Two Years Of Vanlife: A Retrospective

2 Years Vanlife Road Map

Two Years Of Vanlife: A Retrospective

1- Life Before Vanlife

The Normal Life

We were products of the system: we had well paid permanent jobs with benefits (we were both engineers), a nice house, cars, friends, we had access to local mountain biking trails, whitewater rivers,  ski hills, craft beer scene, etc. We were not attracted by luxury (except for mountain bikes!) and didn’t buy a lot of stuff, so we considered ourselves “rich” in a way that we could afford all the fun we wanted (keeping in mind that we’re reasonable people! wait… are we?).

Life-Before-Vanlife
Life before vanlife.

Redefining Normal

We lived a comfortable life, but when reaching our mid-thirties the years seem to repeat themselves. The idea of working full time and taking short (and expensive) vacations each year until our old days was not really fulfilling… Mountain biking and backcountry snowboarding is what we love the most in this life, can we create a lifestyle where we can enjoy these activities to the fullest when we’re still young and healthy?

Road Gap Van Island
This won't happen in my old days.
Getting deep into the backcountry requires knowledge, but also good knees...

Creating A Sustainable Lifestyle

Play more, work less… Less expenses, less income. It’s all about balance. Can we turn that daydream into reality?

Less Expenses

Easier said than done. How much converting and travelling in a van cost, actually? There was a lot of guesswork involved in our planning… But if you’re reading this now you can take the guesswork out of the equation, because we tracked everything down:

Van Cost

There are so many different van options, so we leave this part up to you. Check out classifieds or inquire to your local dealer to get a quote. On a side note, here is how we decided on the Ford Transit:

Conversion Cost

We tracked down the total cost and labor it took us to convert the van. It’s breakdown by category/task, so it doesn’t get any more  comprehensive than that! Hope that helps!

Vanlife Cost

We publish our monthly travel expenses. There are over 2 years of data in there, breakdown by categories. You can use this as a baseline to plan your own trip (don’t forget to adjust the numbers to your own lifestyle).

Less Income

Pro tip: Quit your day job = less income!

You’re welcome.

We’ll be fully transparent here, we initially didn’t plan on becoming “true” full time vanlifers; who does that? Instagram stars do somehow, and we certainly didn’t fit into that category. So our initial plan was to travel about a year (from our savings) and settle somewhere on the west coast. 

So here’s the crazy part of the story. We decided to build this website; far out something. The idea was to keep us busy during the rainy days in the van (to share our travel pictures, stories, etc), that’s all. We’re not exactly sure how and why, but it finally turned into this massive how-we-built-our-van reference website.  This might be one of our best idea ever, because while our day jobs kickstarted our vanlife, FarOutRide.com turned it into a full time gig. We can’t say it enough: -THANK YOU- for using our affiliate links (Amazon mostly) from our Build Journal and our Build Guides. Thank you for downloading our diagrams (Wiring, Water & Propane). Without YOU, we couldn’t keep going. It’s as simple as that! 🙂

Thinking about starting your website too? Here’s everything to get you started:

How To Start A Website (and Make Money)

From House to Van

The months before moving into our van were absolute madness! There was so much to be done in so little time…

2- Two Years In Numbers

Road Traveled
42,000 Miles
68,000 KM
Fuel Consumption
~14.7 MPG
~16 L/100KM
Fuel Cost
$11,000 USD
Van Maintenance
(includes oil change)
$2,420 USD
Van Camping
695 Nights
Splitboarding Vertical
(Strava stats)
108,000 Feet
33,000 Meters
MTB Vertical
(Trailforks stats, might include shuttles)
525,000 Feet
160,000 Meters
Snowboarding Cost
(Maintenance, Gear, Clothing, etc.)
$250 USD
MTB Cost
(Maintenance, Gear, Clothing, Shoes, etc.
-->excludes new bikes)
$4,800 USD

3- Tales From The Road

No. More. House.

August 15th finally came. We had to hand out the keys of the house to the new owners. There was no turning back now... Goodbye little blue house!

