#NEVERIDLE JOURNAL   //   Roadtrip Travel  //  Staff Picks

Life On The Road: @thestepvandiary


No two days on the road look the same for Meg and her 10-year-old daughter Mollie. And that’s just how they like it. Originally from Ontario, Canada, the duo have converted an old fire truck into their home on wheels, and have been roaming the U.S. for the past 6 months. With their two cat companions along for the journey, Meg notes that it’s the freest and happiest they’ve ever been. Hear more about their life on the road and follow along on their road travels @thestepvandiary.

Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from and where are you going?
“We are Meg and Mollie O’Neill and we hail from Ontario, Canada. I’m Meg and I’m the single mother of Mollie (age 10). We live and travel full time in a 1985 GMC Step Van named Major with our two cats, Monet and Mozart. We are currently traveling North America.”

 

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What was your main desire for buying a van and hitting the road?
“Working the 9 to 5 grind, I longed for a more adventure-filled lifestyle for both my daughter and myself. Living paycheck to paycheck, I wanted to be rent free and travel while also being able to save a bit. On another note, teaching Mollie about minimalism and how to avoid the trap of consumerism was really important to me. Living in an off-grid home on wheels seemed the most affordable and successful route, so here we are now, living it!”

How long have you been on the go?
“We moved full time into our home on wheels the first week of October 2018. So we have been on the road for 6 months now.”

 

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What kind of vehicle are you traveling in and why did you choose it?
“We are traveling in a retired fire truck/Step Van from Montreal, Canada. I chose this vehicle for its vintage vibes and unique look. I have always adored the 1950’s era and spent a lot of my younger years with my grandfather (who belonged to a car club) and built custom Hot Rods and classic cars. The van is also square — leaving great bones for building and was in really good shape. The van only had 16,000 kilometers on it when we purchased it for $2,000 (CDN) as it was only ever driven from point A to B for emergency purposes. I waited patiently to find my dream van for nearly 3 years while saving. It was love at first sight when we found Major.”

 

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Your renovations look pretty extensive! How long did it take you?
“The build itself took me four months. However, I pushed myself really hard and put myself through a lot of stress trying to get it done as quickly as possible. Our warm seasons in Canada are short, leaving not a lot of time to build in decent weather. The push to get done to quickly was mainly to run away from Canadian winter. At first snowfall we headed to the American border (desert bound) quick!”

 

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Why was it so important for you to do as much of the renovations yourself or with Mollie?  
“It was important for me to not be the damsel in distress. I wanted to be able to fix my own issues when they arose on the road. Teaching Mollie that her mother is strong and independent has also always been very important to me — definitely not a new thing. Having her both watch, help, and learn along with me on this journey has been such a great life lesson for her. One I would do over again in a heartbeat!”

 

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What are a few of your favorite locations so far?
“Big Bend National Park in Texas literally brought me to tears! Having never been to the desert before, it was breathtaking to say the least. After all that hard work and dedication both building and saving to get us there, my emotions and the landscape got the best of me and I just bawled like a little awestruck baby. Mollie hugged me and told me how happy she was. It was a truly incandescent moment. Big Bend and the desert will forever hold a piece of my heart.”

Other top places include:

  • Mammoth Caves National Park
  • Joshua Tree National Park

Cities include:

  • Nashville, Tennessee 
  • Austin, Texas
  • Tuscon, Arizona

How has Mollie adjusted to life on the road, and being “roadschooled?”
“Mollie loves road life, however we are very close with our family and she misses her friends and family from time to time. Roadschooling has proven to be far easier and more enjoyable than we anticipated. Mollie loves learning in new places and meeting new people everyday. Being able to spend each day in new places with myself and the cats, she says, is what keeps her happiest.”

 

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What does a typical day look like for you?
“No day on the road can be defined as typical. Some days we drive long distances, seeing different landscapes and seeking out a new place to call home. Whether that be for a couple days or a couple weeks is always up in the air. Some days we seek a place to get good WiFi and work on school. Other days we seek a place to shower. We don’t often make a plan in too much detail for our next locations. We like to just pick a place, get there and explore and take recommendations from locals or other travelers.”

 

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What are your 5 must-have items for van life?

  1. “Our cat companions. The road would literally not be the same without our fur babies.”

     

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  2. “A good stereo. Our van didn’t have a radio or stereo because it was a fire truck. Friends of ours, Ray and Madison, gifted us the install of speakers and a bluetooth stereo before we left and we are so thankful. The road would not be the same without a soundtrack!”
  3. “Our fridge. Having fresh crisp, cold veggies and ice cream on the road has been the best!”
  4. “Separate bedroom/living spaces. Mollie has a bedroom underneath mine. We both have our own space. As a preteen, this has been so healthy for us. Being together all the time is wonderful, but every person needs downtime and space to reset and unwind.”
  5. “Vanlife friends and each other. As cheesy as it is, this journey would be nothing without each other to share it with and the people/connections we’ve made along the way. (Not an item, I know, but the biggest gift the road has given us).”

     

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What advice would you give for someone who’s interested in living and traveling around in a camper?
“Social media is covered in dreamy and happy photos of people living life on the road. Of course people only want to share their beautiful, happy moments and why should they not — it’s celebratory. Those dreamy, happy photo moments took a lot of dedication and triumph to get to! Just remember, behind those dreamy #vanlife photos there is also real everyday life and struggle. This lifestyle isn’t always easy to live nor is it easy to obtain. However if you have a dream, and you want it bad enough, you can make it happen! Nobody is going to make this happen but you, so dream big and be dedicated. I’ll quote myself now: “Stay wild and be your own hero!'”

What’s surprised you the most about life ‘on the road’? What have you learned about yourself in the process?
“Writing is pouring out of me for the first time in years. Years of struggling emotionally made the flame of art I had inside of me dwindle and burn out. Life on the road gave that back to me, and then some. That’s where The Step Van “Diary” was born. Writing and poetry has always been a huge passion of mine. A passion I had lost for many years. Maybe all I needed was the freedom that life on the road provides to relight that flame.”

 

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“I am thankful for my van, our followers, supporters, friends and family. What have I learned about myself in this process? That we are conditioned into thinking we need to grow up, go to school, get married, have kids, work until we can’t anymore, retire, you know the rest. That we don’t actually “need” any of those things to be happy. That for the first time in my life I am doing everything I was never taught to do. And unexpectedly I am my happiest, Mollie is her happiest and we are exactly where we need to be, free.”

 

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