What is this thing they call Van Life?
Is Lara now homeless and has resorted to living out of a van? What went wrong with her life?!
That's probably what most people think of when they hear that I'm living in a camper van. But it's actually the complete opposite!
I chose this life!
Before I can tell you all about why I chose Van Life and show you my Sprinter camper van tour video I need to tell you about the events in my life that led up to me purchasing my Mercedes camper van.
In April 2019 my life completely changed.
Literally days before I was planning to leave for a 2 week trip to Cleveland and Utah my fiancé and I broke up. We’ve been dating on and off since I was 23, I’m now 32.
Before you start asking why….just know it was a mutual decision. We’ve changed a lot since we were young and we just wanted different things in life.
I’m more adventurous and free spirited and he was ready to settle down and start a family.
In April two big things happened other than the life altering breakup.
The first, I went to Cleveland to visit my cousin and her husband and explore while they were at work. And I also competed in my very first Professional Women’s Bowling Association (PWBA) event.
This has been on my bucket list since I got back into bowling in October 2018. Bowling has always been a part of me since I was a young kid.
I started bowing when I was 9 years old and then I did Saturday morning league all throughout middle school and high school. This is actually how I met my best friend Erica!
Then I went on to bowl all 4 years of high school and then 2 years in college as a club sport 2005-2007. Then I took a hiatus from bowling, just bowling parts of league 2012-2013. Then I took another hiatus and just got back into bowling in late 2018.
When my house sold in May 2018 one thing I had wanted was new bowling balls. I wanted to get back into it since it’s one of my favorite hobbies, plus it’s exercise too!
In October I had started researching more and more about bowling, I started following accounts on social media, and I even purchased a flobowling.com subscription so I could watch the PBA guys bowl.
Doing all this research it really got me motivated to get back into it. I wanted to go big and not live with regrets. So In the Fall of 2018 I got just enough games in (21) to have a sanctioned average of 218 - enough to let me compete in the PWBA as a non-member.
A huge shoutout to all of the teams at NSB lanes on Monday night who let me sub. In just a matter of months, my bowling improved to better than it had ever been and I even shot a 300 (my first). With all this momentum I decided why not, I’d give it a go and try to compete in a few tourneys.
Before Cleveland I did decide to do a few sweepers and local tournaments to get my feet wet in the tournament scene. I was hooked!
In Cleveland I had an amazing time visiting my family - I was able to see them before and after the tournament and they even came to watch me bowl after they got off work!
At the tournament I crossed with Shannon O’Keefe, Else Bolton and Danaka Heekin. On our lunch break after 8 games (we bowl 16 games the first day for qualifying) I asked Danaka if I could eat lunch with her and her Dad.
You just know when you’re gonna be great friends with someone. They just have this vibe about them. Danaka is one of the sweetest, funniest, caring and most energetic people I know. The positive energy she gives off is magnetic.
As I write this post I will have just visited her and her family up in Washington State. Spoiler alert - I drove the van all the way to Washington from Florida! Weekly vlogs to come!
Whoa - now to #2
After Cleveland I flew to Utah for a blogging conference where I was meeting my best friend Erica and a bunch of other blogging friends. The conference was great and after the conference was over her husband flew into Utah and we met up with their friend Alex.
The 4 of us drove down to Arches National Park for a day filled with hiking and then made it to the upper rim of the Grand Canyon where we would be tent camping.
Let it be known that the only tent camping I’ve ever done was in my yard as a kid and never was I allowed to sleep outside over night.
So night one I about froze to death in May…and the cushion that I sleep on under my sleeping bag was a glorified pool raft…needless to say I didn’t sleep much. Maybe an hour if that.
Then we hiked the Grand Canyon - I am deathly afraid of heights and I wouldn’t go near the edge of the canyon when everyone was taking their selfies…
And then we hiked down it! This by far was one of the scariest things I had done and it was an easy way to get me over my fear of heights. Well, maybe not over it but definitely more comfortable with them.
You will still never see me jumping out of a perfectly good airplane.
After our hike we went to the general store there at the camp ground and I purchased a blanket and then I put on all of my clothes and slept in my jacket…I think I managed like 4 hours of sleep.
With the revelation that I will probably never be a tent camper made the idea of Van life so much more desirable.
Actually before my fiancé and I had broken up we were actually looking at the Winnebago Revel for me and a tractor for him.
I first got interested in Van Life and RV Life back in 2015-2016 when my Fiancé and I were broken up and we were both dating different people. I had been window shopping for RVs multiple times and I stumbled upon Heath and Alyssa and their podcast RV Entrepreneur.
I binge listened to their podcast and have listened to every episode since! It motivated me to find a way to make money virtually.
I started to take my blog more seriously. I started to get more private practice clients and it eventually allowed me to quit my full time job in January 2018 so I was working for myself.
Over the next year and a half my nutrition business, joint blog theketoqueens.com and food photography business simultaneously blew up. With this my life changed again.
No longer was I in the mindset that I had to stay in the same small town that I grew up in. I wanted to travel and explore this beautiful world that we have. We aren’t guaranteed tomorrow, so I wanted to explore while I still have my health and my youth.
