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Back on the Coast

Back on the Coast

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Will the Rising Price of Gas be the End for Vandwelling?

For now, no, not yet. In the future, quite possibly. As of today, the US national average price of gas is $3.59 US per US gallon. In Canada, the national average price of gas is $5.74 CAN per CAN gallon. Now, our gallon is 20% larger than the American gallon, and our money is approx. worth 2% less. So, taking into account the variances, that would make our equivalent gallon around $4.75, due mostly to increased Canadian taxes over the States. Regardless, everyone is concerned with the price of gas, how it affects their livelihoods and with good reason.

In North America, our lifestyle is based on the availability of plentiful, affordable petroleum products. Plastic is everywhere. Rural homes, farming, suburbia, industry, trucking, etc. - require great amount of gas to move people, products and produce all consumables. Everything man made is effected by the price of gas, either by transportation, production or labour. Even if you don't drive at all, the price of gas will affect you.

So, what are we supposed to do? As a consumer, apparently the media says we have elasticity to be able to absorb the rising price of gas. Oh, really. I look around at a lot of people who's budget is strained already to the max. But, that is because they think or live in the North American culture mindset. Spend, credit, debt, no leverage left, maxed out.

In Europe, the price of gas is approx. $8 - $9 per gallon. They've paid twice the price or more for decades, compared to North America. And they make it work. How? Conservation. More fuel efficient vehicles, efficient driving, extensive public transit, doing with less. Less food, clothing, electronics - everything - as they allocate more funds to gasoline instead. The question is - can we do this in North America? It's not a matter of can we - we're gonna have to.

The predictions in Canada are that gas will hit approx. $1.50 per litre here in summer, and around $2.25 per litre by 2012. That translates to $6.81 per CAN gallon this summer, and $10 per CAN gallon by 2012. I figure this summer in the States, that gas prices will jump to around $4.25 per gallon, and around $8 per gallon by 2012.

For myself, I can deal with these prices. At the moment, gas and food are the two largest cost centres of my budget. I allocate $300 monthly for both of them. On an average month, I drive around 200 miles weekly combined driving, so my gas usage costs $240 per month (today's price, leaving me with a $60 budget surplus) . By the summer though, the same gas usage will be $281 per month, still doable with my budget. But by 2012, this rate of gas usage will cost $420 per month. But, keep in mind that this is a bare minimum of driving, just the essential. When I go away for any trip, weekend or longer, I will have to budget extra funds because my regular weekend allotment of driving miles is only 100.

The problems facing North American culture, when compared to Europe, isn't easy. The crux of the matter is the distances involved. If you drive 200 miles in Europe, you are probably in another country. The distances involved are much less than those in North America. Here, we think nothing of living 20 or 30 or more miles from work - produce and products are produced on the other side of the country, if not the world. So, there are going to be many changes, as what worked before barely works now and will not in the foreseeable future.

Because we have eliminated the huge expense of shelter, we as Vandwellers, have a much greater elasticity to deal with the rising price of gas. However, even we have a breaking point. But, our breaking point will be much later than everyone else around. So in 2012, if your vandwelling budget won't handle $8 per gallon in the States, or $10 per gallon in Canada, you will to make drastic choices. Plan accordingly.

One of the neat things about capitalism and macro-economics is the effect of supply and demand on the price of goods. When the price of gas climbs to $10 per gallon, North Americans will have to evolve into more conservational consumers. If the overall gas consumption drops considerably, due to nationwide conservation, so will the price. I realize that China and India are creating a large demand, but sooner or later, their economies will max out too. Why? When the Western world greatly reduces their demand for products from these countries, China's and India's economies will stall or stop growing and as well, their demand for gas.

Another factor in the price of gas is the effect of investment dollars. Gas futures, options, speculation - control of supplies and so on - are increasing the price of a barrel of oil by around 30%. A lot of these factors are completely artificially made by capitalism. So, if the world's nations started looking at oil and gasoline not at a commodity, but as a necessity, it's time for our governments to impose regulations which would control price environmental factors. If not, gas prices will continue to soar, which in turn will ruin economies around the world. Choices, choices.

