The diary of an ambitious 6-month road trip across USA where our YouTrip ambassador couple rebuilt their secondhand camper van from scratch.
A road trip across the United States of America sounds fun, doesn’t it?
But imagine the amount of research, planning, and logistics needed for a 6-month long road trip. 😱 Plus, rebuilding a camper van without any carpentry skills just sounds like a recipe for disaster!
Believe it or not, our YouTrip ambassador couple Zhang Quan and Ziyan took on the demanding challenge and had the time of their lives. This is the diary of their epic USA road trip in Berry, their self-converted camper van.
#1 Entry – 9 January 2019
D-35 | Welcome to our page! Yan and I will be traveling around North America in a van for a couple of months and we’ll be sharing our journey with you guys 🤗
Really excited for the trip! But for now still have lots to prepare and plan 😅
#2 Entry – 13 January 2019
D-30 | My B2 Visa! It’s a tourist visa that allows travel within the US for up to 6 months. The person who interviewed me at the embassy thought it was a bad idea lol.
Interviewer: “What are you gonna do in the US, and for how long?“
Me: “I plan to travel in a van for 6 months.”
Interviewer: “Really?! And are you doing this alone?“
Me: “Yes, and maybe my girlfriend would join me.“
Interviewer: “Well, nobody’s gonna join you for 6 months in a van…” 😬
#3 Entry – 16 January 2019
D-27 | Since we’re gonna live out of a van, the weather conditions will play a huge part in our journey. So we did up a weather map to decide on which is the best route to take to always be in the “green zone”.
This is harder than it seems because there is no aggregate of such information online (or monthly weather map) so it’s mostly manual labour. Let me know if I wasted my efforts!
✔️ Green – Most comfortable temperatures
🔵 Blue – Wayyy too cold
🔴 Red – Anything that makes me sweat
#4 Entry – 1 February 2019
D-11 | Less than 2 more weeks to outbound! Visa issue settled, new problem now 😱… The converted van that we wanted got sold 😣 ZQ suggested to just get a gutted van and convert into a camper van ourselves. Sounds crazy cause we are no carpenters and I don’t know if I trust ZQ’s building skills 😂. But what choice do we have? #faithinZQ
#5 Entry – 21 February 2019
Things haven’t been as smooth sailing as we wished. Never expected it to be easy, but also never expected us to be that unlucky 😂 Nevertheless, we managed to pull through the hiccups for the past week and ready to face more challenges building our van! Thanks for the encouraging words 😁
#6 Entry – 25 February 2019
Took us a couple of days to get the flooring done. Thanks to the offer from our dear friends, we got to work on our build from their garage for the weekend!
#7 Entry – 3 March 2019
Crashing another garage~ so thankful for the friends who supported us with space 🏡 and tools 🛠, made our van building so much easier! Time to build the bed 😏
#8 Entry – 11 March 2019
The past weeks have been such a great experience for us. With zero carpentry and electrical skills, we build a van from nothing to our home for the next 5 months. I’m amazed by my dear partner (Zi Yan) who proved to be a building genius.
Thanks to the great help from our friends Wai, Jiayi / Mansion for letting us crash your spots and use your garage / tools. Also, our great carpentry mentor Jace Miller for putting in so much work as if it was his own project and gang for the warm hospitality. Couldn’t have made it without everyone!
More details on the build process coming up 🤙🏼
#9 Entry – 14 March 2019
Van Build Part 1: Fresh Start!
The van we bought belonged to a mechanic who went on to take over his father’s antique business. He was the only owner and used the van to transport his goods to and fro roadshows. Very well maintained vehicle as you can expect from a mechanic!
We removed everything in the van including the carpets and cleaned it all out to begin with. ~Shiny~
#10 Entry – 15 March 2019
Van Build Part 2: Flooring
The main foundation of our van is the flooring and it had to be done properly so it took a lot of work.
This was what we did: Framing structure > apply insulation > fill in cracks > lay plywood subfloor > apply sealant > paste vinyl flooring
Although we made a couple mistakes here and there, but we still managed to salvage it.
#11 Entry – 17 March 2019
Van Build Part 3: Walls + Ceiling + Bed frame
Insulation is also laid on the walls and the ceiling. This keeps the van cool during hot days and warm during cold nights! The walls are made with panelling screwed to some 2×1 wood pieces against the van frames. Ceiling is done similarly on the top.
