Van Life: US and Canada

We put the Latin American living on hold for a bit and spent the summer living in our van throughout North America. We traded in the exciting culture, lively trips to the markets, and interesting attempts at communicating for the ultra simplicity of traveling with a roof over our heads and playing in the mountains whenever we pleased. Having never spent more than a week in the van prior to leaving, we definitely had our doubts: Is it too small of a space for two people to live? Will too much time be wasted driving around aimlessly searching for free places to sleep? Will we be bored? However, we quickly realized how amazingly freeing van life is. Surprisingly, we never felt cramped or wished we had more space. Only once, well maybe twice, in over four months did we have trouble finding a place to sleep in the van. Thankfully, the US and Canada have vast open tracts of land that make it incredibly easy to find scenic places to camp in the van.  And when we are in a city, we have no problems spending the night sleeping in a Walmart parking lot.

Without data on our phones, we were limited to internet access only when we had wifi.  For me, this meant no searching the web before going to bed or when I woke up. I found this incredibly refreshing. Away from the fast paced lifestyle, anxiety inducing news, and demands of modern society, we lived in the mountains, without stress, and embraced life.  We had so much time to do things we never had time for before. I flossed way more than I ever have in my life. We foam rolled and stretched. We read books. We enjoyed sunsets and cherished the time we spent doing our dishes together each night. And, yes, we still climbed mountains- lots of mountains! When we weren’t climbing mountains or riding our bikes, we spent hours preparing our meals on our two burner cook stove (we got pretty creative by the end- enchiladas, homemade pizza, lasagna, homemade cinnamon rolls, etc.). We also filled our time with daily bathing/swimming/icing sore muscles in the amazingly clear, and usually freezing cold rivers and alpine lakes.

We managed to spend very little money, too. Obviously our biggest expense was gas; however, it was much cheaper than rent! Except for a few occasions, we very rarely went out to eat. Whenever we felt like “splurging” and going to a restaurant, we decided to splurge at the grocery store instead, like on a filet of salmon or fancy pasta. Grocery store splurges were always more affordable than out to dinner splurges! We only stayed in pay-for campgrounds twice- both on voluntary accounts.

Although our trip has been a bit random at times, the overarching theme has been simplicity. Buying and having so little with us is so satisfying. We know from prior experience how easy it is to get caught up in a materialistic society; however, after taking a step back from the typical 9 to 5 day and the land of over consumption, we were able to realize how much happier we were with less. How much more joy experiences brought us versus material goods. And how much simpler and more enjoyable life is when we had time to focus on basic living tasks and taking the best care of our mind, body, and soul- preparing hearty meals, enjoying each others company, taking part in lots of physical activity,  connecting with the natural environment, bathing in rivers, playing games, visiting with friends and family, etc. Although we are not on a permanent trip, we hope to carry the principles we learned from our travels and simple lifestyle with us for the rest of our lives.

If you are interested in our campervan setup/conversion process, check out our van post here. 

Enjoy the photo explosion below from our summer travels!

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Our summer route- starting and ending in Fort Collins
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Departing Binghamton, NY
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Mountain biking in upstate NY
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Climbing Macomb in the Adirondacks
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Split Rock Falls – Adirondacks
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We fell in love with the charming and quaint towns of Vermont. The mountain biking in the northeast was really cool as well.
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Descending Mt. Madison – Presidential Range – New Hampshire

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Lobster roll in Portland, Maine – a rare splurge!
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Camping just outside Baxter State Park, Maine
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Rainy day on Mt. Katahdin, Baxter State Park, Maine
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Approaching the summit of Doubletop Mountain – Baxter State Park, Maine
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Gaspe Peninsula, Quebec, Canada
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Quebec City, Quebec
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Quebec City street scene
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Lake Manitoba, Manitoba, Canada
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Endless fields of Canola in Manitoba, Canada
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Walmart was a comfortable home for many nights of the trip
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Open plains of Saskatchewan, Canada
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Canadian Rockies – Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada
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Kananaskis Country Bikepacking, Alberta
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River crossing in Kananaskis Country, Alberta
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Canadian Rockies in Kananaskis Country, Alberta
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Dinner time
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Bike schwaking
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Mount Fullerton, Alberta
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One of many ice baths of the summer
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Ha Ling Summit, Canmore, Alberta
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Mountain biking at the Canmore Nordic Center, Alberta
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Dinner on the Bow River in Canmore, Alberta
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Mount Edith Three Peak Traverse, Banff National Park, Alberta
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Ascending Mount Edith North Summit, Banff National Park, Alberta
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Ascending Mount Edith North Summit, Banff National Park, Alberta
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Mount Edith Traverse, Banff National Park, Alberta
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Mount Edith South Summit, Banff National Park, Alberta
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Mount Rundall, Banff, Alberta
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Approaching Mt. Temple, Lake Louise, Alberta
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Trudging up Mt. Temple
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Mt. Temple summit views
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Mount Carnarvon, Yoho National Park, British Columbia
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Scrambling up Mount Carnarvon, Yoho National Park, British Columbia
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Mount Carnarvon, Yoho National Park, British Columbia
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Mount Carnarvon, Yoho National Park, British Columbia
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Mount Carnarvon, Yoho National Park, British Columbia
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Mount Carnarvon, Yoho National Park, British Columbia
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Mount Carnarvon Summit
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Descending Mount Carnarvon
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Icing our legs with friends! Timing worked out perfectly and we met up with our friends, Matt and Allie, for a few days.
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Beginning of the NW Ridge of Mt. Sir Donald, Glacier National Park, British Columbia.
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Scrambling up Mt. Sir Donald
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An incredible ridge and long scramble!
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Awesome exposure the whole way!
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Smokey vista from all the BC fires
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Approaching the summit of Mt. Sir Donald
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Matt and Allie on Mt. Sir Donald summit
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Heading down- a bit of a down climb before the 12 rappel descent!
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Rapping on Mt. Sir Donald
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Rapping on Mt. Sir Donald
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Smokey air on Rogers Pass, BC
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Heading towards Mt. Whyte, Lake Louise, Alberta
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Mt. Niblock Summit, Lake Louise, Alberta
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Scrambling up Mt. Whyte
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Smokey skies on Mt. Niblock
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Approaching the summit of Mt. Stephen, Yoho National Park, BC
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Mt. Stephen Descent, Yoho National Park, BC
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Vancouver, BC

