110420 - the Van 
The Van

In late 2009, with the world economy crashing around us, we dreamt a little dream.  Having recently survived our wedding, my wife Tiffany and I devised a little celebration trip.  What would be more appropriate during times of skyrocketing unemployment and global meltdown, than a year road trip, during which we could explore North America, connect with our land, and feel the freedom of the road.  During the time leading up to our departure, we purchased a new (used) van, gutted it, and built our dream rig.  Hundreds of hours of labor and multiple credit card statements later, we were off!  Jobs were left, possessions consolidated, and our new home loaded with essential gear for our outdoor adventures!  At the helm of our road machine, we felt freedom, anticipation, and nervousness course through our consciousness. Nonetheless, we hoisted anchor, topped off the tank, and opened up the throttle, leaving rainy Seattle behind.  Fast forward, six months have passed since we sallied forth.  Yes, we have absolutely had an amazing time on the road, but most importantly, we’ve learned a few tricks along the way.  Here are a just few things future road trippers might consider…

110420 - Tiffany in their van
Home Sweet Home for the next year

Firstly, simplify: living in a van/car is often cramped, and economy of space is imperative. Include only essential items on your packing list.  Having less will enable you to better organize and avoid inherent chaos.  Be critical in what you let on board.
110420 - how many can you fit
How many people can you fit?

Next, showers: get one every week or so if cuddle time is of importance.  During the summer months consider dipping in lakes and rivers to mitigate the stench factor and keep costs down.  We’ve found that hotels charge 10-30 dollars on average for showers (though exceptions exist).  A more economical option is either RV Campgrounds (3-10$) or Community Centers; the latter of which are often free of charge..  Call around.  In a pinch, “Baby Wipes” work great!

1104420 - the author in a free shower
The author taking advantage of a soak.

Thirdly, limit your paid camping budget.  Federal and or State institutions charge an arm and a leg for Camping (10-20$).  But, we’ve discovered that if one is resourceful, a lifetime of free camping is out there.  Talk to locals, converse with gear shop employees, and find the camping beta!  Most people are more than friendly and willing to share their local knowledge.

Fourthly, consider investing in a Panel Van; and preferably, one that fits into average parking slots.  Traveling around with climbing gear, cameras, computers etc., could make one a mega target for theft.  Keeping malicious eyes from prying into your rig will bring peace of mind.  Panel vans are also more likely to fly under the radar in many “free” camping situations.  And lastly, be flexible and just roll with it.  Remember, this is a road trip!  It is supposed to be fun.

110420 - the author and his wife
Ben and his wife Tiffany recently moved to Palo Alto for short term work and to prepare for the next phase of their road trip. They are nothing less than ebullient to have Planet Granite as their urban training ground!  For more on their travels, please visit: