Martin & Nelson
We are living full time in our 1985 underpowered but reliable 21 feet Toyota Savannah since June 1st 2016. We have created the EXP logo to represent our adventure. EXP stands for exploration, expedition and experience.
Nelson and I were living the traditional life in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. We are both 34 years old and we fell in love 7 years ago. He is a graphic designer and made the jump to become his own boss a few years ago. I worked for the same company for the past 14 years as a call center manager. I was also the proud co-owner of 2 income properties that we spent a lot of time and energy renovating.
Although I loved my job, learned a lot and slowly climbed the corporate ladder, I wasn’t ready to climb the next step and spend more hours and energy at the office. Nelson and I talked a lot about that, and we came to the conclusion that we didn’t want to follow the traditional work for 35-40 years and hope to be healthy enough to enjoy your retirement.
So we spent the following 12 months selling my 2 buildings and finding what it is that we wanted to do with our lives. I finally gave my resignation on March 18th 2016!
During those 12 months, we wrote down on post-it everytime we had interesting that we had for our new life and stick them to our wall of possibilities! What we are currently living and will be living over the next few months is a combination of a few post-its.
We have decided to start by buying an old camper, give it a lot of love and cross our own country (Canada) from East to West. That made perfect sense because 1) summer is so beautiful but short here that we wanted to enjoy it as much as we could, and 2) the US dollar was (and probably still is) too high and would have shrunk our budget considerably.
Once we arrive in Vancouver in October/November, we’ll sell our camper, and fly to Peru to explore the Machu Picchu (post-it #2). After Peru, we’ll use our 3rd and final post-it: open a little business of our own in Central America. We’re not sure what and where yet, we will leave all the doors open.
So there you have it all, that’s our new life in a nutshell! I’ll go back to the camper side of our trip, since this is what we are here for!
We bought our camper online for $4000 on April 11th 2016. We wanted something small, easy to drive, good on gas, with a shower, a toilet and we didn’t want to have to manage our bed everyday. After probably a month semi-full time researching adds on Internet and visiting tens of models for sell, we found our class C Toyota Savannah! It was in pretty good visual shape for a 31 years old vehicle. My uncle who’s a mechanic came with me to inspect the part where my knowledge lacked. After adding 2 new tires, fixing the suspension in the back, resolving a few oil leakage and the basic fluid changes, we had a trustable vehicle for our road trip.
The next step was to fix the inside and make it our home. Thanks to the 2 buildings I co-owned back in Montreal, Youtube and our creativity, Nelson and I have been able to take care of that part all by ourselves. We are really proud of this since it was all new to both of us. Aside from the few water leaks that are only expected for a camper of that age and the roof that was in questionable condition, the rest was mainly aesthetical. So we painted everything in white to make it look bigger form the inside (btw, white and camping, not a good mix! Knowing what we know today, we would still paint everything the same color but a color that doesn’t get dirty so easily), removed the microwave that we don’t use and convert that space to put our plates. We lifted our bed (above the conductor) by 6 inches to create space to fit our 4 foldable chairs and table and change all the curtains and the fabric for our dinette. We have before and after pictures of this on our Facebook page if interested!
Overall, we spent 1 ½ month and approximately $5000 fixing it, including the mechanic. We have also been pleasantly surprised by its reliability! So far we have added 10,500km (6500 miles) to it and we only had 4 minor breakdowns. So knock on wood, but so far so good! And the good side of it is that if those problems occur again, we now know how to fix them!
We are currently in gorgeous Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada and it is month #5 of our road trip. We have started in the Eastern provinces, so New-Brunswick, Nova Scotia (one of our highlight!!), Prince-Edward-Island, a little crush to the Magdalen-Islands to spend the week with my brother (another highlight!), back to visit a few friends in Quebec, the never ending Ontario, Manitoba, the surprisingly good looking Saskatchewan and finally Alberta with it’s impressive Rockies. We have one province left: British-Columbia (probably our 3rd highlight!).
We’re slowly getting used to the van lifestyle. For us, the biggest advantage is the fact that we are mobile with our little comfort zone and are waking up in different locations of our beautiful country. The 150 square feet was a bit of a challenge at first, but thanks to our great communication, we talked about it and found solutions: only 1 can cook at the same time!
Nelson is still freelancing, bringing a few bucks here and there. With his laptop and a good Internet connexion, he can work just the same as when we had a fixed house. But we mainly live on the savings I accumulated in my previous life and the profit I made selling the buildings. We cannot last forever like that, we’ll eventually have to find ways to make money, hence why we want to open a business in Central America. We are not rich by all means, we basically decided to use the money now rather than in our 60ies when we are supposed to retire.
I absolutely wanted to talk about the money aspect of it because people don’t talk about it often and understanding how we can afford this from the outside can be difficult. In fact, it is accessible to far more people than one might think. The biggest piece of the puzzle that I find people don’t get is debts and expenses. Back in Montreal, we didn’t own a car. I took the commute 2 hours a day to go to work, we didn’t have the brand new 60-inch TV or the latest iPhone and we didn’t have cable TV. I had tenants that helped a lot with the mortgages, and that was my only debt. Today, although we like meeting new people in bars and spoil ourselves in a good restaurant once in a while, we decide to spend our money in liquor stores and supermarket instead. We are sharing one cellphone and we do free hiking instead of expensive guided tours. We find free overnight parking when we are just passing by. It all comes down to choices. That is probably why I hate when people say we’re lucky to do what we are currently doing. We are not lucky. We worked hard to be able to live this trip and we aligned and are still aligning our choices towards our goal.
We are really happy with that first part of our trip so far. We do have a wonderful country with full of variety. We’ve seen deserts and glaciers, we’ve met really interesting people along the way, and we’ve seen bears, elks, snakes, and moose just to name a few, and all that without having to show our passport!
We’re always willing and happy to share our story because similar stories inspired us in the past. The more we put it out there that there are other lifestyle options, the more people will get inspired and hopefully do what they love. We do what we love, and people should try it, it’s awesome!