Heather and Curtis created the Ontario vanlife community Van On and live a minimalist off-the-grid lifestyle in their 2006 extended Dodge Sprinter.
What does your typical day look like?
Typical these days is a bit different as we have been based at my family’s farm during most of Covid. We wake up and get the coffee on. We love slow mornings, so we have some cuddle time and plan the day out. We get up and Curtis will take down the reflectix from the windows and I’ll convert the bed back to the couch. We love to get outside and have our coffee as we enjoy nature. If we are on the road and can hike, we will. At some point, we will spend time on our laptops working. After a few hours of work we’ll start thinking about where we will sleep and do any errands on the way. We try to arrive back just before dark and enjoy a beer as we watch the sunset. Then we head in, make dinner and watch Netflix.
How did you first discover vanlife?
We were interested in tiny/off grid living and found a growing vanlife community on social media. Lot’s of YouTube videos.
What was life like before vanlife?
My husband Curtis and I loved to backpack and had spent the last 5 years before working and saving and travelling overseas. When not travelling we lived in Toronto worked various hospitality jobs and performed at comedy in the evenings.
What made you decide that vanlife is right for you?
We already loved to travel and knew we needed some sort of “homebase” because we didn’t want to say goodbye to our cat, Raine. It seemed like the perfect way to keep travelling and have her with us.
How long have you been traveling/living this way? Are you full-time or part-time?
We started our build May 2018 and moved in that Dec. We consider ourselves full-time as we have no other home. We did store the van the last 2 winters to fly to Mexico and travel there.
Tell us about your van
“Charlie” is a 2006 high top, extended Dodge Sprinter. We are currently about to finish our second build in this van. We tried to use as much reclaimed wood as we could and give the interior a rustic feel.
Where do you travel to in your van? Any places or destinations you would recommend?
Since we had been out of our own country travelling so often we really wanted to take it slow and appreciate our own back yard. We have been slowly exploring Ontario and last summer went out through the East Coast up to Cape Breton Island. I highly recommend taking the Cabot Trail to drive there. However, we really love finding special things in small unexpected places. It’s been fun to totally go with the flow.
What has been your most memorable vanlife experience so far?
We were in the north part of Cape Breton Island and parked overnight almost on the edge of a cliff looking over the Gulf of St Lawrence. We could whale watch as we enjoyed craft beers.
What is your biggest vanlife fail so far?
We did not properly repair our roof during the first build and ended up having a leak resulting in us needing to take everything out and rebuild.
How do you make money while on the road?
I am a freelance graphic designer/brand consultant and Curtis is a freelance writer/consultant we also run the Vanlife Ontario community and host events.
How much money do you save by living in a van?
For us, living in a van was not about saving money, it was about needing to earn less and pursue our passions. But we have managed to reduce our monthly expenses which allowed us to start our freelance careers.
What are some vanlife hacks you would recommend for travelers on a budget?
Take inventory of everything in the van at least once a year, if you don’t love it or need it, ditch it. Also, be ready to go with the flow, anything can happen, anytime.
Any amusing (or annoying) pre-conceptions people have about your lifestyle choice?
Some people seem to think people live in vans because they failed in some way, or it was the last resort. For many, it’s a conscious choice to live differently and there are so many benefits that people don’t see. People don’t always understand how it can change the way you see the world and your place in it.
Have you ever felt unsafe while living in a van?
What’s the biggest downside to living in a van? Any pet peeves?
Having to deal with the toilet is never fun, but simple things like not having room to workout inside and I will never enjoy doing dishes in cold water.
How do you meet new people while on the road?
We found an amazing community on Instagram and YouTube, and we started building our own. Sometimes, you can even meet others in parking lots. It’s about being open and putting yourself out there. Most of us are happy for a friendly chat.
Who inspires you?
Everyone. The more people I see, each on their own unique journey inspires me to believe in my own journey a bit more. Some people are really doing some very cool things.
What are 3 essential items you cannot live without while in your van?
- Our broom (This is used sooo many times a day)
- Our Maxxair vent
- A comfy couch
Foodie? Fave vanlife recipe?
Vegan chili (chickpeas, corn, diced tomato, sweet pepper, bean mix, chili, paprika, garlic, chili flakes and a little liquid smoke).
What are you listening to lately?
We love classic rock and actually have been listening to Creedence Clearwater Revival Band a lot lol.
What are your plans for the future? Any van upgrades, new travel destinations etc?
We are almost done with our rebuild and can’t wait to have everything in again. We had planned to be going to Mexico in Jan, but for now, we are playing it by ear. We do plan to keep exploring our province and then to head to Canada’s west coast in early 2021.
Do you have any advice for others who are considering living or traveling in a van?
There is no perfect van, only the perfect van for you. Be honest and ask what you need and what you don’t. Then try it out for a weekend.
Inspired? Follow the travels of Heather and Curtis on YouTubeHeather on #Vanlife "…we really love finding special things in small unexpected places. It's been fun to totally go with the flow." Click To Tweet