Think your micro-condo is small? Try living in a 60-square-foot van. With a partner. And a dog. And no toilet. The soaring price of real estate is the biggest factor spurring Torontonians to give up the stationary life, but they’re also chasing the freedom and romance of the open road. And they’re far from alone. At last count, #vanlife had over three million posts on Instagram. It started as a social media– and nostalgia-fuelled minimalist movement and has grown into a vast community of boho bloggers. In this Toronto Life series, we spoke to some recent converts about the highs and lows of going mobile.
Who they are: Emma McCormick, 29, and Evan Cullimore, 30
What they do: She’s a photographer, he’s a contract worker
The van: A 2003 Ford E-150
Expenses: $500 a month for gas, $400–$500 a month for campsite permits
Emma: When we first started dating in 2010, I told Evan that I’d always dreamed of visiting the Yukon. He said I’d never do it, so we made a bet. Six years later, we were both doing well in our careers, and we’d bought a duplex at Bloor and Ossington with his parents. We had about $15,000 in savings, so we felt ready for our next big adventure. That’s when I found a construction van on Kijiji.
Evan: It was a nice Ford E-150, with about 60 square feet of living space. We bought it for $3,500. My dad had lived in a van when he was younger, so he was excited to help us get it ready. We tried to make it as comfortable as possible without spending too much money. We installed floorboards and carpets, and built a wood double bed frame that was high enough to store clothing underneath. We created a kitchenette along the side with a few cabinets and a camping stove. And we bought a jug with a pump for water. All in, we spent about $2,500 on renovations. It started off as a construction van with a bare metal back, and by the time we were done, it was fully livable. We stay in our house during the winter and spend the spring and summer months living in the van.
Emma: Storage was obviously an issue. Evan and I fit all of our clothes in one plastic bin. We used another bin for food and a third bin for stuff for our dog, Carter. The only things we didn’t have were a bathroom and electricity. We showered and used the toilets at campsites along the way, and used a power inverter to charge our cellphones while the van was running. When we left Toronto at the end of July, our plan was to head to the Yukon before it got too cold. On our way, we wanted to stay in as many national parks as possible, so we bought a Discovery Pass.
Evan: We drove west before heading north to the Yukon. We stopped at Pukaskwa National Park in Ontario, Lake Audy Campground in Manitoba, Grasslands National Park in Saskatchewan, and Banff and Jasper in Alberta, before we headed up. It took us about four days to get to Whitehorse, driving 10 hours a day.
Emma: I was in awe—it was so quiet and so wild. We were surrounded by bears, coyote and caribou. We drove from Whitehorse to Dawson City and up to Tombstone Territorial Park, where we had amazing views of the purple-and-yellow hills.
Evan: Our first day there was Emma’s 28th birthday, and we spent the day hiking. When we got back to the campsite, we made dinner. At around 10 p.m., the sky lit up with the northern lights. They lasted for a full hour. The whole campground cheered.
Their travels: a random sampling