With the excitement I felt hiking outdoors and exploring and the fact that I knew I’m a terrible tent camper, van life started to resonate with me more and more.
So after the Cleveland Pro I went on to Queens in Wichita, KS where Danaka and I roomed together and we went to the Hall of Fame banquet and celebrated my birthday.
Here, I introduced her to Big Little Lies - If you haven’t watched this yet you’re really missing out. Totally a binge worthy show!
After that the next stop was the Sonoma Pro. Erica my bestie joined me on this trip and this trip is entitled to an entire blog post itself because it was ABSOLUTELY insane.
I honestly can’t make the stuff up that happened. Honestly when I reflect on the last 8 months of my life I'm pretty sure that I've living in a TV sitcom.
After we came back home I really started researching sprinter vans and I found one that I absolutely loved! I convinced Erica to fly to Memphis, TN with me to pick it up and then drive it back. This was oh so eventful as well and we actually shot a few videos of it that I may try to edit and upload as well.
The timeframe on purchasing the van was somewhere around early June. Late mid June, Faith my The Keto Queens partner stayed with me for a week while we were working on our third cookbook and then we flew to Austin for a conference the 27-30 of June.
We were then home for 1.5 days before we would be flying to Europe! This would be my first trip outside of the US other than a cruise to the Western Caribbean.
We would be over in Europe for a month and a half! Go big or go home right?! Once you get over seas, everything is super close if you want to travel and explore other countries.
We got an airbnb in Paris for 30 days and then we did a long weekend in Prague. If you’ve never been to Europe before it is a HUGE culture shock.
A few things about Paris.
- The people there are super prideful about their city and it is SUPER clean.
- Service at restaurants is terrible, expect to wait about 10-15 minutes to just receive a menu.
- Bathrooms are individual stalls with guys and girls in the same area and then there is a community washroom to wash your hands in most places. Most of the toilets did not have toilet seats.
- Hardly any places we went had AC, including our airbnb. Unfortunately we went in July and it had record heats well above 100F.
- In the apartments they have super tiny washing machines and no dryers. You need to line dry everything.
- The are a bazillion cafes on every corner and most of them have wifi which is great for working.
- Macarons are croissants are plentiful! If you love them you'll be in heaven! Try this self-guided Paris Macaron walking walking tour.
- Men seemed way more helpful than women. I learned just enough French to get by and not sound like a complete idiot.
- The metros are life in Paris, Ubers and Lime Scooters can start to become expensive after a while.
After Paris fora month, Faith and I rented a car and we drove to Dijon, France then to Geneva and Zurich, Switzerland, then to Austria and Germany to see Castle Neuschwanstein . Next we made our way to Italy and we went to Venice, Florence, Rome, the Tuscan Country side (my favorite), and then to Naples (super dirty and scary!).
Then we flew back to Florida. The month and a half went by so slow at first and then all of a sudden it was gone. While I was in Europe I was having a friend of a friend do some improvements on the van so I could start van life shortly after I got back home.
These included a new fridge, gas stove and oven, more storage and new counter tops. The van is still a work in progress but I absolutely LOVE it!
Before I set off on my big across country trip I started to do little day trips and then I did my first overnight trip to West Palm Beach. Video to come soon!
As you’re reading this blog post I will have been home for just a few days from my month long trip across the US. It was a trip of a lifetime that I hope to repeat many more times. I just want to take the trip in pieces, staying in cities for 3-4 days or longer instead of just a day or so. Just so I don’t feel like I’m always on the go and having to rush to get to the next destination. After doing this big van trip in the US I really want to do a campervan trip in New Zealand. That would be the ultimate goal!
Well I don’t want to give too much away about my trip, but stay tuned. Weekly vlogs of my trip are coming soon!
What is Van Life?
In a nut shell, for me van life is about down sizing your life.
Not only in your living space, but also the physical things that you own, getting rid of outside stressors, moving more, being outside, meeting new people and exploring this beautiful world while we can.
Recap of Why I chose Van Life
- Travel, so much cheaper than purchasing plane tickets, hotels/airbnbs, ubering or rental car
- I am not good with tent camping and I wanted a warm comfy bed
- I can work from wherever there is wifi, so why not wake up in a new town every few days to explore and do some work
- If it gets hot or cold you can easily move to a different state or town to get the weather you're looking for
- SAVE MONEY! Since I have batteries and solar I don't have to pay for an electric bill. I don't have to pay for internet because I already had a hot spot and can work from cafes that have wifi. Water bill is minimal. Propane for the stove is minimal. No mortgage payment, just a van payment.
- Your home is with you wherever you go.
- If you get tired after driving a long day, pull into a rest area and take a nap in your comfy bed.
- Honestly there are so many benefits it's hard to list them all!
How to Van Life
Van life looks different depending on who you ask. Some people live in a van full time and others have a 9 to 5 and can only use it to explore on the weekends and on vacation.
Some people live in Mercedes Sprinters, some in Ford Transits or Dodge Promasters, others in cargo vans, or mini vans.
Or super sought after VW Bus or Vanagon or more specifically the Westfalias known as "Westy" for short.
At long last here's my Mercedes camper van tour video
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Great blog. Thanks for sharing the beginning of your new van life.