• Thu. Dec 8th, 2022

“No plans, no agendas” – Maine and Mainers find the van life suits them

ByDebra J. Aguilar

Sep 11, 2022

The back of Luke Krummel’s 2014 Dodge Caravan, which includes a bed and storage area. Photo by Luke Krummel

Life in a van. For many, it’s a chance to hit the road long-term – maybe even forever – well-equipped and self-sufficient, but without having to deal with tents or take-out pop-ups or big, expensive RVs. .

And with their living conditions set, for many who pursue the van life, travel becomes more about the journey, not the destination – although the Pine Tree State has attracted many people living in their vehicle full time. or part-time.

“My van been all over the state, from Sugarloaf in the winter, to Old Orchard in the summer, to Acadia in the fall. I appreciate the activity that these places offer, but also the possibility of getting out of the hustle and bustle of these places. I can be there, but I’m in no rush,” said Luke Krummel, special education teacher at Leroy Smith Elementary School in Winterport, who lives part-time in his 2014 Dodge Grand Caravan when school is out.

A quick Google search for “alternative lifestyle” yields a dozen links to social media accounts and YouTube channels of travel-seeking millennials and retirees embarking on indefinite stints in the US and America North. Some have the money and buy or refurbish nicely appointed travel vans with all the bells and whistles.

For others who want to travel, budgets are tight. Flights are expensive. And for many, moving to their ideal destination is out of the question.

But almost 92% of Americans own a vehicle — that’s 276 million registered vehicles. And with RV prices at an all-time high, van-lifers are using what’s available to them: their own vehicles.

As the name suggests, minivans are the most commonly used type of vehicle, although travelers have gotten creative and revamped their everyday SUVs, station wagons and trucks to suit their needs. Many accomplish their renovations on a shoestring budget, but the cost of modifying these vehicles can be as expensive as buying a new one, which can vary, depending on materials and fixtures, from anywhere in the world. a few hundred dollars at the sky’s limit.

Madeleine LaPlante-Dube, a 28-year-old digital strategist who for a time called Lewiston her home, built the back of her Subaru Forester during the first summer of the pandemic. Her goal was to see how cheaply she could build a comfortable van life, and over the course of a week, she and her dad managed to outfit her vehicle for around $350, which included a platform, drawers, pull-out table and cabinet unit.

“For me, as a lifelong outdoor enthusiast, van life comes down to the soul of being outdoors: being able to wake up exactly where you want to be. doesn’t have to be fancy – a wooden platform in the back of your Outback is just as good as anyone else’s… Sprinter (pickup truck). It’s safer than ‘a tent and more accessible than a backpacking campsite,” Dube said. (For more, see Madeleine’s take on van life accompanying this story.)

Madeleine LaPlante-Dube took this photo of her built Subaru Forester while camping in the Jemez Mountains of New Mexico. Photo by Madeleine LaPlante-Dube

“It makes people easier to date, and that’s a win for me. Maine is the perfect place for van life. It literally has everything. If you are a hiker, you can camp at any trailhead. If you’re a surfer, you can wake up and catch a wave here. And for anyone just looking to be in nature, van life means you can go anywhere and still be relatively safe and comfortable,” she said.

The lifestyle for many is to embrace the spontaneity of travel and a do-it-yourself attitude, which immediately attracted Krummel on his first van trip with his sister to visit several national parks in 2018.

“We did things on a whim and as we chose. It was my first taste of traveling without ties. No plans, no agendas. It also helped me define what van life could be – become free, whether for travel plans, house/house plans, etc. said Krummel, 39.

“I have discovered great advantages in living in a van. I knew what I expected from van life at this point, but now I realize how to meet those expectations. I spent several (months) observing vans and how they worked. Once back in Maine, I started planning my own build. I spent weeks learning new hobbies I had never tried before: CAD (computer-aided design programs), carpentry (to build) my cabinets and bed, and solar power , as well as the power supply and cabling of the van“, said Krummel.

This sense of adventure is a feeling that Krummel shares with his wife and two daughters, as well as with the customers to whom he rents his van.

Thomas Betor of North Carolina, who traveled to Bangor with his wife and rented Krummel’s van for a state tour, appreciated the many benefits of the retrofitted van. “We felt that the van was the best way to see Acadia (National Park) as it provided great access to the more remote areas of Seawall and Blackwoods Campgrounds. It was also very cost effective compared to a hotel and car rental combination,” he said.

“We love visiting national parks and are avid hikers, but we’re not experienced in the tent camping aspects of wilderness exploration. We’re also hesitant to go all-out on an RV, mostly due to the maneuverability and limited access to some NPS campgrounds. Also, we like the idea of ​​the van double as our primary transportation option, rather than pulling a second vehicle behind an RV,” Betor said.

The interior of the Mathers’ Sprinter van includes a sink, stove and seating area that converts into a bed. Photo by Kevin Mathers

Kevin Mathers, 30, of Ventnor City, New Jersey, and his wife, Taylor, traveled across the United States in their 23-foot Sprinter van, documenting their trips on their Youtube channel. The couple came to visit Acadia National Park and fell in love with the state’s natural beauty.

“Maine’s coastline is absolutely stunning and has arguably the best national park on the east coast along with Acadia. The food is also very good, which is a plus! he said.

The Mathers brought nearly all the conveniences of a home into their van, compromising on interior space but adhering to the general aesthetic of van living.

“As for the kitchen, we have a 12 volt fridge powered by our ‘house’ batteries (deep cycle lead acid batteries) and a two burner gas stove so we can cook many different dishes. We also rely heavily on GPS apps like Google Maps to drive to and from locations and we use apps like iOverlander to find free places to camp. others van life the essentials are our shower and 35 gallon fresh water tank, we also have a compost toilet. To keep cool, we have multiple windows and a roof vent to keep the air flowing when you’re hanging out in the van,” Mathers said.

While some vans come with showers and bathrooms, 39% of lifers use public restrooms, according to statistics from Thrive My Way, a website aimed at earning an online income. Other interesting stats: While 36% of van lifers go it alone, about 44% share the experience with another person.

While for many van life is a way to travel a lot and see the country for a set period of time, for others it’s a permanent way of life, whether traveling or staying put. Thrive My Way statistics show that 51% of lifers reside in their van full time. Data from the 2019 US Census indicates that 140,000 people live in their vehicles, although it is unclear how many do so by choice.

“Full time van Maine lifers have more Moxie. They are prepared for four distinct seasons. They (have) Yankee ingenuity and use it. It takes a certain level of preparation to get ready to experience fall/winter in a vanand the Mainers have that,” Krummel said.

“Van life in Maine for me is simple – it’s my home. I spent the majority of my life here and I can say with confidence that every year, every time of the year, I discover new things that I had never heard of in our beautiful state.

Kevin and Taylor Mathers with their Sprinter van, in which they live and travel while documenting their adventures for their “Mathers on the Map” YouTube channel. Photo by Kevin Mathers

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