushes within the photograph beneath? This was considered one of my free campsites exterior the town of Flagstaff, Arizona.

free campsite in national forest

My primary useful resource for locating these free campsites is a web site referred to as www.freecampsites.internet. Simply go there, sort within the space you might be hoping to camp in, and a complete listing of free campsites will pop up in your display screen.

Earlier than I left residence, I programed the entire free campsites alongside my route within the American Southwest into the Maps.me software on my smartphone, so now I can take a look at my offline mapping software at any time and simply discover the campgrounds in my space with out having to refer again to the “Free Campsites” web site.

Vanlif traveler Darren Alff sleeping in his Dodge Caravan campervan

Secondly, relating to the place precisely I’m sleeping contained in the car, I don’t have a devoted mattress space contained in the van. As an alternative, I take advantage of the rear two seats contained in the mini van as my chair, desk and meals preparation/consuming space in the course of the day. Then, after I’m able to go to mattress at evening, I fold the rear seats down into the ground of the van and I lay out a big 4 inch thick foam mattress that I bought on Amazon.com for about $80 USD. The mattress is cot-sized and lined in a single sheet. And on high of the sheet/mattress I place my sleeping bag. That is my mattress contained in the van, and it’s extraordinarily comfy! I’m fairly pleased with it.

How Do You Bathe & Go To The Rest room?

Going to the toilet is straightforward. I both use public restrooms (at gasoline stations, eating places, cafes, supermarkets or libraries) or I merely go to the toilet someplace within the wild. I don’t have a rest room, sink or bathe inside my van.

I’ve gotten numerous apply going to that rest room within the wild, because of my 17+ years of bicycle touring experiences all world wide, so these expertise translate over very simply to dwelling in a van.

Having the van is sweet although as a result of as a substitute of solely carrying one or two rolls of bathroom paper (like I’d do on my bicycle excursions), I can carry a 12-pack of bathroom paper inside my van. And since I’m in a van and I’ve room for extras I won’t in any other case be capable to journey with on a bicycle. For instance, I’ve acquired a small spade that I can dig holes with and a number of other small bottles of hand sanitizer, which I take advantage of after each rest room break.

spade, toilet paper and hand sanitizer

Whereas going to the toilet has been no concern for me over the past month-and-a-half, getting a bathe has been considered one of my greatest difficulties.

As a result of I’m staying in free campsites on public land more often than not, there aren’t any showers accessible to me. I might keep at a privately owned campground and take a bathe there, however I actually dislike personal campgrounds the place they pack you in amongst a bunch of noisy neighbors, so I’ve been sticking to the free campsites and taking showers solely after I can discover them.

Within the 45 days I’ve been on the street, I’ve solely had about 4 or 5 showers, which implies I’m solely getting a bathe each 10 days or so.

That may sound horrible to you, however the fact is, it hasn’t been that dangerous. The climate presently of 12 months is cool, in order that helps to maintain my physique from sweating, which might make not showering for such a protracted time frame even worse. Plus, some days all I do is sit within the van or drive from one location to the subsequent. That doesn’t trigger a lot filth to pile up on my physique!

Most significantly, as a result of I’m in a van, I’m additionally carrying a big 7-gallon water tank, which I take advantage of principally for ingesting water, but in addition use to cook dinner with, wash my van with, and wash my physique with on the finish of every day. I even bough a bit spray bottle that I take advantage of to spray myself down so I can simply take away all of the filth and dirt that has gathered on my physique over the earlier 24+ hours.

This, together with washing up as greatest I can inside public restrooms, has stored me comparatively clear on most days of my vanlife/bike tour. No, I’m not as clear as I might be if I have been carrying contemporary garments daily and having a shower each morning and/or evening, however I’m clear sufficient!

Like I stated earlier than, I’ve been bicycle touring world wide for 17+ years, and anybody who’s going to journey in that means has to get used to not having a bathe every day. It’s merely one thing you get used to… and I’ve discovered that conserving clear in a van is a complete lot simpler than conserving clear if you’re touring with a bicycle as your solely technique of transportation.

PS – Relating to doing laundry, the answer is straightforward – go to a laundromat! There are many public laundromats within the cities I’ve been visiting on my vanlife/bike tour throughout the American Southwest. When you begin in search of them, you begin to see them all over the place!

