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  • Writer's pictureHannah Bywater

Leading Up to the Van Life

There are a lot of different things that lead me to buying a van. I started tree planting this year, which was both the best and worst thing that I have ever done. I am grateful for the opportunity to have had steady work in these challenging times. Tree planting is considered an essential job in the eyes of the pandemic so all summer I was able to work my buns off. While planting we live in remote areas in the bush. In a normal planting season you go into town on days off but because of the social restrictions we are not allowed. This was okay for me because I have nothing to compare it to as this was my first year. I love to be outside and since being in an isolated bush camp we have so much more freedom than others do in civilization. The living is very basic, we have pit toilets, shower trailers and everyone lives in a tent, van or trailer. A few of my planting friends had some sweet van set ups which made for a slightly more comfortable life out in the bush. I had thought about the vanlife before but this really gave me some inspiration to turn it into a reality.

At the end of the season I wasn’t sure what to do. My best friend from the planting season, Harry invited me to go with him to stay at his families farm. He had other planting friends seeking salvation there, living out of their vans so I thought it was fitting. His friend Sam came to pick us up and we started to venture down south towards Vancouver Island. We all had something in common, in the winter we were all living in Whistler, in Glacier Staff Housing but we had never crossed paths. While passing through we decided to stop in and go on a little adventure. We met with their old roommate, Jaja for a day hike to Wedgemount Lake. This was nothing short of eventful. The hike up was steep and involved climbing over some big rocks. It wasn’t much of a challenge after the planting season because it whipped my body into shape. After a long hike up we were rewarded with a beautiful view of Wedgemount Lake. There was still some snow on the peaks that would feed into this glacier lake. We were all pretty hot so we went for a swim. The water was freezing so we didn’t stay in for long but I still enjoyed it as I am a bit of a fiend for the cold. Jaja announced that he was going to try to swim to the other side of the lake. We tried to talk him out of it as he couldn’t even bare staying in the water for more than a few minutes but he was insistent on trying. It didn’t go over well. He got half way and shouted back to us that he couldn’t make it and needed help coming back. Harry and I looked at each other, cursed and decided we were confident enough to swim out to help him. Have you ever heard a story similar to a mother lifting a car to save her trapped child? When survival mode kicks in you can achieve things that are out of the ordinary. This is what happened. Although I had just met Jaja, I wasn’t going to allow anything bad happen to him. We reached him just in time and safely brought him to shore. Harry and Sam told him off then we were all pretty silent for the rest of the day. After completing a hike & saving a life we figured that was enough for the day. Sam, Harry and I continued our journey to Vancouver Island and just focused on getting there in one piece.

Upon arrival to the farm we were graciously welcomed by Harry’s family. Iola and Ron, the owners of the farm are some of the sweetest people I have ever met. We would often have dinner together on the patio and share stories until dark. This was one of my favourite things to do and the farm quickly became my favourite place to be. Sam plays guitar so he would set himself up in his van and play for us. He had recently built his sweet little home on wheels and was an inspiration to me. Eventually I met their other friend Will who, wait for it, had a van. The four of us spent our days hanging out and living a good life on the farm. In the field where they stationed their vans is a small lake on the property where we would spend most of our time. We would go into town sometimes or go on little adventures in their vans and I just loved it.

When I expressed that I wanted to buy a van each of them started looking on the facebook marketplace and sending me some option. They love this kind of stuff. I definitely found the right people to help me turn this dream into a reality. We found one that was a good price and not too far away. It wasn’t the type of van I was picturing but they convinced me to go and look at it anyways. Since neither of us had anything to do we went on a little day trip to Duncan to look at the van. I don’t know the first thing about vehicle so I am so grateful they were with me. They were looking all over the place, popping the hood, crawling under the van, asking all these questions and I just stood there like a deer in the headlights. It had all 8 seats still installed so there was a lot of work to do and I wasn’t convinced that it was for me. Until I took her out for a spin and something clicked. The boys bargained the price down for me and next thing you know I was buying a van! The bank was about close so I quickly drove over. There was a pylon marking the last person they would serve. I moved the pylon back a bit and squeaked in line, hoping nobody would notice. They noticed. A lady came out and told me off. I tried to tell her my situation but she wasn’t having it, must have been a long day at the bank but I refused to leave without cash. I stayed in line and when it was my turn I walked in with wide eyes, a big smile under my mask and said pretty pleaseee. She accepted my request and I officially became a van owner. It doesn’t stop there. Next, I needed to insure my vehicle. This was not as easy as I thought it would be as I had failed to do a bit of research. I had an Ontario driver’s license which is not accepted in B.C. to insure a vehicle. I went to my friends in defeat and Sam came up with a brilliant idea. He would insure the vehicle under his name and register me as the sole driver of the van until I could change it over to my own insurance. Sam was putting a lot of trust into me to be responsible and I am so thankful he did because otherwise I would have spent a lot of money for nothing. After all of stars aligning we decided to celebrate by going on a little road trip to the west side of the island before heading to the farm, where I would start to build my new home on wheels.


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