Van Life | Sh*t Happens
One minute your driving up a mountain headed to beautiful, famous hot springs and then all of a sudden you're sitting in a broken- down car for hours waiting on a tow truck. Some people may think buying a van and traveling the country sounds perfect.. and it is... until sh*t happens out of nowhere.
The van is just like any other home except the fact that it's on wheels. Things happen and things break. Especially when you are driving every single day through all kinds of weather and different types of roads. With that being said, all of the problems we have had with our van probably shouldn't be happening already. I want to potentially save you some trouble along with shed a little light on the not-so-Instagramable realities of van life.
A Little Story Time...
We were literally driving up a mountain on a highway when the van just shut off and the engine died. After towing the van to a nearby city, the mechanic told us the module that was broken could only be fixed by the dealership. Mercedes does not release all their information for this reason exactly. Therefore, we had no choice but to tow it again to the nearest available dealership which happened to be Albuquerque.
Once arrived in the ABQ dealership, we received a smile and a wave as we walked away and thought the process had begun. Unfortunately, the next day I had a slight heart attack after receiving a text stating the damages were over $8,000 due to needing a new exhaust system along with a module and a few other things. I mean, is that number not a little shocking considering the day before we had no idea anything was wrong? Yeah, it sucked.
However, we weighed our options and decided that this was fully something we wanted to continue on with. So we just told them that we were fine with the total (wanted to vomit a little maybe, but was fine) and to move forward. After a week of staying in a hotel, we made a trip back to the dealership and were told it would take another week to receive the parts before beginning the repair. So we decided to rent a car and head up to Denver so that we didn't feel so stuck.
A week later we came back, and the dealership told us it could actually take another 2-3 weeks. Obviously, we weren't too happy mostly because we would've flown home at the beginning had we known it would take so long. A manager came out to speak with us and was actually a tremendous help. He told us that he would essentially help rush the process and make sure that the van was done in one week.
So after an additional week this time in Phoenix and Tucson, we returned home to see the manager and got the van back much healthier and happier than before. There were definitely a few moments where we questioned our personal experience with the dealership, but we ended on a wonderful note and can't complain now that we have our home back.
The moral of the story is that this can happen any time to anyone. We had a full week planned when it came to a screeching halt and everything had to be changed in an instant. You may be interested in van life because of the free and loose schedule that it allows but it'll teach you those things however it wants. Some days we learn what life is about by sleeping in the mountains to the sound of the wolves and other days we learn by going through a super hard time and questioning every decision we've ever made. And unfortunately, it's all one big package deal.
A Little Advice:
A few things we've learned along the way to avoid or make the best of really sh*tty situations include:
Listen To Your Van Baby
Now that we have the van back, we realize how much of a difference there is. We weren't listening before. She was struggling up every hill and every mountain, and we simply thought it was because she's a big girl. Neither of us were familiar with how things should sound and didn't know what to look for. This may not have saved us all the money we spent, but it could've taken us out of a really dangerous situation of being stuck half in/half off the highway waiting on a tow truck. Listen to your van child and know what to listen for.
Don't Freak Out.. Everything WILL Be Fine
We may or may not have had a big wtf-are-we-gonna-do moment, but we quickly moved on. As we talked about our options, we realized it definitely sucks but it's totally possible. Money is money, and we won't give up our dream because of it. One thing you hear a lot in van life is the classic "I've always wanted to do something like that but never have.." and we refuse to ever be in that position. We'll work as much as necessary and figure it out as we go.
Over Planning Will Get You Nowhere
I'm that girl with all the notebooks and calendars.. I plan everything. I want to make sure we hit all the major landmarks and see everything possible. I was making a new list of something practically every day. Yeah, not so much now. You can only plan so many "perfect" trips with them going drastically different before you realize.. you're wasting your time. I have clung so hard to controlling everything this trip that I swear God is doing all this so I just chill for sec. There's no need to plan every last detail of a trip that's supposed to be freeing and open-ended! Currently working on getting better at this myself.
The passed couple weeks have been a roller coaster, and we are happy to have it behind us. But that isn't to say it won't happen again (hopefully not for a long, long time). But with any luck, we'll be able to handle it with more knowledge and experience under our belt now that we've been through the ropes with some harsh realities of living on the road.
Remember to take a breath, let go of any negative feelings, and figure out how to move forward. Don't let anything stand in the way of you living out your dream. There isn't a thing on earth that's worth that kind of sacrifice.
Thanks for reading!
(From our time in NM.. | Los Alamos, New Mexico)
(We were here for awhile.. | Albuquerque, New Mexico)
(From our mini trip. | Denver, Colorado)
(From our mini trip. | Saguaro National Park, Arizona)