How Do You Energy Your Electronics?

As a result of I deliberate to dwell, work and journey in my van for months at a time, I knew I used to be going to wish a option to energy the entire numerous electronics I’d be carrying with me – my laptop computer, drone, cameras, GoPro video digicam, smartphone, bike lights, and so on.

It was simple for me to find out {that a} photo voltaic system can be my best choice for conserving all my electronics charged whereas I used to be on the market on the street.

I watched a bunch of movies on YouTube, learn just a few articles, after which went to Amazon to order all the pieces I’d want for my small, off-the-grid solar energy setup. I ordered a 100 watt versatile photo voltaic panel, a Renogy photo voltaic cost controller, a 100AH deep-cycle battery, a cheap energy inverter and all the required cables. The entire price for all the pieces I wanted was about $600 USD.

I’ll go into the small print of my photo voltaic system, how precisely all of it works, and the way I put in all of it inside my van in a future article/video/podcast right here on www.bicycletouringpro.com.

solar panel on the roof of my minivan

For now, simply know that the photo voltaic system works fairly properly. The panel I bought is extremely skinny, and due to the best way I’ve it mounted on the roof, you’ll be able to hardly even inform that it’s there! This I vastly admire, as a result of I don’t actually need it to be apparent to anybody strolling or driving previous my van that I’ve helpful electronics inside my car.

That being stated, as a result of the photo voltaic panel is mounted flat on the highest of the van and isn’t pointed instantly on the solar more often than not, charging the battery is an especially sluggish course of and my energy consumption is much larger than what my current 100 watt photo voltaic panel can deal with.

That is why I’ve since reconfigured my whole photo voltaic setup in order that I can now simply take away the photo voltaic panel from the roof of the van each time I’m stopped in campsite for just a few hours. Then, I can place the photo voltaic panel so it factors instantly towards the solar. This makes a HUGE distinction relating to how a lot energy I can generate off the photo voltaic system. With the photo voltaic panel pointed instantly on the solar, I’ve discovered that I can generate 3-12 instances extra amps than I might be capable to with the photo voltaic panel mounted flat on the roof of the van.

vanlife with bicycles

Sooner or later, I’d like so as to add a second photo voltaic panel to the roof, as I consider this may assist significantly with conserving my battery topped off in the best way that I want it to be. I plan to set it up in order that one of many 100 watt photo voltaic panels will at all times be mounted flat on the highest of the van, whereas the opposite panel could be eliminated and positioned in such a means in order that it generates essentially the most electrical energy potential.

Have There Been Any Issues With The Van?

Sure, there have been a pair issues with the van, now that you simply point out it.

After I was in Flagstaff, Arizona, I seen that the brakes on the van have been out of the blue not working in addition to they’d been beforehand. The pedal would go virtually all the best way to the ground earlier than the van would out of the blue come to a sudden halt. This was not good!

I took the van to College Auto Restore in Flagstaff and despite the fact that they appeared on the car and have been in a position to see the issue, they informed me they’d be unable to repair it and that I ought to take it to an authorized Dodge supplier as a substitute. This was not what I wished to listen to!

After paying them $50+ USD simply to have a look at the van (and never remedy my drawback), I then took the van to a close-by Brake Masters, the place they knowledgeable me it was my grasp cylinder (one thing I had suspected myself, based mostly on the data I gleamed on-line earlier than taking the automobile to any of the auto restore retailers on the town). The grasp cylinder wanted to get replaced… and so did all 4 struts on the back and front of my van. Ugh!

I occurred to buy the extra insurance coverage after I initially purchased my van, so fortunately the insurance coverage firm lined a good portion of my $1,450+ USD invoice, however it nonetheless price me about $550 USD in money to get my van mounted. Plus, it took two complete days for the van to be repaired! I spent that point strolling across the metropolis like a homeless particular person, which was no enjoyable in any respect!