The bed frame requires more measurement to ensure perfect fit for the mattress we wanted. @limziyan did her magic again and it was on point!!
#12 Entry – 18 March 2019
Van Build Part 4: Side Table + Kitchen
As there is some space left on the side of the bed frame, we decided to do a simple “lift-to-open” storage area. It was our friend Jace’s idea to use leftover pieces of lumber and door hinges to make the covers for the storage. Space is crucial in a small area!!
The kitchen consists of 1) the sink and drainage section and 2) the drawers and fridge section. Ziyan did all the measurements, again.
She stained the tables, covers, and doors. I made the drawers and pull-outs. Turned out pretty nice! 🙏🏼
#13 Entry – 20 March 2019
Van Build Part 5: Solar Panels + Electricals
This was totally foreign to me when I first started planning. Spent 2 months learning about all the parts that are required for an off-grid system – batteries, solar panels, wires, fuses, etc.
Got some good electrical knowledge out of it and best of all is that everything worked out well!
Now we run our fridge, phone/laptop chargers, lights and any small electrical appliance without the need for shore power! 😎
#14 Entry – 25 March 2019
📍Las Vegas, Nevada
Visited our second state early March. Had 2 consecutive buffets 🍽 first time in our lives. And because we spent eating at Wynn Buffet, we got to spend the night there for free! (🛌 in the carpark.) We also accomplished one of the hardest thing… resisted gambling at Vegas 🎰, no gains but no loss either 😎✌️
#15 Entry – 26 March 2019
📍Bloody Basin, Arizona
Haven’t had the need to pay for “accommodation” yet ✌🏼. But sleeping in our mobile home can be stressful at times, sometimes ending up in places we did not expect them to be, or with very tough conditions to get through (it’s real scary 😰).
Nevertheless, it comes with it’s perks too, with breathtaking views and peacefulness of nature ⛰️
#16 Entry – 27 March 2019
📍Phoenix, Arizona – Camelback Mountain
Casually decided to hike the camelback mountain in the middle of the city. Ignored the sign ‘this trial is rated EXTREMELY DIFFICULT’. Went up with just a single bottle of water.
Overestimated ourselves 😂, we completed but came down craving for donuts, bubble tea and all the sweets (we had them all 😬).
#17 Entry – 29 March 2019
📍Sedona, Arizona – Devil’s Bridge
A short but fruitful hike up to Devil’s Bridge and I chickened out trying to do a jump shot 😅 but Ziyan can represent with hers. ✌🏼 I wanted to just stand there for 10mins to enjoy the view but there was a line for photo taking… #firstworldproblems
#18 Entry – 30 March 2019
📍En-route to Grand Canyon, Arizona
Countless of long straight road we drove by, and one we really wanted to go – the Monument Valley. But since it’s too far a detour, we stopped by a random road to make ourselves feel better 😂
Scary to peep for oncoming vehicles while trying to appear photogenic at the same time!
#19 Entry – 1 April 2019
📍Grand Canyon, Arizona
Went looking for some uranium at the Grand Canyon. Could go home with some superpowers, who knows? 😅
#20 Entry – 3 April 2019
📍Grand Canyon, Arizona
Still traveling fine after getting stuck in the mud. Like we said, sometimes there will be situations like these when living outdoors. Our cosy van was stocked up with food which made us feel very safe though 😎
Thankfully a kind soul dragged us out of the mud before we even have to pay for (professional) help. 💸
#21 Entry – 5 April 2019
📍Glen Canyon Dam, Arizona
This place reminds us of the magnificent horseshoe bend. But after searching we realised they share the same river (Colorado River) only 8mins away 🏞️
#22 Entry – 7 April 2019
📍Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Each of our interpretation of being cool when we see a nice wall mural 😎 who’s cooler?
#23 Entry – 9 April 2019
📍Dallas, Texas – Klyde Warren Park
Happy Birthday to this amazing man! Spent the day hunting for food deals 😂, started appreciating how special a birthday can get (with all the freebies 😏)
#24 Entry – 12 April 2019
📍Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
The rockies was one of the most beautiful places we’ve seen! ⛰️ Would love to visit again in the summer because all the lakes were frozen covered in snow when we were there 😅
#25 Entry – 14 April 2019
📍Salt Lake City, Utah
We have been on the move a lot the past weeks. And so far things have been really pleasant for us 😊 But we really want to give an introduction of our van and how we have been living! Trying to settle on a place so we can maybe do a live video ✌🏼 Will y’all be interested though?
