When Jim and first made plans to go fulltime RVing in 2006, we almost bought a Volkswagen EuroVan instead of the fifth wheel. Our recent vandwelling road trip was a good way to see if we could have survived road tripping in a van.
You probably know the answer. From Colorado to Virginia and back, Jim snickered whenever I used the term “vandwelling” to describe our temporary lifestyle. My idyllic vision of living out of our rented soccer mom van disappeared as soon as we hit the Pennsylvania turnpike and flung ourselves into the chaos of East Coast cities.
We were the Griswolds on vacation and there was no way in hell we were going to sleep behind a Home Depot in that van, with our dog, and Jim. We’re just not that tough.
Why we work so hard: options
We work long, crazy hours. I often question why but now I know for sure: options. I felt very fortunate to have funds which gave us the option of staying in motel rooms and couch surfing at friends along the way. Once we learned we could get a room for less than $40 a night at pet-friendly Red Roof Motels, we hit several (and even a KOA camping cabin) during our 5400 mile adventure.
Our tent camping gear was used just once, in Oklahoma, in-between tornadoes. It was Wyatt‘s first time sleeping in a tent and he was less obnoxious than the sparrow-sized mosquitoes that attacked all night. Other than that, all we wanted was a decent bed, a shower and a toilet that we could call our own for a night.
What we hated about vandwelling:
- Using public restrooms.
- Sleeping in motel rooms so questionable you check for bed bugs.
- A lack of free overnight parking on our route; most free campsites were either too far away from the roads we traveled or they were in RV-friendly spots with little privacy and zero facilities like toilets.
- Not having a kitchen left us with few healthy eating options. Eating crap food and processed lunch meats from c-stores just isn’t our style. Being healthy when you’re on the move without a kitchen is very, very difficult unless you don’t mind eating raw veggies every night. We do.
- Hauling our crap out of the van and into a motel room every night was a pain. Keeping it hidden when parked on city streets left me nervous.
- Keeping things organized in order to find stuff was very challenging.
It wasn’t all bad though. Here’s what we loved about taking that minivan on the trip:
- The total cost of the trip (food, fuel and misc) was close to what we would have paid if we’d take the RV. In reality we probably paid less because we didn’t linger in cities as long; the price of motel rooms adds up!
- We could share the driving. Which wasn’t always fun but it helped us get through the more boring parts of the trip (think: Nebraska). I’ll talk more about sharing the driving role in a future post.
- Even though east coast drivers are insane, we still weren’t as stressed out as if we were hauling the RV.
- Aside from the “#BlogPaws or Bust” window graffiti, our little van was pretty inconspicuous, which made us feel secure in many questionable locations.
We covered way more territory in less time than ever, which has its pros and cons. On the plus side, we got to experience cool places we don’t need to ever take the rig, like Memphis. On the con side, we got through half of the country in 28 days — way too fast for us.
I can’t wait to share all of the cool locations and discoveries we made along the way, like the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Alabama. I’ll group these fun pursuits into future posts, so stay tuned!