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April 2016: First Month In The Van

April 2016: First month in the Van

May has started which means I have been on the road for more than a month now. With 31 days this has been my longest trip ever (tied with my Japan/Central Europe combo trip). Still I have at least another 365 days to go. With 3000 km driven this is the most I have ever driven during a trip (second one was New Zealand with 2500 km). But there are at least another 30.000 to go.I’ll try to do these summary posts every month.

The good

  • Meeting people. I have met so many people already. Everyone was interested in my plans and many people wanted to switch, wished they had done this when they were younger or wanted to buy my van. Also meeting people living here shows me their lives here: where do they live, work, go on their free day, etc. Some of the people I meet up with are friends/family of friends. I have never met them, so you have to work on good descriptions (I’m wearing a bright yellow jacket; I’m the tall guy with the beard and a red backpack). If you have friends/family anywhere roughly on my path, let me know! I would love to meet up with them.
  • Visiting things you normally wouldn’t. I got invited to some pretty cool stuff so far: seeing/staying at peoples houses; watching college basketball in a bar crowded with people from that college; tour through the MIT labs; trying to go to a Bernie Sanders rally; tour through IBM facilities, local water polo practise in Montreal; visiting a broadcasting center; going to the world premiere of a documentary (and the after party).
  • The driving. driving has been fun and relatively easy. I’m used to driving hours per day, the speeds are relatively slow (so far the maximum has been 65 MPH (104 km/h) and the streets wide.  I’ve been driving at night, in rain, in snow, mountains, cities, cities with steep hills, … Very good practise for later on. Side note: please US, for such a car loving country your roads are terrible… sooo many potholes on the highway…. please spend some money on that!
  • The Van. The van is doing really well. It’s great to sleep/cook/eat/drive in (except for the cold); I have loads of space for my stuff; driving is easy and the van is very efficient. It is drinking quite a bit of oil, so I hope that doesn’t get worse.

The bad

  • Meeting people. Even though I have met loads of people, all those meetups were planned. I am cleary in the pre-camping season. And with the weather being 10 degrees colder than normal the camp sites are even more empty than expected. I’m often the only person or there might be a few guests with season spots. Hopefully this get’s better soon.
  • Weather. As I said the weather has not been great. It’s 10 degrees colder than normally this time of year which means instead of a minimum of +5 C you get -5 C. In a van without heating this is pretty cold. However, so far I only had rain 3 times during the day and only when I’m driving. Pretty happy with that.
  • Shipping the car. This caused way more stress and money than necessary. There were too many parties involved (me, the transport company in the Netherlands where I bought the shipping, the shipping company in the Netherlands, the shipping company in the US). It turns out that some of these companies did not really know what they were supposed to do which resulted in double charged costs, additional costs, paperwork being send to the wrong people, last minute stress where all of a sudden things turn out to be completely different than suggested. On the plus side: this was a good practise in an understandable language in a normal country. I now know the process and terminology a lot better for when I have to do this again in Panama.
  • Getting car insurance. Thinking that if it’s legal to have a foreign car here it should be easy to insure it was definitely wrong. This turned out to be a huge stress point (largely my own fault by waiting so long before starting). I seriously got close to cancelling the whole trip. Luckily this did get fixed in the end with a great deal.

The Stats:

  • No days: 31
  • No. km: 3018
  • Countries: USA, Canada
  • States/Provinces: New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Vermont, New Hampshire, Quebec, Ontario, Michigan
  • No. Border crossings: 2
  • No. of places stayed at: 14 (3 Airbnbs, 3 friends, 1 B&B, 7 camp sites)
  • Hikes: 5 (distance 15.6 km, 740 height meters)
  • Runs: 1 (5.3 km, should work on this)
  • Cycling: 56 km
  • Books: 2
  • Movies: 8 (1 world premiere, the rest mostly during the flights)
  • New Beers: 24
  • Photos: 1515

The Plan
I’ve been able to keep surprisingly close to my plan (especially when you consider it’s mostly based on an Excel sheet with 2 days worth of Google/Google Maps work).

  • Day-wise compared to the original plan I am a bit behind. Mostly because I could only start driving 3 weeks later than I had originally planned when I was planning to buy a car in the US. However, by just driving a bit more per day, I should easily arrive in time in Alaska.

Daily costs are pretty much on plan:

  • I spend about 28 Euro (plan was 32) per night on lodging. This was a bit higher due to Airbnbs in New York and the emergency B&B in Canada, but I saved a lot by spending 7 nights at friends (Thanks guys!). Hopefully when the camping season starts, finding cheap camping will be easier.
  • My food spending got to 16 Euro per day (planned was 15). Meeting up with friends in cities means you go out for dinner more often. Luckily the friends also invite me for breakfast/lunch/dinner (Thanks guys!)
  • Spending on fun stuff (beers, musea, viewing towers) was planned for 8 Euro per day and is now at 7.
  • Fuel is an interesting one: when I had to cut three weeks of my planning due to a late start I reduced the amount of detouring on this part of the trip. What I should have done was increase the distance per day (because that is what happened). So I drove 3018 km (plan was 1900). Fuel prices were as expected (average of 57 euro cent per liter, with the cheapest being only 42 cents!). I’m driving a bit more efficient than expected 10 km per liter instead of the expected 9.

All together this means I’m 80 Euros under budget for lodging, food, fun and fuel. (Not bad on a 1800 Euro budget).

On the other costs there are a few spots that costed more than planned:

  • Miscommunication between me and the shipping company made the shipping more expensive than planned
  • Car insurance for the Netherlands and the US/Canada already used up my whole budget for insurance. The other countries will be cheaper but this will cost me some extra.
  • The unplanned costs so far are mostly camping gear and travel books. But they are within the planned limits of the unplanned 🙂

Overall I think it should be more than doable to finish this trip within time and budget (or at least part 1).

If you have any questions on how my trip is going, drop them in the comments!

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