the vehicle conundrum

It’s amazing how such a small decision can be such a big conversation.
Over the past few weeks as it’s turned colder and wetter in portland we have found ourselves revisiting the conversation about whether the bus is the perfect vehicle for us long-term, and if it isn’t…what might be…

Our absolute love for the bus hasn’t changed and likely never will.  We can’t imagine a better vehicle when we picture the imagery, the iconography, the idea of what the bus is.  The memories we have had in it and the fact that it for so many years was actually the thing that kept us focused on our goals and our dreams.  It, and the trip it represented was our light at the end of the tunnel and kept us moving forward towards our goals of leaving it all behind and hitting the road to explore.

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The community that came with it was a total surprise to us.  We never had vws in our life and had no idea that our choice of vehicle would instantly lead to friends all over the world.  That when we drove around town people would turn their heads and watch it go by, that other vw owners would toss us a peace sign or stop to share stories.  We had no idea that mexico and central america would welcome us with open arms simply because we were driving the vehicle that they call one of their own.

We had no idea that we would find ourselves so entrenched in a culture that started so long before us that we didn’t even know it was there.  Sure, theres a chance that if we had broken down in some other vehicle every few days throughout mexico and central america that someone would have stopped to help, but the vw community that reached out to us as though we were long time friends (nay, family) couldn’t have possibly been recreated in another car.

The problem now, it seems…is that the bus has become so entwined in our memories and our lifestyles that it’s also now clouding our judgement.  We considered briefly selling the bus 2 years ago when it was still in costa rica because it seemed we would never find a way to get it back home.  We dreamt of this romantic idea that some other couple of travelers would pick up where we left of and drive north finding all the same passion and freedom that we found on our way south.  Sadly, like most things in life- that romantic idea wasn’t quite as easy when it came to logistics.  Its not like we could write a note down that told customs officials that we “gave” our car to someone to drive across 8 borders on the way back to states.  And i wont even get into liability issues if something happened to someone or they got stranded and had to decide whether it was easier to book a flight home than worry about the bus they left on the side of the road in baja..

It was a year ago this week that we returned to central america to bring our beloved van back home.  And now that its here it’s filling other roles as daily driver for us around town.  As work van hauling materials for zenbox as we finish projects and make furniture.  As the occasional camping spot when our places are booked and we need a place to stay or as we choose to stay with fiends who have no bed for us.  I have to admit…even to my surprise, It has been close to perfect in those roles.

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The problem is…that while the bus used to be the impetus and driving force for our travel and freedom, we are slowly realizing that it has now turned into the opposite.  It has become an excuse or a pause point when it comes to our conversations about travel.  When we had the opportunity to head south to california for a jimmy buffet concert last month we barely even considered driving.

What should have been a perfect excuse for a monthlong road trip (meandering down the coast, surfing and playing volleyball as we drove and camped) was almost immediately turned into hopping online to book flights. Every week when we consider driving north to visit friends in BC, or heading to colorado or calgary to see friends/family we miss dearly…the lack of warmth/comfort, the possibilities of trouble, and the sheer work and time of driving the bus talk us out of going rather than exciting us to hit the road.

Maybe it just hasn’t been long enough since our epic trip south, or maybe we’re getting old.  Maybe this is the same conversation all van owners have as they move from van to rv to motorhome (argh, really?).  But the simple fact of the matter is, that especially as its gets cold and wet here in portland and driving the bus even across town means absolutely freezing, getting our feet wet inside the van, wiping off the windshields at each stop sign and generally not having as much fun or as much time to enjoy the journey as we want to be doing.  I wont even begin to get into safety for ourselves and those who happen to cross the street in front of us in between those stop signs…repair4 DCIM100GOPROGOPR5839.

repaircamalu10 kingman 23The bus is and will remain the perfect vehicle when its dry and the sun is shining and the temps are mild/hot…but we also choose to live in the northwest where dry weather is little more than a dream.

With the coming of this winter is a slap in the face reminder of how un-perfect the bus can be in the pacific northwest as our only vehicle/daily driver.  Obviously…it doesn’t help that we don’t have heat or windsheild wipers…or that our leaky safari windows ensure that if its raining outside its also raining inside. Granted those things can be fixed, and that is still a possible direction- to winterize the bus and continue the course.  But we’ve also realized that the slow speed of the bus and the lack of comfort and confidence in it has also found us talking ourselves out of roadtrips…and that’s the opposite of what we want our vehicle to do.

And thus begins the conversation.  The late night goal-setting and planning and dreaming about what our next few years will be.  Where we will spend them and how we will get there.  I think if all things were equal we would likely be either hopping around the globe from flight to flight as soon as we could afford the next one, or we’d be out shopping for a boat right now. We can so easily imagine ourselves headed for baja or the caribbean to drop anchor and swim, snorkel, dive our days away, but neither of those options accounts for karma.

She’s a member of the family and neither option sounds fair to her.  She also (as much as we refuse to admit it) wont be around forever, so its an easy choice while she’s with us to spend (the majority of) our travel time on the road, and with her.  There is still plenty of the northwest, of this country and of this continent we have not yet explored together and road tripping still seems like a perfect way to do so- but the more we have these conversations the more it seems like the bus is no longer the perfect vehicle for those journeys.

backpackers paradise3 shop accelerator cable fix carb dismantletow20120219-091258.jpg 20120219-091053.jpgIn fact…if I’m completely honest, i think we both know that with clarity.  The only reason it’s taken this long is our love for it.  Our entwined self image with it.  The memories we’ve created in it.  The inability to picture ourselves driving anything else or waking up in anything else or stopping for photos with anything else.  I catch myself saying on a weekly basis that the bus is a member of our family.  But is it?  Really??  What about our typical stance on “stuff” and the importance of focusing on experiences over material goods? We suddenly sound very hypocritical.

The decision is far from made…but we have been out window shopping.  Seeing what might make the most sense for us.  What can function as a daily driver in the city, a work vehicle for zenbox and a home away from home if/when we decide to bug out and live on the road for weeks/months at a time.

We’ve been testing everything from SUVs we can sleep in the back of to cargo/sprinter vans.  It’s been an interesting experience and is prompting deeper and deeper conversations about what we want our next few years to look like.  How much do we want to be at home vs traveling?  What does that travel look like?  Will it be weekends or months on the road? Will we be sleeping in a vehicle or booking an AirBnB at each stop?

It’s shocking mostly.  We haven’t spent money on anything large (other than remodeling projects and travel) over the last 7or8 years, so the idea of taking on a significant car loan is simply terrifying, but it’s also easy to see how some of these vehicle can fill so many needs for us in our current lifestyle.   There are no big decisions yet, but we are catching ourselves drifting closer and closer to the cargo van/ sprinter choice.

The conversations are well timed since we’re wrapping up the studio project and can now “work” (when we decide to) from anywhere… but always hit the same brick wall at some point. The realization that we are very, very emotionally attached to our current vehicle. We clearly don’t need to be a two vehicle family… but also can’t imagine ourselves actually separating with the bus.  It seems in this case there’s a very fine line between stuff and a member of the family. 😉IMG_5441

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