Monthly Archives: June 2015

A year later..

Wow ! We can finally say that we made it and so did our van! We are now back in Edmonton, Alberta where we started our journey 361 days ago! I guess it’s time for us to sit down with a glass of wine (or two!) and really take a moment to realize what this adventure did to us.

First, WE LOVE TRAVELLING!  I guess everyone would probably say the same but for us this trip was just what we needed to confirm our desire to continue a life full of new destinations. A life where work and stress would not take the biggest part but the smallest part. A life where you can live your dreams and share your adventures with people likely-minded.  A life full of randomness and less routine. A life where you can smile and breath and just be happy.

“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.” – Anonymous

I think we can say that we’ve always been happy but now we are happier! We now know that we need less than average to be happy. It’s a concept that can be difficult to understand and to adhere to in a society like ours. A society where we are always stimulated by stores and advertisements and where spending money and owing lots of things is encouraged. A society where more is never enough and where you have to frequently justify living a simple life. A society where we trash good food for no good reason. A society where we always need new, even if it’s not old yet. We all know that we need money to live  but it was a relief to realize that we could be as happy if not more with less money and things but with more quality time for ourselves.

Quality time also means all the people we spend time with. This last year wouldn’t have been the same without all the people we met here and there and with whom we connected.  People with whom we were able to have great conversations over a beer or a coffee. People to cook and share a meal with. People to cheer for you or to give you advices when you were climbing something hard for your level. People fixing something broken on your van for free or people to  just sit there and talk about simple living. People not judging you for what you wear and do. People we hadn’t seen in a long time, people we might never see again and people that we will never forget. People liking you for who you are. The people and the time spent with them, with you, made this trip richer in many ways and we are grateful for that.

Many people told us that we were lucky to be able to do that kind of travelling but they would never do it. Would never travel 30 000km in a 1978 campervan. Would never be able to spend days without showering or going to a restaurant. We do consider ourselves lucky, not for having had a year off, but for having realized that work & money weren’t the priority. What we did feel was that we were missing out on life and we wanted more for ourselves. We spent years working really hard and we just couldn’t continue down that road without giving it a shot. We couldn’t do any of the things that we’ve dreamed of or knock items off the bucket list. We couldn’t just spend the best years of our lives working to have more money. We couldn’t just wait to be 65 years old to start living. We couldn’t bare the idea of having regrets. Regrets for not having the guts to try it. Van living isn’t for everyone but it was really amazing for us. We tried to not bother too much about the comfort and the commodities we left behind. We just jumped both feet in and we loved every minute of it. It wasn’t easy everyday, we hit bumps and obstacles but always learned something from it. I think we are different in a way,in a way that we now know more about who we are and what we want in this life.

Even if we don’t want our life to rotate around money, this last year was kind of a financial exercise for us. Testing how far we could push simple living. How  many compromises and sacrifices we were willing to do. Budgeting has been a big part of this trip and a big challenge and we are glad we had the discipline to stick to it, to report and calculate all our expenses every day, for 361 days. Here it is now !!!

$ Final Budget $

( June 25 2014- June 20 2015)

Initial Budget: $15000
Revenues: $756.21
Real Budget: $15756.21
Transport: $6659.63
Food: $2897.13
Fun:$6422.73 (includes our trip to Thailand)
Grand total: $15 979.49  short $223.28

Even if we spent a little bit more money than initially planned ($223,28), we consider that we succeeded this experimentation.  If we exclude the money related to gas and transport, travel insurance, we spent less than $8500 between the two of us. We would have probably spent double of that without the weekly budget. We are definitely proud of what we accomplished and we will obviously continue budgeting and save money for our future (not that far) projects!

This is our last blog entry for now but it doesn’t represent the end of our adventure. To us, it only means we are starting a new chapter and we are very excited about what life has in store for us.

Thanks again for following us and see you around!

M & E



The Thailand trip report!

More than a month has gone by since our last entry. We didn’t have our laptop while we were in Thailand therefore we couldn’t really post anything. Here is a short recap of our time there.

We left Montreal May 26 in the morning and landed it Bangkok – Thailand, 25 hours later + an 11 hours jet lag. It was a long trip but everything went well. We were even lucky to travel on an almost empty plane on the way to Japan from Chicago. We were able to enjoyed the comfort of 4 seats row between the two of us. Mathieu slept on the floor and I slept on the seats…such a gentlemen!


We arrived in Bangkok late at night and had already booked a room in a small hotel close to the airport. The next morning, we tried to reach the owner of the Airbnb place where we were supposed to sleep at that night with the intent to stop by and drop off our backpacks but we couldn’t get hold of him. So we took off with our heavy bags(Mathieu 14 kilos and mine 10) to visit the city a bit. We walked a lot in Bangkok, It’s a huge city with a lot of people and lots of scooters!!! Mathieu almost suffered a heatstroke, considering the temperature reaching 40 degrees, the backpack and the fatigue…no wonder! We took a tuk-tuk for the first time, it was a lot of fun. Later in the afternoon, we made it to the Airbnb where the guy Enes was waiting for us. He brought us to a night market where we ate our first really Thai street food. So cheap and delicious!!(30-40 BHT ~ $1-1.25 CAD).


