JA › VAN LIFE
"Buy the ticket, take the ride...and if it occasionally gets a little heavier than what you had in mind, well... maybe chalk it up to forced consciousness expansion: Tune in, freak out, get beaten.”
- Hunter S. Thompson
I decided to purchase a Winnebago Travato. I was impressed with Winnebago's reputation for quality and customer service, and I liked that the Travato was a turnkey solution that didn't require me to spend time and money converting a van myself. Other comparable models were either priced lower but had poor build quality or were priced higher and had features that I didn't need. I also didn't want to wait six months or more for a custom-built van. I was eager to start traveling, so I decided that the Travato was the best option for me.
I named my van "GONZO" because I'm a fan of the late Hunter S. Thompson and his friend and amazing artist, Ralph Steadman. Steadman's illustrations for Thompson's books are some of my favorites. Here are some examples of his artwork:
I chose the "K" version of the Travato, which has an open layout with twin beds on each side. This layout gave me plenty of space to move around and store my belongings. I also like that the Travato is easy to drive, even in tight spaces.
I lived full-time out of my van for several years, during which time I traveled extensively throughout the United States and Canada. I stayed in a variety of accommodations, including RV campgrounds, Walmart parking lots, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land, up in the mountains, right next to beaches, random neighborhoods, and friends and family driveways. Being "house-less" was kind of weird but If I ever became tired of the Van Life, I simply parked GONZO and lived the Hotel Life.
If you are thinking about purchasing a Travato, I would recommend checking out the Facebook group, Travato Owners and Wannabees. This is a great resource for information and advice from other Travato owners.
My Top 10 Van Life Spots
While living the van life, I had the opportunity to stay in a variety of places. Some were better than others, and here are my top 10 favorites that I would go back to and stay again. However, please note the season! It's important to be in the north in the summer and the south in the winter, as you don't really want to be living in a van in freezing snow or extreme heat!
1. Banff National Park
Calgary, AB, Canada
2. Zion National Park
State Route 9 in Springdale, Utah
3. Grand Teton / Yellowstone National Parks
2,531,834 acres 96% Wyoming, 3% Montana, and 1% Idaho
4. Florida State
The ENTIRE state (just visit outside of hurricane season)
5. Oregon Coast
363 miles of beautiful pacific ocean coastline
6. Arizona's Maricopa County Parks
Usery Mountain Regional Park
2701 N McGill Dr, Mesa, AZ 85207
Cave Creek Regional Park Campgrounds
E Olivine Ave, Cave Creek, AZ 85331
7. Many Glacier Campground
West Glacier, Glacier National Park, Browning, Montana
8. First Landing State Park Campground
US-60, Virginia Beach, VA 23459
9. Elk Bend RV Park
111 White Tail Dr, Salmon, ID 83467
10. Dash Point State Park
5700 SW Dash Point Rd, Federal Way, WA 98023
The Joys of Road Tripping
Travel Log 2017 2018 2019 2020
Van Down By The River
It was always a running joke that living this Van lifestyle would make a person become Matt Foley, the motivational speaker who lived in a van down by the river. Ha! Well, looking at my glasses in the photos below, I can see that I've put on some weight, and I also love motivational speakers like Jim Rohn and Tony Robbins.
Hmm? Could it be?
The COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States in early 2020. It was day 1172 or maybe 1174 of living the Van Life, and I feel I was starting to become Matt Foley, the fictional motivational speaker from Saturday Night Live who lived in a van down by the river.
I had everything I needed to live in my van: a bed, a kitchen, and a bathroom. But then, all the businesses closed, including the 24/7 gym I used to shower at. I was stuck in my van with no way to clean myself. I started to smell really bad, and I was starting to get worried about my health.
One day, I ran out of food. I was so hungry, I was ravenous. I started to eat Nutella straight out of the jar. I ate so much Nutella that I developed a severe addiction. To make matters worse, I also developed an addiction to Bulleit Bourbon Whiskey. I would eat this combination for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I even started to dream about it.
I knew I had to do something, so I sold my van and said goodbye to van life. I'm now living Condo Life, and I'm so much happier. I'm still addicted to Nutella and Bulleit Bourbon Whiskey, but at least I have a hot shower with plenty of water.