Hello and welcome back! I’m sorry, I know it’s been a while between my last post and this one. Honestly so much has been done between then and now. I’m going to try and catch you up a bit and answer some of the questions I’ve been getting lately.
Here’s the update on “Savana.” Check engine lights are a frustratingly regular occurrence lately. Between the misbehaving gas cap on my Kia Soul that makes me panic every time the light pops on, to the super fun listening to my mom’s Kia Forte, a car that is practically silent while running, now sounding like a tractor that just ran over an irrigation pipe…I’m so over them. Savana unfortunately was not immune to the epidemic of “let’s give Brandilyn a mild stroke” lights. I’m not a girl who knows cars. Like at all. “One is blue, that’s a truck, ooooh! Isn’t that one pretty?!”…pretty much sums up my total knowledge of cars. Heaven help us all if I have to look under the hood of anything. In my way of thinking, neurosurgeons and mechanics are on the same level of badassery on a topic I could only inflict harm on. Apparently Savana has two catalytic converters. Nope, I have no idea what that is…just that she has two, I’ve begun to think of them like “car kidneys” and one needed replacing ASAP. Luckily there are pretty much three people I trust to work on my car and not take every last cent out of my wallet like the Sheriff of Nottingham. He quoted us a number that made my ears ring a little and my vision go slightly dark…but either way the work was going to need to be done before she was ready to hit the road. I’d rather do it now while I have a steady paycheck flowing in like I do. I almost cried when it was time to pay for the work…not only did they replace the two catalytic converters and a full tune up on our girl, they even came in at about half the cost I was quoted on. I’m not entirely sure what the qualifications are for Saint-hood…but after Rocky at Rocky’s Auto Repair in Roseburg, straight up saved my bacon, I may need to do a little research.
So now that Savana is out of the car-hospital, she’s home again and mom and I have been fine tuning the organization inside to make the most fit in the smallest of spaces…who knew that the Van Dolah family Tetris rivalry would ever be useful in real life. I may have won the Tetris rivalry, but I’m coming to learn that my mom’s talents have been wasted for years. If NASA ever needed a pro to pack for a trip to the international space station…they should call my mom. I’ve taken my laptop out and spent much of a day inside the van, and never felt claustrophobic. The bed actually is the perfect height for an inside desk. I used the “poo bucket” as a stool and had the laptop on the bed. I’d love to take credit and say that after extensive measuring and mathematical calculations we planned on the optimal height of the bed for both work, sleep and used as an organizational staple…but really, we just slipped, tripped and fell into a vat of awesomeness on that one.
Now onto the questions. I’ve been getting them on the regular lately and thought I could try and answer a few of them. Keep in mind that I’m not on the road yet, so I haven’t had a ton of obstacles, most of the ones I’ve hit up to this point have been funding based, and only being able to do large scale projects on my days off.
- Why am I leaving home?
- This is a hard one to honestly explain. A lot has happened since I came home from Germany in 2015. Divorce, death of a beloved pet, death of family members, being locked down on campus during a shooting spree and the daily struggles I have from it, I’m just over it. I’m from here. I grew up here. I love this place, but I want to leave now while I can still say that I’ll miss it. I don’t honestly think I can take much more here before my view of home is irreversibly damaged.
- I’m honestly the best version of me when I travel. I open up to new ideas, experiences, and people. I can feel the passion and creativity bubble up inside of me just thinking about hitting the road and all of the endless possibilities that it offers. I miss learning. I honestly don’t know if I’ll ever be ready to go back to a college campus for the long term or if my aversion to it is strictly limited to Umpqua Community College. I’m realizing though that learning and fueling my passion for creativity isn’t limited to a college environment. Researching social media platforms and digital marketing strategies for this project have sparked something in me I almost forgot existed. I legit feel like Hermione, soaking up every book and putting it to good use. Warning: I will absolutely try to shoehorn as many Harry Potter references in here as I do in real life. Heaven help you all.
- Why a van and not a motorhome?