One out of many temples


Enes, our Airbnb host

The next day, we jumped into a cab to get to the airport. Usually, we like to travel cheap but taking the public bus to go the airport would have been about 2 hours long and with an 9am departure, that wasn’t an option. Drivers are just crazy in Thailand(including our taxi driver), they follow each other very closely and use the side of the road as “official” lanes…I am pretty sure I closed my eyes at least twice on the drive there and just about did a prayer just in case…!

After a short flight from Bangkok, we made it to Krabi town, where we had to take a longtail boat to reach Ton Sai beach. There is no schedule for the boat, it leaves when there is at least 7 people in it. We had to wait for a little bit but it was nice to just relax for a few minutes close to the water, in the shade. The boat ride was about 10-15 minutes and cost about $4 per person. The landscape is beautiful, blue water and huge cliffs of rocks. To tell you the truth, the first time I saw the Ton sai beach, I was a bit disappointed. I was sad with the look of the “town”, garbages everywhere and the big huge gray wall recently built. The place looked kind of dead to me. The beach was dirty with nothing on restaurant or bar. We eventually got over the jet lag and somewhat adapted to the temperature after a few days. At first it was quite brutal how profusely we were sweating while doing absolutely nothing. We quickly learned to appreciate cold showers because the ocean wasn’t really refreshing, so hot it was.

We found accomodation for $8/ night(200 BHT), cheapest we could find there. Our bungalow was very basic and it was in the middle of the jungle. Very little furniture: two small shelves, a pole with 4 hangers, a fan, a bed with a mosquito net and a toilet you flush with a small bucket. Electricity available only between 6pm and 6am. No hot water, but we didn’t need it anyway.




Then we met Joss(Jocelyn), a French guy, who knew the area and the climbing in Ton Sai pretty well. He showed us around and we did our first climbs with him, following his great route recommendations. He also gave us good advices about cheap living on Tonsai. Food and accomodation on Tonsai were more expensive than we had planned, food costing literally double what you would pay at a grocery store in Krabi or Bangkok. Not only that but the selection was very limited. It made it hard to buy food or fresh produce. As a result, we had to eat out 3 times a day. At first, we were very happy to do it as we didn’t eat much in restaurants in the past year. Unfortunately, we quickly realized that we couldn’t continue on that path if we wanted to stay on target with the budget. We started to eat out twice a day instead of three times and sometimes we even shared a meal to save money but Matt wasn’t too happy with it as he felt like he was starving. We weren’t going to die but we definitely didn’t eat as much as we wanted… and to make things harder the food is so good there!!! That’s where Jocelyn’s advices came in handy. He had bought a kettle in town and was using it to boil eggs and water for noodles. Since he only had a few days left, we agreed to buy his kettle for cheap and in the mean time we boiled some eggs at night at his place. We loved the idea so the next day, we got on the first boat and went to Krabi Town. From the pier, we had to walk 40 minutes to get to the grocery store. The prices were very good and we bought lots of snacks, food and beer to reduce our daily expenses… A tall beer at the bar costs $4-5 CAD and at best we could only afford to drink a beer between the two of us daily. Another thing we did was to buy a small bottle of Rhum for $5-6 and we mixed it with pop.


With our backpack full of food, we walked back to the pier and took the boat back. A few days later, Jocelyn left Tonsai and we became the owners of the kettle!! We did another food run a week later which lasted until we left Tonsai. After taking care of the food situation, we had to resolve the water issue. Due to the climate, we were sweating A LOT! Mathieu was drinking more than 5L of water per day and it was almost the same for me. At first, we were paying $4 for 6L of water. It was a lot of money given the amount we were drinking but it wasn’t something we could cut out of our budget. That’s when we found out that we could buy refillable water bottles of 20L for less than $3. What a deal! We just had to carry it up the hill to our bungalow 🙂


Weatherwise, it was awesome, super hot all the time. We only saw rain three times and twice it was at night. It was hard for us to climb in that kind of temperature, so sweaty!! We usually called it a day after climbing 3 routes, 4 at most. We were always climbing in the shade but even then, the 35 degres got to us quickly. We usually took a day off between each day of climbing. We did amazing multi-pitches routes (The Wave and beauty and the Beast) and beautiful single pitches too(Banana hammock, Lion King, Beauty & Beast). You can see our tick list on Mountain Project if you want to see what we did. The rock was so different from all the rock we had climbed in the last few months. We are just very happy we had the opportunity to come here to try it out.



