This is kinda me from one of those avatar making things -- I like it because it takes 30+ years off. It’s actually very like me except it needs a lot more wrinkles and the blonde streaks should be grey. I'm usually behind the camera so there aren't a lot of recent photos of me. I might get a decent one at some point, or not. We'll see. I'm Lyn, also known as Jazz. I'm the long-divorced mother of two adult kids, a retired school music teacher, bird nerd, and an avid traveller. I live alone in a swanky loft-style townhouse in a trendy tourist/fishing village called Steveston, in Richmond, a suburb of Vancouver, BC. I've been a traveller since my teens and planned my adult life so that I could spend my retirement travelling. During my long career as a teacher, I made careful, wise decisions and sacrifices to allow myself to retire early so I could finally take advantage of lower prices by travelling outside of high season. I had it all planned. The kids moved out, I sold the big family house and had spent a year in my new place. I'd apply for the early retirement incentive, I would retire at the end of June with my full pension and bridge until Canadian Old Age Pension kicks in. I would hang around and enjoy the many summer festivals and events at home, and wait for the fall to start booking travel. I could take a couple of substitute teaching gigs, if I felt like it. I had several trips on my planning list and was deep into planning a road trip around France for the Spring. It was a luxury to have time to take advantage of last minute fares and I planned on enjoying that with spontaneous journeys. That's not quite how it worked out.
Within days of retiring, I got antsy. I didn't know how to spend my summer without travel. I threw a bunch of stuff, including camping gear, in my 2012 Hyundai Elantra and decided I was going to drive all the way across Canada. I had taught Canadian geography and history for years but hadn’t seen many of these places. A good Austrian friend, Steffi, was going to be in the Northeastern US in mid-August and we had plans to meet up and travel together for a couple of weeks, joined by another friend we met on our Costa Rican G Adventure. I really wanted to go to Newfoundland and PEI, because I had missed them on every previous Atlantic Canada trip. I decided to make the most of my new retired status by meandering across the country before and after meeting Steffi and Michael.
I took 9 weeks to meander east and then back west, including my adventures with my
G-Crew friends. As I walked in the door at home mid September, the phone was ringing and the school board was begging me to fill a temporary position. Figuring it was a way to add a couple of splurges to my travel account, I decided to take the short contract and just start my travelling at March break.
Y'know, March 2020 ….
…. when the pandemic shut down travel worldwide? My plans, just like everyone else's, came to a screeching halt.
I eventually got my refunds and my travel fund continued to grow from my regular monthly deposits but a return to international travel seemed to be constantly out of reach. I have experience camping; I had tent camped growing up and when the children were very young. Later (pre-divorce) the kids and I spent summers in a parked RV. I had travelled for weeks, with Mady, in camper vans through Iceland, and on another trip around the UK. After The Great Canadian Road Trip, I knew I loved road tripping but I wanted greater comfort than tent camping, better aesthetics and cleaning routines than motels and AirBnBs. I wanted to travel but maintain social distancing. I wanted to travel safely and responsibly and I didn't want to wait until the pandemic was declared officially over. I needed a travel solution. A camper seemed like a great plan except for the fact that I only have one regular size parking space at my place; I already owned a car and a Vespa, and decent storage cost a lot of money. More research led me to conclude that a converted van would be a good solution as it could be a daily driver. I could figure out the Vespa parking with a neighbour and I could sell the Elantra. Now I just needed to figure out how much I was willing to spend for comfort, convenience, and the ability to safely travel during and after the pandemic.
I spent a LOT of time researching. I read obscure forums, watched videos, talked to van owners, mechanics, and builders. I pestered friends for advice. I priced out components. I learned all about solar panels and managing off-grid power. I stalked every used vehicle site created. I decided my budget and was willing to go with a partial conversion or an empty van if the price and condition was right -- thinking it would likely be a smaller mid-roof height Ford Transit. I let friends and family know I was looking. I was certain I couldn't get a completed van for my figure until the pandemic eased. I went on test-drives, I ordered lien searches, and I paid for mechanical inspections on several vehicles that I then passed on. Then, about a year into my search, an ad for a Sprinter van showed up on Facebook Marketplace that stopped me. The expensive systems and insulation were done. Mercedes-Benz German engineering. The price was well below market price but the ad listed the work that needed to be done, making it less of an OMG price and more of a WOW price. I did the test drive, got the inspections, and advice from my mechanic. Support from Mark T gave me the confidence to go ahead. Negotiations ensued until both of us were happy and within days, I became the proud owner of Wanda and began her make-over. The triangle-arrow symbol and word "wanderlust" come from my tattoos and will become her logo. I look forward to meandering the continent with Wanda (and the rest of the world without her) and using this blog to share our journeys. I hope you'll enjoy following along.
This blog will be less "van life" and more general travel. Sometimes, it'll be specific focussed upon Wanda and our van experience. Other times, I'll be travelling without her. Who knows where the road leads? ... and I do love a scenic route. Who's coming along?