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campervan vanlife camping

We just got our campervan! This dream has been a long time in the making.

In 2018, we articulated that one of our main goals for FI was to become location-independent. At the time, we assumed that we’d need to be financially independent to do this. In this post about our ideal life, we even mentioned potentially traveling around in an RV. 

Come to find out, we can make this dream a reality long before FI. We’re well on our path to doing so! 

On the work side, I’ve taken steps over the last few years to build a location-independent business that I can do from anywhere. Corey is still working full-time, but he’s mostly remote and will likely have an option to take a sabbatical next year (more on that below).

On the travel side, we did a vanlife experiment last summer in 2021. We rented a campervan from Outdoorsy and loved it. We expected to enjoy it, but we actually enjoyed it way more than we thought we would. We loved that the pace of travel was super relaxed. We could cook most of our own food (which is important because I have so many dietary restrictions). And, best of all, we got to explore in this awesome vehicle that could get just about anywhere. 

Last May, we created a 5-year plan. In that plan, we wrote that we might do another vanlife experiment (longer this time) in 2022. Then, we’d potentially build out our own campervan in 2023-2024. 

When we returned from the trip, we realized that we loved it so much that we didn’t want to wait. We asked ourselves, “Why would we spend so much money for a month-long rental in 2022 if we know we’ll want to build out a campervan in the future?”

So, we went for it! Almost 1 year after our vanlife experiment, we finally have our fully built out Mercedes Sprinter campervan! And, we’re so excited to share it with you. 

camper campervan vanlife
Our van who we have yet to name!

Over the next several months, we’ll be writing a series of posts that share everything we can about:

  • Our decision to buy the campervan
  • Our travel plans (both short- and long-term)
  • What features and amenities we have in our campervan
  • How much it cost and the breakdown
  • How this purchase impacts our FI timeline
  • Whether it’s worth it. 

I’ve also gotten a ton of great reader questions from social media that I’ll be including as well. 

Reader Question #1: What Will your VanLife Lifestyle Look Like?

We got some great questions about what this will look like both in the short-term and in the long-term. While we can’t know exactly what the future looks like, here are our current plans.

Short-Term Plans (2022)

While I have a location-independent business, Corey is still working full-time for an employer. Luckily, he only needs to go into the office one day per week. It’s also quite flexible, so if he misses a day here and there, it wouldn’t be a problem. He also has four weeks of vacation. He was able to roll over an additional week from last year, so he has 5 weeks this year. 

Later this summer, we’re planning one large, 3-week road trip up to the Maritime Provinces in Canada. We’ll travel through New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia.

Over the three weeks, we’ll stay at National Parks, Provincial Parks, Harvest Host locations, driveways of people we know, and even do some wild, off-grid camping. We’re planning to hike, see beautiful sites and scenery, ride our bikes, play disc golf, and meet up with friends along the route.

dog vanlife
She’s “Ruffin’ It” and Ready to Hit the Road

If you live in New Brunswick, PEI, or Nova Scotia, let us know! We’re already planning to meet up with a bunch of blog readers. Hopefully, you can join us!

Besides this big trip, we’re also planning to take some weekend trips. And, we’ll start experimenting with traveling during the week and working from the van. 

We already have a trip planned to go to Cape Cod in July for a long weekend. This is one of our favorite places to camp, and we can’t wait to experience it in our van! We’ll likely take some impromptu weekend trips to places in New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine later this summer and fall. 

We haven’t figured out the details yet, but we’re also hoping to experiment with traveling and working from the van. To do this, the most important thing is to be in a location that has cell service. It’s okay if the service is somewhat weak since we have a cell booster. We’re still figuring out how to predict where cell service will be good enough for remote work. I’m sure we’ll figure this out over time since we certainly aren’t the first people to do this. We plan to start doing this for a few days at a time by extending a weekend trip into the week. Then, we’ll expand to larger remote working trips. 

Medium-Term Plans (2023)

As of right now, it looks like Corey will have the opportunity to take a 2-3 month (paid!) sabbatical from work in 2023. Right now, our plan is to use this time for a road trip around the western part of the United States. I’ve never taken a road trip out west, and it’s one of my big dreams. Two or three months will be enough time to feel like we get to see a lot without feeling rushed (although I’m sure we’ll still feel like we want more time)! 

Besides this, we’ll likely continue taking shorter weekend trips and longer remote work trips as we get more comfortable. Perhaps, we’ll even start driving south when it gets cold. 

Long-Term Plans (2024 and Beyond)

At this point, we’re planning for Corey to quit his job in 2024 and join me as an entrepreneur. At that point, we will have a fully location-independent lifestyle. The world will be our oyster (long before reaching full FI)!

As we think about it today, we aren’t planning to ever sell our house and live full-time out of our van. We love our home and our community. But, we do plan to take long trips. I could see us spending 3-6 months each year traveling (on a variety of short and long trips), but we expect that we’ll always want to return to our home base.

We’ll see if that changes over the next few years. Just last weekend, we were deep cleaning our house before my parents arrive for a visit, and Corey said, “Wouldn’t things be simpler if all we had was the van?” Right now, I can’t imagine not having a home base, but I’ve changed my mind before. 