Although we originally planned on spending a whole month there, we quickly got tired of the vibe, the wall and the amount of money we were spending. It would have been a shame to leave without seeing Conrad and Kristine as they were supposed to get there 2 weeks after us. We waited for them and had a few good nights hanging out. On the morning of our departure, Matt and Conrad got up before sunrise to go do what is probably considered the most classic route there, Humanality. Rain got in the way a little but by 9h30am the boys were back and we quickly walked to the pier to hop on a boat to get off Tonsai.


With our small budget, we couldn’t really afford to go to all the other islands and weren’t interested in doing scuba-diving so we decided to hit the city instead. We took a 15 passenger van/bus to Phuket Town(so cheap.. $6 each for a 200 km ride). We spent 3 nights there walking around and eating street food. We even went to an awesome vegan restaurant called King Liew. It was vegetarian heaven! Food/alcohol prices are a lot better in the city and therefor we could treat ourselves a little more! To push the luxury even further, while in cities, we got hotel rooms with A/C, hot water and even a TV for less than $12/night.


Two wicked vegan dishes

Afterwards we headed toward Patong beach for 3 more nights. Patong is famous for its crazy nightlife and although we took it easy the first two nights, the last one was a big one. We must have blown over $40 CAD that night… pretty big for people living on $200/week! We saw live bands, ladyboys, we were harassed so many times to go see an 18+ ping pong show (we didn’t go), drank out of bucket, etc… lots of fun! We also rented a scooter for two days and drove all around the south end of Phuket province. It took us a little bit of time to get used to drive on the left side of the road. No accident but we had one close call with a car when Matt didn’t notice a traffic light. Thankfully, the car saw the two white peeps on a scooter and knew better than we did, stopping in time.


Party on Patong!





Then we had one more challenge to face before leaving Thailand. Canadians are only allowed 30 days in the country if you don’t have a visa, which we didn’t. The minor problem was that we had knowledgeably bought a ticket for 31 days. Apparently the overstaying penalty is $20/day but we had a master plan to avoid having to find out: Going to the airport the night of day 30 to clear security/border and sleep at the departure gate. Theoretically, it was only possible because we weren’t checking any luggages. Usually they will only check you in a few hours before flight departure. Now the following is where it got tricky. We showed up at the airport at 5 pm, 14 hours before our flight, hoping to discuss our plan with someone from the airline and hopefully get issued our boarding passes before midnight. Well that never happened as there weren’t any check-in kiosks for our airline opened at that time and the automated machines to self check-in weren’t supporting our airline. We almost gave up but we still had time to figure something out. That’s when Mathieu thought about doing online check in…One more problem happened: we weren’t able to get a digital boarding pass on our phones for the one flight leaving Thailand. All the other ones for the following connections were coming through easily, but no Bangkok to Japan. At 11h30 PM, we finally got something working by taking a screenshot of a boarding pass you would normally print at home. The border people seemed satisfied with it and off the hook we were, we passed the border at 11h45 PM, 30 days after arriving in Thailand 🙂 We found sweet couches to sleep on and got some proper boarding passes printed at the boarding gate before flying away.


Best airport bed ever, even had a giant pillow!

We didn’t do a detailed budget for our time in Thailand but we kept track. In overall, we spent $955 between the two of us in 1 month minus the flight tickets (flight tickets were part of the $15 000 and accounted for after we bought them). Like I mentioned before, it cost us more money that we had expected but we still think that is pretty reasonable.

Thailand was awesome and although we love van living, we are now ready to start a new chapter, for a few months anyway! We are already thinking about a possible trip in the Fall, probably in Europe.

It’s now just about impossible for us to make it back to Edmonton on budget as we have less than $500 left and it’s probably going to cost more than that to drive the 3000km. Even if we end up let’s say $200 over, I would think that being so close to our budget over a whole year is quite the feat. Budgeting really really works!


April 23 – June 10 : Weekly & Totals since we left 50 weeks ago (damn.. only two weeks left before Elaine resumes work!)

Fuel: $6090.40
Food: $2864.68
Fun: $6380.78 (including our trip to Thailand)

Total spent since the beginning: $15335.86

Total budget: $15756.21
Budget left: $420.35


We gave our kettle to other Canadians the day before our return


Delicious Thai food for $1!!


Mathieu’s personnel lifeguard


Night food market. Our daily dinner spot in Patong!


Weird but delicious coconut drink


You now know the secret to Matt’s good looks.. Man Some!


Beautiful scenery


Crazy driver!


More Thai food!!!


Could barely reach the stalactite!


Our new friends Nelly and Seb!


Kayaking around Tonsai


Having dinner in our bungalow.. well under the mosquito net on the bed .. can’t be outside at night


Curry!!! Never get enough of it!


Chicken burger Thai style


More curry!!!


Inside our bungalow


Lots of scooters !


Beach day!

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