Travel and Life Update (June 2023): First Month of Van Life with a Baby

Read about my first month traveling in the van with my 4 month old baby where we explored Portland, the Washington coast and Victoria BC.

Kristen Bor holding baby on the beach in Long Beach Washington

If you subscribe to my weekly newsletters, I always share a quick personal update in my introduction.

Writing those few paragraphs every week is one of my favorite parts of my job. It gives me a chance to share a little more about myself so I can connect with you on a deeper level.

Since I have so much fun with the newsletters, I thought I’d expand on that by writing a monthly life update here on the blog to see how you all like it. 

So welcome to the first blog post of its kind!

When I read other websites, I’m always curious about who is behind the computer. Yet over the years, I’ve been so focused on creating google friendly content, my blog has become less personal compared to when I first started. 

These updates will be a little travel, a little van life, some vegan eats, and more personal than what I’m used to sharing in a typical blog post. There will be lots of unfiltered candid iPhone photos and less of the polished stuff you see elsewhere on my blog and social media. I’ll also share some behind the scenes business stuff of what it takes to run a blog.

Ok, so I’ll get right to it. Let me know in the comments at the end if you want to see more of these types of updates!

First Month Down doing Van Life with our Baby

We left Salt Lake City on June 6th with our 4 month old baby in tow for the great unknown. Two months ago I would have said there’s no way in hell I’d be ready on June 6th to do van life with our baby, but here we are. 

Even though it sounded hard, I was so ready to get off my couch, turn off the tv and start getting some fresh air again. 

Now more than a month in, I’ll say it’s definitely not been easy, but I’m very happy with our decision to take the risk and go. 

Kristen Bor and her baby sitting on the beach in Juan De Fuca Provincial Park on Vancouver Island
Our first beach excursion with baby Herbie

Portland, Oregon

After what felt like weeks of packing to get the van dialed with all of the new baby gear, it started off with a long drive to Portland which we did over two days. In hindsight, trying to cover 14 hours in two days right off the bat was ambitious.

Our van on Day 1. It’s gotten fuller since!

Turns out Herbie (which is his pen name by the way) hates being in the backseat by himself. That means if he’s not asleep, one of us basically has to stand back there and hold his hand until he dozes off again.

Clearly that’s not the safest, nor can we expect him to nap 7 hours a day. So now we’re trying to time our driving with his naps and reduce total daily distance to what we can cover in 2-3 hours max (which is also the most babies are supposed to be in a car seat in one day). 

A man feeding an infant in a Sprinter Van
Feeding Herbie during a stop on our first day of van life

Once we got to Portland, we checked into a little Airbnb and dropped my van off with Outside Van, the company that built my van, to get some work done.

Between the baby and the boot Ryan was wearing at the time due to a broken ankle, we were pretty immobile in Portland. We did eat some yummy vegan food there though. 

Some of my favorite spots were Jet Black for coffee and amazing vegan breakfast sandwiches, Red Magic Subs for lunch (the cran deluxe was my fav), and Norah for super yummy Asian-inspired cuisine.

My van repairs were wrapped up just in time for me to show off of my van at Outside Van’s open House at their new facility. They are starting to build model vans that you’ll be able to buy off the lot at RV dealerships around the country, and the facility was impressive to say the least.

A man and a mini australian shepherd sitting in front of a Sprinter Van
Gumbo greeting people at the Outside Van open house

While in Portland I also I *finally* got my custom Inhabit Designs floor mats made and installed in my Sprinter Van. With every van I’ve had, I’ve struggled with keeping the floors looking nice and clean, no matter what type of van floor I’ve had.

I’ve had the mats for a few weeks now, and I can confidently say that they are the best upgrade I’ve ever gotten in one of my vans. I wish I had done it in my last van too! They are so easy to clean, hide dirt exceptionally well, and upgrade the whole vibe of the van.

