Julien: Go-Van

This post was originally featured on Tiny House, Tiny Footprint.

Julien, originally from Quebec, grew up traveling to Maine and New Hampshire to surf. These were long road trips, and being trapped in a small car had its limitations. So he bought a van to be more comfortable. His first van was a 1989 GMC Vandura, but in April he upgraded to a 2015 Safari Condo Savana LX. Even when Julien owned an apartment, he would still stay in his van, so now he lives in his van full time.

He funds his adventures through the online magazine Go-Van and partners with tourism bureaus and brands he supports. This weekend, he will be hosting a van meetup in Quebec. Be sure to check it out if you're in the area.

Square Feet: 90

All you need is less.

Make, Model, Year: Safari CondoSavana LX 2015

Belle-Anse, Magdalen islands, Photo: Ariane Moisan

Take us inside your van.

It's a 20 footer, and inside there are two fridges. When I go on long road trips, it's fun to have space to fill up the fridge. I have a propane tank underneath. I even have a 60-liter water tank and an outdoor shower. It's great when I need a shower after I come out of the water when I'm surfing. It's obviously not great to use in a city. But it can be really particular otherwise. I have two solar panels. I have a lot of content I produce so I have a lot of batteries that I need to charge. This van comes with an inverter, and there's electrical circuits for the campervan and one for the engine. I'm never worried about a battery that might die. The van can go 2-3 days with electricity without starting the engine. I have a Webasto heating system. It was invented for the trucker lifestyle so they didn't run idle all night long. I can also press a button and my bed unfolds.

I feel kinda lazy when I press that button, but that’s the only way to make the bed and it’s pretty comfortable.

Prince Edward Island, Photo: Mat Dubé

How many people can hang out in your van?

The passenger seat can turn around and it creates a cool space. I've done a few parties in here, so it can probably fit about 6-7 people. And two people can sleep in the van comfortably, and one can sleep on the floor. I always carry a tent. When I create videos, there's usually three of us working on them, so typically the third one is outside camping.

The van is great, but it’s all about living in the outdoors.

Conglomerate Cliffs, Cypress Hills, Saskatchewan, with Where's My Office Now and Idle Theory Bus, Photo: Ariane Moisan

Did you add anything to your van?

In the first van, I built a few things. But this van comes fully build out. Safari Condos has been converting vans for 20 years. They help out with our content, and the way they support us is by lending us this van. It came fully equipped. I'm not a super handy man, so I have so much respect for people that renovate and restore their vans. It's a dream of mine to have a Sprinter or a cool van of my own, but I'll need some help on that side for sure. My talent is in the storytelling part and the adventure part, but the building part is not my number one talent.

For now, I am good with this fully-equipped van. It’s all about the lifestyle.

Leaving Alberta, Photo: Renaud Furlotte

What have you been up to?

I just got back from an epic summer. I've had this van since April, and I've already put on almost 20,000 miles. I started in Montreal and had projects in all the Canadian provinces between Quebec and Alberta.

I had other projects in Nova Scotia and the Magdalen Islands. It was a dream of mine to see that place. I've been having so much fun all summer working on these videos, but it was nice to cool down and explore the island all by myself.

Kitesurfing, De la Martinique Beach, Magdalen Islands, Photo: Ariane Moisan

What's a typical day like?

I usually have an idea when I come into a province of what my schedule might be like. Depending on the weather or the surf forecast, I film an adventure. I meet the locals and hear what they have to say. People love our videos because of that aspect. I'm not doing a typical tourist way of traveling. I'm not going on commercial tours. The way I find these adventures and awesome places to visit is by meeting new people.

I make friends along the way and I party with them.

With the Dusk Til Dawn Crew, Prince Edward Island, Photo: Julien Roussin Cote

What advice would you give to someone who wants to work remotely and travel?

There's not just one way to fund this type of lifestyle. It's not only about being on the road. I think you need to be open to not only doing just one thing. I've seen people stop at a job on the road and be open to whatever life has to offer. So let's say you have an opportunity to work on a farm, would you do it? This never happened to me, but I wish it did.

Also, life never really works as fast as you want it to. I thought after two months, I'd be living full time on the road, but now it's been two years. I need to look at the bright side instead of all the work I have to do. Every day I wake up and I think what I do is pretty cool. If the content can't fund my lifestyle 12 months a year, I'll have to come up with some new ideas.

You need to be creative and keep your eyes open to new opportunities. To summarize this it would be passion.

Kickflipin' in Slab City, California, Photo: Rachel Heisel

Do you miss anything your previous lifestyle?

I've been asked that a few times. I miss being closer to my parents and friends. You'll miss a few birthdays and weddings. Your friends might stop calling you because they think you might be away and they aren't wrong about that. There's some sacrifice.

Montana, Photo: Renaud Furlotte

But you're gaining so much from your experiences and learning so much. And you're building a network. This community is strong. This summer, I was able to caravan with James and Rachel from Idle Theory Bus and Cory and Emily from Where's My Office Now. In two weeks, we were able to learn from each others' experiences and make amazing meals every day. So awesome, yet so simple. Obviously you won't get along with everyone as well as we got along this summer, but it just happened to work out. You gain new friends.

Even if you’re not with them all the time, they are strong relationships.

Hula Hooping in Grasslands National Park, Saskatchewan, Photo: Ariane Moisan

What advice do you have for someone searching for an adventure mobile?

Are you going to be on beaches or in muddy places? Do you need a van that you want to stand up in? How minimal can you go? I thought I needed X amount of things. As I was going, I realized I wasn't using them as much. I was using the same things day after day. What space do you need to be happy? Do you want a propane tank inside or do you want to cook inside? What kind of adventure are you going on? These are the first things you need to consider. Maybe don't spend too much money on the first van. You need to live it to know exactly what you need.

Maybe buy a cheap van to start and then invest more money in the van as you go.

Chilling by the Roseau River, Manitoba, Photo: Samuel Rocheleau

What's next?

I'm editing our summer videos and they should be out soon. I'm doing my first meetup this weekend. For this winter, I'm working with a rental company based in California to offer tours. We're going to invite people to live the vanlife. Some people might want to test it out before they buy one. Or if someone wants to experience it because they saw cool photos on Instagram, that's cool to me. It's fun to have a guide. For a week, we're going to meet up with people and go surfing and climbing. That's the next project. Anyone who is interested is welcome to get in touch with us.

What does your dream road trip look like?
Salty Hair, Don't Care   | Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah with Blue Bus Adventure, Photo: Renaud Furlotte

Salty Hair, Don't Care | Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah with Blue Bus Adventure, Photo: Renaud Furlotte

Follow Julien of Go-Van

Produced by Kathleen Morton of Tiny House, Tiny Footprint.
Edited by Kate MacDougall.
All photos credit to Go-Van.