There are two moments in my life that stand out. The moment I decided to ride across Canada by horse and the moment I decided to buy a van. Over the past few years, both things have intertwined and I am excited to be living out both dreams.
In 2017 my sister Katie and I rode across Canada by horse, from Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia to Sault Ste Marie, Ontario. We named our ride ‘Kecing Canada’ and decided to raise money and awareness for The Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides. We carried everything we needed on the backs of the horses and our brother Joseph documented it while riding his bicycle. Together, we travelled for a long, tough, four months, covering 2,500km. But we weren’t done. We decided to trailer home to Grimsby, ON for the winter, then planned to finish the last four provinces in 2019.
During our year of rest, work and planning, I became anxious for a new adventure. I stumbled upon a van life page and was instantly inspired.
I knew right away I wanted to buy a van of my own but wasn’t sure how I was going to pay for it or build it with my lack of construction knowledge. When I went to my dad for support and guidance, he was happy to help! Together we bought a 2011 Mercedes Sprinter I affectionally named Jude. That summer of 2018 we built her into a little home on wheels. She’s a little rough around the edges but I fell in love with her unique charm and cozy vibe.
My first experience with Jude was out to Vancouver Island, where I spent two months learning to become a dog trainer.
It was my first time leaving home alone, so I was learning to navigate being independent, a new city and all the aspects of van life (while also learning how to train dogs). While it was overwhelming at times, I learned more in those two months than I had my whole life! It was extremely hard to leave this place I now called home, but I had to back to start preparing for Kecing Canada part two.
On May 5th, 2019, we left Kenora Ontario heading west.
Katie and I were stoked to be on the road again without 70+ pounds of gear strapped to our horses. Instead of it taking an hour to tack up as it did in 2017, we were ready to go in less than 20 minutes! And we know the horses appreciated the lighter load on their backs.
Suddenly we crossed through Manitoba, then Saskatchewan and into Alberta. At times it felt like we weren’t covering any distance. Especially going through the prairies when it takes eight hours to reach a tree we’ve been staring at the whole day. But when we hit Alberta at the end of June, we realized just how fast we had been going. In 2017 we averaged 25km/day. But now we were averaging 35km/day. This was because of Jude.
You can find a lot of ways to fit outdoor equipment into a van, many of which call the ‘garage’. But there isn’t much info on fitting in a whole tack room for 2 horses! Through trial and error, we found the best system to fit up to eight bags of horse feed, a jug of water, buckets, halters & bridles, grooming kit and a first aid kit underneath the bed. Yes…the van always smells like horses but we don’t hate it! Being able to carry the same kind of horse feed is super important. We feed the horses up to five times a day, along with supplements, and it is what keeps them healthy and energized. We are also able to fit a bale or two of hay in the van when necessary.
All of this makes an impact on being able to walk day in and day out.
As for us, we still packed very minimally. One pair of breeches, a few shirts, rain gear, boots and one trusty pair of crocs. One of my top priorities (besides the horses of course) was being able to eat well. All of us siblings were raised vegetarian, and my sister and I are now vegan. I strongly believe in fuelling my body with good food that will keep me strong. Especially on a trip like this when were are CONSTANTLY hungry, it’s important we nourish our bodies for the long run. I also love cooking, and never once took our camper stove, cooler, pantry & array of spices for granted! There’s nothing better than coming home to a huge veggie, tofu salad after walking 40km.
In 2017 it seemed to rain more than it was sunny. It felt like we were constantly pruned. This year as we rode across Canada by horse, we’ve had more nice days, but when it storms, it really storms! We have been caught in rain, hail, thunder, and lightening. We’ve quite literally outrun the eyes of storms. If we had to climb into a tent after being soaked through, I think I might have given up in Manitoba. But having a van to climb in to and dry off helped make everything okay again.
Living in a van as not only three adults but siblings for that matter has had its challenges.
We bicker and get in each other’s way. There was definitely a huge learning curve and I don’t think we ever got it just right. But we now have stories that we will remember for life. From the big moments of getting stuck in mud in the middle of nowhere to lounging in bed watching Shrek waiting for the rain to pass. All of the good, the bad, the literal blood, sweat, and tears have been a huge learning experience. An experience I could never have got from university. And one I will forever be grateful for.
Heres to van life, family (two and four-legged) and exploring our home, across Canada by horse!
Follow along with their current and future endeavors online!
Facebook: Kecing Canada