Two Years Of Vanlife: A Retrospective

Two Years Of Vanlife: A Retrospective

2 Years Vanlife Road Map
Photo of author

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.

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, 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


Duck Lake


Glacier National Park




Homestake Pass


Renova Hot Springs


Devil's Canyon


Yellowstone National Park




Fish Towers


Fruita / Grand Junction


Capitol Reef National Park






Bryce Canyon / Thunder Mountain


Hurricane / Virgin




Grand Canyon




Meadows Hot Springs


Teton Pass


Grand Teton National Park


Frenchman Coulee (Vantage)


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




Crater Lake


Mount Shasta






Avenue Of The Giants


South Lake Tahoe


Buckeye Hot Springs


Yosemite National Park


Duck Pass Trail








Death Valley


San Juan / Laguna Beach


Mount Wilson


December 2018 / January 2019

San Diego

December 2018 San Diego

Santa Cruz

Isabelle Santa Cruz Bike December 2018

Mount Baker

Mount Baker December 2018


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



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


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.


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. 


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 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.


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…


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”.


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.


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

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!


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!

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.

Backcountry Shames
Avalanche Canada
Terrace BC Backcountry Skiing

3- Salt Lake City

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.

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. 


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:


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…


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!

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

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 😉


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 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

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.