Aside from the problem with the brakes, there have been no further mechanical points. Nevertheless, I did have one other drawback with the van just some days after getting the brakes mounted.

campfires and car camping at night under the stars in flagstaff arizona

After I was in Web page, Arizona, I drove out onto a mud street simply because it was getting darkish seeking a spot to camp for the evening. It was getting darkish and I couldn’t see very properly, which is how I out of the blue drove the van into some actually deep, comfortable sand. I knew, right away, that I used to be caught!

I jumped out of the van and began digging the sand out frantically from beneath the tires. I threw a carpet that I had behind my van beneath one of many tires on one aspect of the car and threw just a few scraps of cardboard I discovered laying on the bottom underneath the opposite tire. It didn’t assist! The wheels spun like loopy and the van didn’t transfer an inch! I used to be caught.

Then, simply as I used to be about to name a tow truck, this lady driving a 4×4 Suburban got here racing down the filth street in entrance of me. As a result of I used to be caught in the midst of the street, she couldn’t get round me. I attempted to clarify the scenario, however the lady was having a predicament of her personal and was actually out of her thoughts!

Just some moments earlier than operating into me, the lady had been strolling her 4 canine within the distant desert when one of many canine ran away and by no means got here again. She was frightened and panicked about shedding her canine… and now she was caught behind me, unable to maneuver.

The lady yelled at me, informed me how silly I used to be, and cursed at me in a fashion no different particular person has ever cursed at me earlier than. Remarkably, I remained calm.

I attempted to name the tow truck driver once more, however the lady was yelling at me so loudly that I couldn’t hear what the tow firm was saying on the opposite finish of the road. Then I misplaced reception and my name was dropped.

By this time, a number of individuals who have been additionally camped out within the close by space had come over to try to lend help. At one level, there have been seven or eight of us all digging and pushing and making an attempt to get my van out of the sand.

Then the indignant lady stated she was going to try to drive round me, however I informed her I didn’t assume that was a good suggestion. The sand on the aspect of the street was even worse than the sand in the midst of the street. I knew that she was going to get caught within the sand if she tried to go round me… and that’s precisely what occurred!

The lady tried to drive round me, drove her heavy 4×4 car deep into the sand, and there was no means she might transfer after that. Now we have been each caught… and the lady was much more upset! Crying, indignant and frantic!

two vehicles stuck in deep sand

At this level, I knew I needed to get away from the indignant woman. I ran down the street a couple of mile to the purpose the place I might get reception on my cellphone. Then, I referred to as an area tow firm within the close by metropolis of Web page and requested them to return out and rescue me.

A stout, Native American tow truck driver arrived on the scene roughly 20 minutes later. He hooked a line as much as the again of my van and dragged me out of the sand. Then, he hooked one other line as much as the lady in her Suburban and pulled her out of the deep sand on the aspect of the street.

I paid the tow truck driver $50 USD and the lady was pressured to pay the driving force $60 for her barely extra sophisticated tow. I apologized to the lady for the inconvenience, however she supplied no apology to me for the horrible issues she had stated in the course of the first couple of minutes of our encounter. I used to be going to initially provide to pay the lady’s tow truck price (as a result of I used to be the explanation she acquired caught within the sand within the first place), however she was so imply to me that I made a decision to only let her pay the $60 price.

In the long run, it wasn’t actually that massive of a deal. If I had gotten caught within the sand and that lady within the Suburban hadn’t come down the street at that actual level into time, I might have merely referred to as a tow truck and gotten myself out of there in thirty minutes or much less. However as a result of the lady confirmed up and he or she was in such a foul state herself, my predicament solely escalated. She not solely acquired her car caught within the sand, however she delayed me from calling the tow truck for practically two hours, just because she was yelling at me so loudly I couldn’t hear the folks from the tow firm speaking to me on the opposite finish. And each time I attempted to name the tow firm, she’d begin yelling at me once more, insisting that I get down within the sand and begin digging.

It was not a enjoyable evening! However I assume that’s simply the worth it’s important to pay when determine to dwell the #vanlife.

What Are The Benefits To Touring With A Van?