Because Europeans make high gas prices work there, I say we can do it here too. But, it's not going to easy. We will have to work hard to implement changes, both systemic and technological, but being an optimist, I know we can do it. Humans have the ability to adapt and change, and here in North America, we have as much ability to do so, as anywhere on the planet. So for the moment, forget about crying about gas hitting $4 per gallon in the States, or $6.5 in Canada. Evolve. Deal with it. One day, you will reminisce when the price was that low.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

What's the Point - For my Vandwelling

Every time you look at the media you get bombarded by the same messages - rising fuel price hence rising cost of everything, food shortages, pollution, high cost of housing, global warming and so on. I'm not going to propose that being a Vandweller is the solution. I'm not going to say you should be a Vandweller. But, it's obvious that free spirits in North America need a break, a different option.

And there aren't many choices out there; or are there? Since the '50's, North American culture has been conditioning us to consume - mass quantities - brand new, the latest, the greatest- as much as you can, all the time. And poor Mother Earth can't take it anymore. There's too many of us. She's changing, and if we don't change, we will go the way of the dinosaur.

A long time ago, I decided to march to the beat of a different drummer. I knew I didn't want to squander my life on the typical pursuit of happiness, the acquisition of possessions - the house in the 'burbs, the two car garage with the Impala and a station wagon for my family. Suburbia was not for me. So, I have been a Nomad for many years, searching for my Shangri-la and enjoying the journey.

And I found it. My Shangri-la, that is. But, so have many others. So now it is very expensive to buy land in British Columbia. It may never happen for me. But, so what. Do we really need to own land and a house and all that stuff? I don't know, because I have deep seated conditioning that makes me think that I do. But, is it really necessary? No.

The majority of the world doesn't own their own home, if they even have anything they can call a home. The majority of the world doesn't live in a beautiful place like I do, have food on their table, health care of any sort, a personal vehicle with gas in the tank. They aren't occasionally free to roam the land at will, holidaying around. No. We are very lucky in North America, yet we complain at the littlest hardship, like paying more for gas and things. Conditioning.

I personally don't have a problem with the way things are going - because it is a wake-up call for all of us. Capitalism, consumerism and unchecked industrialization is killing the planet and us. We are slowly being forced into conservation by the high cost of anything. I think it had to happen, sooner or later. The solution - use less - just what you need.

Is this the legacy we want to leave future generations? I feel they will look back at the last century and curse us for being so selfish, so wasteful, so arrogant. That we felt justified in doing anything we wanted, so we could have lots of toys and money and big houses and big cars and take holidays in the Caribbean via jet planes. And leave them a damaged, maybe beyond repairable planet, past the point of no return. A wasteland.

And this is part of why I became a Vandweller. It follows the tenet of conservation, recycle, reduce and reuse. I found I could be less wasteful. I utilize everything I own, because there is no room to have too much stuff. Recently, I saw a video, Watch it. When you buy stupid crap that you don't really need, you are just feeding the madness. It's not your fault. I'm just as guilty as anyone. We are conditioned from birth to live this way. But, we can change.

I recycled an older vehicle, which would probably have gone to a wreckers soon because the average person wants something newer. I reduced my demands on the planet, by not occupying a specific dwelling (house, apartment), which would require mega-resources to construct, heat and maintain. I reduced my fuel consumption by driving only 200 miles a week, instead of commuting 400 miles a week to that fixed abode. I utilize existing spaces to satisfy my lifestyle and needs, instead of demanding my own. I reuse what I can, so new things don't have to be made.

Oh, I'm not perfect. Hell, no. I drive a gas guzzlin' van, man. But, overall, my carbon footprint is smaller than before, because of my simpler lifestyle.

As well, there are other benefits too. My financial footing has never been better, even though I work less. Why? Because I have decreased one major expense, the expense of shelter. Now, I have replaced my apartment with a van; when compared to having both a car and a home, to only just a vehicle, I save big time. I can afford good food, good health care, recreation and modest travel. You won't save too much in one or two months, but over the accumulated time of years, we are talking of thousands of dollars. And, that becomes freedom - more free time, more savings, no debt.