#26 Entry – 18 April 2019
📍Salt Lake City, Utah
A cross country camping trip turned into cross country city hopping~ ZQ’s more of an outdoor man (super into flintstone lifestyle) while I prefer travelling around cities, I’m glad we came into concession to have a balance of the wild and the developed 😅
It’s funny how I actually miss being in the forests after visiting these cities. I hope I don’t turn into a Flintstone 🍗 -Yan
#27 Entry – 22 April 2019
📍White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
Happy Easter! 🐰 we have decided that it would be more fun to show you guys our van through a live video ✌🏼 so see you guys on Thurs 25 Apr, 8pm (GMT+8)! Hopefully we have strong internet connection 🤞🏼
#28 Entry – 28 April 2019
📍Key West, Florida
Would love to bring our van to Cuba and explore! Who knows, maybe next time? 🇨🇺
#29 Entry – 30 April 2019
📍Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs
The name of this place says it all. Beautiful landmark! But would have taken a more glamorous selfie if the weather was more forgiving 🤣
#30 Entry – 3 May 2019
Ziyan was so excited about the warm weather when we were at the Sunshine State, while I dread it. At least I got to wear shorts and flip flops 😂
#31 Entry – 5 May 2019
📍Daytona Beach, Florida 🌞
Went beach hopping by the coast of Florida and Daytona Beach was our favorite! Miami beaches are definitely overrated haha 🌴🌴
#32 Entry – 6 May 2019
📍Charleston Historic Town, South Carolina
One of the few towns that has it’s own cool vibes and something unique going on! And ziyan acting cool lol
#33 Entry – 7 May 2019
📍 North Carolina 🚣🏻♂️🚣🏻♀️
We’ve been wanting to white water raft for a long time and happen to chance upon this place in NC randomly and it was so fun! ZQ overcame his fear of heights and accompanied me on the zip-line 🙊 - Yan
#34 Entry – 8 May 2019
📍Great Smoky NP, Tennessee
Our photos are usually lagged because we just can’t keep up with updating everyday. So the latest events are on our story and we just update our posts as we go.
If you’re confused, this photo was taken 2 weeks back. And we’re in Boston now! 😁 We’ll catch up soon! ✌🏼
#35 Entry – 10 May 2019
📍Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee
It’s our first time seeing a turkey strut! 🦃 Apparently they do that to attract females. I thought it was being aggressive, but I guess it’s just raging hormones 😅 Also, a rare sighting of a black bear cub! 🐻
#36 Entry – 13 May 2019
📍National Mall, Washington DC 🏛️
2 weeks ago~ Spent a day at the capital of U.S. Iconic buildings and cool museums! Really enjoyed the National Museum of Natural History. There’s so much to see we couldn’t absorb further halfway through it 😂
#37 Entry – 15 May 2019
📍Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 🧀🥩🥖
2 weeks ago~ Had a great time meeting up with friends and having a picnic at Wharton. After the rolls and rolls of Philly cheesesteak that we’ve had, we kinda think chain store Jersey Mikes has the best one lol.
#38 Entry – 16 May 2019
📍 New York City 🗽
1 week ago~ ZQ almost died walking 30km in a span of 2 days in NY 🚶🏻♂️🚶🏻♂️ Because Berry was parked at the same spot for 3 days and we couldn’t use it to commute around because a parking lot was nearly impossible to find (simply because ppl park there for days like us 😂).
It was great reminiscing the times in NY, where ZQ lived for a year! Lots of memories! And good food 😋
#39 Entry – 17 May 2019
📍 Boston, Massachusetts
A short stopover at Boston. Didn’t do much but managed to stuff 2 cannolis from Mike’s and Modern Bakery 😅 They tasted exactly the same~
#40 Entry – 18 May 2019
Our drive up from Boston to Acadia last week was incredibly scenic and peaceful 🚙 Not as bustling as the cities and the weather was in our favour 🌤️✌🏼
Seems like the west coast and east coast scenic drives are up head to head!
#41 Entry – 19 May 2019
We were on our way up to Acadia when we decided to make an hour detour to meet up with a fellow Singaporean family. Was glad we did so because we had an amazing time!
It’s funny because this was our second time being hosted by strangers, but we ended up feeling like we were just visiting family.
