OK, hard truth time. While I love being on the road in our exploring all the best British Columbia has to offer, it is not all sunshine and roses. We are travelling and living in a small van and with that comes a few complications. So with that in mind, let me tell you about the less fun side of our grand road trip around Western Canada.
Read next: Three Reasons We Love Vanlife
vanlife downside no. 1: space
This is the major one. Our beloved Astro van isn’t large by any means. It’s not the kind of camper in which you can really stretch out much; for one thing, you definitely can’t stand up. There is not a huge amount of livable space either. We pretty much only drive and sleep (and watch the laptop) in the van. This means that everything else has to be done outside, which isn’t particularly nice when it’s raining. Luckily, the weather has been good to us so far, and it’s going to get even better with summer just around the corner.
a challenge of space and storage
Lack of space also means we have to be careful about putting things away in the right place. Sometimes it can be hard to access the cupboard where we keep our clothes, so I get into a bad habit of keeping lots of clothes out which drives Jean Robert crazy. We do have a fair amount of storage under the bed, but since we travel with everything we kept from our last apartment (think snowboard gear, books, tools, JR’s diving equipment) it’s pretty full.
You may be wondering why we didn’t buy a larger vehicle, but with the budget we had, it was either a bigger van or a smaller road trip. The latter will always win for us.
vanlife DOWNSIDE NO. 2: parking
This can be tricky in cities (hard to find plus potentially expensive too), though since we are not too keen on busy places, this doesn’t come up too much. With the canoe on top of our van, we would also have the additional worry of being too tall to enter multi-storey parking lots. Parking was a much larger issue during our three-month road trip around Europe in 2001. Two months into our Western Canada trip, we are finding it fairly easy to find a free parking place every night.
Read next: How to Find Free Camping in British Columbia
What is more of a problem for us is parking while we are camping elsewhere such as during our recent canoe trips on Desolation Sound and around the Powell Forest Canoe Circuit. Since all of our possessions are in the van, it can be a bit concerning leaving it unattended for so long. Possessions aside, we don’t want our vehicle to be towed for parking in the wrong place either.
vanlife DOWNSIDE NO. 3: no real kitchen
I love preparing and eating food al fresco, but I do miss having a proper kitchen with a sink, worktops, an oven and a fridge. I sometimes dream of making complicated meals involving more than just two pots on a camp stove, and not having to worry whether it’s going to start raining in the middle of making dinner.
Keeping things cool hasn’t been too much of an issue so far since we’ve been travelling mainly in spring, but it’s going to get more difficult. We both eat mainly vegetarian means (if JR does buy something extra for himself, it doesn’t tend to sit around very long) so keeping meat and fish fresh isn’t the problem, rather butter, cheese and certain fresh vegetables. For the time being, we’ve decided to only buy small amounts of dairy, for the above reason and also for the budget. It’s probably a good thing health-wise anyway!
Despite some downsides, it’s still worth it for the joys of the open road…