#VanLife Q&A: Ask Me Anything

Oh, van life. Even after my year spent living on the road, I still get questions about van life all the time. It’s such a romantic idea for adventurers, and I admittedly have my moments of longing for life in a retrofitted Sprinter van. After getting so many reader comments asking for insight and advice on living in a van, I decided to put a Q&A together to put it all out there.

My retrofitted 2005 Dodge Sprinter van, which I lived in for 365 days.

“I was just so inspired by your blog and reading about your 365 day trip around the country in a van, I wanted to know more about your planning for it and what you had to take into consideration to just pick up and leave your life behind for a little while.” – Natalie W.

The decision to start this whole “van life” thing came on a whim while I was living in Colorado. It was about 6 months after I had gone on a monthlong cross country road trip after graduating college. I didn’t have any debt, and hadn’t yet touched my life savings. I was freelancing with LivingSocial, so I could work anywhere with a wi-fi connection. It was the perfect timing to pick up and hit the road – so I decided to take advantage of it!

“I want to live a life like you traveling the world in a van but the only thing I can’t understand is money, how did you find yourself to be able to pay for food and gas for a year? I want to spend my life adventuring like you but money will hold me back, any advice?” – Raymond

I moved back to Florida and saved up for a year before finally heading out on the open road. While I was out on the road, I frequently picked up freelance writing gigs and copywriting work (but it honestly added up to peanuts).  I also totally blew through my entire life savings during the trip – which is something I regret. I was b-r-o-k-e at the end of my trip, and it made it really hard to transition back to the “real world.” I would definitely recommend securing steady on-the-road work if you’re going out on the road, unless you save up like $20k+ for spending money.

DSC_2159DSC_7940“Did you work at all on your adventure? How much money did you save up before you set sail? Did sponsorship’s cover a lot of your costs?” – Connor M.

I attempted to work a respectable amount during my trip, but didn’t do enough to make it sustainable. I took freelance writing gigs often within the outdoor industry, and worked as a ghost copywriter picking up jobs like writing 100 product descriptions for Office Max office supplies. My trip partner Niko even spent a month working as a delivery man for an organic mattress company in Boulder, CO at one point to help pay for unexpected van trouble.

Sponsorship is something I get asked about almost on a daily basis–and a lot of folks have misunderstandings of what a typical sponsorship relationship looks like. I am not a professional athlete, so my sponsorships primarily come in the form of support through gear and travel–my paid partnerships with brands typically focus on content creation. That said, partnering with amazing brands like Goal Zero, Teton Sports, and ClimbOn! was tremendous in getting my van outfitted. Their generosity helped me supply my trip with quality solar equipment, camping gear, and eco-friendly toiletries–three very crucial things for van life! [Read more…]

Misadventuring + Mistakes: You Can’t Go if You Can’t Get There

With as much time as I have spent out on adventures, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I’ve made mistakes outdoors – a lot of them. When Sierra Trading Post asked me to share one of my biggest adventure mistakes for this week’s #STPlive topic, I had a hard time choosing which mishap to share. Like that time I wore heavy snow boots to hike in a rainforest? Or when my cohorts and I didn’t bring an extra pair of socks while backpacking and had to turn around a day early? There were many snafus to consider – but one topic shone more important than the rest: All the mistakes I made with my van during my yearlong trip.

Folks, you can’t go on adventures if you don’t have a way to get there.

When I bought my 2005 Dodge Sprinter, it was in bad shape – and I was a bit too frugal (read: cheap and stubborn) to fix a lot of its issues. Case in point: the van’s bum battery. It should have been replaced before I ever crossed the state lines out of Florida, but it wasn’t. And it wasn’t an issue – until it was a very big one.

Backpacking the Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park was a road trip to-do that I couldn’t wait to tick off, and my city-dwelling buddy McGoo had flown out from Colorado to join the adventure. Supplies were purchased, gear was packed, and psyche was high. We mapped out a plan, drove into an area of National Forest where we could boondock for an evening, and woke up early to make the short drive to the trailhead.

But the van wouldn’t start. Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

We turned the key in the ignition over and over again, hoping that somehow it would jolt the van to life and we wouldn’t miss our early start on the trail – but to no avail. Luckily, I had insisted on spending the night somewhere with cell service – and AAA quickly arrived to rescue us. We arrived at the trailhead a few hours later than we hoped, but the mishap was forgotten the moment our boots hit the trail.

Remember my mention of forgetting extra socks while backpacking? Well, it belongs in this story too – after hiking 10 miles into the rainforest and spending a miserable night with three people packed into a one-man tent, we awoke the next day to realize that I was the only one with dry socks. Folks, hiking in wet socks is a special kind of hell – so we admitted defeat and trudged our blistered feet back to the park entrance.

Mcgoo and I on the Hoh River Trail in Olympic National Park. One of many beautiful views enjoyed along the Hoh River Trail in the Olympic National Park.By the time I stomped, slipped, and sputtered my way back to the van, I was caked in sweat and craving a hot meal back in town. Our trio reconvened after splitting up during the hike, and readily agreed that we needed pizza immediately. We loaded our filthy packs into the van, and once again jammed the key into the ignition.