Usually the response we get about our trip is “Be careful, US is dangerous!” But we’ve always believe that most people have a good heart ❤️ and so far so true 🙏🏼
Thank you to everyone that have showed us your kindness and the bright side of humanity. I say… WORLD PEACE ✌🏼 haha jk
#42 Entry – 22 May 2019
Traveling together and seeing each other 24hrs a day may not be easy. We’ve known each other for almost 8 years, but we still have our squabbles. Recently, we had a huge fight but at the end of the day, it’s the communication that helps us learn so much more about each other.
This has been an amazing journey for both of us so far! Still looking forward to the rest of it 😊
#43 Entry – 23 May 2019
📍Jordan Pond, Acadia National Park
Had a brief but intense hike (on ladders and rails) to the summit of the Beehive Trail. Some parts were pretty scary but the view was spectacular! 😍 Acadia is a must go!!
#44 Entry – 24 May 2019
📍 Ontario, Canada
Made a spontaneous trip to Canada from Vermont > Montreal > Toronto > Niagara Falls 🇨🇦 Wasn’t on our plan, but I guess exploration is what this trip was about anyway 🗺️
#45 Entry – 27 May 2019
📍In Our Van
Personal room service in the works… 😋 As you can tell, she’s usually the one making breakfast while I enjoy the view 😉
#46 Entry – 29 May 2019
For those of you that may have missed our live van tour, here’s one for you! We do not have a luxury of space inside, but we have everything we need to survive (minus a restroom).
We may not look pretty from the outside, but that allows us to sleep ANYWHERE (because our creepy white van blends in too well)
#47 Entry – 2 June 2019
📍 Millennium Park, Chicago
After personally answering some queries that some have been asking us, we’ve decided to do a Q&A video!
Just another excuse to keep us from writing a blog haha 🤭 but ask away if you wanna know anything at all about our journey/van/USA!
#48 Entry – 8 June 2019
📍 South Dakota
Planned to complete Badlands in a day, but decided to extend our stay for a night in the campground to do a hike the next day. That’s the flexibility we get from bringing a “home” around ✌🏼
#49 Entry – 10 June 2019
📍Yellowstone NP, Wyoming
Had been looking forward to this National Park for awhile now. Was amaze by the entire park but it got a little too crowded 😣
Were really happy we did the hike because that’s where most tourist don’t go 😂
#50 Entry – 13 June 2019
📍Yellowstone NP, Wyoming
We were really lucky to get a campground at Canyon Village during this peak season 😍
Our food was stocked up for 5 days to last through Yellowstone but campfire was so good we used 2 meals for our BBQ 😆
#51 Entry – 14 June 2019
📍Grand Teton NP, Wyoming 🗻
If we had the means, we’ll ship this baby to Europe and do it all over again 😂 Can’t believe it’s been 4 months now… Never wanna leave this adventure!
#52 Entry – 15 June 2019
📍 Grand Teton NP, Wyoming 🗻
This was our breakfast by Jackson Lake. It was so serene we just sat there in silence for an hour staring at the mountains and eating our cereal 😍 Everything here is just magical!
#53 Entry – 16 June 2019
It’s really been an amazing journey so far 🙏🏼 I’m glad we did it and proud of everything we’ve done to make it happen. Thank you to everyone that have been part of our EPIC ADVENTURE!!
#54 Entry – 18 June 2019
📍 Auburn, Wyoming
Past 2 weeks was like a “vacation” for us 😁 had a great time learning to ride horses, to fish, to shoot, to be a cowboy haha 🤣 and most of all, learning about our new friends and their awesome community!
Sometimes you don’t know who you’ll meet and what adventure awaits you! That’s why we love our journey ✌🏼
#55 Entry – 20 June 2019
Once in a while we do movie nights~ Since movies are expensive here, we make do in our ‘van theatre’ 😆 Made her watch “Law Abiding Citizen” and she thinks it’s a bad movie.. Anyone else thinks so? 🙄
#56 Entry – 22 June 2019
Took us awhile to do this Q&A because we’ve been moving about. Thanks to the rain, we finally got around to doing it 😂 Hope it answers the questions you have! ✌🏼
#57 Entry – 25 June 2019
📍Glacier National Park, Montana
Arrived at Glacier NP while it’s pouring 🌧️ but we made lunch in our van, took a nap, watched some TV shows and then took this amazing hike with views like it never rained at all.
Guess that’s what vanlife is about! 😎
#58 Entry – 28 June 2019
📍Banff National Park, Canada
This was one of the most beautiful places we’ve been to. The lakes are emerald and the mountains are like straight out of a painting 😍
We decided that the best place to see it all was from up above. So we took a 2hr hike up an ex-coal mine 1920m above ground to have lunch! 😄
#59 Entry – 30 June 2019
📍Banff National Park, Canada
More of Banff! 🗻 Sill can’t forget the taste of the best maple bacon that ZY did for campfire dinner. Unbelievable 🤯
#60 Entry – 1 July 2019
Time flies when you’re having fun… It’s exactly one month before we’re headed home! 😣
#61 Entry – 4 July 2019
Ended off with someone trying to siphon our gas in the middle of the night 🤯 What a city!
#62 Entry – 6 July 2019
📍Mt Rainier, Washington 🗻
One of our #mealtimeviews in the comfort of our van 😍
The next day after this shot was taken, the weather turned wet and foggy. So we spent the whole day (no kidding 24hrs) in the van eating, binge watching shows, and playing games… only stepped out to pee 😆
#63 Entry – 7 July 2019
4th July (US Independence Day) fireworks! Also a celebration for the last US state for @Vanrovers! After travelling to 42 states in the US, and 4 states in Canada, we’re almost back where we started 🤯 We can’t believe it!!
#64 Entry – 10 July 2019
📍Crater Lake, Oregon
From emerald green to brownish clay lakes. We thought we’ve seen it all, then we saw Crater with its deep blue lake. America continues to amaze us 😍
#65 Entry – 12 July 2019
📍Lake Tahoe, Nevada
One of those pizza float 🍕 would have made this already perfect day even more perfect! 😝
We were just thinking if Sentosa allows people to use their own floats/kayaks. Anyone knows?
#66 Entry – 17 July 2019
While everyone is attending Uni graduation ceremony back home, I’m just thinking how this 5 amazing months went by like that…
#67 Entry – 23 July 2019
📍Tijuana, Mexico 🇲🇽
Our love for Mexican food led to an impromptu trip across the border because we had some time. Really interesting experience walking over and being overly paranoid as usual. But everything turned out fine!
Went over with 20 bucks, had 2 meals and numerous drinks. Felt like a trip to Johor 😅
#68 Entry – 25 July 2019
D-2 | Can’t believe we’re going to part with Berry in 2 days… Our beloved creepy white van! It has been our home, our transport, our chilling spot, our travel buddy for 5.5 months. It survived the snow and the scorching heat and kept us safe 🙏🏼
Felt like just yesterday when we were working our butts off trying to turn this empty metal shell into a cozy mobile home. The irony is this trip was meant to be something out of our comfort zone, but it ended up being so comfortable for us.
Maybe another Berry next time? 😁
#69 Entry – 26 July 2019
D-1 | Berry has took us more than 20,000 miles (32,000 km), through snow, hail, thunderstorm, fog, and all kinds of situations 🙏🏼
If you followed us from the start you’d know we were so stressed out when looking for a van. We’re glad we found Berry because she’s been the BEST ❤️
#70 Entry – 27 July 2019
D-0 | This is it! Our adventures with Berry ended today! We found 2 incredible people on Facebook who were so excited about Berry, we knew she would be in good hands 😊
We’re glad all this happened so smoothly. If you’ve been here since the beginning, we hope you’ve enjoyed @Vanrovers and will embark on your own adventures! There is so much to learn and see in this world and we’ve only seen a tiny bit!
Hansel and Lucas will be traveling around and continuing the epic adventures of vanlife! If you’d like to see Berry in action, follow them @the.lucid.nomad.
#71 Entry – 3 August 2019
Back in Sunny Singapore! Already missing the freedom and adventures that #vanlife brings very much… 😭
While we were traveling, we could only post some of our stories. So although we are back, we shall continue to post about the things we did that went undocumented 🙃 Probably can keep us motivated for our future travels! (maybe a Vanrovers 2.0? 😏)
Inspired to hop on a road trip too? Carrying too much cash is inconvenient and potentially unsafe for an extended period of time. Follow in the footsteps (or van tracks) of @Vanrovers and bring along your YouTrip card to utilise YouTrip’s Wholesale Exchange Rates while enjoying favourable currency exchange rates!
Enjoy a worldwide fees-less travel experience!