- That one’s a relatively easy one. With a motorhome I’m a little limited on places to park, cities I can drive in, parking spaces to find, etc. A van offers a lot more freedom and even opens up the ability to stealth camp. Basically, pulling into a spot on the street, in a parking lot, etc, closing the curtains…and sleeping. This versatility will hopefully be a lot more cost effective in the long run.
- Why did I buy a smaller passenger van as opposed to a larger cargo van?
- This one was a huge debate for me honestly. I loved the space a cargo van would allow, but the initial build would include insulation, and possibly adding an aftermarket window that had the possibility of leaking if not installed or sealed properly. The windows were a must have to keep inside cool with a cross breeze. My only deal breakers on vans were these: I wanted the two doors that swing out on the side…I wanted to be able to use that space on the doors and not lose like I would with a sliding door. I also wanted the same on the back doors as well. I wanted to be able to use that space to either deflect wind while cooking, or hang a shower curtain rod across the back door if I needed to shower if I’m in the back country and not near a gym. I also needed to have windows. The ability to open those up and cool down the space was an absolute must have. Not just for me, but for the pups as well. This van fits all of my conditions and with it being a passenger van vs. a cargo van…most of the insulation has already been done for me. The fact that the van just looks like a van on the outside works in my favor. Sitting on the street my van doesn’t look out of place.
- What am I looking to gain out of this?
- Several things really. I’m looking to sort of reconnect with the better version of myself. I’m looking to gain a better perspective on what I want to do career wise. By drastically cutting down my monthly expenses I’m hoping to pay down my debt that way if for whatever reason I decide to stop living the van life and once again find a stationary home somewhere, I’m better prepared financially for it. By freeing myself from some of the monthly costs, I may end up trying out some online courses. I’m still a bit on the fence about it really, but I may find that I want to learn more marketable skills to help aid financially while living as I will be.
- Where am I planning to go?
- The short answer….yes. There is so much out there to see and do, it’s hard to name it all. My first destination is to Long Beach, CA. I have a cousin who lives there that I haven’t seen since my wedding, that was 12 years and one husband ago. My best friend and her kids live in Long Beach as well. I’ve been threatened with bodily harm if they aren’t my first stop. She’s a tiny human, so naturally I fear her. She’s already offered to show me a few of her favorite spots in the Southern California area while I’m there. Most of my stops I have planned are subject to change since we’re still in the midst of a global pandemic and places are either closed, or have a limited number of spots available. Ideally I wanted to go full-on-tourist in Los Angeles. I planned it all out. Tourist map, bus tour, pictures next to my favorites along the walk of fame, and I even had thought about making an investment into a fanny pack, just to make sure I’m looking the part. I only have a couple of things that are time based. I’d really love to see the northeast during the fall, and the slightly twisted side of me wants to spend Halloween in Salem, Massachusetts. Other than that, I’m fairly open to when and where I go.
- What am I doing with all of my stuff?
- The plan is to put the irreplaceable items into a storage unit. The family mementos that I can’t bear to part with, photo albums, etc. and sell the rest of my possessions. It would be like killing multiple birds with a single stone. I’m putting money into my ‘oh shit’ fund for if large scale things happen. If my transmission goes out, I blow a tire and need to replace it, etc. once I’m happy with enough cushion in that fund….then comes the gas fund. Rolling down the highway isn’t free. I won’t lie, the biggest thing that I will have to learn to do without is the fully stocked bookshelves. I’ve already invested in a Kindle and have probably more books on it than any one person should have, but there is still something comforting about holding a book in your hand on a rainy day that you can only get with a physical book. I did account for some of my favorites to travel with me: the Harry Potter series, the Percy Jackson books as well as the Stalking Jack the Ripper series which is my newest obsession.
- How long am I planning on living in the van?
- This is one that I don’t actually have an answer for. I don’t have any expected end date. This isn’t like an extended vacation where I come back to my old life again. This is a full on change in the way I live my life. It’s both terrifying and exciting.
- What am I going to do for an income while on the road?
