16 months of Van Life

Joshua Tree National Park, California - Feb 2019

Joshua Tree National Park, California - Feb 2019

16 Months and 75,000km Later…

  • We are even more in love with the freedom our van provides than when we started.

  • Van life travels have made Raynor & I a stronger team and given us lots of practice on problem solving and the art of simple living.

  • Traveled extensively and made incredible friendships and connections

  • Personally, the change in my work and lifestyle has had significant benefits to my well-being.

  • Without a doubt, our van has changed the course of Raynor and I’s lives. The adVANture has only just begun.

  • Our priorities, goals and desired careers paths have become more clear and we benefit from more confidence & trust in our abilities.

  • Ray Outfitted, the business we founded on the road, is growing and brings much fulfillment into our lives.

    Building a life we don’t need a vacation from

We don’t mean we never want to work - we mean we want to love our work and not crave time off. Founding Ray Outfitted and opting for self-employment, Raynor and I are betting on ourselves. That we can build a home base and business that will support us and our well being. Before the van, our work and our personal lives were disconnected. For me, my work required a different personality and outlook on the world than I personally connected with. We love the work Ray Outfitted puts into the world and the fact we get to be our true selves 24/7. It is this passion that fuels our hard work and determination.

Sedona, Arizona - March 2018 (Plexiglas solar array wind deflector)

Sedona, Arizona - March 2018 (Plexiglas solar array wind deflector)

Lake Lousie, Alberta - March 2019 (Wood wind deflectors)

Lake Lousie, Alberta - March 2019 (Wood wind deflectors)

The best stories are the mis-adventures

With over 75,000km on the van so far - we’ve driven across Canada twice and done two loops around the USA - reaching the Canadian Maritimes through to BC, down to San Diego, and across to the Florida Keys. We’ve self-rescued our van after getting stuck in snow, we’ve camped legally on a Louisiana Beach that surprised and delighted us.

We saw so much beauty, hiked and explored stunning parts of Canada & the US and have many tales from getting to know fellow travelers. The reality is however, that van life is far more about the moments inbetween the epic beauty and perfect boondocking sites. It’s about figuring out how to live life on the road, adapt to unexpected changes and remain calm under pressure. It’s about remembering your partner gets hangry (hungry/angery) and needs food more than a decision on where you’ll be going next week.

There’s been visits to a few Mercedes dealerships along the way, for software updates, a cracked windshield (Alberta uses gravel to de-ice roads) and in one freak weather event managed to significantly damage our rear doors. The incident occured in Bend, Oregon but we were able to continue living in the van and travel from Bend, OR to Tiny, Ontario where we moved out the van to complete the repairs.

Without a doubt, breakdowns and accidents are the battle scars of road travelers. Our rear doors were smashed during a record setting snow storm in Bend, OR while we were resupplying. A local DIY van couple hosted us and offered a perfect distraction - snow shoeing up a mountain. Thanks friends!

Spring 2019 Repairs & Upgrades

Hitting the top of the rear doors on a building overhang, we caused a lot of damage and needed to replace the rear doors and the pillars surrounding them. We were very lucky that a local RV shop could patch the damage, ensuring we were weather tight enough to travel 22+hours to get remains in our home region of Ontario, Canada. Before we damaged the vans, we had acquired the parts to upgrade our electrical system to lithium (LiFeP04) batteries - so we had planned for some time off the road. The scope of the work and delays with the body shop meant the 2 weeks we estimated turned into 8 weeks. We also had to remove almost everything from the van and repair our solar array (frame was damaged, not panels).

Preparing the van for body repairs & electrical upgrade - April 2019

Preparing the van for body repairs & electrical upgrade - April 2019

Re-assembling the van after body repairs and completing upgrades - June 2019

Re-assembling the van after body repairs and completing upgrades - June 2019

After 16 months on the road, we had options…

Once we learned how much we had to remove from the van for the repairs, we knew we should take the opportunity to re-assess our layout and components. We know we’ll be relaying on this van for years to come and we wanted to make the most out of our forced time off the road.

In the end, we decided the layout and choices we had made were still the right ones for us. The changes we did make:

  • Painted the entire van, partially covered by insurance in the body repair work (Sprinter white doesn’t have clear coat)

  • Installed roof rails, adjusted our solar array, painted with Steel-It and added assist lift to the tilt function. Replaced wood wind deflectors with black acrylic.

  • Upgraded to Victron solar controller, inverter/charger and added a battery monitor

  • Replaced 600ah AGM battery bank with 700ah lithium (LiFeP04) batteries

  • Replaced the six water jugs that made our fresh water tank with two RV tanks for easier water management

  • Added a 12v hot water tank (Decided against adding a shower)

  • Relocated the ESPAR heater to allow for better heat distribution throughout the van

  • Added a second monitor, in preparation for the realities of living in a van during Canadian winters. Spending more time inside the van makes the ability for Raynor and I both to work/play on different screens is helpful.

  • Started the overhaul of our “garage” to allow our company, Ray Outfitted, to better travel to client projects without towing our little utility trailer.

Repairs and upgrades completed - July 2019

Repairs and upgrades completed - July 2019