Emily Inson says she’s always wanted to get a camper van and travel North America, but it wasn’t until after roughly a year of isolation in London, Ont., that she decided to fulfill her dream.
Now, she’s waking up next to the ocean in Chéticamp, Nova Scotia.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has brought unimaginable suffering and loss that should not be forgotten, the tumult and uncertainty can also prompt a re-examination of individual priorities, or even lay bare excuses previously used to avoid taking action.
For Inson, “an extreme extrovert,” she says the forced isolation allowed her the time to love herself enough to want to be with herself.
“I have my own business. I work for myself. I have a very high-risk mother. So I really wasn’t seeing anybody,” she told Global News.
In a testament to her longstanding dream, she says her social media handles are ‘The Almost Van Life‘ because “I made these pages before I even had a van.”
“This is something I’ve always wanted to do, but I thought I needed a partner to do it. Because of all that self-discovery I did in quarantine, I had the confidence literally on Jan. 6 to buy this and fulfill my dream,” she explains.
“I’m living my life for myself and I’m not waiting for anybody else anymore.”
Inson flew to Alberta in January to pick up the retrofitted 1977 Ford Econoline van with a rebuilt engine, and drove it back London’s Old North neighbourhood to pack up her stuff and find someone to sublet her place before eventually continuing east.
After arriving on Cape Breton Island, N.S., on April 10, she spent two weeks quarantining at an AirBnB, before moving back into the camper.
“I’m on the ocean living in my van. So not down by the river, but down by the ocean,” she joked.
Inson is joined by her miniature wiener dog and “best little co-pilot,” Marty.
“His favourite part is that he’s just so close to me because we’re in such a close quarters. He loves it,” she says.
“He actually was not a dog that enjoyed car rides so I was a little nervous, but he has really taken a liking to the front seat.”
Running her own social media management business allows Inson the freedom to be able to work from just about anywhere, but her social media skills have also helped her outside of work, allowing her to meet new people virtually and to feel welcomed in the community.
“I’ve had lots of people, once the lockdown is lifted, offer me (to come) over for dinner or to park and plug in on their property,” she says.
“I love that I can take away some fear from some people that see an out-of-province licence plate. They know that I did my isolation. I documented the entire thing on TikTok. I made videos every day. So it’s been great that I can show them that just because of social media.”
She’s even been recognized from her TikTok videos, she says, and has had people drop off meals and care packages.
Inson says she works daily and hotspots her data — a worthwhile cost “to be able to wake up next to the ocean and travel.”
While she didn’t know anyone in Cape Breton when she first arrived, she always wanted to see the Atlantic ocean.
“I say that I’ve never been more east than Barrie, Ont., because Barrie is east of Exeter and that’s where I grew up. I’ve never been east of Barrie. I’ve been all the way west — I’ve lived in B.C., I’ve lived in Alberta,” Inson says.
“I needed to come see the east. I’ve heard so much about it and I can’t think of a better way to see the east than in my van.”
Initially, her goal was to live in the van for at least a year, but so far she’s loving her living arrangements. Inson says she’s always been a fan of “tiny living” and loves small, efficient spaces.
Due to the shutdown in Nova Scotia, which was announced shortly after her quarantine ended, she hasn’t been able to see much of the province so far, but she’s looking forward to exploring once restrictions are lifted.
She says she’d also like to head back west to see the Oregon Coast and potentially spend the winter in California.
“Now that I’m in it, I honestly think I could do this forever.”
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