With the popularity of vanlife on Youtube, it seems like everyone entering van life gets a van and builds it out so beautifully. I also craved a van for my travels. I still do. However, I decided an SUV would be better for me for now and possibly for the whole journey.
Why? Well, let me explain.
I've watched countless vanlife videos, and if you're curious on the subject I'm sure you have as well. I, of course, wanted to get a van so bad, but I'm not able to afford buying a Mercedes or Promaster then building and powering it. The more I tried to figure out those numbers the more discouraged I became, until I ran into overland videos. Now that I can figure out.
The Original Plan
I had a 2003 Mitsubishi Montero Sport that I loved when the vanlife and RV life videos started to pop into my feed. I thought, ‘Hmmm, that could be a way to travel. I don’t hate it by any means!’ So after realizing how much built out vans and RVs were, I started to look at my Montero differently than a massage table hauler and grocery getter. I thought to myself, ‘I'd love to travel with her. She has just enough room for me, she has great clearance, and she’s paid for. So why not?’
Well, I inherited her as she was our family car, but did not know she had some serious engine and transmission issues that were about to come to a head. When they did, I shed tears. I just knew it was going to be years before I’d be able to afford to revisit the thought. I didn't know how I was going to do this. Not only had I lost the vehicle that helped me bring in my income, but now I was back at square zero on my van life ideas. I needed a car to first get to work, that was my number one priority. It was how I took care of myself, and at the time my kiddo, who was just back from college and needed to learn to drive, get a job, and all the other new grown up things.
So, a couple of weeks of research and a van still wasn't feasible, ya know, with all the things that would still need to be done in my mind. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to spend that money and then change my mind later. I’d be stuck with some cargo van. I only wish now that Chrome Valdez from Vancity Vanlife would have popped into my feed while I was trying to make this decision. There’s a huge chance I would’ve made a different one. But wait! I was gonna take Mitsi, soooo why not get an SUV and still take that instead? I went through countless SUV reviews and crammed in so many TFL videos to see what would be good enough to start for light off-roading. When it came down to it, I decided that a Hyundai Santa Fe would do fine for now. I know, it's no Toyota or Jeep, but I don't want either of those... I decided on Zola (the Santa Fe) because even if SUV life doesn’t work for me, I’ll still have my car to go back to regular living, cause Lord knows I do not need a van for normal life. I don’t have that much to haul and I’m not helping anyone move anything lol.
In October 2020, I went down to the dealership and I purchased a new-to-me car — It’s like Certified Used, but also basically new. I have been stoked ever since. She’s huge and great for sleeping in, with plenty of room for organization, which I’m still working on and knowing me always will be, because I love that shit. Her only downfall is that even someone at my height cannot sit up straight in the back, but that’s okay too, because it’ll keep me living out of the car as much as possible, and I have to be inside say to be on my iPad to work on rainy days.
I have a great “office” setup for the passenger side. I wanted to make sure I had something that was gonna be reliable of course, and would possibly last for years and years to come. I hear Hyundais are pretty good for that as well. She’s a cool grey color, and being a huge fan of Grey’s Anatomy, she’s been crowned with the name (Zola) from Merideth Grey’s oldest daughter. I need to get into my hobbies that don’t involve Netflix or Hulu and go camping, LOL. I’m not gonna get into all the technical stuff, cause well I only know so much. The important thing: will she be enough for me to live in? I now know she will be great for living out of.
Some Fun Stuff
To make living in my SUV a little more comfortable, of course I invested in some of the fun stuff. I’ve got my Jackery 1000 and solar panels to power my iPad so I am able to work on the road. I tried it with a cooler and I live down south in Texas — honey that ice didn’t last an hour and I almost lost my food. I then tried an Igloo Electric Cooler, and it works great if you don't need to keep it powered all the time. It sucked the power in about a day and a half, so that was returned and I now have a SetPower AJ30, which works like a dream. It takes about 3 and a half days before I need to recharge my Jackery with just that running off of it. Those are the two major things I have to live a little more comfortably.
Some other things I made sure to start off with are my privacy tent, a portable, collapsible toilet, and my SheWee, I need to learn to use that thing for night time pottying when I’m not at a campsite. I got some DeWalt tool boxes from HomeDepot.com for my pantry after seeing some videos of some folks using tool box sets as a chuck box of sorts. It’s just me so I don't need much room for grub, so I think these provide me all the space I need for a week to a week and a half worth of dry goods. Oh, I almost forgot that I decided on a Japanese futon for my sleeping, OMG I swear I love that thing so much! It’s compact and so damn comfy. There’s a few more things like the camp stove, cast iron pans, a roll up to keep my tools organized, and a tarp with poles for extra shelter, but these are the most important things in my SUV tiny home right now. These are the basics of what will keep me comfortable and fed. I know I’ve gotten quite a few things, but I also know that I plan to be out there a while. I made a promise to myself that I’d stay out at least a year to make it worth what I’ve already spent, but if My Maiden Voyage taught me anything, it’s that it’ll be a lot longer before I come back.
Loving It So Far
I enjoy the idea of the SUV or maybe a small van because I like the idea of living out of my dwelling. I love to take daily walks in the park, although I do understand that living outside and an hour and a half walk are kinda different, but I love being outside. I remember as a kid that’s the only place I wanted to be, outside on the bike with friends. I also had a habit of trying to scare people, I wasn’t so afraid of the crawlies then. I mostly need to have my car to sleep in and to keep my stuff safe. The purpose of this journey is to enjoy nature and get out of the house and the comfort zone. I’m sure once I am ready to leave the country I may want a van to live in, but that’s still a possibility for now. I’ve started watching Dirt Sunrise and they make me feel like Zola and I can go far. Once I am comfortable with knowing how to find safe places to park and I do my research on overlanding in places like Mexico and beyond, I’m almost sure I’d rather take Zola. It’ll be a shock to me if that changes, however I do also understand that we’re just at the beginning of this journey.