5 things I learned when I crashed our van

The 30th October 2017 started just like any other day on our trip. I woke up first, ate breakfast, tried to remove the excess ice from our windows, and began trying to coax Konstantin out of bed. We eventually got going, leaving the small town of Telegraph Creek and heading along the dirt roads to Dease Lake.

We stopped there, filled up some fuel for the next section and I took the wheel. I drove about 5km, hit some black ice and lost control of the vehicle.

In the space of about 20 seconds our whole trip changed.

Our beloved van was lying on its side in a ditch in the middle of nowhere. Shit.


We weren’t ready to just give up on things, and so ensued an incredibly emotional, difficult, and strange time trying to get the van back on the road.

But, after three months of trying different things, having countless setbacks, and just sitting and waiting, we threw in the towel. By the end of January 2018 we had sold our van and re-planned our trip.

The last few months have been unique, and it’s got me thinking about what such a dramatic set of events has taught me, so here goes (just in case you’re ever, unfortunately, in the same situation):

1) A good cry always helps

Things have been really hard. I feel conscious that even by being able to travel in a van across North America , I’m in an extremely privileged place already, and that feeling down about things is a little bit #firstworldproblems.

But it has been difficult. The crash was one thing, but the ongoing saga became almost relentless (…little did I know when I named our mini blog Van Crash Saga, that it would live so vehemently up to its moniker).

Everytime we allowed ourselves to try and be positive, to try and plan for our next stage – things got even worse than our most pessimistic view of what could happen. And then, finally, after three months, to realise we were no further along than we were than just after we had the crash (just a bit poorer), well, that was pretty sucky.

Crying helped. Bawling my eyes out. Making my face red and puffy. Embracing the sadness. Everytime I turned on the waterworks I felt better. It was like a release valve – and once I’d drained out the tears I’d cleared my head and could focus on the positives.

Screen Shot 2018-02-03 at 17_Fotor

2) People are amazing

The news wants us to think people are inherently bad – but this is just not the case. Since having our crash we have been hosted and helped by incredible people (the delightful Ruona, Kathy with a K, Cathy with a C, and the brilliant Alex and Kristi), we’ve had people come up to us in gyms and offer us dinner, people buy us a round of drinks in bars, and a number a mechanics go out of their way to help (Wayne, Hans, the teams at Kal Tire and Jiffy Lube).

We honestly would have struggled to cope without these little acts of kindness and support.

3) Good experiences will come from bad

If you’d told me before we started this trip that we’d end up spending 10 days in Hawaii I would have done a full on round of scoffing. Why the hell would we go to Hawaii??! The plan was to travel along the West Coast…not take a 500 mile detour across the Pacific.

Visiting Maui's volcanoes

Visiting Maui’s volcanoes

But it was awesome.

In fact, even though we spent over three months waiting for the van to be fixed, we tried to use those months to their fullest. Including cycling around Vancouver Island; storm watching along the Oregon Coast; catching up with family and friends in California; hiking in beautiful, unseasonal weather in Yosemite; and trying (unsuccessfully) to win millions in Reno.

And hiking the amazing Yosemite!

Hiking the amazing Yosemite!

We don’t know what different path we might have been on if we hadn’t had that crash that day (…and I try not to dwell on that – hell, if it hadn’t been then it might have been later, with worse consequences), but we ended up having amazing experiences that we may never have had.

4) Taking time to reflect on where you’ve been is important…

…Even if that’s been forced upon you!

Right after the crash we were cooped up in a motel room in Houston, British Columbia, and I needed something to take my mind off things. So I started to edit our videos – the hours and hours of footage we’d been taking since the start of the trip and so far had done absolutely nothing about.

It was really cathartic. Looking through all the awesome experiences we’d had within only three months of driving the van really helped to put perspective on things. It also allowed us to reflect on what we were enjoying on the trip and what we wanted to do more of. Taking time to reflect is such a simple thing, but something I hadn’t considered before.


5) The trip is more than the van

Konstantin and I first started talking about this trip over 5 years ago (pretty much on our second date!!). We wanted do it in a vehicle. We weren’t always set on a fire truck, but we knew we were more set on four wheels than two.

It’s quite difficult to go from spending 5 years mentally planning a trip in a van, to suddenly not having it anymore. But, our three months without it helped me see that the trip is the adventure, whether you’re doing it in a fire truck or not. And, a broken van is sad, but it’s less sad than a broken Janneke and Konstantin.  

And so, we have gone back to the drawing board, trying to work out what is best. And, well, in a quite nice twist of fate, we’ve gone full circle. Konstantin and I met six and half years ago on a cycling tour – and now we will be continuing our honeymoon on bicycles!

It kinda feels right. 


5 thoughts on “5 things I learned when I crashed our van

  1. Spike

    A beautifully written blog. Thank you for sharing. Feeling a lot for you both, and wishing you both the most amazing adventure in the future. I hope it goes wheelie well! x x

  2. Ruth Dobben

    Bless you guys, we are so excited about seeing you in a couple of weeks. Hope you have a trouble free ride in Mexico. Love you so much and are so proud of you both. Mother xxxx

  3. Judi

    You’ve had such a roller coaster time of it but you’re young and fit and you’ll have a great time on the bikes. You can always put them on a bus for a break!! Enjoy the rest of your adventure and have fun with R & N. Very proud Auntie!! xxx

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