Getting Around & Getting Your Feet Wet
Van Life Beginnings, A Way of Life
Like a lot of people lately I have LOVED van life. It all started in a class B RV and paddle boarding. There are a couple of lakes nearby, as I live in AZ it doesn’t get terribly cold during the winter, so it’s paddle boarding season all year round.
Bartlett Lake allows for folks to pull up directly to the shoreline. So that’s what we did. Pulled up, got as level as possible, pulled out the boards and we were off onto the water. The first site we camped at was a bit of a peninsula so we were parked parallel to the water. Waking up with the windows as they were, it felt like we were right on the water, it was magical, and the best spot we’ve had.
It was also where Fonzie learned how to ride a paddle board. He was not pleased being left on shore. So he jumped in and swam to us and pulled himself onto the board. He has become quite the water dog. I love how he chomps at the water.
We had everything that we needed. First and foremost, toilet. There are outhouses around the lake, but I like having access to my own toilet. The kitchen also came in handy. We started out with learning, what we affectionately called “The Mini”, with the range and Trader Joes delicious frozen meals. The fire and s’mores followed. The kitchen came in handy. The freezer worked. So we focused on paddling and camping.
We made plans for what we wanted to add to the Mini. First was a projector. The Mini was an ’02, and had good life in her. There was a place for a TV, but tech and I are really good friends. What do I need with a small screen TV? We projected on the window covers and would fall asleep to shows, just like we did at home.
Van life in the Mini really did feel like home. We could go out for days and had the essentials that we needed. I had gotten to the point in my life where I was done finding self worth within an office. Sure, I still had to work, but did it have to be in an office? No. No it did not.
There were a few days where I did get to take the Mini out hook up to some wifi and do what needed to be done. The majority of the required programs I need to work have online access.
My view could change from day to day. I could make my own hours, I was able to spend mornings on the water and set up the laptop at the table and get some work done.
What I really wanted was this full time. To not be constrained by what society tells me I need to have/do/consume. Do I need to live in a house? Does living in a house offer me more than someone who doesn’t? I wanted to be out in nature, it sounds so contrite, but what it was I was urning for was freedom. Freedom to really make the choices that I wanted in life. Freedom to reject old societal definitions of what I was “supposed” to be/have/want.
Do I have to live to work? No. No I don’t. Do I need to work 8+ hours a day? No. No I don’t. Because we’ve been working 8 hours a day doesn’t mean they were all productive and effective. Project based work was all I wanted. I know how much time a project takes, and it isn’t a full day, in most cases. Instead of wasting time counting how many times I get up from my desk to go to the bathroom and chat with as many people as I can on the way I can spend that 20 minutes paddling. And I did.
What we deemed as essentials, as far as amenities went included:
- Kayak carrier/paddle board rack
- Solar panels
We ordered a projector from Amazon, it played DVDs, connected to all the things via internet, and additional sound bar via bluetooth. It worked like a charm and we were able to while away the evening hours watching and laughing together.
Kayak Carrier/Paddle Board Rack
We were looking at the different types of rack carriers to see the best way to get our boards around. Without a rack traveling was a 2 vehicle endeavor. Luckily, we made friends on one of our trips, as you do when you go on trips, that were looking to sell their rack. The rack we had been eyeing in the parking lot a few days before.
The longest paddle board is 11′, so on the rack it stood well above the top of the Mini. When we took the rig to Mexico and were trying to get back into the U.S., we had to pass through arches at inspection. I had to get out of the Mini to see how close we were to hitting my beautiful board. It was at maximum height and we went through slowly. The agent was helpful, and didn’t shoot me at having gotten out of the RV and walking around (I was really worried about that, it’s the boarder after all).
This was the first indication this wasn’t the rack for us. The second was when the board jumped out of the carrier while going over a dip. The board was dragged for a bit and ruined the tail. We found a shop to fix the board and $200 later, I had my board back sea worthy.
The third indication was when we saw that traveling with boards in this direction puts a lot of pressure on the boards, causing them to break. Luckily, we didn’t have to go through this and stopped using the rack.
Oh wifi, this is where things got expensive. In our research we found that there are only 2 providers of wifi for RV’s. As such, wifi contracts cost upwards of $300/mo, and reception was not always guaranteed. We are going to have to wait on this one.
Because of the Mini’s age it wasn’t set up to be compatible with solar panels, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t going to work. We did look into the different ways to get it set up and the different systems we could find.
Ultimately, we decided it was time to say goodbye to the Mini to get a better van life system that would meet all of our needs. Enter the Westfalia weekender…