After 90 Days of #Vanlife
Have we really been on the road for 3 months?! There is so much to see, do and experience in Ecuador! I think we easily could have made the first country on our indefinite road trip, a half year stretch. Mountains, highlands, volcanoes, lakes, rain forests, and beaches! It is mind boggling that Ecuador is not bigger on the radar for international travel.
Most of the places, villages, festivals, and people have impressed us. We have come to appreciate with the culture, creativity, and friendliness. So glad that we chose Ecuador as the place to begin our #vanlife.
Adjusting to a new life of full time travel has certainly come with a load of its own lessons! We have learned a lot about ourselves and our travel preferences.
A New Routine
Incredibly, we have a stronger routine with #vanlife than we ever did living in a house. In both our homeland and our expat land, we never had strict rules about bed times, bath times or meal times. We still don’t have “rules” but we have quickly fallen into a well-oiled routine. What is interesting about this routine is that it has nothing to do with a clock!
We are awed by the short amount of time that it took our bodies to find a legit circadian rhythm. Our entire life has now completely adapted to the cycle of the sun. When you spend virtually all your time outdoors, it is easy to see how this is the healthiest and most natural way to allot time.
All of us enjoy so much more of our day when we relish in every minute of the 12 hours of sunlight we are granted. There is so much time to explore, relax, converse, play, and digest. With the setting sun, the yawns sneak in and we nod off barely before the stars are twinkling in the sky.
Food for Thought
I have always loved to cook, and I had these wild dreams of wowing my family with spectacular gourmet, campfire meals. My imagination suggested that we would come with all sorts of incredible and creative ways to prepare meals.
Fast forward one month. It was obvious that campfire cooking in rain, high altitude, and cold were a bit more complicated than I thought. We struggled to get water boiling or fully cooked meats on our tiny, coal burning grill. We ate many under-cooked pancakes. The dogs ate countless pots of undesirable rice. Not to mention, more than a few nights (and mornings) with grouchy kids that were hungry for longer than a reasonable amount of time! We ate a LOT of fried eggs.
A Surprise Solution
Our saving grace was the day we went to Saturday market in a neat village called Alausi. My husband caught sight of man selling gas stove tops. These are typically seen on the streets and are used by street food vendors.
It is are a very primitive stove top, with two burners and a rack that sit on legs about 6 inches high. The industrial-grade burners are attached with a tube to a propane tank. Normally, on the street they are attached to a waist high cart that people either set up or pull to their desired location. We didn’t need the cart, just the top to set on the ground or on a picnic table when available. The whole kit and caboodle came at the mere price of $30!!
The stove is so incredible, that it boils water in just a few shorts minutes. I have no problem making a roast, soup, pancakes, or pretty much anything. The stove was a total game changer and it works better than any modern stove I have ever used in my life! Now, I am back to cooking exactly the same way I always did before our #vanlife began (when we had a house and an actual kitchen). We carry both the stove and the propane tank on top of the truck with a couple of bungee cords.
Setting the Pace
1500 miles over 90 days seemed like a reasonably slow pace to us. We never rush through areas that we love, and we usually avoid spending more than 3 hours in the car every day. This is not the Amazing Race, nor do we wish it to be. We are fine with staying somewhere for a week more or even a month longer than we planned.
Originally, we estimated that our journey through South America might take us somewhere between 2.5-3.5 years. This was calculated by spending 2-3 months in each of the 12 countries and 3 territories on the continent. So far, we are looking at over 4 months just in Ecuador before we complete the country. At this pace, if we spend 4 months in each country/territory…this trip will take us more like 5 years! We are okay with that. As slow as we have been going, we are exhausted.
It has been difficult to learn what a reasonable daily pace is. I mentioned earlier, that we go from sun up to sun down. Even without any set time frame or itinerary, we find it quite difficult to just sit still for a day. We are just so eager to see and experience each place for all that it’s worth!
Sometimes, t can be hard to accept that we simply cannot do and see everything that we want to, and we are still inclined to try. With nothing to get in our way, like jobs or school, we have no real reason to stop exploring on any given day. Down time seems like a waste of time, but I imagine eventually we will find more ways to cherish quiet moments at the camp site.
Wild and free camping has not been as accessible as we once hoped it would be. Remote roads are often both unreliable and un-mapped. This makes it a little difficult to just go off on any old dirt road to set up camp.
When we have asked for maps, people look at us like we are asking for the original ten commandments. They just are not common here in Ecuador. We have still managed to squeeze some awesome 4X4 experiences, but usually at the guidance of someone who had trodden there before.
So, instead of winging it like we hoped, we have come to rely on an awesome phone app called iOverlander. It is a bit like searching for a good restaurant by the reviews and a map of the checked in location. But, instead of restaurants, it is a compilation of locations added by other overlanders.
App Over Maps!
This means that other people traveling by road, pin locations and detailed information about where they have been able to either park their rig or camp. Normally the information includes stuff like if the place has wifi, running toilets, hot showers, or potable water. It also includes recommendations for the size of vehicle you have, if the place is dog friendly, and if 4 X 4 is necessary.
Often, there is also an expected price range. Sometimes the places are parks, parking lots, schools, or restaurants. Other times, they are private residences or hostels (small hotels with shared bathrooms and communal kitchens, almost like a Bed’n’breakfast, but without any services beyond check out cleaning).
The adjustments we’ve had to make have all been reasonable. Most of them had to do with inexperience and a small learning curve that we had not been exposed to yet. While, they may not be quite what we had in mind; we have adapted. A big part of full time travel is exactly that. Being adaptable.
There are not too many things that are “familiar” in this lifestyle. It is super important that things like food, pace, and accommodations are somewhat predictable, when nothing else is. Our car and our tent are our home, that is what #vanlife means. So long as we are together, we know we can lay our head to rest, seek shelter from a storm, and find solace in a hot cup of tea; we can create a home life anywhere our wheels lead us.