Dharma on Wheels, Vanlife Family

Dharma on Wheels, Vanlife Family

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Adventure on wheels

David and I met in high school and have been together for 14 years now! We have a 22-month-old daughter named Alice and 2 dogs, Lucky and Miles.

In 2008, David and I quit our jobs and hitchhiked from Ottawa to Alaska. It’s where it all began. From then on, we became nomads and were always thinking of our next adventure. In 2011 we bought a Westfalia Vanagon that we named “Free Spirit” and traveled across Canada and USA.

Image of a Vanagon at a campsite.

We fought our wanderlust feelings for a long time. We tried settling down at one point and bought a house in the countryside in Quebec. But we quickly started suffocating. The mortgage payments, the never ending renovations, and maintenance on the house were killing us. We felt anxious and depressed.

When Alice was born in 2014, it all became clear. We had to simplify our lives so we could spend more quality time as a family doing what we love most. Traveling. Yoga. Photography.

We wanted to opt out of the rat race completely.
We sold our house and moved to Alberta, closer to the mountains.

Two backpacks by the roadside.

Raising a little nomad

We were told more than once, from family and friends, that once we had kids we would have to settle down. We couldn’t disagree more. Alice is our motivation to get out there and do even more exploring!

We want Alice to find her own voice in this world. When traveling, you get to learn so much about yourself. Some things just can’t be learned on a school bench. You have to see it, touch it, and feel it. Spending time in nature and getting to know new people, learning new skills along the way is the best education we can think of for our daughter.

A child on a converted schoolbus playing with a toy schoolbus.

More importantly, kids don’t stay young forever so we want to make the most of this precious time we have together! If we can inspire other families to be more adventurous that’d be great too!

Converting a bus into a home-on-wheels

At one point we got tired of moving from one apartment to the next and spending so much on rent. That’s when we started looking at tiny homes on wheels. Financial freedom and being able to move at any time really appealed to us. Converting a bus seemed to be the perfect solution for our family. We were already minimalist and didn’t own much stuff so we knew it was doable even with a kid and 2 dogs.

When we decided to make the move, we had a shoestring budget but we were determined to make it work. We bought the bus in August 2016 in Spruce Grove, Alberta. To this day, we are still working on the conversion.

Van Specs

Make: Thomas
Model: Flat nose
Motor: 5.9 Cummins
Year: 2000
Interior: 210 sq ft (approx)
Insulated: Yes! And for Alberta winters
Heat: Woodstove and electric space heater (will add diesel cabin heater later)
Current location: Stony Plains, Alberta, Canada
Cost of conversion: $10,000 ($4000 for bus) still in progress

For now, we are parked on an acreage hooked up to electricity and water. We had posted on Kijiji that we were searching for a piece of land to rent for winter. We got incredibly lucky and got a response from a wonderful family from Stony Plain. They have allowed us to park the bus, are lending us tools to work on our project and hooked us up on electrical and water. And the best part is that it’s all for free! You are probably thinking “there must be a catch?” We were wondering the same thing for a long time! It felt too good to be true! But the truth is, they’re extremely generous people and all they want in exchange is for us to help them around their property. We’ve been blessed to have these people come into our lives and we are forever grateful!

What’s in the near future?

Our plan is to be off-grid, with solar panels & water tanks. We are hoping to hit the road by June 2017, getting hitched in Las Vegas and traveling across the USA as a family, exploring all the National Parks. We are looking into homeschooling little Alice and traveling indefinitely.

Image of a kid driving a schoolbus.

Why “Dharma on wheels”

The word dharma, like many Sanskrit terms, has different meaning depending on context and who is defining it. For us “living one’s dharma” means doing on this planet what you were meant to do. Dharma is also the ethical basis on which you live your life. It’s a reminder of our values and what governs every action and decision we make in our lives.

Instagram: @dharmaonwheels
Facebook: @dharmaonwheels
Website: DharmaOnWheels.com All pictures by Melanie Babin