Hymer ready for the open road

Hanging out a Holiday Beach on Lake Erie on an autumn day.

We received a Hymer pun challenge from our friend Patrick!

Most of us in North America are raised to follow the same recipe for life: get an education followed by a good job, buy a home, get married, raise children, work until retirement at 65 taking regular vacations. We weren’t really any different than this except that being self-employed we didn’t think we’d ever really retire.

We’ve never been big at planning. Change happened organically every five years or so since we started working together in 1990. When we sold our home and printing equipment in Toronto in 2014 we couldn’t have foreseen the trajectory our life would take: living largely (punctuated by stints with friends and family and Airbnb rentals) full-time in an old VW campervan for three years and part-time for one year; buying and renovating a small co-op apartment in Toronto and then selling it a year later; inheriting Julie’s dad’s dog, MacDuff; choosing to move back into a van and then deciding to upgrade to something more comfortable; stumbling upon an apartment in Julie’s hometown and deciding to rent it on the spot. Ask us where we’ll be five years from now or one and you’ll hear crickets. When we rented the apartment in Amherstburg the owner told us they weren’t really lease people and asked if that was okay. We both replied, ‘absolutely.’ There’s comfort for us in knowing we can make a change at any time. And renting is perfect for us right now. We find ourselves wondering if we’ll ever own a (non-rolling) home again. Maybe we’ll try renting in different places every couple of years. Anything is possible!

After selling the apartment in Toronto on July 26thand making way too many commitments we began driving long, un-air-conditioned distances in record-breaking temperatures for a solid month.  We darted from destination to destination in extreme discomfort while dealing with a single ongoing and seemingly impossible to diagnose mechanical problem with the van. We were towed twice, grateful both times for CAA+ coverage. In four plus years in the van we were never so hot or so frustrated. This ultimately lead us to purchasing a new, more comfortable, bathroom-equipped and air-conditioned van with a six-year transferrable warranty – the 2018 Hymer Aktiv. We had actually been researching van upgrades for about a year, however, August in Ontario provided us with the motivation to act on our desire for a more comfortable vehicle particularly since it would be our full-time home, studio, kennel for the foreseeable future.

Just after purchasing our new home-on-wheels we stumbled upon a beautiful apartment, smack dab in the centre of the river front park in the town of Amherstburg. This is the town in which Julie was raised and where her dad still lives. We’ve been spending more and more time here these past few years supporting Bill as his Alzheimer’s Disease progresses, so the apartment seemed like a great solution, for now. It will allow us to continue to travel and live in our new van and while stationary provide comfortable support for Julie’s dad. It’s large enough to accommodate house-guests including Julie’s siblings when they visit Bill and we have a dedicated office/studio space which is something we haven’t had since selling the house and studio in 2014. Sometimes things just feel right. We have learned to trust those gut instincts. The apartment is on the second story of the old town newspaper building, the Amherstburg Echo. It’s kind of neat to be living in a building that was once a printing office given our own printing career. When Julie was 10 years old she skated her first solo in the ‘Our Town’ ice show. Her title was ‘Little Miss Echo.’ These kind of coincidences always bolster our decision making.

We have yet to decide if we’ll sell the Volkswagen. We are currently contemplating potential businesses. Plus, it’s still mighty fun to drive. If you have a hankering to travel in a super sweet VW and want to buy one that has been lovingly maintained and restored give us a shout. It’s got a lot of life left in it.

Here’s why we bought the Hymer:

  • it has a three-piece bathroom with a cassette toilet, sink, shower and amazing two-way fan (we have yet to test the shower!)
  • a great kitchen which includes a sink with hot and cold running water, AC/DC bar fridge with a freezer compartment, two burner propane cooktop and lots of pantry storage (we love being able to wash our fruits and vegetables and our dishes in the van)
  • air-conditioning and heating in the cab and in the living area (having AC means we can carry on a conversation or answer the phone while driving)
  • 250 watts of solar on the roof (constantly charging)
  • 400 amp hours lithium battery (charges while we drive and by solar while stationary)
  • the solar and lithium battery will allow us to camp off-grid and enable us to charge all of our devices
  • fresh and gray water holding tanks
  • lots of electrical and USB outlets
  • a comfortable full-size murphy bed with an actual mattress (feels like a king size compared to the VW)
  • table seating for four
  • front swivel seats (a bit of a workout to get them to swivel but we can use it)
  • blinds and screens in all the windows and retractable screens in the side and rear doors (keeps the bugs out and the breeze coming in from all directions)
  • built in sunshade in front window plus magnetic window covers for the front three windows
  • LED lighting throughout
  • An electronic awning with LED porch light which we would never leave on all night! Best thing about it is that the lighting is on the inside of the awning so illuminates where it is needed
  • Bonus features: an LED television, microwave and Sony GPS/DVD player/radio, cable hookup, spare tire, cup holders galore

This van is a VERY comfortable space in which we are able to work, cook, live and move around in all kinds of weather. This is not something we can really say about our beloved Volkswagen.

The thing we were looking forward to most of all was a maintenance-free vehicle. But, let’s be real… is there really such a thing? Regardless of age! Since picking it up the battery has been replaced and the tire pressure adjusted. As of this morning we now have heat in the cab! On the 30thHymer is going to have a look at a moisture issue in the cassette holding area and a malfunctioning back up camera. It is fortunately all covered by the extended warranties but we seriously hope that’s it for maintenance for the next little while. Funny thing is that the dealership where we bought it kept it for two weeks to allow for enough time to thoroughly test the vehicle and, ‘make sure it was perfect.’ Makes us wonder what testing was actually done or their definition of perfect.

In the meantime we moved all of our belongings out of storage (yay!!) and into the apartment. One thing we’ve learned in the past few years is how to get comfortable in a place fast. We could be somewhere for a few days, a week or a couple of months and we can feel ‘at home’ from the get-go. We are surprised just how ‘at home’ we feel in this apartment. We’re enjoying everything about it including our office, the kitchen, which is perfect for entertaining family and friends (old and new), the ensuite laundry (oh how we’ve missed that), the living room complete with a sofa and just having space in which to spread out. We continue to support Bill and attend to his health, take him to appointments, manage his care, finances and insurance issues, etc. And, of course, the warranty issues on our brand new van. Life. We sure are looking forward to hitting the open road and experiencing some new peaks, valleys and switchbacks before too long.

A Tour of the Apartment: