• Bionca Smith

Full-time Jet Setting Family Transitions To VanLife

Updated: Jan 12


I didn't know anyone or anything about the van life movement beyond a YouTube video that I stumbled upon many years prior. I remember thinking "Two adults living in a van is a bit extreme, and yet It was interesting to watch how they could perform daily tasks in such a small space and not pay the crazy costs of rent these days. Although I was amused by the transparency and uniqueness of this lifestyle, I didn't follow up on the YouTuber's journey or anything. I didn't even catch the name of the channel.


Fast forward 5 years or so. My 8-year old son and I landed back in the U.S after living in Thailand, Paris, France, and Benin, Africa and finances grew tighter and we typically visit our family each summer anyways. I was faced with an issue of underestimated the time it would take me to write a book and go on a self-published book tour. (6 months was the goal from start to finish) The reality was that the book wasn't ready and I was in a financially strapped situation.


My son and I had been traveling the world full time for going on 9 months. I grew exhausted with unpacking and repacking a suitcase, spending a lot of money on money on rideshare transportation and Airbnb's..I started thinking about creative ways to keep traveling for cheap if not for free even. After hours of research, I found several solutions that would allow us to save thousands of dollars on accommodation and food. Resources like Workaway and Couchsurfing. The only problem is that we didn't have schedules that would ensure our commitment to the time period without us neglecting our entrepreneurial and educational obligations as well as our social responsibilities. We rely on the internet income and our business was not automated yet. Whether we were sitting on a mountain of cash from the most recent payday for it to slowly be withering away before the next payday, we carved dollars out every single day to keep us afloat regardless. If business was slow, a $4,000 reserve could keep us afloat until we made $40,00. Every dollar mattered when we least expected it. The reacquiring lesson that I faced as a humanitarian wanting to give full time. Volunteering is something that we're passionate about, but we still needed money.

I asked myself, how can we keep traveling and explore our "Own Backyard" for a while working and giving back along the way? The costs that we measured were too expensive compared to places we admired outside of the U.S. In Thailand, for example, we could afford to live like a queen and prince.




One of the most common questions that we were getting asked when we met the locals in these countries was "Where we from?" We, of course, responded to the United States. Residents in these foreign countries would tell me about their rare experiences or dreams of one day being able to travel to the U.S. Then it hit me! We didn't know and explore our country like we should and could do right now like never before. Plus, we are not on vacation, we are on what I like to call a "Lifecation' We have completely defined and designed our success based upon the progress that we wanted to achieve. It wasn't intended to be like a vacation where you have an end date. We built a lifestyle based on our goals at that time as a family.



I became stressed because money was running thin again after being back in the U.S. After living like a queen in a 2 bedroom condo with a maid in Thailand for less than $35 a day, I am now in the U.S Couchsurfing in my hometown at my family members homes because I couldn't afford a hotel or even a rental car. I felt boxed in and limited. The quality of our food seemed gross and costs were much higher than what we got used to as a result of spending so much time outside of the U.S.


For a week straight I tossed and turned. In my mind and in my journal I kept questions.."How?" I started coaching " How can I make this work?" "How can I keep traveling the world with my son and also get closer to reaching our humanitarian goals?" Funds are running fast and getting low. "What would need to happen in order to make something work?" "What would our life need to look like?" One of the ideas that I listed in my journal for how we could save money as if we had one of those old camper vans to rest in every now and then. We could avoid time spent booking travel, for example, the costs of flights, rideshares or rental cars, hotels or Airbnb's. To me, this was a flexible and inclusive idea that would minimize stress and logistics. It offered a lot of flexibility because we wouldn't have to worry about making reservations, eating out so much or packing and unpacking over and over.


I started shopping for old vans online. I didn't know what the van I wanted was called. I could only remember standing up on one as a child. I could feel the burning desire in my belly to find the perfect van and the right price asap. I was tired of sleeping on couches with my son and worrying about transportation across my hometown. I wanted a campervan NOW! I was on a scavenger hunt in search of the perfect van. I'm the girl with champagne taste with beer money. I want the best quality for the least that I could get it for and all I could afford was a van that was less than 5k. I fell asleep looking at vans. I woke up looking at vans, I ate breakfast...shopping for vans. I strongly felt like that right van was calling me..waiting for me. That night a friend sent me a link to RV Trader.com with a link to a van they thought I'd be interested in. To my complete surprise, this van was perfect and honestly too good to be true. It had way more than I expected and the price combined with the amenities was unmatched. I reached out and even after I got a response, I thought it might have been a scam. I spent the whole night doing research on this van. I went too far as to calling the sellers' insurance company to verify that it was a legit seller. I wanted it and I didn't want to miss the opportunity. After speaking with the seller in the morning, I felt confident that he was selling a van, but there was just one catch. The seller was living in it and needed the money from the sale to buy a flight home out of the country and he needed to stay in the van until the day of his flight. If you could imagine, I had so many questions. He wanted me to pay him and then wait 2 weeks before taking full ownership of the van. Since this deal just seemed to good to be true and was, I agreed to pay 1/2 only after seeing the van and holding the title. I had one other catch. The seller was in Canada and I was in St. Louis Missouri. I decided to fly up to Buffalo NY, book a hotel and wait for him to cross the border to see the van and make my deposit. I arrived at Buffalo Ny Airport and 2 hours later I saw the van! I couldn't believe it! It was in perfect condition and something felt so right. The payment was transferred, the seller booked his flight and I stayed in the hotel waiting. On September 26th it was time. The remaining transfer was made to the seller, he gave me a 10-minute tour of the van and asked if it was ok to take himself in the van to the airport using the van. We switched seats at the airport and he said: "Be safe Kid".








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About us

Hi, I’m Bionca and I have an 11 yr old son named Carter. I’m a cultured high energy globetrotting life coach, public speaker and soon to be an author. 

 

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