The whole world looks to North America as the shining beacon, the highest standard of living on the planet. We lecture other countries, no, don't do what we have done and continue to do. Don't cut down that rain forest. Who the hell are we to talk, as we whip our asses with four ply and eat double cheeseburgers. Conserve and save the planet, we preach from our Lazy-boys.

Too late, the industrialization of China and India are going to make North America look like a back water, 'small potatoes'. Maybe if the citizenry of North America really started to rally on saving the planet, instead of ignorant consumerism, we could set an example to follow. We have taught the rest of the world how to follow in our previous footsteps. I hope we find a new path.

That's why I appreciate the old slogan, 'Act locally, think globally.' I think being a Vandweller is a step in that direction. North America is a big place, and unfortunately, most of us need transportation to live and thrive on this continent. Employment is not always within walking distance. So, I have combined two of my major needs, transportation and shelter, to use less of finite natural resources and create less pollution. Maybe, it will work for you. Maybe this way of sacrifice could help us all.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Enjoy Life Now and Save for Later

Article written by Leo Babauto, Author of the popular blog, Zen Habits

Published here by permission via uncopywrite

ed.note - North American culture has conditioned us that the pursuit of happiness is based of spending lots of money for possessions we don't need. Being a Vandweller forces you to make hard choices about possessions and luxuries, but the lifestyle rewards you with simplicity, minimalism and a better financial footing. This article reflects some of these values.

Often we're told that we have we have to suffer now - give up what we want - in order to succeed later, that in order to save we must sacrifice. Give up instant gratification to get delayed gratification.

But you can do both.

For years, I was confused about this, as I read books and websites that sent me two different messages;

1/ Pleasure later. The first message was that in order to be successful, in order to build wealth, you have to delay gratification. You can't have instant gratification and be successful.

2/ Pleasure now. The second message was usually from other sources on happiness, but sometimes from the same source: enjoy life now, while you can, because it's short and you never know when your last day will come. Live every day like it's your last.

Trouble is, I agree with both messages. And if you read this site often, you'll see that I send both messages: Live frugally and simply! But also enjoy life!

That's because I've reconciled the two philosophies into one: Live life now and enjoy it to the fullest - without destroying your future. The key to doing that? Find ways to enjoy life completely, utterly, maximally ... that don't cost your future very much.

Here are some tips for actually living that philosophy:

Find free or cheap pleasures. Frugality does not have to be boring or restrictive ... if your use your imagination. Be creative and find ways to have fun - loads of it - without spending much money. Have a picnic at the park, go to the beach, do crafts, board games, fly a kite, make art, bake cookies ... I could list a hundred things, and you could come up with a hundred more. Make a list of simple pleasures, and enjoy them to the maximum. This is the key to the whole idea of enjoying life now without spending tomorrow's dollar.

Make simplifying fun. I'm a big fan of simplifying my life, from decluttering to creating a simple lifestyle in every way. I get rid of stuff (and possibly make money selling it) and have a blast doing it. That's good math.

Rediscover what's important. Oftentimes we spend tons of money, shopping, going out, watching movies, eating out ... without really enjoying life. And when we stop to think about it, we never have time for the things we really want to do. Well, that's probably because your life is filled with things that aren't very important to you. Instead, step back and really think about what's important. Listen to some stuff on my list: my wife and kids, other friends and family, reading, writing, exercising, volunteering, spending quiet time in contemplation. Guess how many of those tings cost a lot of money? Not many.

Make people a priority. This is related to the above point, but I thought I'd give it a little more emphasis. If you give 'stuff' a priority - stuff like gadgets, nice furnishings, nice clothes, shoes, jewelry, etc. - then you will spend a lot of money. But if your make people a priority - the people you love the most, your close friends and family - you don't need to spend a dime to enjoy life. Make some time to visit with friends, or your parents ... and have a conversation with them that doesn't involve eating out or going to the movies. Just sit, have some iced tea or hot cocoa, and talk. Tell jokes and laugh your heads off. Talk about books you've read, movies you've watched, new things going on in your life, your hopes and dreams.

