If you’re planning to do a lot of travelling, the most economical way is in a van set up for sleeping, eating and the comforts of home…aka, the van life.
The first time I seriously thought about travelling for months at a time in a van was when my girlfriend Mary and I visited Arizona and Utah in early fall 2013. We only had two and half weeks of vacation time available. We thought flying would be too expensive and driving would’ve been too exhausting and time consuming. We ended up getting a rail pass with Amtrak for $600 each, there and back. It took us three days to go from Toronto, Canada, to Flagstaff, Arizona. This was a very comfortable and relaxing ride, considering we were in coach/economy class. It was great to watch the American countryside unfold in front of us — from the skyscrapers of Chicago, to the grasslands of Kansas, to the red desert of New Mexico and the mesas of Arizona.
We had all our camping gear with us, each carrying 40 to 50 pounds of gear. We rented a car in Flagstaff and drove north, passing ancient volcanoes and Puebloan ruins. We camped on the north rim of the Grand Canyon and hiked a couple of kilometers down along its trail. We continued north to Zion National Park in southwestern Utah and slept under towering red cliffs while deer grazed beside our tent the next morning. We visited Bryce Canyon and were surprised by a sudden snow storm (while Toronto was at a balmy +15 degrees Celcius). We looped back through southern Utah, travelling east through Red Canyon, Willis Creek Slot Canyon, Escalante Petrified Forest and then headed back to Arizona, visiting Horseshoe Bend near Page, a dinosaur site near Tuba City, hiked into the heart of the 6 million year old volcano Red Mountain, drove along Route 66 and walked the rim of the 50,000 year old Meteor Crater near Winslow.
Then in the summer of 2017 I took a solo cross-Canada trip by train for Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation, renting a car here and there. I visited the Cape Breton Highlands on the east coast, the sculptured red coastline of the Gaspe, Quebec, the rugged wilderness of Northern Ontario, the never ending prairies of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, the emerald lakes around Jasper, Alberta, and the soaring Rocky Mountains of northwestern British Columbia. All of this accomplished in three weeks.