WHEN, WHERE, AND WHAT KIND OF A VAN DID YOU GET?
Our van is a Dodge ProMaster Cargo Van 3500 High Roof 159" extended, the year 2015. We bought it in 2020 with 100k km, from a dealership in Toronto. We didn't have any money at the time so we financed it for 30k CAD. We still have monthly payments. It feels like paying rent.
DO YOU TRAVEL A LOT?
I never sleep in the same parking spot two nights in a row but I hardly ever travel. I live in a city. My fiancé has a full-time job. It pays for the lifestyle that we have. But it does not allow us to live on the road. We go on lots of daily or weekly trips. Living in a van allows us to be more spontaneous and save some money at the same time.
WHERE DO YOU SHOWER?
Most of the time, we shower at the gym. Sometimes we shower at sports centers, provincial parks, or campgrounds.
About once a month we go to a truck stop for a shower. It costs $13 for unlimited people and time. I dye my hair and sugar my legs, and Gasper can trim his beard. We get baked, buy snacks, play music, and do laundry. It's actually a fun afternoon of chores.
However, there is a section inside the van, which is a shower, a bathroom, and a laundry room at the same time. When we first started converting the van, the pandemic just hit, and there were no public showers. It forced us to have our own shower. We installed the shower base first and then build the walls around it. For the first year and a half of living in a van, we used this shower almost every single day. Now we mostly use it while traveling.
The shower is great for storing wet/dirty shoes and clothes, and it serves as a private washroom with the curtain closed.
DID YOU BUILD THE VAN? HOW MUCH DID IT COST?
Both together for sure around 10k CAD.
DO YOU HAVE A DOG?
Yes, I have a Dogo Argentino called Ella. She is 7-years-old, and she sleeps in my bed most nights. Most of my free time goes to cuddles and scratches. She keeps our daily step count high. :)
HOW TO SURVIVE CANADIAN WINTER IN A VAN?
First thing to do is to insulate the van. We used Reflectix for the floor, and fiberglass for the walls and the ceiling.
Install a 12V diesel heater. We had a second-hand Webasto for the first two years but it broke down twice. Now we're using the less expensive version and it works great so far (6 months).
EXTRA DIESEL CAN
Over the past two winters, we ran out of diesel so many times and would have to search for a gas station in the middle of the night. Luckily we always keep a couple of liters on hand. EXTRA GAS and WATER containers are good to have too.
Invest in good batteries from the start if you can afford them. lithium batteries have better cycle life than lead acid batteries, and you get more value for your money in the long run. For a more detailed explanation, I found this article.
having quality shoes makes cold months much more pleasant. Make sure you have waterproof footwear that you can wear all day long because you just might have to if you run out of diesel. ;)
DO YOU HAVE TO BE A MINIMALIST TO LIVE IN A VAN?
Minimalism is not required but having fewer things makes living in a tiny house a lot more manageable. I think of myself as a forced minimalist that has grown to love it. Having a limited amount of things is solely due to the size of my living arrangements. I would definitely have more items if I lived in a bigger space. However, I do not miss having more things. And it's quite nice not spending money on cheap shit I don't need anyway. I have learned to splurge on things I truly love and hold off on everything else. I am a minimalist in many aspects of life, but shoes will never be one of them. ;)
VAN LIFE AND STORAGE
Storage space is quite limited inside the van, but you can keep extra things in a storage facility or at a family/friend's house. We rented a small storage locker for $50 a month while we were renovating the van. When we completed the rebuild, we returned the locker. There are plenty of storage facilities, pick the one that works for you, size and price-wise.
How much storage you'll have inside your home, depends on the size of the vehicle you choose and how it is built. Add as many cabinets and drawers as you can fit in there. Our van has lots of storage under the bed. We keep not-for-every-day-use stuff down there, like seasonal clothing and footwear. In the living area of the van, we only keep things we use daily.