Find time for yourself. Make time every day, and every week, to spend time alone. It really gives more meaning and enjoyment to your life, rather that rushing through life with no time to think, to breathe.

Sometimes, splurge. You shouldn't restrict yourself from expensive pleasures all the time; it's not good to develop the feeling of deprivation. To prevent that, once in a while, buy yourself something ... or better yet, give yourself a decedent treat. I love things with dark chocolate or berries. Just don't go overboard .. and learn to enjoy the splurge to the fullest.

Track your successes. It doesn't really matter how you track your success - you can use gold stars for creating a simplifying or frugal habit, or a spreadsheet chart to track your decreasing debt and increasing savings. Tracking is a great way to not only provide motivation, but to make the process of changing fun.

Reward yourself. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!

Volunteer. One of the most rewarding things for my family has been when we managed to volunteer. It's actually only something we started doing last year, but since then, we've done it a bunch of times in a number of different ways. And while it doesn't cost a dime, it is tremendously rewarding in ways that money could never buy.

Live in the moment. Learn to think not so much about the past or future, but about what you are going through right now. Be present. It may seem trite, but it's the key to enjoying life to the fullest - without having to spend money. Think about it - you can spend money eating out, but if you are not really thinking about what you are eating, you may not enjoy it much at all. But if you cook a simple and delicious meal, and really taste every bite, it can tremendously enjoyable without costing a lot.

Slow down. In the same way, you can't really enjoy life to the fullest if it's rushing past you like it's in fast forward. Ever think about how quickly a week, a month or a year goes by? Perhaps you are in the fast lane too much. Try slowing down and things will be less stressful and more enjoyable.

Learn to find cheap, cool stuff. I like shopping at thrift stores. You can find many cool/useful things there, and it costs so little. Garage sales are the same way. Check out, or maybe - you may find that item you need for little expense.

ed.note - I have always found that for myself, life and decisions are to be approached with a sense of balance, yin and yang, give and take, indulgence and thriftiness. Do you really want to spend your life on the acquisition of possessions or have the freedom to enjoy life? Some food for thought.

Cheers, Urban Vandweller

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Zen of Urban Stealth Parking, Part Two

Since I wrote the first post of stealth parking on Jan, 17th, many people have made inquiries for more information, both to me and on the Vandwellers' forum. This is a major issue for vandwellers because the ability to park when and where you need to in the city is important. You don't want to be constantly rousted by the cops; these days with the anti-urban camping laws it could mean your van being impounded. In two years of urban street camping, I haven't had to deal with the police once, but I go to great extremes to be stealthy. Funny thing though, is that every ones experience will vary depending on region and city, so it's a matter of exploration and experimentation on your part.

Here are some more thoughts on this topic.

Location, location, location. One of the main concerns for stealth parking is picking locations where your van looks like it belongs there. This is one of the main tenets of camouflage, being in plain site, but hidden or invisible. If your vehicle is surrounded by similar vans, it will just blend into the local environ. If your vehicle is the only one of it's type in the area, it will stick out like a sore thumb, just begging for attention. As well, some places have no vehicles parked there at night, so your lonely van in a large open area, may attract attention because it is the only vehicle parked there at all. Cops and security services are very vigilant these days, so you need to think like them to avoid detection.

Industrial areas - It would make sense to use these areas for large box or cube vans, or for the basic white cargo van. Why? Cuz' they look like they belong there. It just looks like a work vehicle, parked overnight for the next days' business. Also, these vans have higher personal security; less or no windows, and maybe a lockable metal barrier behind the driving compartment. Industrial areas attract certain types of people at night; thieves, prostitutes, drug dealers, etc. - so it's wise to be both vigilant and secure. But, there are very few other people around, which makes it convenient for night parking.

Shopping mall lots and strip malls - In these areas, Walmart store lots are the easiest. A lot of Walmarts allow overnight parking for the RV crowd and stealth vans fit right in. But, I only use Walmarts when I need a quick solution. Why? I believe the police aren't too happy about Walmart parking lots; to them, the lots become an unregulated urban campground in their jurisdiction. So it wouldn't surprise me if they check them out and pay attention to who is staying there. If I was just travelling down the road, not being a local, of course I would use them. But, I generally live in one city for months or years at a time. So for me, parking at a Walmart on a regular basis would be like advertising to the police, that I am homeless in a vehicle. Not very stealthy.

A lot of large shopping malls have no overnight parking restrictions, which eliminates them. But for malls or standalone stores which have 24hr. business hours, bingo! As long as you remain discreet and stealthy, why not. I find that the tiny strip malls are sometimes a perfect blend of privacy, no parking restrictions and a occasional choice for my soccer-mom type van. It all just depends, you got to go with your gut feelings. For the box or cube van and the white cargo van, these vehicles can be parked close to a business or store like it is there for the next days work.

Nightclub parking lots - The premise that vehicles are left overnight because of drinking patrons is good to take advantage of. But. There are some disadvantages to using these lots. Timing is critical because of surveillance by doormen or the police. Impaired drivers may hit your vehicle and make a lot noise leaving the area at closing time. Choose your parking spot wisely. Police quite often check out lots to see who is in the bar and doorman may be looking out for drunken patron behaviour (fights, rowdiness, etc.) You need to slip in and lay very low at the right moment, which is different for every place. Expect to be woken up by loud patrons until closing time.

Downtown urban streets - I have mixed feelings about these areas. Although most parking meters don't charge overnight, you need to pay close attention to security (lots of street people, cops, security forces). You maybe the only vehicle in the area, and I don't like that. I like to be somewhat hidden from view, blending in with the crowd of parked vehicles. But, once in a while, I use specific downtown pay parking lots. I especially like using them during extreme snow or wind storms; peoples' attention is distracted by the extreme weather. Quite often, there is only a pay machine for collecting fees at night, security is minimal with bike patrols, so I can slip in and out with no human contact. The only problems arise from street people who use them for shelter from bad weather, but that is no worse than industrial areas. You really have to pick and choose the specific lot and use it sparingly.

Urban and surrounding suburbia - For me, this is my preferred area for night parking. My favourite neighborhoods are those that have a lot of houses which are split into separate apartments. That way, there are lots of people on the block, which come and go at all times with residents that mind their own business. There are lots of cars parked on the street, so blending in with the crowd with my stealthed-out soccer-mom van is no problem. Because the buildings are houses, lines of sight from the windows get interrupted/obscured by trees and shrubs, so many parking spots are discreet for slipping in and out of. Different types of vans fit right in some neighborhoods or don't at all. Drive around and when you see your type of van parked often, you have found where you belong.

If you drive a white cargo (work) type van, pick a suburb where lots of these types of vehicles are parked on the street, an working man's suburb with tradespeople. If you drive a family type van, like an Astro, Aerostar, Econoline, Savanna, etc. - coloured not white, cargo or passenger (window) type, consider a neighborhood like I described above, middle-class with lots of single people. Don't pick a upper class neighborhood, rich people don't park on the street, so your vehicle will stick out like a sore thumb. Also, some neighborhoods will have lots of nosy parker residents, so try to avoid these areas as well. In other words, choose your parking areas carefully, so you blend in and don't attract unwanted attention.

I mentioned camouflage before in describing what we do when stealth parking. I coloured my reflectix window coverings to almost match my van colour behind the tinted glass windows. Everything is slick and nondescript with my van; homemade or junky details will attract attention; avoid distinguishing bumper sticker or details; think stealth. I just use my night parking spots for sleep and in my previous post, I talked about my methods for behavior at these spots. I remain very quiet and discreet when parked for the night and I leave first thing in the morning.

Something else I'd like to mention that I feel is important will be controversial with some vandwellers. I apologize ahead of time, but I think it is worth mentioning to new vanners. I believe pets left behind in vans attract unwanted attention. Now, I like pets. I've had dogs and cats before. I will have them again. But, if someone is suspicious of your van, and they see a pet left there for hours at a time, I think it doesn't take much for them to figure out you live there. Also, do gooders may feel you could be mistreating your pet, especially in the summer. I understand if you have a pet already you are going to keep him/her, but if you don't already have one, think twice before getting one when living in a van. I would avoid it if you need to be stealthy.

