Van Shenanigans - The beginning

I've let 2 seasons go by without writing here. Oops! Before embarking on my cross country drive, I planned to document and blog about it as I went on. Well the reality was, that wasn't happening lol. Not when I was constantly driving or exploring, and soaking in the summer unplugged. The journey taught me a lot about giving up control and going with the flow day-by-day, unplanned. Your life changes on the road. Many things you think you'll need or do because it's routine at home, will not always apply when living in a van. So, since my adventures began, I've been getting inquiries about my build, how much it cost, what my expenses were like, how I got started, what routes I took, etc. and I am finally settled somewhere now, where I can go through my archives and begin to share it.


I got my van, made the build, set a departure date, and left solo, not quite knowing what I was doing or if/when I was coming back, but I was confident that I was going to do it anyway.


Now, let's get into it.


I've known that I wanted to do van life for a good while before I even started taking action. It's been on my radar at least since 2016, but I prioritized other travel ventures. So, at the beginning of 2021, I wrote my goals down and it started with get a van build going. I said to myself, if I don't get this done this summer, I don't know when I'll get a chance, (considering so many things I enjoy came to a halt because of you know what) so just go after the life you're envisioning. No more dilly dallying. I knew the first step was getting a van, so I made it my goal to have a van by April. Since I stopped working in the fall of 2020, I was self-employed, and I was working with a tight budget. Overall, I wanted to keep my entire build, expenses, and upgrades under $10k CAD, which I thought was very practical and doable for my comfort and safety level. Not totally slumming it, and also not having all the luxuries.

TML sent me gear for filming my interview :)

Mid-April, I got an email from Toronto Maple Leafs, promoting their goals 4 goals campaign. The email asked what you would do with the money, if you were chosen as a winner of $1000 for every goal scored by TML. I replied to the email and said I would put the money towards buying my van so I can finally get the ball rolling! They contacted me a few days after and said that I was selected as one of their winners and I was asked to do a brief interview for their campaign. Of course I obliged, and I was awarded with the 1k. Now I know that's not a significant amount, but it definitely helped me push the process along faster.



My Goals for Goals video dropped mid-May. I thought to myself ~Okay, this video of me expressing my goal is public now, I absolutely cannot back down from this mission, no matter how difficult it becomes to materialize ~ It gave me the extra push I needed, to see that I'm moving in the direction I want. It was also the stepping stone of telling my family what my crazy plans were for the year (which was originally met with a lot of resistance).

 

When brainstorming builds and must-haves, I originally wanted to get a 2010 Ford Transit. A van that offered stealth, compact size, height, enough room for a bed, sink + toilet, and is economical when it comes to gas. This was harder to find within my budget and checklist, so I optioned for something smaller, that checked off everything on my list, which ultimately, I'm glad I did!


This was my van checklist:

  • 150k-160k KM

  • Year 2010 and up

  • Gas > diesel

  • Automatic

  • Decent shape, no rust, clean record

  • Budget around $8,000 CAD

Finally, I came across an ad from a small dealership in Stouffville, for a 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan with 160k km for $7'500. I ended up trading in my 2012 Nissan Sentra, and having to pay a balance of $5'500 CAD. It checked off every point on my list and came with new brakes (and a DVD player that I still have never used). May 25th was the day I brought my van home :) I was pumped to get layout planning. There were a few other things I did in addition, to prep my van for the long distance it was about to endure.


Additions:

New Tires - The tires it came with were winter tires and on it's way out. When shopping for tires, I was looking for something all season, good reviews/star rating, in my budget (under $700) and a trustworthy brand. I went to a spot in Scarborough called Green Car Tires and got Good Year Assurance All-Season. The tires were $128.95 each. In total I paid $691.32 for the tires and their complete tire installation service.


New Oil + filter - I was blessed to have a friend do my oil and filter change. I just bought a 5-L jug of oil at Canadian Tire, that was on sale for $25. In addition to my oil change, he did an overall inspection prior to my departure, to make sure I was good to go. Thanks Joel!!


Overall spending for vehicle:

Van: $5'500

New Tires: $691.32

Oil Change: $25


Total: $6'216.32


With all my main expenses out of the way, all I had left was to focus on was my build and layout. I wanted to go with a "no-build" build... Which means I didn't have to actually do a lot of building, but more like ~fitting in the pieces~ and it worked perfectly for my set up. I wanted to be able to restore the van back to it's original interior at the end, incase I ended up somewhere I liked and chose to sell my van at the end of the trip, or fly home and sell the contents. I just wanted to keep my options open.


If you are thinking of doing a road trip across the country, I highly recommend!! Summer 2022 is just around the corner ;)


In my next post, I'll talk about my layout, materials used, budget for build, and prepping the van for departure. I'll share links for any particular items I used along the way, that were helpful. Hope you'll continue to read along and share my lil blog with anyone interested in getting their own van shenanigans started :)














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I was always hesitant to start a blog because I always thought, "Who even cares to read this?". But guess what, I do! That's what matters most. Learn about why I started this journey :)

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