Inhabit Designs custom floor mats in a Sprinter Van
How good do these Inhabit Designs custom floor mats look!?!

Tacoma, Washington

While visiting Portland we also took a little side trip up to Tacoma where I spent a few days with three of my closest college girlfriends and their families.

I went to college in Tacoma at University of Puget Sound, and I’m always shocked about how cool Tacoma is these days compared to what it was like 20(!!!) years ago. My friend Maria had a flat place for us to park which worked out great since we always prefer to sleep in our van when visiting people on the road. 

We encountered our first hiccup of our trip in Tacoma, which surprisingly didn’t involve the baby. Instead our dog Charlie ingested a bunch of sand from my friend’s kiddo’s sandbox, got very shaky and nauseous, and I had to rush him to the doggie ER when he appeared to be having some trouble breathing.

Thank god he was ok, but he ended up having to spend the night. A $2500 bill later, we were on our way. 

Sidenote: I have Embrace pet insurance for both our dogs which I got last year. In Charlie’s case, it’s definitely paid for itself, and it covered his entire stay. It really gives me peace of mind that I’ll never have to make a decision about their health based on money. 

Long Beach, Washington

Next we cruised up to Long Beach, where we spent three nights at a RV park called Lamp Camp with my parents. Our midweek stay was super quiet and our spot was a quick 5 minute walk to the beach through the dunes.

Kristen Bor and her family standing on the beach on a sunny day in Long Beach Washington

We normally don’t stay at RV Parks, but my parents needed hookups and we had a surprisingly pleasant stay. With the baby we’re also realizing that spending lots of time searching for free dispersed campsites isn’t really an option right now.

We can’t be driving 30 minutes down a bumpy dirt road only to find out that the spot we found on iOverlander is taken or the site isn’t big/flat enough.

Two Sprinter vans parked side by side at the lamp camp campground in Long Beach Washington
Our campsites at the Lamp Camp

That means we’ve been staying in a lot more paid campgrounds than we are normally used to. Despite the added expense, I haven’t really minded to be honest.

After all, this whole experience is about learning to travel with our baby, so the need for epic secluded campsites has really taken a back seat. In fact, I could care less where we camp…as long as the baby is happy, so are we.

Having the extra amenities like potable water hookups and bathrooms has also made our life easier, and it’s been fun to see and meet other camping families along the way.

Another perk of staying in official campgrounds I feel like we can leave our gear out (like our Veer Basecamp tent for the baby) without worrying about it getting stolen.

Olympic Peninsula, Washington

After Long Beach, we took three days to make our way up to Port Angeles. We spent two nights at one of my favorite campgrounds – South Beach Campground, a first come first serve campground in Olympic National Park.

The view from the kitchen inside of a Sprinter Van parked on a cliff above the ocean at South Beach campground in Olympic National Park
The view while washing dishes doesn’t get better than this.

We love South Beach campground so much we stayed for two weeks in 2021. Think beachfront campsites with whales spouting off shore, otters playing in the surf and miles of huge dog friendly beaches. The sites aren’t very private but the vibes are very chill here.

Our trip on the Olympic Peninsula was quite short, but if you’re looking for more tips, make sure to check out our Olympic National Park road trip itinerary.

The goal of all this driving was to finally make it to Port Angeles where we caught the ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria on Vancouver Island. 

Victoria, British Columbia

Victoria is a really vibrant city with stunning views, ornate old buildings and excellent vegan food. Of course there is nightlife too, but seeing our bedtime is 9pm these days, we didn’t partake in that scene.

Our favorite meal was from a spot called Be Love, and the vegan ice cream at Virtuous Pie was to die for….I mean so good that I found someone to donate my excess breastmilk to so we could make room for 4 pints in our van freezer.

Colorful Salad from Be Love in Victoria BC
This salad at Be Love was so flavorful!

Victoria is also very dog-friendly with lots of great parks, like Beacon Hill and Clover Point Park.

