Meet Dusty our VW van. Dusty is new to us but a 1993 VW camper van equipped with a stove, fridge, storage, seats that fold into a bed for two and a pop-top to sleep two more. It is a vehicle that invokes adventure and exploration, with a little bit of a cool factor to boot. Ok… A lot of cool factor. Let’s be serious — VW vans are the radd-ist things out there.
Purchasing Dusty fulfilled a lifelong dream of mine. My family had a VW camper when I was a kid. It was a 70s air-cooled, orange, pop-top Westfalia camper. A true legend. My parents bought the van from someone that they knew. My brother and sister camped in the VW with my parents quite a bit before I was born. When I came along 4 years after my sister, we continued to camp in it as a family, my parents adding in a hammock just for me. Sadly, my parents sold the van soon after I turned two years old. They sold it for two reasons… 1. They wanted a tent trailer to have more space when camping. 2. The door fell off. Ok the door falling off was probably the number one reason that they sold the van. It had gotten so rusted out that the sliding door just flat-out came off one day, and that was the day they decided that they had had enough with the old gal. With a sad heart, but also a glad heart reminiscing on all the good times, they parted ways with the Van.
Looking back at pictures of my family camping in that 70’s air-cooled VW camper van, I was inspired to buy one for my own young family. The funny thing is (well not that funny, since they are RAD), these old VW campers have become pretty expensive to purchase in western Canada. This is especially true if you want to own one that is not going to fall apart due to rust. After perusing ‘For Sale’ advertisements a couple of years ago and finding them all far out of our price range, I was forced to put my dream of owning a VW van out of my head. I settled with ogling other people’s vans, instead of trying to find my own.
Last year when I was nearing the end of my pregnancy with our second daughter, my husband and I sat down to each write out our 5-year and 10-year plans. We did this 5 years ago during our marriage prep course, but thought that it would be a good idea to re-evaluate our goals and aspirations. We wrote them out separately, shared them with each other, and then made one together. We found out two things: 1.We both want to spend as much time in the outdoors as possible, and 2. We both want to keep having adventures. We started talking about ways to travel and explore with our growing family, and the idea of owning a VW camper van came up. That was the turning point when my fascination grew into an all-out obsession.
Many women have a “nesting instinct” that kicks in during pregnancy. You start to feel the need to prepare and get ready for the baby. For me, that nesting instinct told me that we needed a VW camper van for our family. I wanted the perfect adventure vehicle, so that we could create epic memories together. I became fixated on finding the right VW van for our family, ideally before my second daughter was born. I scoured Craigslist to find something that was in decent condition but also affordable. We also realized that as much as we would love one of the 70s-80s vans, our lack of vehicle knowledge and our worry made a 90s Eurovan a better fit for our family. VW campers have become quite the commodity in North America, and to find a well taken care of, affordable 90’s Eurovan, is no easy task. My second daughter entered the world, and we hadn’t yet found a van that would work for our family. I continued to look constantly at vans on the internet. I would come across one we could afford, but within minutes of it being posted I would have already missed our chance of purchasing the Van. It seemed like I was always the 2nd person to call. I began to lose hope that we would ever own a VW.
In mid-summer, our good friends came and visited us from Toronto. We talked with them about our desire to buy a VW Van and instead of looking at us like we were crazy (as a lot of people did), they were extremely excited for us. While they were in town, they happened upon a ’93 VW Eurovan parked on the side of the road. They stopped to look at it and noticed a number hanging in the back hatch. I received a picture text message, saying “Here is a VW Eurovan and the number for their contact just in case you have not contacted them.” After getting the text, I checked craiglist and noticed that this particular van was not listed. I called the number and the guy on the other line said that he had just put the sign up. I asked him how much he was listing it for to see if it was even worth it to check it out. He told me the price and I was so excited — it was within our budget! I told him that my husband and I would be coming by to view the van. I pulled my husband out of work and called the seller back to say we were on our way. He said that someone else was on their way come to look at the van. My heart sank. It had literally been less than half an hour, and I was not going to get the van again! But then, to my surprise he said “Why don’t you come and take a look after he comes. You have first dibs on the van because you were the first person to call.” After about a 100 thank yous, I hung up the phone and my husband and I were on our way, daughters sleeping in their car seats with no idea that this purchase could shape the coming years of their childhood.
The van was beautiful. There was only a little bit of rust and the engine sounded great. It was love at first sight. After test driving the van and taking a good look at everything, we felt like this was the one. We both were a little nervous as we knew that we had to get it inspected by a mechanic and man, 300,000 kms is a lot on an odometer…but, we knew that we could get the same price for the van if we chose to resell. Plus, these things are tough to find. We decided that we had to pull the trigger. Dusty was ours!
We took Dusty on her first trip last summer. It was a short two-night trip and a great way to confirm our love for the van. Honestly, I think my husband would have had to pry the keys from my hands if he wanted to resell the van. We put some extra work into the van and had to park him in Chilliwack for the winter since we moved to Calgary. Next week, we are heading back to the West coast to pick up our beloved Dusty for a 16-day camping trip. Let the adventures begin!!!