Reader Question #2: Why Did You Choose Vanlife…?

Here were some of the questions we received about why we chose vanlife:

  • Why did you choose vanlife over other types of travel?
  • Why did you choose a campervan over other types of RVs?
  • Why did you choose a Mercedes Sprinter over other types of vans? 
  • Why did you choose the larger Sprinter over the smaller Sprinter? 

Let’s jump in!

Why did you choose vanlife over other types of travel? 

One big reason why we chose vanlife right now over other types of travel was partially because of the pandemic. We absolutely love to travel. We had originally assumed we’d spend a lot of time in the early-to-mid 2020s traveling internationally. When the pandemic put a damper on international travel, we decided to adjust our plans.

We love camping, immersing ourselves in the beautiful scenery, and being outdoors. We weren’t sure how comfortable we’d be with international travel in the near future, so we decided to go all-in on road-tripping, at least for the next few years. We know that we eventually wanted to do this, but the pandemic pushed the timeline earlier for us. 

This doesn’t mean that we won’t do significant international travel in the future. I expect that we’ll keep our international travel to shorter trips over the next few years though. 

Why did you choose a campervan over other types of RVs?

This is a great question! There were both emotional and practical reasons why we chose a van over other RVs or travel trailers.

On the emotional side, one thing that we did for the entire pandemic was to watch YouTube videos about campervan buildouts and travel. It turned into a hobby for us. We were enamored by vanlife, and we started to envision that lifestyle for ourselves.

There were many reasons why choosing a campervan makes sense for us though.

First, we love the small size of the campervan because we can get it almost anywhere. It’s easy to drive and can (almost) fit in a standard parking spot. There were places we went on our trip last summer that did not allow RVs because there was no place for them to turn around. This didn’t apply to a campervan. We were able to easily park and turn around in the small parking lot. 

We also live in the city of Boston and do not have a lot of space. In many places in the country (including Boston), people are not allowed to park traditional RVs in their driveways or on the street. Luckily, this does not apply to cargo vans, and the van fits in our second parking spot nicely. This means we don’t need to pay for offsite storage. We save money, and it’s a lot more convenient to pack up and take a quick trip! 

campervan parking drivewat
Look! It fits so easily in our 2nd parking spot at our condo!

Lastly, one of the reasons why we chose a campervan over a travel trailer is that we love having everything with us when we are on the road. We can be a lot more flexible because we don’t need to be back at the campsite at a particular time for meals or relaxation. We can eat, nap, and relax no matter where we are. And, we don’t need to invest in a vehicle that’s large enough to tow a trailer. 

Why did you choose a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Van over other types of vans?

The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van is one of the most expensive cargo vans. We chose it for one main reason: it is built with higher quality materials and has fewer issues.

We read endless resources and watched way too many videos about the differences between Mercedes Sprinters and Ram Promasters. From this research, we learned that Ram Promasters often end up having a lot more mechanical and engine issues than Sprinters. 

Given that we were planning on putting a significant amount of money into a van build, we wanted the van to last as long as possible. Plus, if we ever decide to sell it in the future, Sprinters have a much higher resale value. 

Why did you choose the larger Sprinter Van? 

There are three sizes of Sprinter vans. We chose the middle size that has a 170-inch wheelbase. This means that the full vehicle is 23 feet long and has about 14 feet of “buildable space” on the interior. 

We spent some time deciding between this van and the smaller Sprinter van (which only has about 10 ½ feet of buildable space on the interior).

Our decision on van size came down to features. There were a few key things that would have been hard to fit in a smaller van, including:

  • A fixed bed, so that we didn’t have to constantly be changing the configuration so we’d have somewhere to sit.
  • An indoor shower and toilet “room.”
  • A large enough kitchen galley that would have some counter space for cooking.
  • Two workspaces for when we decide to travel and work out of the van.
  • Enough storage that we could take things like camping chairs, hammocks, bikes, etc. with us when we travel.
I think the interior is beautiful! 😍

Throughout the process, we created a lot of potential designs. When we realized we couldn’t get everything we wanted into the smaller van in a way that we thought would work for us, we decided to go with the larger van. 

What I Will Cover in Future Campervan Series Posts

With so many reader questions, I realized that I needed to split this up into multiple posts! Stay tuned over the next few weeks and months, as we’ll share more (including more photos) about:

  • The features of our campervan (what we love most about it AND how we deal with ventilation, wastewater, storage, etc.) 
  • The costs (and breakdown) of the van, materials, and labor. 
  • How this purchase impacts our FI timeline (and if the delay was worth it)
  • Travel Updates 

We Can’t Wait to Hit the Road!

We are setting off on our first road trip TODAY. Because of some social unrest happening in Ecuador, the FI Chautauqua was canceled. After canceling our flights, we decided the next best thing was to take our first van road trip for the week. We’ll be traveling around Vermont and New Hampshire!

We’re excited to share more about our vanlife journey with you! Stay tuned for the rest of the series!

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