Exploring California's Central Coast

One of the most beautiful and undeveloped sections of the California Coast lies between Pismo Beach and Big Sur California.  This area, known as the Central Coast, is home to amazing beaches, lighthouses, elephant seals and even a castle. 

We decided to explore this area in our van during the fall after the crowds had left and the weather had turned a bit chilly.  Our first stop was Pismo Beach.  We found a great spot to park and work during the day at Shell Beach Park.  While in Pismo we highly recommend the Ventana Grill for dinner. The sunset view is amazing and the nachos get 2 thumbs up.

After enjoying a day at Pismo Beach we headed further up the coast to our next stop at San Simeon.  This is one of our favorite places to spend time in the van.  There are almost endless vista points to pull over and work, cook or walk the dogs on the beach.

There are 2 "must-see" destinations while in San Simeon.  The first is Hearst Castle.  This State Park offers different tour options of the iconic home of William Randolph Hearst.  Prepare to have your mind blown. Unfortunately on this trip this clouds rolled in and blocked most of the view of the outside of the castle and the view of the shoreline. Another reason to make it back for a third visit!

The next stop you will want to make it at The Elephant Seal Boardwalk at Piedras Blancas Light Station.  Hundreds of elephant seals lounge on the beach sunning themselves.  

elephant seals 40 hours of freedom vanlife

Due to the massive amounts of rain the central coast received last year, Highway 1 is currently closed just as you hit Big Sur.  We took the road as far north as we could to enjoy the view down the coast. 

Our next adventure took us to Paso Robles and as we crossed over the hills we were amazed to be able to spot Morrow Bay and the iconic rock formation in the distance. 

morrow bay via paso robles 40 hours of freedom vanlife travel

Van Life: Custom Reflectix Window Covering

It's important to keep your van nice and cool from the summer heat.  

When we purchased our van it was a regular old passenger van that had been used as a shuttle.  What we liked about the passenger version vs. the cargo van were all of the windows.  

One challenge with the windows is covering them to provide privacy as well as to help keep out the heat.  

Our solution... Custom Reflectix Window Coverings.  We recently completed some upgrades which included sewing fabric to our current reflectix panels.  

Watch the video below to see how we got crafty to make this custom solution. 

How We Afford to Travel Full Time

"What do you do for work?"

"How do you make money on the road?"

These are the most common type of questions we get through social media and our website. 

Maybe you are thinking of making a lifestyle change and going mobile.  Maybe you just want to learn a way you can add a new revenue stream to your life... either way we want to provide value and insight that can help.

So we filmed a quick video explaining some of our experiences with online businesses and why we chose the affiliate marketing business we have now.  

If you have questions after watching, please feel free to reach out with your questions!

Sprinter Van Bathroom Tour

"How do you go to the bathroom in your van?". 

We hear that question quite a bit. When designing our van we really had to prioritize what was important for us to have in our tiny home on wheels

First, we had to decide what was acceptable do to/not to do in the van. 

We decided #1 was ok... but #2 was no go. 

There are always plenty of public restrooms or a Starbucks you can find to go #2.  

Why no #2?  We did not want to have a Black Water system as we both felt there was a chemical odor that you just can't avoid. Compostable toilets are very popular right now but they also require some substantial maintenance to keep them operating correctly and in the end, you still have to remove the "humus like" substance from a container under your toilet.  No thanks. 

What toilet did we choose?

Inspired by @GratefulPursuits we installed a Urine Diverting Toilet by Separett. We ordered the, Privy 500, base model and did some modifications ourselves to add a regular toilet seat. The great thing about this model is that the pee goes down the tube and into our tank so we don't have to deal with anything until we are ready to empty our grey water tank. 

Yes, we have a shower.

Another element to our bathroom that we knew was a must on our list was a shower.  You can see a full list the equipment we used to build our shower including our water tanks, pumps and shower door by clicking here

 

Sprinter Van Conversion Tour | DIY Sprinter Van

Are you thinking of starting your own van conversion project?  

If so you are doing exactly what you should be doing... RESEARCH!

Before we built our van we tried to look at as many different conversions as we could to see what elements we wanted to incorporate into our very own van.  

Watch the video below for the full Sprinter Van Tour...

After doing as much research as humanly possible we came up with a list of priorities for our lifestyle: 

  1. Bathroom with closing door
  2. No going #2 in the Van
  3. A big farmhouse sink 
  4. A big table we could use to work, play games, eat and drink
  5. A big bed - we ended up with almost a king sized bed
  6. Space to store a dog crate for our pups

Fitting so many big items in our van was a challenge but we love the way it turned out!

People ask us all the time what we would change, and to be honest there isn't much. We love that we have a full bathroom in our Sprinter van, and wouldn't change it if we did it again even though it takes up quite a bit of space.

More Details About Our Van...

We have a 2008 Dodge Sprinter Van that we bought for $25k with only 55,000 miles on it. We put about $12k into the conversion, which took 3 months working on it full time. 

We had Sara's dad, Tom, who was a custom home builder for over 40 years helping us with the build. He was instrumental to the whole process - we definitely wouldn't have such a nice van without his help!

So if you're going at your van build alone, then definitely find some experts for help! Having an expert on hand helped ease a lot of the struggle of building in a van that isn't level or square.

If you're looking for specifics on what products we used, check out the #VanLife page.

Let us know what questions you have, and what video topics you'd like to see next on our YouTube channel.

Exploring Banff National Park

If you are thinking of exploring Banff National Park then 2017 is a great year to plan your adventure.  Canada is celebrating it's 150th anniversary and in one of the coolest moves any country has ever made it is giving away free parks passes to everyone!

40 hours of freedom sara james handstand lake louise

We visited the park in mid July and the tourism season was in full force.  Here are a few of our tips for getting the most out of your time in the park. 

1.  Reserve your campsite or RV Spot in advance.  We recommend at least a month in advance but if you plan on booking a site last minute online you must reserve your space at least 24 hours in advance to take advantage of the online booking.  If not, each site does have a handful of first-come, first-serve sites set aside.  

2.  Banff (the city) is actually located in the park!  This is a really cool feature that we have not seen in too many others parks.  This means you can get a nice dinner, shop or even hit a brewery all within the park. 

40 hours of freedom sprinter van conversion banff canada lake morraine

3. Get your day started early.  All of the lakes and trailheads are slammed by 10am and parking can be a pain (especially in a van). So make sure you have your coffee early and hit a few of the hot spots before the rush. 

4.  Stay up late.  We enjoyed finding a quiet parking lot on the side of the road to relax in during the busy part of the day and then went out adventuring again in the evening.  This way we avoided the rush as most people stop touring when they start getting hungry around 5 or 6.  The evening lighting is worth it!

40 hours of freedom banff canada sprinter van conversion sprinter camper van

5.  Bring a friend.  Traveling and exploring in the parks is always more fun with a friend or two! Thanks for exploring with us @comeswithaview