Van Life // Exploring New York
About a month ago I got a silly idea in my head… I wonder if it would be worth it to buy a van. After all, it’s a fairly large expense, would it be practical for our lives?
Liam took the idea and ran with it. After a few weeks of what seemed like endless van life videos and forums and informative TikToks, we decided to pull the trigger. We got pre-approved for our van loan and started the search. It was only a couple weeks, but it felt like a lot longer. Rust free, low mileage vans sell like hot cakes and the prices can range from very affordable to who would pay for that??? (There are people who can and will).
We were lucky we found our Ford E250 with less than forty thousand miles and little to no rust. Liam worked morning and night with me pitching in on my off time to get our little house on wheels in ‘good enough’ condition to be ready for my vacation.
A week and a half after purchasing our van we had gutted and remodeled the inside. We installed a wooden cabin interior, vinyl flooring, a raised bed, and plenty of storage.
Our first drive out with everything installed made me nervous, as the wooden boards and all our belongings make noise at every bump but after four days on every type of road, I’m very confident in its stability.
We started by going up to the high peaks of New York to try to find camping for the night. I should note that this entire trip was extremely impromptu so when we went to potentially the busiest area of the ADK, we knew we may need a backup plan. Liam found a potential disbursed camping road online before we headed up towards Keene Valley. We drove down what felt like the narrowest, longest, and bumpiest of dirt roads before doing a 6 point turn and pulling off for lunch to re-asses.
As we cooked hotdogs in our van at the most beautiful meadow we mulled over our options for the rest of the week. We could go up to Vermont or New Hampshire, or even Maine… and ultimately we decided to stay in New York and invest in state camping, a luxury that we seldom indulge in.
Lewey lake was our first night and it was just starting to turn with foliage. Liam quickly adapted to backing the van in, impressively maneuvering it around the trees and parking it with a lovely view of the lake.
I cooked soup on the floor of the van before we called it a night. The van was well insulated, so the temperatures stayed fairly comfortable until about halfway through the night. We had the windows cracked for airflow so it was to be expected. Our biggest struggle was trying to get comfortable on our bed that is just slightly too small for us. I think we were both a little bit achey from the first night.
We switched our campsite the next day to something a little closer to the amenities and I think that’s when I really understood the convenience of the van. There was no taking down hammocks or packing up tents, just standard cleaning and we were off to our next site. And just as quickly as we arrived, we were off to explore the nearby town of speculator. There was no worrying about leaving anything at camp or the general security of our things, everything was with us in our van and when we wanted to leave it, we could lock it up. For me that was a huge perk.
That night we slept better as we tried sleeping diagonally in the bed. I added an extra blanket to the bed so we slept nice and warm and the next day we were off again to Watkins Glen State Park.
The two nights spent at Watkins really solidified how nice it was to have the van. The weather turned drizzly, although not as cold as Lewey Lake, there was a bit of a bite to the air. We spent a little more time cozy in the van, playing card games and watching some tv since we had a bit of cell service. The charging port of the van really came in handy at that point and since we’re so used to bringing battery packs it felt very convenient.
The last night in the van I started to feel a little claustrophobic in the bed. Although it was nothing unbearable, it’s worth mentioning. We are planning on getting a thinner mattress to fit the van better, which will fix a lot of our sleeping position issues and give more room between us and the ceiling. Liam was really good at sleeping and maneuvering in and out of the bed but being the clutz that I am, I bumped something at least twice a night on the ceiling. That was honestly the only down side to the van aside from the obvious elephant in the room, gas.
Everyone expects gas to be a huge expense for those living in or vacationing in a van. I’m not saying it’s not, but it’s not as bad as we expected. We filled up our tank twice during the trip and each time it was just over a hundred dollars. While that sounds like a lot, we managed to get about 500 miles per tank. which wasn’t bad at all.
For us, we like to travel. We either find camping and take the time to set everything up or we sleep in our little car. The van makes it so convenient to travel without a destination in mind. If we can’t find camping we can always pull off at a rest stop and be comfortable. It’s good for impulsive trips, which we’re very fond of.
We plan to do a lot more in the van and add to it as we do. The first four day trip was a good taste of what to expect and we’re really excited to get out more with it. More to come!
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