The battery was dead, again.

It was past the park’s closing hours, and there was no one to be found in the parking lot to give us a jump. And AAA? Not an option when you’re deep in the no-service zone. We wandered around until we found the ranger’s after-hours post, and begged for a jump – which we got, after the ranger heckled us a bit. It was clear that we needed to get a new battery. But we didn’t.

In fact, I didn’t replace the battery in my van until a few days later. It took being stranded five miles up a deserted National Forest road and waiting hours until two lumberjacks pulled over and offered us a jump in exchange for two beers that I finally relented and dropped the cash for a new battery.

The lesson here is: You can have all the gear ready, you can map out your trip, prepare your first aid kit, and have all the mental preparation necessary for a great adventure – but none of that matters if you don’t have a way to get there.

Got an adventure mishap to share?
Join the #STPlive chat with Sierra Trading Post on Thursday March 27th at 6:00 PM (Eastern) – and check out other adventurer’s mistakes here on the Sierra Social Hub.

The Ultimate Roadtrip Adventure Van is FOR SALE

My big, beautiful, very yellow Sprinter van! Let’s make one thing clear: I don’t want to sell my van. If I had things my way, I’d keep this van forever – but a massive van-debt is forcing me to part ways with my beloved Sprinter. Whoever ends up with this impeccable adventure mobile is going to be one very happy camper – and I’ll probably cry a bit as you drive off into the sunset.

This handsome yellow hunk of metal, wood, and rubber is the ultimate road trip vehicle. Sure, it’s rear-wheel drive, but that has never stopped the van from seeking off-road adventure. You want to go rock-scrambling down to the Bridger Jack camping area at Indian Creek? She’s done it. Climb up sandy mud pits at Triassic near Joe’s Valley? Piece of cake. Navigate deep ditches when the Rocktown parking area gets too full? No problem.

You’ve all seen the exterior of the van, but many haven’t gotten a peek at what’s inside the big yellow box. Here’s a look into the retrofit Niko built after we gutted the shelving and partition the van had when we purchased it. *Note: We can include all of the furnishings, some of it, or gut it all before we sell it if you have another build in mind.

We won’t be including the solar panels/equipment when we sell it, but it will include the set-up that’ll have you ready to rock ‘n roll while being powered by the sun. We can hook it up with the water jugs, sink system, curtains, foam bedding, etc.

Here are some specifics about this wonderful 2005 Dodge Sprinter 2500:

  • This diesel van features a 140-in wheel base, and high-top roof (unless you’re a giant, you’ll be able to comfortably stand up inside the van – which is so convenient).
  • The ‘ole gal gets between 25-28 mpg – but once we managed 31 mpg, yeah I’m proud of it.
  • It currently has 160,000 miles on it.
  • The van has a 5 cylinder turbo-charged diesel engine, which we’ve put a lot of money into over the past year. All the typical issues with Sprinter engines have been repaired: replaced turbo resonator and hoses, brand new EGR valve, new battery (still under warranty). It is also up-to-date on all oil changes and mileage-based servicing.
  • It’s a rear-wheel drive vehicle, with four new all-terrain tires (also under warranty).
  • The hot air blows hot, and the cold air is cool.
  • Here’s what’s wrong with the van: the speakers are blown, two of the plastic air vents are cosmetically damaged, and the exterior isn’t the best paint job, but you can’t beat the character of the yellow color.

The interior of my 2005 Dodge Sprinter adventure van.

The Craggin' Wagon perched on the side of the road outside of Hueco Tanks, Texas.This beautiful 2005 Dodge Sprinter adventure van can be yours for
the insanely reasonable asking price of just $14,500!

If you’re seriously interested in my beloved van, shoot me an email at katieboue(at)gmail(dot)com with any questions or offers. Serious inquiries only please – I know we all want my van, but my baby needs to find a worthy new owner who will take her on many adventures. The van is currently located in Tallahassee, FL.

[UPDATE: The van is sold. I am full of regret.]

The End of an Era: My Yearlong Road Trip is (Almost) Over

This is a post I’ve been procrastinating all week. As a storyteller, it’s my duty to my readers to keep y’all updated with my journey every step of the way – but as a human, it’s kind of heartbreaking. I’m struggling to put things into words, and incredibly stressed with the logistics of what comes next, because –

This is it: I am officially in the last week of my yearlong climbing adventure.

Seriously? Already? Didn’t I just move into my big yellow van? Have I really lived outdoors, climbed, camped, and adventured for 52 weeks? It just doesn’t make sense – I refuse to wrap my head around this reality that seems to have been suddenly thrust upon me.

It’s almost February 1st, the technical one-year anniversary of my trip (although I started living in van sometime in early January last year). After that milestone is ticked, Niko will begin working full-time managing Tallahassee Rock Gym, and for me, well, the future is very up in the air at the moment – but you’ll just have to stay tuned to find out more about that one.

Bo Durham crushes The Price is Right (V8) at Rocktown in GA.We’re spending the final days of the adventure in our favorite place in the world: the southeast. We’ve been holed up at Rocktown in Georgia for quite a while, but were forced to retreat back to Chattanooga when the polar vortex reared its frigid head and made climbing absolutely unbearable. The temperatures should be (at least somewhat) warming up by Friday, so we’ll be returning to the no-service zone to enjoy our fleeting opportunities to climb, camp, and explore.

