Three Months of Living the Van Life

We can’t believe it’s been three months already in the van! This month was all about family and friends and things we never would’ve seen if we didn’t live this lifestyle. It’s been a really eye opening month!

Living in a Van: Month Three

Two really cool things happened this month. First, we got to see a bunch of friends and family that we haven’t seen in a while. These are folks we possibly wouldn’t have been able to visit had we not been living this lifestyle. That, to us, is really rad.

Second, we ended this month with LESS problems on the van than when we started the month! Wooo! That is always something to celebrate!

Month Three Route

The month started off leaving San Jose and the Camelback Pursuit Series. Our ultimate goal for this month was to end up in San Diego (which we did) and to see as much of the Pacific Coast Highway (aka Highway 1) as possible. We accomplished both of those goals and saw some amazing things along the way. Here are some of the highlights:

Big Sur: With landslides having taken out the highway in both directions from Big Sur, we had to take a steep, windy back mountain road to get into Big Sur at all. That was quite the adventure in itself, but once we arrived in Big Sur, it was a dream. We had the entire 40-mile stretch of coast practically to ourselves. The beaches were pristine and empty. Every hike was secluded. It was as though we had found an undiscovered world and we enjoyed the solitude.

Morro Bay: Having family in Morro Bay called for an extended stopover. We spent about 4 or 5 days hanging out with some of Nate’s family and enjoying the beautiful area around Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo. Steph took her first long ascent on a mountain bike and crushed it, even after having a feeling of sickness midway up. She overcame the feeling and made the ascent – then had a blast ripping back down the hill! We also got to take a cousin out paddle boarding for his first time ever, which is always a cool experience to see. From mountain biking to paddle boarding and a farmer’s market like we’ve never seen before, Morro Bay was quite impressive.

Santa Barbara: While we didn’t get to spend any time in Santa Barbara proper, we found a killer campsite right up the hill in the national forest overlooking Santa Barbara. The campsite was incredible and enough to highlight the area for us. Best part? It had cell signal!

Los Angeles Area: Los Angeles was a pretty neat area that we didn’t really know if we were going to enjoy. While visiting LA, we got to meet up with our buddies over at Gold Coast Surfboards and had a blast surfing and hanging out. Since there wasn’t much parking in the area, we didn’t hang out in LA too long, but stopped at a few beaches along the way south to get the paddleboards out more.

San Diego: The ultimate goal was San Diego, and we made it! Steph’s grandma lives in San Diego and our plan was to stay with her for a couple weeks while we explored the area and caught up with some more friends and family. We used grandma’s house as a bit of a “base camp” for those two weeks, which made getting around and seeing things much easier. It’s always nice when you don’t have to worry about where you will park and sleep for the night!

Scroll through the pictures below for some of our favorite memories from month three!

How is The Van Holding Up?

It seemed like the first two months were just adding problems rather than solving any. Luckily, we turned that around in month three! 

Our biggest looming issue had been the loss of turbo power due to a leak in the turbo system somewhere. We finally located the issue and got it fixed! Luckily for us, it was just a $30 sensor that had broken loose and was about a 5 minute fix once we found it. So far, that has fixed our turbo issue. 

After griping about how loud our water pump was for the first two months, we had a chance to fix that – at least fix it “for now.” We had a wire come loose from the pump, so when we removed the pump to fix the wire, we relocated the pump and insulated it to reduce the noise. That worked well enough so that it’s not too loud. It still isn’t ideal, but it’s not something we need to fix right away.

Solar troubles. Well, we weren’t having problems with our solar, per se, but we weren’t happy with the wattage that we were getting from our system, even in full sun. After several phone calls with the very helpful tech support at Midnite Solar, we determined that our system would be better off wired in series rather than parallel. That was about one afternoon’s worth of work to get changed and voila! Our system gets much better charge now and hasn’t had any issues since the update. For more on that, watch Our Solar Mistakes Here.

 While we haven’t yet fixed the wheel speed sensor that is giving us issues, we now know that it can be cleaned out to be fixed. After one cleaning, the error codes went away for a few miles, but came back after the sensor got dirty again. That will have to wait for next month to be addressed.

How Much Does it Cost to Live in a Van?

We are super pumped about this month’s expenses being quite low! This was by far our least expensive month yet, for several reasons. We’ll talk about those next, but first here are the numbers:

  • Fuel: $239.05
  • Grocery Stores: $525.60
  • Restaurants: $232.66
  • Gym Memberships: $125.66 (Annual fees of $41.54 each were charged this month)
  • Insurance: $80.64
  • Health Expenses: $210.32
  • Mail Service: $22.41
  • Laundry: $5.50
  • Repairs/Maintenance: $110.31
  • Phone: $228.96
  • Pet Expenses: $77.70
  • Misc Personal: $8.14

Total: $1,861.45

Our first month of van life totaled $2,494.34, and our second month of van life was $2,331.82. This month cut off $470.37 from the second month, which is a huge improvement! A few things contributed to those low expenses, though.

The third month of our van life, we traveled a mere 1,140 miles. After covering 5,000 miles the first month and about 3,000 miles the second month, our fuel savings alone made up the biggest cut from our expenses. Going forward, we would like to stay under 2,000 miles each month.

Staying with family also meant we didn’t have to worry about campgrounds, laundry, or water fills. While we have yet to pay for water on the road anyway, driving around to find a station definitely adds to the cost. 

Our restaurant spending increased this month, as it typically does when we enjoy some free time with friends and family. As much time as we spent with awesome people in our lives, we couldn’t be happier to spend a few extra dollars to make that happen.

Three Months of Van Life

We can safely say this was the most successful month in our van. From the amount of time spent with wonderful people to the incredible places we’ve seen, the third month of van life was pretty rad. Let’s see what month 4 will have in store for us!