Something I also thought wouldn't be stealthy for urban night parking is campervans, like VW Westfalias and other obviously camperised vehicles. I still believe RV's are just too obvious and usually too large to park easily on city streets. But one emailer told me how he lives on the streets of San Francisco, CA in his Westfalia. He mentioned it's a bit of a cat and mouse game with the local cops, but for the most part he is very successful. I just thought that a campervan would be too obvious and attract unwanted attention, but he does it.

I hope some of these thoughts may help you in successful stealth parking. Good sleeping.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Current Events - April '08

Well, the weather on the Wet Coast (that's right, wet, not west) of BC, Canada is slowly getting milder. It sure is taking it's sweet time, though. I thought I'd share some things going on in my life.

1/ My folks require a lot of care and attention these days. As a result, I won't be able to travel too far or for too long from home base in the Gulf Islands. They are 87 and 86 years old, and I want them to enjoy their house on the island for as long as possible, so, they need a lot of help. Which means no major road trips for the next year or two, just provincial trips, maybe a week or so in length. It also means that my life will be living at my folks place a lot of the time; getting back to living full-time in the city or a resort is 'on hold'. So, my vandwelling will be part time in nature, as I shift into a different lifestyle balance for the meantime.

2/ My Aerostar is too small for my renovation ideas!!! After careful measuring, and modifying the design, I just can't get the balance of seating, sleeping and storage in the back to work out. I can easily get two out of three, but not all three needs to fit. The problem. Headroom or height. Also, I like a largish bed for when I'm not alone. ;-) Sure, I guess I could get a high top installed (maybe?), but the additional cost (if possible) is prohibitive. If I was going to spend that much extra money, I would just get another van. Maybe an Astro would do, but probably a full-size van would be appropriate. This is the problem though. I don't want to lose the good gas mileage I get with the Aerostar; gas prices should jump up drastically this summer. So, it looks like 'Aero' will remain a mobile pup tent, with only sleeping and storage in the back. I'm being tempted by van infidelity, but 'Aero' has tons of life left in him, and I don't want to sell. Decisions, decisions.

3/ Road trips. I just got back from six days in Whistler, partying it up with friends (reason for no recent articles). I'm looking forward to the weather breaking soon with warm days. Camping trips, exploration, music festivals, visiting friends and so on, are all on the calender this year. I can hardly wait. The major highlights for exploration are places I haven't been on Vancouver Island and inland to the West Kootenay and Lower Chilcotin regions. Eventually, all nomads settle down and I'm looking at all these areas as possible home base regions. So far, I seem to be really attracted to the Arrow Lakes area.

4/ I keep taking on new work projects, so my van renovations (for what they will be now), keep getting put on the back burner. I've just got too much on my plate. I apologize to those who have been waiting for photos and articles, I can't help it. The project will proceed as soon as possible, so I can share with you.

So, there you have it folks, some news in the life of Urban Vandweller. I wish good fortune to you and yours.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Death Valley in my Volkswagen Bus

Another road trip video by the YouTube contributor, 'theswatter'. Shot in classic black and white with vintage soundtrack!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Touring the U.S. in a 1973 VW bus

Road trip, road trip - sure I'll have a coffee - road trip, road trip....

Friday, April 4, 2008

Touring Baja in a Van

I think it's time for a road trip again!!!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Home Cookin' with the Van

I like food. Food is good. I reward and nourish myself with good food because I work and play hard. Being a vandweller, you need good food because you live a robust lifestyle. I'm not a master chef, just a bachelor (again!), that knows how to prepare basic comfort foods. As usual, I try to streamline and simplify the process of procuring, storing and processing food when vandwelling.

To understand the way I deal with food, you need to understand a little about my lifestyle and network. Sometimes I live in the city, sometimes in the country; I pick up groceries after work several times a week. I usually only store about 2+ days of fresh food; things like coffee, sugar, cooking oils, granola, I'll usually have a few weeks worth on board. Workdays, I eat something light for breakie, something light for lunch, and a fair dinner at night. Weekends, I eat a brunch type meal and a full dinner.

