Let the Search Begin
Once we decided to drive, we began researching rooftop tents to put on my Jeep Liberty. I’d say we spent a good 3-4 weeks researching tents, roof racks, weight limits, pricing options, ease of set up, etc. We were mentally set on journeying the open and bumpy road via rooftop tent camping… until one Saturday night, when my best bud Syzmon said, “why not buy a van or a teardrop trailer?” Immediately I said, “a van’s expensive.” Szymon, being the go getter that he is, instantly pulled up a list of 20+ used vans, with pictures) for under $4000. My eyes grew wide; I didn’t realize that cars that inexpensive existed (…silly, I know). Well, this changed everything.
The next morning I spoke to Paolo about the van idea (because the cost of a teardrop trailer was a definite no go). Paolo was open and flexible to the idea. We did a bit more research on van options and decided that was the way we wanted to go. We spent a month and a half scrolling through post after post of used vans on Craigslist. In the beginning it was fun and exciting, by week 3 and two failed attempts at buying a van (the sellers sold before we were able to look at it), we were tired of searching. It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t exciting. It was a chore and it was work.
Despite the periods of stress, tiredness, and frustrations, we persisted. No way would we let something so silly as not being able to find a van, stop us from pursuing this adventure. Especially since I strongly believe that things happen when they’re suppose to. I’ve been working very hard over these past years to ‘let go’ and put my trust in the universe and the process.
Wednesday, June 13th, I surprised my boyfriend in Ireland (where he’s living and has been, for 3 and a half years). I hatched a plan with one of his best friends and it would of been successful, had it not of been for the 4 hour delay at Newark Airport prior to departure. He put a few pieces together and figured it out… nonetheless, he was still thrilled with my completely unexpected arrival. We spent 5 glorious days together which included trip planning and a gluttonous amount of pizza, pasta, coffee, ice cream, and affagottò. Four out of the five days also included walking my boyfriend to, and picking him up from work. For the ten hours he was at work each day, you’d think I’d spend it searching Craigslist for vans… but nope. Coming to Ireland, I decided, I was on vacation from Craigslist. I wanted nothing to do with the website. However, Craigslist decided that it missed me via my boyfriend sending my possible vans and once again, I soon found myself scrolling through Craigslist ads.
We found a great van! The right price, located in NY, low mileage, honest post, BAM- email sent. Waiting, waiting, waiting… response! Appointment set for the morning after I get back from Ireland. Awesome! This could be the one! Wake up the morning I’m suppose to leave, check email, “Sorry Melissa, the van sold today. Best wishes!” Damn. Disappointment sets in. I’m so over this van seMonday, June 19th, after landing 3 hours later than scheduled, I found my way to the Newark Express Bus Shuttle stand. As I ate my leftover hummus/falafel veggie wrap (was delicious) from the plane and waited for the bus, I reflected on my time in Ireland and the journey ahead. I couldn’t help but smile and feel so grateful/lucky/fortunate. My heart was full for more reasons than I can share. As I sat on the bus and presently breathed my way through the traffic that is the NJ Turnpike, I decided to scroll through Craigslist, yet again. After all, I was back and the vacation was over.
Not anticipating to see any van I haven’t already checked and eliminated as a possibility, I hopelessly scrolled and clicked. I tried the regular areas: NYC, Hudson Valley, North Jersey, Central Jersey, … South Jersey. South Jersey… wait, I haven’t explored South Jersey in awhile. Scroll, scroll, wait! What’s this? I haven’t seen this post before:
Click. Reading, reading, scrolling, reading, reading, scroll up, check post date- 14 hours ago. Perfect! Immediately get contact info and send the owner a text asking if the van is still available. Copy website address. Text Paolo the info. The owner texts back “yes”. Awesome. Within 5 minutes, I had set an appointment for the following morning to check out the van. Fast forward to later that evening when I realize the van is a 2 hour drive south of me….. “Babe, do you think it’s worth it? It’s 2 hours, that’s 4 hours driving round trip tomorrow and I have to be back by 2 to get to work by 3.” My boyfriend, being the ever so wonderful man that he is, said “it’s up to you if you want to do that, it’s a lot, but I think it’s ok, but it’s up to you.” After a couple of minutes of talking through it, we decided the van was worth the drive. I’ve found other vans that were semi-interesting but none grabbed my attention quite like this one. I mean, there were two in the beginning of our search that seemed great (one, a bit over our budget and in Florida; and the other, near Philadelphia and within our budget). Both had potential; Florida was built to live the van life, and Philly, although not built for van life, would of been built by Paolo to lead a wonderful van life. However, neither were in the cards for us….. Florida eventually stopped responding after I tried negotiating price and Philly sold before I had time available to see it.
Tuesday, June 20th, arrive at Shoprite parking lot near Woodbury, NJ— looking, driving, looking, driving, where is this van? should I just park and send message? Hmm… hey! Watch out a woman and child crossing… give a wave and head nod, once passed, continue driving, ah there it is, in the back of the lot! Wow, it’s big… and by big, I mean tall. Holy moly, that’s big. Alright, moment of truth, put away all your valuables, lock up your car and lets do this. As I walk up to the car, I’m looking at everything, from the wheels to the height of it, to the rust near the wheel well… I eventually walk around to the drivers side and stepping down from the drivers seat emerged a young man fully covered in tattoos and greets me with a “hey, I’m Henry” followed by a handshake. Henry and I spent the next hour and a half together. I asked him a billion and nine questions and although I sometimes had no idea what he was talking about, he continued explaining things and answering my questions. I test drove the van and it felt solid. The second I walked up to the van and saw the inside I knew I wanted this van. I spent the last 15 minutes debating the price, not with Henry, but with myself. You see, this van had pretty much everything Paolo and I have been looking for and it was very reasonably priced at $5500. However, out vehicle budget was $5000. Not only that, but Henry was incredibly honest, kind, and forthcoming about any and all info related to the van, both the good and the bad. He was transparent (a rare trait to find on Craigslist) and I didn’t want to shortchange him. So after lots of back and forth, I offered him his asking price (or at least I thought he understood that’s what I was willing to pay for the van). Unfortunately, he had another guy coming to look at the van after me, and he would let me know later that day.
I left Henry and the van at 11:30am. The ride back to NYC was great, however, I was super anxious and worried about losing the van. I spoke with Paolo and realized I really want this to be our van. At 3pm, I decided to be proactive because I really didn’t want to lose this van. I sent Henry the following text, “I forgot to mention as well, I can bring the cash as early as tomorrow, this way you’re guaranteed your asking price and I have piece of mind.” Originally I told him Saturday, but I was very worried another Philly would happen. I knew the longer that van sat on craigslist the greater the chances would be to lose it. 40 minutes later, Henry responded, “Ok you got a deal….” OH MY GOD! WE GOT THE VAN!!! Click— Screen shot taken— open WhatsApp, send to Paolo (who’s still at work). Words cannot describe how incredibly happy I am, Paolo as well, once he saw the text.
Awesome. We have a van! Now to arrange the exchange and collect the title, so that it’s officially ours. Until then, don’t get too excited and don’t tell anyone.