I can’t believe it’s already been two weeks since we first left Barcelona with our van for the first time. Buying a van was a plan we’ve had for months. Not only because of all its obvious benefits such as the freedom to go anywhere with a home on wheels, but also because of Apolo. He’s not allowed on long distance trains or buses, which really limits where we could go, so buying a van seemed like the best choice for traveling.
As much as we would have liked to buy a van soon after we got to Spain, we had to wait for a document from the LA Spanish consulate, and I’m glad we did. In the month and a half that we waited for the document I needed for my Spanish ID (necessary to buy the van), we did a work exchange which we all enjoyed very much, Apolo probably the best. And because we had to wait, we passed on buying an old ambulance that we had our eye on, and instead got this van that is SO much better.
Buying the Van Fernando spent hours searching for vans online. When he found one he liked, with good mileage, and at a good price he would show me pictures and we’d compare options. This van that we ended up getting was sold by a guy about our age who had it for 3 years and was only about 40 minutes away by train. He was the one who customized it from a regular cargo van into a camper van and although the craftsmanship is a little rough around the edges, it looks good and we got it for a great price. After negotiating, we ended up buying it for 7,000 euros cash.
It’s a 2001 Iveco Daily with 150,000 kilometers.
Paperwork We’re still in the process of getting our paperwork. We ended up hiring an agent to help us with the process and I’m glad we did. Spain is a very bureaucratic country and we’ve already suffered a few headaches. Fortunately, a Spanish drivers licence was not needed for the insurance. My California drivers license was enough and Fernando uses his AAA International Driving Permit.
The van itself is pretty sweet! Its spacious interior houses a full bed, ample storage, a foldable table, a two-burner gas stove, a solar powered fridge, and a bathroom.
The bathroom was only partly finished, pretty much just the shell with the plumbing. We decided that instead of finishing up the bathroom we would use that space for storage and a potty. We can shower in the back where there was already a hand held shower head connected. Summer is coming up and showering out of the back is better than in a cramped space. The only thing we bought for the bathroom was a small portable potty which we use for #1. So far it’s a great set up. I REALLY wanted a compost toilet, but to be honest, I didn’t put in the time and effort to make or buy one. So out of necessity and convenience we ended up buying a conventional potty that I hope will last a long time.
What’s Next We have about 3 months left to travel full time before I start school. We have been traveling slowly, and I mean really slow! We’ve covered about 800 kilometers (500 miles) in 2 weeks. That’s mostly because Spain is BEAUTIFUL, with so much to see, and we want to stop everywhere. We’re now at the edge of the Pyrenees deciding which path to take as a week long storm makes its way here. It’s a little overwhelming for me to think of all the possible places we can go to and having to choose. Definitely some FOMO. But what I’ve learned is that some places will be amazing and others just okay, and that’s okay. After all, it’s about enjoying this once-in-a-lifetime journey with Fernando and Apollo and not so much about the picture perfect destination.
Zero Waste & Sustainability And finally, living sustainably on the van has been super easy and that makes me so happy. We have a compost bin which we’re able to empty in the many organic waste bins found around Catalunya, we have a limited water supply which means we use minimal water, our fridge is solar powered, and we’ve been able to buy packaging free food everywhere we go. Before leaving Barcelona, Fernando bought about 30 lbs of bulk food that will easily last us 6 weeks. We can find packaging free fruits and veggies in neighborhood markets and there are recycle bins everywhere. I wasn’t sure how easy Zero Waste living would be on the van, but let me tell you, it’s a breeze!
The van itself is at least Third Hand and I was able to buy many second hand items that we’ve used in the kitchen and for decoration. The only time I feel the eco guilt is when we have to fill up with diesel. It’s a reminder of the fossil fuel-driven world we live in and how I also am a part of it. On the plus side, traveling slowly means we’re using less fuel.
Although it’s only been 2 weeks we’ve already fallen in love with this lifestyle. The term “Home on Wheels” really makes sense to me now. Certain little details make it so worthwhile. Like being able to take a nap in a parking lot instead of walking around like zombies because we under slept, or being able to stop on the side of the highway for a snack or cooked lunch when we get hungry.
We’re also very grateful for the safety and friendliness we’ve felt here in Spain while traveling in the van. Many towns offer free camper/van parking and in general the van/camper culture is pretty strong. There are many pay for camping areas if that’s what you choose as well as beautiful, free spaces to spend the night. We use the app Park4night.com or follow the Camper signs on the road.
I’m so excited for the adventure that lies ahead of us as we navigate van life in a foreign country. And I’m so grateful to be doing this with my partner and love of my life, Fernando, whose support and positivity make life such a wonderful experience even with its many setbacks. And I’m excited to share this with you! If you have any questions, please let me know and I’m happy to write another post about it.
Thanks for following along! ❤