From House to Van

September 2017

Okay, let's hit the road!

The Badlands

South Dakota

Mount Rushmore

South Dakota

Devil Towers

Wyoming

Duck Lake

Montana

Glacier National Park

Montana

Whitefish

Montana

Homestake Pass

Montana

Renova Hot Springs

Montana

Devil's Canyon

Montana

Yellowstone National Park

Wyoming

Moab

Utah

Fish Towers

Utah

Fruita / Grand Junction

Colorado

Capitol Reef National Park

Utah

HIGHWAY 12 SCENIC BYWAY

Utah

GRAND STAIRCASE – ESCALANTE NATIONAL MONUMENT

Utah

Bryce Canyon / Thunder Mountain

Utah

Hurricane / Virgin

Utah

Flagstaff

Arizona

Grand Canyon

Arizona

Sedona

Arizona

Meadows Hot Springs

Utah

Teton Pass

Wyoming

Grand Teton National Park

Wyoming

Frenchman Coulee (Vantage)

Washington

Lussier Hot Springs

British Columbia

Kicking Horse (Golden)

British Columbia

Rogers Pass

British Columbia

Whitewater (Nelson)

British Columbia

Kootenay Pass

British Columbia

Squamish / Pemberton

British Columbia

April / May 2018

Squamish / Pemberton / Vancouver Island

British Columbia

June / July 2018

Squamish / Pemberton / Vancouver Island

British Columbia
Millions Dollars Economic Impact from Mountain Biking in Squamish (in french):

August / September 2018

Vancouver Island

British Columbia

Oregon

UMPQUA HOT SPRINGS

Oregon

Crater Lake

Oregon

Mount Shasta

California

Redding

California

Redding

California

Avenue Of The Giants

California

South Lake Tahoe

California

Buckeye Hot Springs

California

Yosemite National Park

California

Duck Pass Trail

California

Bishop

California

KEARSARGE PASS AND MOUNT GOULD

California

NORTH FORK LONE PINE CREEK TRAIL

California

Death Valley

California

San Juan / Laguna Beach

California

Mount Wilson

California

December 2018 / January 2019

San Diego

California
December 2018 San Diego

Santa Cruz

California
Isabelle Santa Cruz Bike December 2018

Mount Baker

Washington
Mount Baker December 2018

Squamish

British Columbia

Joffre Lakes

British Columbia

We became BC residents!

We found our Happy Place.

Wishing for a big dump

We like big dump.

Rogers Pass

British Columbia
Rogers Pass Backcountry Skiing
Rogers Pass Backcountry Skiing Splitboarding

The Icefields Parkway

Alberta

Terrace

British Columbia
Terrace BC Backcountry Skiing
Vanlife Snow Snowboard Dump
Mountain Biking Terrace Viewpoint
Terrace Mountain Biking Green

Hyder

Alaska / British Columbia Border
Hyder Alaska Border Canada
Bear Pass BC Van

April to August 2019

Squamish / Whistler / Pemberton

British Columbia

Rossland / Nelson / Revelstoke

British Columbia

4- Top 3

Top 3 Mountain Biking Destinations

1- Squamish / Whistler / Pemberton / Vancouver

British Columbia
In a Nutshell

The Sea to Sky Corridor is a world-class mountain biking destination; it is BY FAR our favorite place to ride!

What to expect

While the Whistler Bike Park offers exceptional beginners trails (perfectly safe, fun, with unlimited potential for progression), it’s the advanced trails that really shine in the Sea to Sky area. The technical level is way above anywhere else we’ve seen, therefore solid-intermediate to expert riders will enjoy it more here. The riding is full-Enduro here; it’s all about the descents! Steep, rocks, roots, granite slabs, flow, loam, jumps, steep (we meant to repeat it) is the name of the game… be humble and work your way up as a black (or double-black) from your local network would probably rated as a blue trail here. On the other side, expect long and strenuous climbs on logging roads most of the times; the XC rider might be disappointed.

