Living the #VanLife With A Big Family
We sleep on forest roads as often as possible. We get stoked upon finding a huge pullout to sleep at. We get lost in the middle of nowhere, with not a person in sight, blazing a campfire, and staring at the stars. We drive our rolling home down bumpy dirt roads for miles on end at the slightest whisper of “free camping.” From mountains to forests to high desert, like any dirtbag, we are in constant search for adventure and nature. Buttttt … we don’t have a van, we have an RV.
Two years ago my family of seven (yes, seven) sold everything we owned and moved into a 30 foot RV. We began traveling through the States, Canada, and even flew to and went road tripping (also in a tiny RV) in Europe. We went in search of rock climbing, hiking, surfing, and mountain biking. Our yearning for adventure quickly grew, and so did the number of dirt roads we ended up driving. Rock climbing was a huge factor in what took us off the beaten path. We learned to become self-sufficient and to not rely on campgrounds. Showers? Pshhh. Cell service? Who needs that. 90% of the time you wouldn’t be able to find us as we quite often lay in the middle of the mountains accessed via a dirt road whose intense vibrations make the interior of our RV threaten to fall apart.
At the core, we’re van lifers but there’s just too many damn people in my family. That doesn’t mean we don’t live the same lifestyle. Vanlife is for those who seek adventure and simplicity (and they tend to do it as cheaply as possible). That’s what we do.
Vanlife is rolling into to Ketchum, Idaho, asking locals where there’s sport climbing nearby (as, according to Mountain Project, there wasn’t any), and following a local climber’s passionate and detailed instructions to take a steep, windy, dirt road for 8 miles before turning on the third forest service road on the left then proceeding to find a huge open dirt space in the dense forest to free camp, where, judging by the stone firepit, someone else had agreed that it was the most perfect few campsite ever. After a one hour venture to reach this solitude in the mountains, we continued up the forest road on foot because the road then became more “off-road” than “road.” At last we reach a top rope crag that was pretty mediocre as far as climbing routes go, yet the jaw-dropping view of the apex of three mountains and valleys meeting left us with no regrets. Afterward, we sat camped out in the middle of nowhere, kids strumming the ukulele and throwing hatchets, cooking up stew to eat around a campfire, and basking in the irrefutable silence—no cars, no people, not even wind. We could scream at the top of our lungs and no one would hear us. It’s freeing and grounding at the same time. Freeing because you are truly self-sufficient and free of responsibility, and grounding because you know where you are in the world both metaphorically and literally—like, literally no one but the climber guy from town knows where I am right now.
Vanlife is driving down dirt roads with a Class C RV into one of the most stunning mountain ranges in the world, the Sawtooth Range, going for a an epic hike that ends at a mind-blowing alpine lake (Goat Lake) surrounded by steel colored granite, glaciers, and waterfalls, realizing there is a storm rolling in, and running down in torrential wind and rain to the safety of your vehicle, which is also your home. It’s sitting in your cozy vehicle after adventuring hard and feeling safe, sound, and stoked in the comforting simplicity of your van/RV. It’s spending the night parked in the deserted dirt parking lot deep, deep in the wilderness so you can wake up and explore more of the Range.
Vanlife is a guaranteed ticket to adventure. It allows you to live in search of it by removing the factors which add complications like food, water, shelter, and time. With our RV, we do the same. We have everything we need so we can prioritize the outdoors and aren’t constrained to a daily time schedule. We could sleep (almost) anywhere we want, we are always sure to have an ample supply of food and water, and we live simply.
Sounds pretty similar to vanlife to me. So while our back doors don’t open up to the outdoors, our windows and doors do. The RV is a means for cooking and sleeping and the rest of our days are spent rooted with the earth, with nature, with the wild.
Lesson on stereotyping. Don’t judge a book, or RV, by its cover. While our long thirty feet of vehicle and low clearance keep us out of some of the coolest hidden gems, we know the beauty of backing into a forest service road for the night, the joy of camping out at the base of the mountains under a sky full of stars, or of an early morning sunrise spent alone with only your jet boil and a perfect cup of coffee.
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