The world famous Butchart Gardens is also absolutely worth visiting. I’ve never seen such beautiful flowers. For the best experience, I recommend being there at 9am to beat the crowds and the summer heat. 

Sunken quarry at Butchart Gardens
Butchart Gardens were built in a sunket quarry

Speaking of gardens, the highlights of our time in Victoria was spending time with two friends of mine – Duane and Silvia – that I met back in 2017 at Lake O’Hara. I was traveling solo at the time and ended up spending four days hiking and camping with them in one of the most beautiful places in the Canadian Rockies.

I’ve been wanting to reconnect with them ever since, and they were a big impetus for me wanting to travel to Vancouver Island.

The 7 days we spent camped in front of their house were filled with great conversation, delicious home-cooked meals, and relaxing time spent in their gorgeous backyard garden.

two people sitting at a table in a backyard eating dinner
Homemade ramen – one of the incredible meals they prepared for us during our visit

We wrapped up June at Juan de Fuca Provincial Park where we snagged a campsite at China Beach Campground. The campsites were really nice…ours was huge and very private. 

A sprinter van camping at a campsite surrounded by forest in Juan de Fuca Provincial Park on Vancouver Island
The Provincial Park Campgrounds on Vancouver Island have been impressively nice

Right from our campsite we were able to do a nice easy-ish hike to Second Beach. I say easy-ish because I’m front-carrying a 17 pound baby after 5 months of very little exercise. It feels about 10 times more challenging than hiking pre-pregnancy! 

Kristen Bor hiking up a set of stairs in the forest from a beach in Juan de Fuca Provincial Park on Vancouver Island

One helpful thing I recently discovered was that I can breastfeed him in my Happy Baby carrier. He hasn’t always been too stoked to be in the carrier, but if we can hike with my boob in his mouth, he’s happy as a clam. 

We’re excited to see what the next month has in store for us as we travel around Vancouver Island. 

Final Thoughts about Traveling with the Baby

Overall traveling with the baby has been smoother than I expected. I will say he’s usually a good little sleeper, and I’m not sure I’d be as excited to be out here if that weren’t the case. Even one night of bad sleep has me questioning what I’m doing out here.

 We’re also learning to adjust our expectations of what we can do in a day. 

Our morning routine is running 2-3 hours long between feeding the baby, feeding ourselves, diaper changes, getting the van ready for the day, washing pump parts, and taking care of the dogs. It’s a lot, and sometimes I’m tired before we even get going. 

Our nighttime routine has other challenges. He sleeps in a portable travel crib (the Bugaboo Stardust) that, while compact, still takes up a good chunk of our living space. 

Bugaboo Stardust Travel Crib in a Sprinter Van
The Bugaboo Stardust is one of the most compact and streamlined travel crib I could find

While Ryan puts the baby to bed, I pump breastmilk so we have a little extra for when we want to give him a bottle. This all has to happen with the lights off and without making noise. 

The first few days were pretty frustrating, but we’re finally figuring out ways to make this whole process go smoother. 

With all that said, I know all of the challenges that come with doing van life with an infant will be worth it. He’s already becoming so much more aware of his surroundings, and I love watching his eyes get wide as he looks up at the tall trees around our van or the waves crashing on the shore. Time feels really fleeting with how fast he’s growing, so I’m grateful we get to  make these memories together.

Kristen Bor on the beach  with a stroller and two dogs in Sooke, BC
On a beach hike with the fam in Sooke, BC

My Business Life 

My blogging anniversary

I had my nine year blogging anniversary in June! That sounds so surreal to say it out loud. There were so many times in my early years that I second guessed myself and started questioning whether or not I needed to jump back into my old career path.

Well I stuck it out even in those tough stretches, and in the last year over 2.3 million people visited my website!

I’m so proud of what I’ve accomplished and the fact that my website has helped so many people build confidence in the outdoors or take a leap into van life.