- I’ve been doing a TON of research for jobs that I can do remotely, or jobs I’d like to have at some point along the road. Working at a library or a bookstore would be a dream come true, but I don’t actually trust myself to leave once I get a job like that. I’ve already started this blog and a YouTube channel to go along with it, but I’m hilariously far away from being able to see any monetary value from either one of those avenues. I started my own side business, Athens Digital Marketing Co., but I don’t have a client list yet, so still nothing from that avenue either. The biggest thing I think I can do is to offer my services on Fiverr or find new and exciting options on FlexJobs. Both sites are very much for those who need to work remotely. This is honestly the biggest hold up for me. I can’t leave here without a steady stream of income somehow.
- When am I expecting to leave?
- This is one that seems to keep getting pushed farther and farther out as new issues arise. Initially I wanted to actually be in California on May 1st. That obviously didn’t happen. Then the plan was to leave here on June 1st. Definitely going to miss that mark as well. I think my mom and I may need to adjust our plans because we’re entering the warmer season which isn’t ideal.
- Will I be traveling solo or with someone else?
- I’m neither crazy enough, nor brave enough to fly this solo. I’m very lucky though. My parents actually live in a motorhome and are itching to get out of here as well. I’ll be traveling with them for the most part. My dad has specific places he wants to take me to, such as the Van Dolah castle and the Van Dolah homestead, both of which require traveling east for. I may very well splinter away from them for short trips I want to make, but for the most part we will be traveling together.
- Why in the world am I doing this with three dogs?! What obstacles do I see in regards to the pups and how do I plan to overcome them?
- My dogs are my kids. They’ll be going with me pretty much everywhere. That’s why I don’t like the idea of traveling south during the summer. Ideally I’d like to sort of chase the cooler temperatures, especially since I will have three, four-legged copilots riding with me. I imagine that there will be days that little travel will actually happen, just because we’ll need to stick to cooler weather. I’m choosing to not look at that as lost time or a missed opportunity. That will allow for walks with the pups, downtime to catch up on the blog or do some video editing for the channel. If I’m adjusting my life so I can cut the strings with the life I’m currently living, I’m certainly going to be able to adjust to make them comfortable.
- What have I done to the van to customize it to my needs, and what do I still plan on doing?
- The bed is probably the biggest thing I can point to. I’m able to fit six tubs under the bed and the van even now has a tailgate that folds down. This will allow me to either cook on the surface or use it as an outside work station. I’ve placed battery operated lights throughout the van and even have some super cute fairy lights to add a splash of adorable to the van. Most of the must-have items that I’ll be using everyday are either in the “9-block,” a square cubby that holds 9 fabric containers. I’ve also invested in a Jackery 1000 Explorer…the bundle that I purchased has the solar generator along with two “suitcase” solar panels. They fold in half for easy storage, and when unfolded they can be moved around to capture direct sunlight.
- Plans I’m kicking around for the future: installing a roof rack so I can mount a solar panel or two on the roof for continuous power, a roof mounted storage pod, a mounted awning for shade and the ability to create a bit of an outdoor space. I’d also love to install a light bar on the front of the roof, something that will give me extra light when driving around BLM land. When you’re driving what is essentially your house around, that isn’t the best time to hit a deer, boulder or tree stump. I’d also like to mount a spare tire to the back of the van. Currently it has one underneath the van, I’m not wild about having to crawl around to change a flat tire, especially since I have slight aversion to all things slithery or creepy crawly. *stares at the entire southwest region of the U.S.* Tarantulas, scorpions, snakes, and other terrifying creatures don’t sound fun to me. I’m okay if they exist. Just not existing near me.
That all being said, I’ve got a lot to do in the future and would absolutely welcome any help from you guys! If you have any advice on products, how-to videos on setting up a solar panel system, car racks to buy and which to avoid, recommendations on filming equipment or must do places and experiences you’d like to see filmed…let me know! You can either drop a comment below or contact me on one of the social media platforms I’m on. I’ll drop a link so you can find and follow me at your will.