Suggestions

We spent over 6 months here during the last two years (yep, it’s THAT good!), so we have a thing or two to say about the Sea to Sky corridor:

2- Rossland / Fernie / Revelstoke

British Columbia
In a Nutshell

While we haven’t spent extended time here, we really liked what we sampled. In fact, we plan on spending most of summer 2020 here to dig deeper. The south of Trans-Canadian Highway has this off-the-beaten-track feel (that excludes Revelstoke); it’s probably because all the tourists are either biking or shopping at Whistler 😉 In short: good ride, good vibe.

What to expect

The technical level is slightly easier than the Sea-to-Sky corridor, but still generally more difficult than other destinations. Most of the climbs here are singletracks, which is nice. 

Suggestions

We did a counterclockwise loop when we visited in 2019: Kelowna (it has an international airport) –> Rossland –> Castlegar –> Fernie –> Revelstoke. We would recommend it, since Revelstoke has the most impressive mountains, has more riding options and it’s a sweeeeeet town; it was nice to finish with the best! Some of our “must-ride”:

Kelowna

Kelowna has this “desert” riding style, which is not exactly what we’re looking for when riding in BC… If you insist on riding, try “Vapor” (as a shuttle) at Crawford or “Feel the Love” at Smith Creek.

Rossland

Seven Summit is a must-ride for great alpine riding. We enjoyed “SMD”; we didn’t have time to ride “Whiskey” but it was on our must-ride list…

Castlegar

Grandiflorum is great as a shuttle (a van or car can get up there no problem). Enjoy the 1,000m descent!

Merry Creek is “under the radar”, but it’s worth spending a day here. Make sure to make it up to “Captain Kangaroo”.

Nelson

Epic descent at Morning Mountain: Powerslave (tech natural) –> Bear’s Den (tech natural) –> Mister Slave (flow) –> Turnstyle (flow, berms, jump, machine built) –> Lefty (flow, berms, jump, machine built). You can arrange a shuttle with the bike shops in town.

Revelstoke

Frisby Ridge is a must-ride for epic alpine riding/views; it’s VERY pretty up there and the riding is not technical at all. Finish with UFC and Ultimate Frisby if you can (850m elevation loss), it’s SO worth it (it’s steep and technical if you’re into that).

For around 200$ CDN, you can get an Heli-Drop on Mount Cartier (we used Arrow Helicopters). Worth it! Do it for the adventures (helicopter ride, AMAZING views, unique experience), as the trail itself is not super awesome to ride. Keep some energy for Sunny Side Up (you’re gonna have to climb to reach it) as it’s one of the best flow trail we rode (berms, tabletops)!

We absolutely loved Upper Boondocker / Boondocker in Boulder Mountain; we could lap this all day! It’s steep and technical, but there’s a nice flow to it (it’s fast!). There are a few optional gaps/drops to spice things up.

3- Moab

Utah
In a Nutshell

Desert-style riding, surrounded by unreal desert landscapes, with wild camping in the desert. We love Utah. It really feels like you’re on another planet here. It definitely should be on your bucket list!

What to expect

We’re not exactly fans of desert-style riding (it’s dry and loose, you can’t shape rocks into berms and jumps, it’s more XC oriented), but we’re fans of Moab. The riding, combined with the unique landscapes deserve a yearly pilgrimage. We can’t wait to go back!

Suggestions

Top 3 Skiing Destinations

Don't go to the backcountry (or "slackcountry") without appropriate gear and training. No exception. Find an avalanche course near you:

1- Rogers Pass

British Columbia
In a Nutshell

Awesome terrain, awesome snow! Yes, Rogers Pass is getting crowded, but it’s nothing compared to other destinations (Teton Pass, Salt Lake City); you can still find fresh POW days (or weeks) after a snowstorm! As a bonus, you can stay at the pass (self-contained vehicle only) for a totally MAGICAL experience!