Just you reading this makes you an important part of my journey, so thank you for the support.

The Rise of AI

You’ve probably been hearing all about the rise of AI even if you haven’t tried out the technology yourself. It’s all bloggers are talking about these days, and it poses a lot of risks as well as opportunities to people like me.

Chat-GPT can literally spit out a blog post in the matter of seconds. Of course, that blog post copied and published may be riddled with errors, lacks an authentic and personal point of view, and frankly is the direct result of plagiarism.

Unfortunately, there are bloggers using this technology to write articles about topics they have no knowledge of in order to make money. The danger of this is that you are going to have to be more careful about where you get your information if you want it to be trustworthy.

Google is also starting to roll out a new search results page that incorporates AI in the search results so users are less likely to click through to read actual articles.

All of this affects our bottom line, and many bloggers are already creating an exit strategy because they believe the writing is on the wall.

Well, I love my job and it would take something catastrophic for me to consider a career change. I also see how AI can help streamline the more mundane parts of my business.

However, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t the slightest bit concerned about what this all means for me and my chosen career path.

Kristen Bor working on her blog Bearfoot Theory at a campsite
Today’s office as I write this blog post

I share this because it’s more important than ever to emphasize that the content we share on Bearfoot Theory is written by real people (me, my team, and our highly vetted guest authors).

You can rely on us to share authentic advice based on the things we’ve done, places we’ve been, and what we’ve learned along the way.

Also please know that anytime you click through to one of our articles, engage with me on social media or open my emails, you are helping support my mission to get people outside where they can develop a deeper connection with nature.

Open Roads Fest

You might know that I decided to put off Open Roads Fest this summer due to the baby. Organizing Open Roads requires me to be glued to my computer 24/7 for several months leading up to the event, and that didn’t seem consistent with my desire to be present with my son and ease into my new life as a mom.

However, I’m feeling called to do the event again next summer and have been chatting with the land owner to secure some dates in July. So stay tuned for an announcement about Open Roads Fest 2024!

Hundreds of camper vans in a grassy field at Open Roads Festival in McCall Idaho
Hoping to see some of you at Open Roads Fest next summer!

Well that wraps up everything that’s been going on with me for the last month. If you enjoyed this life update, let me know in the comments that you want me to keep doing them!

Pinterest image for a blog post written by Kristen Bor with text that reads "June 2023 Update. First Month doing van life with a baby"

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  1. A most excellent update – really enjoyed reading about the places you are visiting and baby adaptations. I live in Vancouver – love it that you are enjoying the magnificent Vancouver Island.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing the more personal side. It’s so much fun to hear about the real stuff…and so interesting. Have been following you for years and attended Open Roads Fest once. Had no doubt that you guys would rise to the challenge of traveling with ‘Herbie.’ It’s a whole new world. As I always say….they’re trouble, but they’re worth it!
    From the Mom of 3 boys

    1. Hi Jodie, thank you! It’s been really nice to share a bit more about my life and travels and I appreciate hearing that. 3 boys does sound like a handful, but worth it 🙂 I hope to see you at Open Roads in 2024!

  3. I LOVE personal blog posts on outdoors websites! As a semi-experienced outdoorsy mom, reading about people’s specific experiences has been personally even more helpful (and enjoyable!) than the generic google-friendly posts. I’ve been reading BFT for probably 5-6 years now, and I’m very excited with the direction it’s headed!

    1. Hi Marion, thanks for the feedback! And totally agree – with the rise of AI we want to make sure you’re getting info from real people who are actually doing the things we’re writing about.

  4. Thanks for all the info! We’re planning a road trip to Vancouver Island for next summer so this is super helpful.

    Have you heard of a Snooze Shade cover? We used one with my daughter to black out her Pack & Play inside our van – thought I’d recommend it, super helpful for us!

    1. Hi Alicia, enjoy your trip to Vancouver Island – we loved it! And thanks for the recommendation, I’ll check that out.