The Kiwi who sold everything to live out of a van in Canada
Newly single and living from paycheck to paycheck, Yvette Morrissey decided the time was right to realise a long-held dream.
The 27-year-old from Christchurch had always wanted to sell everything she owned and travel the world and felt it could be her last opportunity.
"I had just broken up with my boyfriend, all my friends were moving forward with their lives, either getting engaged or married or buying houses and I felt my life was at a standstill," she says.
So she sold her fledgling business - an online equine magazine - and everything else she owned, flew to Canada and set about looking for a van she could call home for the next few months.
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Determined to travel but with just $3000 in savings, Yvette was convinced van life was her best option.
"I could have spent my savings on moving into a new house and never seeing that money again. Or I could buy a van, live in it for the summer and then resell it to make my money back."
Popularised by free-spirited hippies in the 60s, van-dwelling - living out of a van, campervan or car - is experiencing something of a renaissance among millenials keen to travel on a budget. A quick search for "#vanlife" on Instagram returns 1.77 million results: shots of happy campers in settings sure to inspire envy in their followers.
Yvette estimates she'll save about $10,000 over the course of the Canadian summer by choosing to live in a van over a house. Another major benefit: being able to hit the road at a moment's notice and not have to worry about accommodation.
She found her new portable home in Kelowna: a refurbished Ford E150 complete with propane stove, cooking and camping gear and a fishing rod. All she needed to buy were fairy lights so she could see at night and a warm blanket.
She drove the van to the place she currently calls home: the resort town of Banff set within Canada's first national park. Part of Unesco's Canadian Rocky Mountain World Heritage site, Banff National Park is a wonderland of snowcapped mountains, glaciers and clear and clear turquoise lakes that make perfect swimming holes in summer. And bears.
Yvette says she initially suffered from a bear phobia and had frequent nightmares that they were trying to claw their way into her van to eat her.
Indeed she admits her first month of van life was "horrible", saying she hadn't expected to feel as lonely as she did.
"I'm an introvert by nature, so it was interesting to learn how much I needed human interaction."
But once she'd landed a job as a reservations agent and begun to make friends, Yvette says she was able to see how much freedom, independence - and therefore happiness - her new life afforded her.
Most weekends, she and her mates cram into the van and drive to Kootenay or Yoho national parks - or just another part of Banff - and set up camp in a spot "that only the locals know about".
"There are so many places I've discovered that are off-the-beaten-track and I can just open my back doors, lie on my bed and stare out at the stars."
While Yvette says she still gets lonely, she believes van life is teaching her far more than a conventional life in New Zealand ever could.
"Sometimes I do wish I had a partner to do this with... but I think this is character building for me and I've had to learn to get myself out of some sticky situations and function by myself 100 per cent. I hope that when I do meet a man he will be open to living in a van!"
The alone time has also given her the chance to do some serious soul-searching and get rid of a lot of "internal and external junk".
"I've learned it's better to spend your money on food and petrol to get out and see things than clothes and other miscellaneous objects. I've also become a lot braver and mentally tough."
She says the other travellers she has met share her ethos of leading a simple life that lets them focus on what they enjoy most.
"I feel as thought travellers have an unspoken language - we all understand what is important in life - people and having good experiences. We all want to fill our lives with meaning. I truly believe travel is the way to cure racism, prejudice, depression and stress."
Yvette plans to live in the van until September or October, when the temperature will drop dramatically and make van life virtually impossible. She'll move into a house for the winter and, come spring, buy another van to tour the UK. She thinks she'll return to New Zealand eventually and won't let the unpopularity of freedom campers put her off continuing van life here.
"I will probably live in a van for the summer and travel around. There's still so much of NZ I haven't seen...So I'm pretty excited for that."
You can read more about Yvette and her travels on her blog Wayfaring Kiwi.