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Wild blackberries in Bellingham, WA. We were in heaven!
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Trail run up Oyster Dome, Bellingham, WA
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Lush forests on Oyster Dome
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Wild blackberry jam
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Mountain goat on Mt. Ellinor, Olympic Peninsula, WA
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Summit of Mt. Ellinor, with our friend, Wes
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Drying clothes at camp during a 4 day bikepacking loop around Mt. Hood, OR
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Dirt roads of northern Oregon
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Mt. Hood
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Home for the night in front of Mt. Hood
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Five day bikepacking loop around Lake Tahoe, CA
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Shelter for the night above Lake Tahoe
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Best singletrack of the whole summer on the Tahoe Rim Trail
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Buckeye Hot Springs, Eastern Sierras, California- we spent our one year trip anniversary here!
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Eastern Sierra, CA
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University Peak, CA
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Evan high on University Peak, CA
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Mountain biking under Mt. Whitney, CA
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Many beautiful nights were spent in the Alabama Hills, 10,000 feet below Mt. Whitney
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Morning tea
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Backpacking into Upper Boy Scout Lake, CA
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Heading towards Mt. Whitney (no summit – too much snow – neglected to bring ice ax/crampons)
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Sunrise at camp
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Iceberg lake (mid September), CA
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Storm brewing at Upper Boy Scout Lake camp (later on we slept through one of the worst thunderstorms we have ever witnessed – hours of extremely close thunder and lightening above treeline)
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Descending the east ridge of Mt. Russell, CA
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Mt. Russell, CA
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Shortly after leaving camp at Upper Boy Scout Lake, Michelle sprained her ankle – it was a slow journey down (Evan carried Michelle’s pack along with his the whole way out)
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Grooming at camp in the Alabama Hills
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Mt. Whitney- our favorite campsite just out of Lone Pine, CA

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-190 Feet below sea level- the lowest we have ever been!
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Las Vegas fountains
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Lake Mead camp
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Michelle found a dozen Mylar balloons stuck in a bush near Lake Mead.  After pulling them out of the bushes to throw them away, we noticed there was a bottle with five $2 bills in it and this note! We contacted the senders and had some fun communications with them.
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Summit of Engineer Peak, Colorado
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Engineer Peak, CO
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Fall colors in the San Juans, CO
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Silverton, CO
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View from Mt. Sneffels, CO
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Homemade cinnamon rolls for Evan’s birthday
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The fall leaves looked awesome with the new snow up high!
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When fall meets winter: Red Mountain Pass, CO
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Red Mountain Pass, CO
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We camped above Silverton, CO for a couple nights before spending a week in Durango with Matt and Allie. We then headed up to northern Colorado for Magen and George’s wedding celebrations.
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How many brides do you know that make their own wedding cake? This amazing one does! It was incredibly delicious, too!
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The wedding weekend celebrations began with a few games of Catan.
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Hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park – the morning of George and Magen’s wedding day!
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We were far too busy dancing and having fun, so we failed to take any photos during the wedding festivities, but I love this one of George and Magen! Photo courtesy of Rachel.

It was wonderful to return to Colorado and spend time with so many friends, especially those who traveled far distances to come in for the wedding.  However, after nearly three weeks in northern Colorado, we are about to say goodbye once again. We are stashing the van in Fort Collins and will work our way out of the cold and into the heat on our bicycles. Central America- beaches, gallo pinto, volcanoes, tropics, and all- here we come!

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6 thoughts on “Van Life: US and Canada

  1. We thought 6 weeks car/ bike camping across U.S. was an adventure in 1976.
    You guys have far surpassed that trip. We stopped back home Binghamton to settle in for arrival of our first son, then 2 and 1/2 yrs later our second.
    But we kept on taking them biking and camping, etc. So their love of travel / back packing to all corners of world was instilled. They now take their children as much as possible. They live and work in Seattle, but we meet them as often as possible.
    You guys are amazing and hope you continue to enjoy your travels and the simpler ways of seeing the Americas.
    Thanks for sharing and don’t forget your roots!

    Like

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