What on earth would possess us to try to fit two adults, three dogs, and all our earthly possessions into a camper van while traveling?
I think we’ve officially lost our minds – Jason
Maybe we have lost our minds. But we’ve been doing this for a few weeks now, and loving it so far!
We’re not anti-bigger RVs now – far from it! We really enjoyed leasing the Trek motorhome for our voyage to Alaska last summer. There was plenty of storage space for bringing all the supplies we needed, more living area to entertain or stay indoors in bad weather (and we experienced quite a bit of it that year!), great ground clearance for rough backroads, lots of roof space for solar panels to keep us powered up, the ability to tow a 4×4 vehicle for further exploration off-the-beaten-path, and a spare bed for having guests spend the night. It was nomadic living with most of the comforts of a house, and lots of people love bigger RVs for those reasons and more!
We still recommend it, or something else similarly sized (35 feet or under) for many travelers. After a year-long experiment leasing a 26 foot motorhome and towing a car too, we decided that, for us personally, the added stress from the limitations and maintenance posed by such a large vehicle weren’t worth the extra storage and living space. We felt a strong urge for our next RV to be significantly smaller and more nimble than even our 26′ Airstream bumper-pull trailer was.
Our travel priorities, now that we’re in our third year RVing, have just shifted yet again, and that’s fine with us! One of the very beautiful things about life is being able to add new experiences as you see fit.
What inspired this new level of “how small can you go” insanity? Well, we want to hit some of our favorite urban areas again, stealth camp/driveway surf near friends and family more often, drop into more places last-minute without reservations, explore parts of Mexico and Canada, and squeeze into the kinds of cozy little campgrounds and parking areas that we couldn’t fit previously.
Ultimately, our hearts yearned to live even more simply and compactly when we travel. Someday we may backpack around the world, so this is a step in that direction to see how little we can live with. We look forward to testing the limits of our already minimalistic lives, and making more spontaneous travel and life decisions than we have been.
Additional benefits to van life:
- Overall size – just under 21′, with no towed car, so only one engine to maintain and we fit in a normal parking spot most places.
- For the first time since going nomadic, we aren’t towing anything, and it feels awesome and much less stressful.
- We’re a narrower width and shorter height like a normal vehicle, so we can street park more easily. There’s not as much pre-planning of routes, like for low clearance bridges on country roads, or gas stations needing room to turn a big rig and vehicle around. Since we hate taking the interstate if we can help it, this is a big bonus!
- More maneuverability in cities, parking lots, small campgrounds, boondocking, driveway surfing, and stealth camping. We can stop at more roadside attractions, park right at the place we want to be without commuting in by car, and always have our home and dogs nearby.
- We can drive some of the more RV-limited roads that were off limits to us, like Going to the Sun road in Glacier National Park and the entirety of the Pacific Coast Highway.
- More comfortable ride and handling – it feels like a car to drive, and we’re less tired after driving days.
- Better gas mileage – we’re averaging 16+ mpg versus 6 mpg in the bigger motorhome!
- We’re trying to return to spending more time outside and less time indoors, and being more active. A smaller living space makes us want to get out more, and it will force us to walk the dogs more, and ride our bikes or walk, instead of always driving.
- Forced minimalism – we’d been hauling around so much stuff we don’t use, for no other reason other than we had the space to store it. We want to pare down to only the essentials and collect more experiences than things.
- Eco-friendliness, efficiency, reliability, and durability, plus higher resale value.
Here’s a gallery of photos of our new 2016 Winnebago Travato 59K*. We’ll refrain from really reviewing it in depth for a while, so as to give ourselves time to get to know it, make some additions and modifications, and see how it performs over time. If you have any specific questions for us, though, please ask away!