During the weekdays, I'll usually have dinner at a friend's place 1 or 2 nights, maybe a casual dinner at a reasonable diner. On the weekend, I'll probably have dinner and/or brunch at my folks' or friends. That leaves me with about 5 breakies, 5 lunches (if working full-time) and about 3-4 dinners for the average week, that I prepare, store and devour around the van. That schedule is key to understanding my lightweight setup.

I don't cook inside the van. Why? I lived in a very small apartment (bachelor size) once, around 300 square feet. Although it had a very good ventilation hood, the cooking smell and grease (if I fried or grilled and definitely, no cajun!!!) would permeate the place. I had to be careful to balance the style/amount of cooking in the apartment, so it would remain clean and fresh. I like to do the same with my van, which in minuscule in size. Also, boiling water on the stove (tea, soups, etc.) would steam it up.

I live in a temperate rain forest on coastal British Columbia, Canada. Although it snows little here, it rains ( a lot!!!) for the cooler months of the year (Oct. to Apr.). So the relative humidity outside will hover between 70% to 100% all the time. Condensation, mildew and mold need to be respected and controlled. So, you don't want to introduce any extra moisture inside your van during this period; I just want to ventilate and heat sufficiently to be healthy. Using propane inside, for unvented cooking or heating, is a unwanted source of humidity.

So, I tailgate cook and dine. My Aerostar rear hatch flips up and provides a small porch roof for rain shelter. Sometimes I slip a small tarp on top and drape it over one side for wind cover. I use a small table for cooking and eating on, and the back cover area is my pantry and outdoor cantina. I have a curtain across the back hatch opening, so cooking smells, grease and too much outdoor moisture drift inside the van. Sometimes I eat outside, sometime inside. Depends. The weather also affects what I will cook or eat, but more on that later.

For now, I use the basic Coleman two-burner propane stove. I have a bulk 5-gallon tank with gauge and safety regulator, and I use a hand held sniffer for safety. I have a backup small disposable 1lb propane cylinder if I run out while cooking; it hasn't happened yet. Simple cooking gear, one medium saucepan (pot) with vegie steamer insert, two smallish pans (one cast iron, one T-fal nonstick, w/ lids), some odds and sods and there you are. Basic spices, oils, cooking/cleaning/eating things, one medium size cooler (uses ice), simple, simple, simple.

For breakie around the van, usually I just boil some water for coffee and cleanup. Sometimes hot cereal. In the city, I stop at the quiet end of urban parks, staying away from people so I don't get disturbed too much. When the weather starts turning nasty, I try to find places that have wind breaks around them; some parks have covered barbecue pits or gazebos. Since the temperature here rarely goes below freezing in the winter, the average winter daily high is around 5 -10 degrees C or 40 - 50 degrees F, so it's pretty mild. I can eat/cook quite easily outside for 10 months of the year. It's only when the winds are very high, or it's absolutely teeming with rain or really cold, that I go into hibernation mode.

Lunches for work are a simple affair, essentially cold plates of veggies, cheese and meats or sandwiches; sometimes I eat the same for dinner. Dinners, I eat hearty soups and stews; I prepare pan 'fried, roasted, seared' meats, poultry and fish. I'll steam some vegies or make an accompanying salad, depends what I got in the cooler. I prepare/eat small portions of boneless cuts of meat, which cook very quickly. Maybe a stirfry over rice, tacos or a hamburger. I like easy, fast and nutritious meals. As I mentioned earlier, I don't store much, so I always eat fresh food. Plain Jane. Simple.

For the two coldest months of the year, I still do the breakie thing, but dinner becomes more challenging. I'll eat dinners quite often at my friends'/folks' place. I'll splurge and use a reasonable diner/pub maybe two evenings a week, or just create a cold plate (very easy). Even during the coldest months here, there are lots of days I can still cook outside; I'll just eat inside the van. I dress appropriately for the weather and I'm not really cold. With long johns, gloves, boots, wool toque and a vest, you are quite warm around freezing temps., when out of the wind and rain. Of course, I am a Crazy Canuck, but I don't live in an igloo. Not yet. 'Tho, it would be neat to check it out one day. Bon Appetite!!!