It’s no secret that home ownership in downtown Vancouver is out of reach for many, thanks to its booming real estate market. With million dollar price tags being the norm and rents on the rise, one couple decided to get creative, and get moving.
Sarah Porco and Tyler Archibald gave up their condo rental in downtown Vancouver in favour of living in a camper van. Yes, really, and no, they aren’t unemployed. In fact, they might actually be happier than ever. The couple, who have since started documenting their mobile life on YouTube, estimate the move is saving them about $25,000 per year, which is almost enough for us to head straight to the nearest car dealership. The video above explains a lot, but before we get ahead of ourselves we thought we’d reach out to them to dig a little deeper and find out what it’s actually like to live in such a confined space year round.
Here are 20 questions with van dwellers, Sarah and Tyler:
1. We assume that most people think your living arrangement is a response to being underemployed, so, what do you do for work?
Tyler works for a design firm and Sarah works for a local Coffee roasting facility. Both are management positions.
2. What was your first night like?
It was kind of surreal, tied in with quite a bit of paranoia, haha. We didn’t have the van in “stealth mode” when we first moved in, so we were mostly worried that someone would notice us inside. Once we woke up, we instantly felt like the rest was going to be a breeze.
3. Are there ever moments you feel unsafe?
Never. We have taken precautions to give us peace of mind. (We will keep those secret, but no its not a gun, haha) Since you can’t tell if someone is in there, most people wouldn’t take the chance.
4. How often do you move?
Every day! We use it to commute to work and never want to outstay our welcome in any neighbourhood. We also don’t arrive at our spot of choice until the late evening to try and minimize our chances of stealing someone’s parking spot. MUST BE RESPECTFUL!
5. Do you ever run into “neighbours” that are less than happy that you’re making your van your home?
Nope! Not yet anyway. We usually get quite the opposite response. Most people are very curious of how it all works and wish us luck!
6. What if you get into a fight? How do you find some space? (Or which doors do you slam?)
I know this is strange… but we don’t fight. We have our normal couple disagreements, but would rather talk it over.
7. You have two adorable dogs. Did they adjust to the smaller place quickly?
Our pups just love being where ever we are. Since they go to work with Tyler every day, which has other dogs, they are so tired they just eat, fall asleep, and hardly want to get out of bed in the morning.
8. Now for the million dollar question: how do you shower?
We do have a shower in the van which we quickly fell out of love with. We go to the gym, work out, and shower. We are actually more healthy now than ever. The van shower is more like a bird bath. You have to take them “military” style which means get wet, turn off the water, lather, rinse and done!
9. Where does your running water come from?
We fill our on-board tanks with water which is pumped through a regular tap. We fill up at RV parks for a fee, but also just fill up a jug when leaving work which we use as drinking water.
10. Have you ever moved the van without the other knowing and ended up in a sitcom-worthy situation?
HA! No, we usually just text each other. That would be a great YouTube video though!
11. Do you ever have visitors?
We actually just crammed six people in the van this weekend at a wedding! – Definitely too many people. Two is comfy, three is a party, but six is outrageous.
12. How long do you think (or hope) you’ll live in the van?
Honestly, we can’t see ourselves living in anything else until we purchase land out of the city. We would most likely still have a tiny home there as well. We are looking at buying a bigger van actually. We wont be leaving Vancouver for quite a while as we love our jobs and the city.
13. Have there been any normal, day-to-day tasks that you expected would be more difficult, but turned out to be easier? Or vice versa?
We assumed laundry was going to be a pain, but its actually nice to go to the laundromat, and take an hour to finish it all rather than staying home all day and doing load after load. Most tasks become much easier! Cleaning is a breeze 🙂 The only real inconvenience is having to dump our tanks every month.
14. We would be lost without Internet. Do you have WiFi?
Couldn’t live without it! We have a mobile hotspot which costs us $40 a month for 20gb. Netflix is a thing of the past for us, but it makes us get out more.
15. Vancouver is generally more mild than the rest of Canada, but how do you handle your heat and air conditioning needs?
We have a fantastic fan mounted in our roof. They really ARE fantastic. We moved into the van in September when it wasn’t so hot, so we will figure out that issue when it arises but from what we have researched, we are set up well to keep it cool.
16. Adding solar panels seems like a brilliant move. How much electricity are you able to generate from them?
During the winter, we have just enough power to charge phones, tablets, laptops, play a small amount of video games. We have figured out some other methods of getting power like portable power packs which we charge while at work or at a friend’s house. In the summer, we have more power than we can use. Tyler mounted a 250 watt solar panel on the roof and we have two deep cycle batteries which give us enough power to do standard things one would do in a house.
17. How much did you invest into the van to make it livable?
All in… probably about $10,000. We are ALWAYS working on it to make it better, but the main costs are the van itself and solar set up. Everything else is quite cheap.
18. How long did it take to make it livable?
It took us a month and a half to make it where we felt like it was home. We did most of this before we moved in.
19. What is your best piece of advice for anyone considering moving into a van like yours?
Take your time. Do the research. Van life isn’t for everybody. You have to sacrifice possessions and schedule life a bit differently than one would in a house. You spend more time away from home than in it. But once you make the sacrifices, you realize it wasn’t a sacrifice, it was a stress reliever.
20. What about relationship advice? You guys seem to have things figured out.
Talk with your human. Communication is key. Especially when you only have 90 Sq ft. of space. Most things people argue about are insignificant. If you have big issues then maybe it’s not a great fit.
If you still aren’t convinced, their serene Instagram feed might just change your mind yet. Maybe the simple life is the secret to happiness after all.