The good news? This year has been the most transformative, educational, inspiring 365 days of my life – and the adventures have only just begun for me. The bad news? We’re selling the van. That is the worst part of all of this, and Niko is taking it the hardest. I also have a feeling that Amble is going to go into some sort of identity crisis once we moved into a four-walled dwelling. Oy vey.

I’ll try to update at least one more time before we head back to Florida, but I’m not making any promises. I only have a short time left to enjoy my van life freedom, and I intend on soaking up as much as I can. There will be many thank yous, heaps of gear reviews, and probably a lot of tears shed – but first, adventure.

Happy six month van-aversary to us!

Our van, our home for an entire year of adventure.On February 1, 2013, I set out in my newly acquired big, yellow Sprinter van in pursuit of spending an entire year traveling around the country while climbing with my co-pilot in adventure (and life) Niko. Looking back through the scribbled pages of my daily planner, it’s hard to believe it’s already been six months since we first hit the road. Whoa.

Here are some fun facts about our journey thus far:

  • We’ve visited 9 National Parks, from the wandering through prickly cactus forest at Saguaro National Park in Arizona to backpacking in a rainforest at Olympic National Park in Washington.
  • I have taken 31 showers in 180 days.
  • More than 80 days have been spent climbing. (not enough, if you ask us!)
  • Our van has traveled to 15 states, and up to Canada – I’ve been to an additional 4 states via air travel.
  • Niko and I still like waking up next to each other every morning.

A lot has changed over the course of half a year, including our car battery and a new EGR valve. We’ve learned so many lessons about living on the road. I learned how to embrace the idea of being wholly disconnected from social media (seriously, that was tough), Niko learned how to trad climb – and climbed to his first big peak in Yosemite, I chopped off all my hair in the name of adventure, and we’ve grown to love a new family of climbers whom we’ve journeyed with from Joe’s Valley to Squamish.

For me, this has been an incredible journey of personal growth and that whole “finding yourself” thing. I have never adored climbing so much, and started training for the Triple Crown Bouldering Series event at Hound Ears in October. I’ve also become endlessly inspired by my experiences – my mind is constantly bursting with story ideas, future book titles, entrepreneurial concepts, and big plans for the future. I’ll admit, I’ve had a few moments where I’ve wanted to stop moving so I could start focusing on all my ambitions, but I’m learning how to balance the thrill of adventure and career goals.

And to think, we’re only halfway through. Or is it halfway over? Either way, we still have what feels like an eternity of travel ahead of us, and we are especially excited for the next leg of the trip. We traveled as far west as roads would take us, crossed the border up into Canada, and are now finally headed back east. We’re in Salt Lake City for the Outdoor Retailer show, we’ll head to Denver to see my sister for a week, then it’s up and around the northern midwest before finally making our return to our beloved southeastern crags.

We owe so much gratitude to everyone who has helped, supported, befriended, and loved us along the way. Some folks, like Vikki and Spenser from The RV Project, the Joe’s Valley family, our Squamish crew, and everyone who invited us into their homes across the country deserve an extra heap of love – our trip would not have been possible without you (and we’d never have been convinced to go to Squamish). Moreover, I can’t believe that I have a family who is so supportive and proud of a gal who decided that living in a van for a year was a great idea, and it always puts a smile on my face when friends tell me they’re inspired by my adventures. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I keep trying to think of a way to properly express my thanks to everyone who has supported us during the trip, keep coming up empty handed – there is no tangible thing that can compare to what the adventure community has given us. I’ll tell you this, the “acknowledgements” page in my first book is going to be very, very long.

Cheers to another six months of adventure! 

Simply Adventure Update: Van Renovations and Upcoming Surprises

At first, it seemed like this trip was years away – but we’ve officially surpassed the two-month countdown to our Simply Adventure departure! With the clocking ticking noisily in our minds, Niko and I have kicked preparations and planning into overdrive. Where have we spent most of our energy (and quickly dwindling savings)? Renovating the van, baby! 

 

After painstakingly cutting metal and sawing wood for the past week, Niko has finally finished his handcrafted bed frame for the rear of the Sprinter. He used a metal base to create a strong, reinforced frame, and then spruced up the appearance of the bare metal by adding a layer of blonde wood on top (which also added some rigidity and extra strength to the frame). He shaped wood sheets to create the platform, and voila, we have a bed! All that is missing is the foam topper, and a storage system beneath.

We also completed the staining of the kitchen cabinets (which we snagged for 20% off at Home Depot, score). Niko did the first few coats, and I finished it off with the final layer. We still need to install the countertop, but it felt like a huge victory when we finally hoisted the cabinets back into the van and admired our handiwork. We also very victoriously removed the enormous, and difficult, partition that divided the passenger area from the cargo section of the van. It feels so roomy now!


Here’s a little sneak peak at what the Sprinter is lookin’ like right now (stay tuned for a more detailed photo shoot next week!):

[Read more…]