By Morgan Bernard
Road Tripping 101: How to Prepare for Life on the Road with Kaya Lindsay AKA One Chick Travels
Nothing quite compares to a road trip. Having the road stretch out before you as you make your way towards adventure is a timeless tradition that’s as American as Thanksgiving or baseball. Life on the road, however, is not as romantic as it may seem. Without proper planning, a road trip can turn south (no pun intended) rather quickly. In 2020, when COVID first shut borers and made travel a distant memory, I packed up my things and moved into my two-door jeep armed with a tent, a few surfboards, some climbing gear, and a WIFI hotspot. I spent most of that fall on the road bouncing around the Western United States. I broke up camping with short-term rentals and friends’ couches. After a few months, I decided to call it quits and make other plans. Now that enough time has passed, I’ve had the urge to hit the road once more. To shed light on some of the finer points of road tripping I may have overlooked, I decided to interview some experts in our latest travel series, Road Tripping 101. For Part I, I interview Kaya Lindsay, a van life blogger (One Chick Travels) who turned to life on the road to pursue her passion for rock climbing.
Kaya first moved into a van five years ago. She spent three full years in her van before switching to part-time life on the road two years ago. Kaya first began road tripping as she became increasingly interested in climbing. As her passion for climbing grew, so did her desire for the open road. Eventually, Kaya found a used 2006 Dodge Sprinter and spent five months converting it to a livable home before setting off on her first cross-country road trip. I caught up with Kaya to talk about life on the road and how she preps for adventure.
Hey Kaya, tell me about your van
So, it’s a 2006 Dodge Sprinter. I found it used for around $11k, which I’m not sure you could find a similar deal today. I spent five months building it out. In total, I put around $16k into the van, which was just the right amount for me. I know plenty of people who had a way smaller budget and are just as happy with their vans. Similarly, I know a lot of people who had enormous budgets and are also satisfied with the finished product.
You can check out Kaya’s van conversion here.
Where did you find inspiration for your buildout?
Honestly, I looked at a lot of different conversions on social media to figure out exactly what I needed to do. I really prioritized lighting to make sure the van was a bright and cheerful place. I also used light-colored wood in the interior to help brighten up the space.
What are some resources our readers can use to complete a similar project?
YouTube has an endless amount of information on the subject. I’m sure this was all much harder before the internet, but now all the information you need can be found on YouTube.
What advice would you give our readers about preparing for a road trip, van conversions, and living life on the road?
If you’re considering getting a van to convert it to a camper, really think about what you’re going to be using the vehicle for. If you’re going to live out of your van and mobility is important to you, then yes, a van is a good fit for you. If you’re just doing weekend trips to national parks, you’re better off with some solid camping gear or doing a smaller scale conversion to your car.
What would you tell our readers who are set on getting a van?
A few things. To start, when you’re shopping for a van, consider an older model. Newer models may have warranties, but they typically can only be serviced at a dealership. If you’re in the middle of the desert in Utah, the closest dealership may be 800 miles away in Las Vegas. If you break down, that’s an expensive tow. I would do your research and find a reliable older model, then brush up on the ways they break down and become proficient in serving your vehicle yourself. It’s not a question of whether or not you will break down. Breaking down is inevitable, regardless of what type of vehicle you’re in. Also, try to find a van that you can stand in. If you’re over six feet tall, this may be challenging, but they are out there.
I would have never thought to prioritize older vans for that reason. Do you have any tips regarding the conversion process?
Don’t waste your money on fancy amenities. 4x4 conversions are costly and unnecessary. You’re unlikely to take the vehicle you live in on any road that could potentially leave you stranded. Think hard about whether you actually need a shower in your van. Showers are easy to come by on the road. Private campsites, national parks, state parks, travel stops, and gyms all have showers. Consider prioritizing space instead. Storing water is difficult and can get messy.
How can our readers better plan for their road trips?
Get a map of all the Forest Service and BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land in the area you’re traveling so you know where you can sleep/ camp. You can sleep/ camp on BLM land for 14 days. Also, if you’re traveling to climb, check out local Facebook groups and let people know you’re coming. It’s easier than you think to plug into a community and make friends.