Vangie is her name, and travel is her game

To say that the global pandemic has shaken the world horribly would be an understatement. We may never know the full extent of the grief, anger and loss, but we are sure to have changed forever for living and going through this season of our lives. This is my story.

“Wake up!” This is exactly what the ugly, disruptive monster known as the pandemic screamed in my head. “Ha! Idiot! Who’s in control now? Let’s see how ready, willing, and able you are to pivot.

Unlike others around me, I was not overwhelmed with fear at all. Instead, I was utterly stunned by this reality: I live as if I know the future. I plan with a completely unrealistic level of certainty. I choose not to recognize that anything can change in an instant.

My husband and I have a long list of things we will do and places we will see – one day. When we retire. When we have time. Once we finish this or accomplish that. And while we plan, life passes us by.

The pandemic has made it clear to me that all of our grand plans lie under a veil of uncertainty. The only thing we know for sure is what’s going on right now.

Still stunned by what was happening all around me, I was flying through my emails one day in early 2020. I still don’t understand why I opened a message from a quirky site with a funny name :C that’s why you’re broke. A gorgeous new motorhome was the first item to appear.

My immediate reaction was to be speechless, intrigued, my heart beating fast. I passed it on to my husband, Harold, with a simple message: “We need this”.

Of course, I had visions of carefree travel whenever we felt like it – to every nook, cranny and cranny of this beloved country. I was ready to start making every moment count. The uncertainty of life was my new reality.

His message was quick, if not hilarious: “Are you kidding? Who is this?”

To understand, you have to know a little history.

At the start of our marriage, as our two boys were babies (17 months apart), we camped in a tent. How many ways can I say “miserable”? Horrible. Rain, wind, even snow in July. All work, no pleasure. I hated. I don’t remember saying it, but he remembers: “I will never go camping again. Don’t even ask me! We sold all the equipment, and that’s it.

Fast forward decades later, and there we were – him with his mouth wide open, me with a picture. I found the company that created this van conversion and got it on the phone.

How, where and when were my questions. “You buy a pickup truck and bring it to us in New Jersey, we turn it into an RV; but sorry we are booked until 2023,” they replied. Oh, and the sample of their work I was looking at would cost $65,000, more or less, on top of the cost of buying the vehicle. Rats! I wanted to at least go watch it. But $125,000 or more? Double rats.

Unbeknownst to me, Harold had a spark of joy that I would once again allow “camping” into my vocabulary. He started looking around, researching and plotting. He discovered that Colorado, where we live, has become the vanlife capital of the world. This is where most van sales and conversions occur.

And so it was that on a Saturday in June 2020, we went to see VanWorks in Fort Collins, Colorado. What we found was brilliant – every type of conversion, from basics to high-end luxury options.

We hadn’t planned to make a decision that day. You can start laughing now. VanWorks has a partnership with the local Dodge Ram dealership. Surprise! They only had one 2019 model left and they couldn’t wait to get rid of it. We bought it on the spot with over $12,000 off and discounted.

We went with the BaseCamp conversion from VanWork with a few upgrades. Our 2019 Dodge Ram Promaster now has a 400 amp hour lithium-ion battery, 2000 watt inverter, 24 gallon water tank, water heater, Webasco heating, an Insty Connect mobile internet system, a dry flush toilet, an outdoor shower, a sink, induction hob, fixed bed, garage for electric bicycles and equipment and basic camping gear.

The day we picked up our newly converted motorhome, we named it Vangie. As we were on his maiden voyage, Harold turned on the radio, located that ’60s Rolling Stones hit, “Angie,” turned up the sound, and we were in heaven.

It’s been almost two years since we adopted a kind of semi-vanlife, and we couldn’t be happier. We see every part of our new state adopted as quickly as possible.

We have not retired. We both work more than full time. We just figured out how we can afford to include vanlife in our current schedule. We travel for pleasure, part time. And what fun it is. I highly recommend it.

The total cost of the van, including the conversion, was less than half of the company’s final estimate in New Jersey.

Living without debt has its advantages.

Mary invites you to visit her at EverydayCheapskate.com, where this column is archived with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at https://www.everyday cheapskate.com/contact/, “Ask Mary”. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book “Debt-Proof Living”.

#Vangie #travel #game

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