Effectively, there are numerous optimistic issues about touring in a van versus touring on a bicycle. You’ll be able to carry extra meals and water in a van, you could have a close to infinite supply of energy (because of the photo voltaic setup), the van is hotter at evening in comparison with sleeping in a tent, you’ll be able to retailer a complete lot extra issues in a van, and you’ll cowl distances that you simply wouldn’t be capable to cowl should you have been touring on a bicycle.

winter camping in a van

That being stated, I believe the largest benefit I’ve obtained from my vanlife travels to this point is the truth that touring in a van permits me the chance to simply meet up with folks I won’t in any other case be capable to meet up with if I have been touring in another means.

For instance, initially of my vanlife/bike tour, I traveled to San Diego, California, the place I organized a Bicycle Touring Professional reader meetup. 11 folks from all throughout Southern California attended the occasion and collectively the 12 of us cycled from Coronado Island to the Mexican/American border and again.

This occasion would have by no means occurred if I had not had the luxurious of touring to San Diego in my van.

Bicycle Touring Pro 12 Cyclist Meet-Up in San Diego, California

One other instance of how the van has allowed me to fulfill folks on the street occurred simply yesterday right here in central Colorado. You see, after I was in Flagstaff, Arizona just a few weeks in the past, I climbed Humphrey’s Peak, which is the very best mountain within the state of Arizona. After I was on the high of the mountain, I took a photograph with among the folks I met on the path… and a type of folks occurred to be a younger lady named Becca (pictured beneath).

Making Friends on the Road

Becca and I stored in contact after the hike… and when Becca noticed that I used to be in Buena Vista, Colorado, she wrote to me and stated that she was now in close by Breckenridge – solely 60 miles away. It was then that she recommended we meet up and go on a hike or a brief bike trip.

Now, usually, that may have been the top of it. If I have been touring on a bicycle, there’s no means I might have even thought-about biking the 60 miles to Breckenridge simply to see Becca once more. However as a result of I had my van, I used to be in a position to drive to Breckenridge for a brief hike.

I drove the 1 hour to Breckenridge, went on a brief hike with Becca within the mountains exterior the town, went over to her place to take a fast bathe (which she was variety sufficient to supply after I informed her it had been 5 days since I final had a bathe), after which I drove again to Buena Vista, the place I had been staying the evening earlier than.

Darren Alff and Becca in Breckenridge, Colorado

Had I not been touring in my van, there’s no means this second meet-up with Becca would have ever taken place. I might have been pressured to say, “I’m sorry, I notice we’re extraordinarily shut to 1 one other, however it’s going to take me far too lengthy to journey that distance on my bicycle.”

However as a result of I had the van, I used to be in a position to flip my meet-up with Becca into a brief, single-day exercise. Plus, I acquired to see Becca once more and strengthen my friendship along with her just a bit bit extra.

None of this may have been potential if I had not been touring in a van.

What Would You Do In a different way, If You May?

Now that I’ve been on the street for over a month now, there are a number of issues I wish to change or do in a different way sooner or later relating to my #vanlife travels.

My greatest concern is storage. I merely don’t have sufficient locations within the van to maintain all the pieces I’m carrying with me – particularly my meals! I’m carrying fairly a little bit of meals at anybody time and it takes up numerous house, so sooner or later I believe I’d like so as to add some cupboards or discover some further storage, someway, to maintain all my meals and different equipment sorted and out of the best way.

Secondly, I need to enhance the photo voltaic system I have already got put in within the van. Like I stated earlier than, I believe the 100 watt photo voltaic panel I’ve on the roof of the van proper now’s merely not sufficient. I’d like so as to add at the least yet another 100 watt photo voltaic panel sooner or later, in addition to transfer the photo voltaic arrange from the right-hand aspect of the van to the left-hand aspect, as I believe it might be simpler to entry on the left.

Lastly, I want there have been some option to retailer my bicycles exterior the van with out having to fret about them getting stolen. Do you could have any concepts on how I’d be capable to make this occur? I don’t see an apparent answer right here, however if in case you have a suggestion for me, I’m greater than keen to think about it.

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Questions & Feedback About Residing The Vanlife

When you’ve got another questions for me about my “campervan,” what it’s wish to journey in a van, the bicycles I’m carrying with me on this journey, or anything regarding my vanlife/bike tour, please go away a remark down beneath. I’m completely happy to reply any questions you might need and can proceed to share the teachings I study from my travels right here on the web site at www.bicycletouringpro.com.

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