Resources
GeoBackcountry+Rogers+Pass+Cover
Rogers Pass
Uptracks, Bootpacks & Bushwhacks
Avalanche Canada

2- Terrace

British Columbia
In a Nutshell

Take Rogers Pass and delete the crowd, then add a little touch of Alaska: welcome to Terrace. If you don’t mind the 15 hours drive north from Vancouver, we highly recommend it 😛 (hint: there’s an airport). The (very) small resort (Shames) will keep you entertained on power days, otherwise take the lift to the top of Shames and head out to the backcountry to claim your POW. Enjoy, it’s all yours.

Resources
Backcountry Shames
Map
Avalanche Canada
Terrace BC Backcountry Skiing

3- Salt Lake City

Utah
In a Nutshell

“Greatest snow on earth”. Utah POW is light and deep, you know it. Skiing through 35″ of fresh POW is something you’ll remember (pray for snow)! Within 30 minutes drive from Salt Lake, you have access to world-class resorts and backcountry terrain; it’s hard to beat. But it’s not exactly the best kept secret anymore, so go get that first chair or go a bit deeper into the backcountry.

Resources
Wasatch BackCountry Skiing Map
Utah Avalanche Center

5- Things We Wish We Knew

Here are some #Vanlife guides, learnt the hard way, we wish we knew before taking the leap:
How to find free campsites
How to find water for free
How to stay connected
Winter Vanlife

6- Van Build: What We Would Change If We Had To Start Over

"What would you do differently" has to be our most asked question, so here it is. 

Window

On hot and sunny days, the space above the bed can get quite hot. While our Floor Vent is neat in the city (no need to leave a window open to get ventilation), we wish we installed a window above the bed for more ventilation (out of the city). 

Insulated Window Covers

Our DIY insulated window covers play a major role for Winter Vanlife; they’re also great for privacy. However after two years, they have become a bit “soft” and they shrank a little; they don’t cover the windows perfectly anymore. We should have chose a material that doesn’t shrink to prevent that…

Lithium Battery Bank

At the time of designing our van (2015), AGM batteries was the obvious choice for peace of mind. Technology has come a long way and we recently upgraded to Lithium batteries. In short, they can be discharged deeper (hence more capacity), are MUCH lighter, and last longer. While they’re quite expensive to buy, they’re cheaper in the long run (because they last for so long). We updated our Electrical System Design Guide accordingly:

Amenities

One of the very first comment we had on the website was “with all these amenities, you’re trying to replicate an RV; that’s not what’s Vanlife is about. You’re not gonna like it.“. Well guess what: 2 years later we’re still LOVING it and the fact that we have all the amenities plays a major role into it! Vanlife is just a cool hashtag, there are no rules. So build your van to your own needs!

Interior Layout

VERY happy with our layout, we’d build it the same if we had to start over. Sometimes we’re jealous of others spacious vans that can comfortably fit 4-5 people to chill and have a beer, but then we realized they don’t have an oven, a toilet, a big fridge, mountain biking & skiing gear, etc. The best design is always the best compromise: we’d rather have all the amenities to live comfortably full time in our van (the two of us), rather than being able to fit more people (sorry people).

On Second Thought...

Look for “On Second Thought” at the end of each of our Build Journal entries. There you’ll find what we would do differently. We keep it up to date!

7- Introspection: Have We Changed?

Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything

This is where we’re suppose to say that living for two years on the road changed our perspective on life and all… The truth is, we still feel exactly the same persons. We just had an unusual, epic vacation, not much changed you know. I guess our engineer mind is not very good at introspection and finding deep meaning to everything… Our philosophy is quite simple: Live a happy life by doing the things we love

8-Vanlife And Relationship

How not-to kill each others

We’re no relationship experts, so this is just our 2 c…

Irritants.

Living 24/7 together means being constantly exposed to each other’s OCDs. Minor irritants turn into major irritants. You can’t change people so suck it up, get used to it, and learn to embrace your differences!

Productivity.
Vanlife Decision Tree
Be friends.

Don’t forget to play! There’s nothing like a bike ride (or whatever) to reset our mood and to remind us why we’re together in the first place 🙂

Alone Time.

