Exactly one year ago today, Trisha and I drove to Rhode Island, picked up my “new” van, and drove it home to New Hampshire. By no coincidence, this was also my birthday and a sort of present for myself.
Life was very different back then. Trisha and I were living together in my apartment. I’d lost my day job, but was on unemployment as well as writing for RideApart, so money was still okay. We’d already made the decision to not renew my apartment lease in the spring and jump into full-time van life. I’d sold my first van and picked this one up for around the same price. I’d actually skipped this one at first because of the body rust, but Trisha felt strongly that we should check it out anyway. On this matter, she was right, because it was in good shape mechanically. I always figured we’d get 3-5 years out of it before the rust took over completely, by which point we could afford our next rig.
Since then, things have gone about as not according to plan as you can get. Between January and March, the build progressed about as well as it could during the short days of a cold New Hampshire winter. Then the fire happened, and nothing’s been the same since. We went to Indiana and back to finish the van build, then to Florida to establish residency, and then much of the way back north before Trisha and I split. For the summer I driveway hopped from one friend to another around New England. For a while, I was flailing emotionally from the fallout of the breakup. But I also had some great adventures, including the New England Forest Rally and the Climb to the Clouds up Mount Washington. I considered ditching van life altogether but decided to go west instead, simply because I’d never been, and I was already set up to do it.
On my way west I visited IMS Outdoors, then hooked up with a group to travel the entirety of Route 66. What better way to cross the USA for the first time? I saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time, as well as the Space Shuttle Endeavour. I was ticking off lifelong dream after dream.
I had no real plan after my stay in Los Angeles. I thought at least visiting Quartzsite, Arizona would be nice since everyone in van life talks about it. The next thing I know I’m in love with the place and all set up to spend the winter here. It’s about as different from my original plan as I could get. But I like it here. It’s much warmer than New England, and I’m surrounded by thousands of other nomads like myself. I’ve literally found my people.
Through it all, this van has been a champ. We’ve traveled roughly 14,000 miles together and rarely had any trouble whatsoever. Sure, the repairs in LA were extensive, but any 17-year-old vehicle is going to develop some vacuum leaks and need some brake work. Now it runs and drives better than any other time since I’ve had it. For now, we’re not putting on the miles like we used to, but it’s still my home on wheels, and that won’t be changing anytime soon.
Overall, despite my personal difficulties over the past year, I’d have to say that this van is the best birthday present I’ve ever gotten myself. To say it’s changed my life would be a massive understatement. I’m hoping the next year brings more of the good times and a whole lot less of the bad. I’m ready for it.