Our van story starts around October 2018 when my husband bought a Nissian NV 1500 from his work for what they would have sold it for at auction.
We had talked about doing something to it for a while and dabbled in it here and there for the next eleven months. The real send-off was when we took it to Galveston last September. Coming home from that trip, he was ready to turn this empty van into our adventure van. The rest, as we have learned, is history.
We left off for our first major road trip in her on July 1st and returned home ten days ago (July 18th). During this time I learned a few things on the road.
1. My Coffee Routine Doesn’t Work
I had bought a coffee rocket, Brandon had bought me a mug and container to boil water in. What we didn’t account for was the water taking as long as it did to go through the drip coffee and the ambient temperature in the mornings being between 50-65 degrees. No, this was not the entire time but for the most part.
The other thing we didn’t account for was our desire to get on the road and get going. There simply was no time to make a big breakfast, eat, clean up the dishes and get where we wanted to go every single day. Often there were times we climbed out of the bed in the back, got in the front seat, started the car, and was gone.
By the time we got to Santa Barbara on day 13, I had a new plan figured out. We bought Starbucks cold brew and chocolate milk. I started this trend at State (BBQ) in 2019. It went over so well that Nevaeh drank half of the first batch with me!
Even on days when we do get to stop for breakfast, this routine still worked out better in my opinion. I was able to get to, and fix, my coffee quickly verses all the set up and hassle.
I think this would get a bit wasteful as time goes on. Since getting home I have found companies that make cold brew in bags similar to family-sized tea bags. I picked some up yesterday and am experimenting with this.
2. The stops for meals/overnight made me want to stay on the road forever
I’m going to start a whole new blog post on places that we have parked the van overnight- with thoughts/reviews but having a home on wheels is pretty amazing.
If you learn the ropes, there are plenty of places to park for free or almost free. We opted for all free this trip, minus our stint in Kalispell because it ended up allowing us to do a little bit better than paying for hotel rooms and eating meals out while on the road.
There were no complaints though- there were quite a few days I opened my eyes to beautiful, breathtaking scenery. Even if it was in a Walmart parking lot, I could still see mountains!
Beyond sleeping though, we parked for meals as often as we could and Brandon did a good job of making sure that our meal view did not disappoint.
I feel like being able to eat dinner overlooking the Royal Gorge one day, a night stay so dark you can see the milky way, and then breakfast on a quiet beach in Southern California all in one trip just cannot be beaten.
3. Our kayak racks did not work
The kayak racks had our kayaks going almost upright against the edge of the van. Despite having straps, the heavy wind meant that we were often having to stop because one of them fell over. Next time we are going to do our rack system a little differently and, hopefully, we’ll be able to add my paddleboard into the mix!
4. The Food Situation
Grocery shopping for the main things once a week, and little things here and there, works in a van just as well as it works at our house. That being said, we do need to be mindful of exactly what we are doing. This statement puts us back into the same mindset as our coffee discussion.
Some mornings we just needed to get going and stopping to make breakfast was difficult. Equally as difficult were the mornings after we had slept in a Walmart parking lot. After going to the restroom, it made sense to get breakfast in Walmart before leaving. The problem with this is that we were all wanting something with protein (think sausage, bacon, eggs, and what not) and still breakfast-y. This didn’t work and went spent far too long just browsing before getting frustrated and getting something like donuts. If these had been planned a little better, I could have had granola, breakfast burritos, or something similar pre-made to get us on the road sooner.
Many of our snacks were bought well in advance since they keep well; however, some were bought from a discount store and we quickly learned that these could be hit or miss. Nevaeh and I found one of our favorite brand of chips- From the Ground Up- for half price. Yum! The trail mix was okay- I ended up giving Brandon most of the chocolate pieces and enjoying the raisins. The granola was down right aweful and I’m crediting the pea butter for that. Next time, I will plan out the snacks a little better- making our own granola, trail mix, and even the muddy buddies (which were the very first thing finished on the trip!).
5. Packing Light and Being in a Small Space
We each packed clothes for five days and one bag for our toileteries. One thing about packing light and being in a small area you learn quickly is that keeping things clean is very important. This was probably the most stressful part of the trip- we all wanted it to stay clean and people would get testy if it wasn’t in order.
It did give me a sense of what do we really need to live though. Are the things I own really doing me service?
6. Our Professional Camera is important
Both Brandon and I feel we could have gotten better photos with our Nikon D3000, especially at Joshua Tree in the middle of the night. Lesson learned!
7. This is something I could see myself doing long-term
There were a few times in my twenties I considered living this lifestyle. Seriously considered it- looked at vans, looked for campgrounds. I felt the road calling me. It’s calling me as I write this. I’m ready. Let’s go.