A healthy relationship let place to some alone time. It occurs naturally when living a “normal” life, make it happen during vanlife as well.

Sex in the van.

Yes, we don’t have much space above our bed. It requires some creativity and out-of-the-box thinking… which is a good thing 😉

To be honest, the REAL test was the van build… it really put a lot of pressure on our couple. Living together almost 24/7 is not always easy, but in the end it’s been a positive thing for our couple. We’re in love more than ever 🙂

9- Make Money On The Road

Digital Nomadism

This got to be one of the most frequently asked question in online discussion group: how to travel and make money? There are thousands of articles on this topic already, so just Google “make money travel” to find semi-useless information.

At the moment, we make enough to stay on the road indefinitely. But Affiliate Marketing won’t last forever, so we can’t take it for granted. We see it as an opportunity rather than “work”. Here is how WE personally earn some play money:

Affiliate Marketing
90%

Most of online merchants (Amazon, eBay, etc) have Affiliate Programs (Google it). Subscribe, add products to your blog, earn money. Everyone is a winner as customers pay the same price and the seller earn the same amount. Don’t forget to use our links when going through our Build Journal 😉

Diagrams
5%

Our Wiring Diagram, Water Diagram and Propane Diagram (and tutorials) are available for you to download from our Store. While each of the diagrams hold on one page, the amount of work we put into this is  IN-SA-NE (research, design, test, improvements, translation into a simple-to-understand diagram, etc.)… Thanks to everyone who downloaded it!

Patreon
1%

Patreon is a crowdfunding membership platform that connect content creators to viewers. It is YouTubers main income source (generally) and they can make a decent living out of it. Our content creation workflow don’t currently involve videos, so we don’t really earn much on Patreon… But if you follow our Build Journal, joining it is a great way to show your appreciation and help us stay on the road 🙂

Product Placement / Sponsorship
0%

If you’re not familiar with this, take a look at social medias of @whereismyofficenow and @van.there, they’re very prolific at it. We personally frequently turn down offers, as we don’t want our feed to turn into an infomercial. Also, we don’t want to be tied to a brand as that would affect our credibility as product reviewers.

We’re trained to be engineer, so we had absolutely no knowledge of all this before taking the leap… If we made it happen, you can too! Here is everything you need to know to get started:

How To Start A Website (and Make Money)

10- Vanlife Cooking

Vanlife Recipes?

We had several requests for “Vanlife Recipes”, but the fact that we installed a “full-size” stove/oven means we didn’t have to change our cooking habits. We also carry a portable charcoal BBQ (Weber Smokey Joe 14in), because charcoal > propane.

11- What's Next?

Blank canvas

We initially planned for a one year trip and we just completed our second year… We debated taking a “pause” from travelling and build another van, but it’s still too soon to go through a conversion once again. We really feel like we have unfinished business with this trip, and deep inside we just want to go back on the road! So a third year it shall be 🙂

Now the question is: where to go and what to do? It’s pretty cool to think we could ship the van overseas or go down South America… In our “previous” life, we both backpacked extensively: Europe, Middle-East, Africa, Asia, Costa-Rica. So we know that discovering new places and new cultures is awesome, but at this stage of our lives, nothing makes us feel more alive than riding our bikes or riding our snowboards; this is what we want to be doing for the next year! There is still many places we haven’t hit in North America (Colorado, South of USA, Alaska, Yukon, Interior BC extensively, etc), so…

That’s it for now, thanks for reading!

STAY IN TOUCH!

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about us

Nice To Meet You.

Hello! We’re Isabelle and Antoine 🙂 In 2017 we sold our house (and everything in it), quit our engineering careers and moved into our self built campervan. We’ve been on the road since then and every day is an opportunity for a new adventure; we’re chasing our dreams and hopefully it inspires others to do the same!

30 thoughts on “Two Years Of Vanlife: A Retrospective”

  1. You guys are amazing!!! I have no idea how you find the time to keep the website current, create new posts with pictures, answer all questions and at the same time continue to travel and ride. It must be the engineering minds 🙂 Sooooo inspiring!
    Thank you for sharing your experiences and advice, it has been invaluable during our van build! There’s no other site on the internet that covers all the info you have, you should be very proud of what you’ve created. Also, thank you for the honest and realistic reviews and opinions!!!
    Happy ride!!!

    Reply
  2. Simply amazing! I admire you and your decision to such a lifestyle. I am on my way to doing something similar. Thank you, your website is extremely helpful! Good luck and all the best!

    Reply
  3. We just wanted to thank you for giving all these advices! They are really really useful and you guys are a good inspiration. Thank you for creating this contain and sharing it with everyone. Greeting from Sutton, Qc. We’ll start building our van for 2020 summer, thanks to all your informations and diagrams!

    Jack & Gabe

    Reply
  4. Jesus, so much content in just one post! Saw it on hackernews and first thing in mind was like “o yeah, another couple”, but then, directly in the first sentences, I saw you love for mountain biking… and thought “hell, it could be me!”. Didn’t expect that…
    Awesome review and beautiful places! Enjoy the ride and keep the rubber side down 😉

    Greetings from far Germany!

    Reply
  5. Hi!

    This is amazing and wish there was a way to do it with kids.

    Has that ever come up?

    Also how would you handle an issue with the engine itself? (Ie. Transmission is shot etc) thanks and great job!

    Reply
  6. Hi. Can you please tell me how you tracked yourselves on the map? Was it an app? I travel like crazy in sales and I’d like to see what I cover in a year!

    Fantastic post this has taken a lot of your time and effort but I love it. Great work.

    Reply
  7. I’m reading this blog in my spare time here at work. I really love this. It gives me hope that one day I’d get the chance to do the same and travel places and meet people, and experience their culture. Someday…

    Mabuhay from the Philippines 🙂

    Reply
  8. Well done! I’m shipping my 2006 Itaska Navion 23J (Sprinter 3500) from Galveston, Texas to Cartagena, Colombia in January for a 14-18 epic South American (SA) overland adventure. I don’t know about the snow sporting opportunities in Patagonia, but needless to say, South America is pretty vast. In terms of budgeting, SA works out to be no more, or less, than RV travel in the US and Alaska, assuming 75% use of campgrounds (e.g., maybe $650 per month). At 14-18 months, the both way shipping cost averages down to a reasonable cost. I wanted to do SA first since I’ve just spend a ton on my rig. Europe is substantially more costly. Anyhow, great post guys!!!! Good luck with your continuing journey.

    Reply
  9. Really enjoyed this post, you are honest and real, loved the videos, and the finances,,,one day hope to follow in your footsteps,,,,take care,,,

    Reply
  10. Most authentic #vanlife blog PERIOD!

    I love that there are NO sponsorships, NO paid product placements, NO friggin’ hammocks or over-priced coolers, and that you’re not traveling with a dog (I’m a cat person, as you may recall).

    Travel to cool places. Do cool shit. Help others to do the same. That’s it! You guys are such prolific influencers (hate that word!) without wanting to be.

    Much respect and admiration for what you are doing. Looking forward to year THREE!

    Reply
    • Dave, thanks for the kind words. It means a lot. But don’t be too nice with us, we might just take advantage of your hospitality again 😉 See you in the future!

      Isabelle and Antoine

      Reply
  11. As always, great job. I envy your engineer’s attention to detail. You are my “go to” inspiration for my own build. I am curious why you would consider another conversion, since you are happy with your design…

    Reply
  12. Complètement malade!
    Très le fun à lire comme bilan, car on peut se demander comment est-ce “soutenable” ou possible à moyen/long-terme !
    Ne cadre pas avec notre situation familiale, avec deux enfants, mais inspire tout de même nos passions, nos projets, voyages et aspirations de vie!
    Profitez bien de votre super projet!

    Reply
  13. I’ve enjoyed following your build and adventures, so thanks for sharing!
    Curious why you decided to sell your house, rather than rent it out, either directly, or through a property manager.
    Cheers,
    Chris

    Reply

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