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79-year-old woman lives the van life in Ford transit camper

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79-year-old Joan Turcotte motto is this: “If you rest, you rust.” That’s why she’s kicking up her heels instead of kicking the bucket, ready to leave senior housing in New Hampshire for her new Ford Transit camper.

“A couple years ago I moved into a senior citizens complex and I realized I need to be active,” she said. “There aren’t many activities here and the people aren’t active, so I thought: I need to get outside and do things. I need a new car. Then I decided to get a van and glamp it up.”

How she built her Ford Transit camper van

Joan moved into a Ford Transit Camper

Joan bought her Ford Transit at the end of last January and then started fixing it up last spring.

“I did the Ford Transit camper build inexpensively,” she said. “It cost me under $300 to do it. My grandson built the beds. He’s a carpenter and he also put the floor in, it’s peel-and-stick tile. All the other pieces I found at a second-hand shop. It’s very minimal. I also have a battery lantern and LED lights, but no electricity. In the spring I’ll be getting solar and then I can go boon-docking. I’m excited to try.”

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She has a portable toilet that folds up and goes under the bed in her Ford Transit RV, so she doesn’t have to get out of the van at night. “I’m confident I’m not going to lack anything. I’ve joined Sam’s Club…I’ll be fine. I’ll be wonderful!”

In the parking lot at the senior center there’s a bunch of small cars, and then Joan’s Ford conversion van, which she said “sticks out like a sore thumb.” She lovingly named it “Maisy.”

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This Ford Transit camper van has whimsical colors, a bed and dresser
C: Joan Turcotte

How people react to Joan’s plan to travel in a Ford conversion van

At first, Joan’s family wasn’t too thrilled about her plan to travel in her Ford transit camper conversion. She has four children, and one of her son’s said: “Mom, you’re too old.”

But she told him this: “How old would I be if I didn’t do this? My age is old but I don’t feel old. I feel perfectly capable of driving myself around the country. It’s going to be a great adventure! Eventually, I got them on my side.”

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She said people at the senior center often look at her blankly, wondering what she’s getting into with her Ford Transit camper.

“All my senior friends seem to think this is the time to sit and wait, and that is not a good thing,” she said. “My feeling is that I’m in the last third of my life. I’ve lived two-thirds, and when you’re in the last third that’s when you take everything you’ve learned and you do something with it.”

She believes its the attitude that counts.

“I wish more people wouldn’t limit themselves by age because age is just a number,” she said. “There are so many exciting things to do, when you’re my age and you’re alone and you have the means, like a little extra money, you should do it! You have to inspire yourself.”

Where she plans on going in her Ford Transit camper

Joan’s plan is to start off small. She’ll drive down the East coast, stopping at campgrounds, visiting friends. She’ll test out her Ford Transit conversion van and see how she likes it.

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“I’m going to stay in state parks, national parks. I’m excited to try Walmart parking lots with my Ford Transit camper van, that sounds like fun,” she said.

Then, once solar goes in next spring, the sky’s the limit.

“I have all sorts of plans,” she said. “I’ll be heading west and exploring the national parks out there for longer periods of time. I think I could easily live in the van and give up my apartment. I’m sure I could stay with my kids from time to time or even park in their driveway!”

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Joan’s enthusiasm is inspiring, and she said she’s going to have fun and adventure in her Ford Transit camper van as long as possible. It’s not her style to sit and wait, to become part of the scenery.

“I’ll be the judge as to when it’s time to hang up the canopy.”

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58 thoughts on “79-year-old woman lives the van life in Ford transit camper”

  1. LOVE this story. Joan has moxie! Maybe she should rename her van. 🙂 Thanks for bringing us stories about people on “the road/sea less traveled”. It seems to be the most inspiring path….

    Reply
    • You’re welcome! Thanks for reading. I love stories like these. They inspire me and I’m glad they inspire others, too 🙂

      Reply
    • No one addresses the issue of residence. ! I live in an apartment right now but will be car living starting next summer. I receive SSD benefits and I need a legal residence. I live in AZ. Who can help me ! I’m so stressed out ! I would not be leaving the State because of health issues. But at least these slumlords won’t be taking 45%of my benefits any longer.

      Reply
      • Hi Lynda! You can join a mailing service for full-time RVers that gives you a legal residence and sends your mail to you. I am looking into Traveling Mailbox, but a there are tons of mail services out there! You can also use The Escapees, St. Brendan’s Isle and RV Mail to name a few.

        Reply
      • Lynda, loads of sites on the internet talk about the different options. Google it. YouTube has lots of people using the services, and giving their opinions. No need to stress out over this. Really, girl, you got this!

        Reply
  2. I would love to say hi to Joan. I am the same age and there are not a lot of us in our (very) late 70s. I would like to let her know about Bob well’s group and web site, Cheap RV living. Come out to Quartzsite, great people and I would love to meet. Get on facebook and say HI. Way to go!!! Mildred Donovan

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    • I’m inspired to know there are other women in their 70’s who have the courage to start a whoke new way of life. Hope within a year I’ll be out there with you ladies…m

      Reply
  3. Sounds like she’d love Sisters on the Fly, a women’s camping group I belong to. Check it out online!
    Sister #1817
    Age 75 years young

    Reply
      • Hi Betty Dukes!
        I’m also just getting started, I’ve just turned 75 this past Monday. I’m having a difficult time finding my van, was hoping to be on the road the end of last year but the virus messed that up. Now it seems prices are skyhigh and not coming down any time soon. I’m still working on decluttering too. So much stuff. I have 3 dogs that will be coming with me and hope to meet up with other women who have dogs. I wish there was a specific group like that. Anyway, I think I may have written you before but not sure. Please keep in touch if you have the time, would love to have someone to talk to about everything. There’s lots I don’t know how to do, electricity, solar, AC, heat, etc. I’ve got a notebook full of stuff I’m researching.
        Take Care,
        Helen

        Reply
  4. Thanks for sharing. I now have a new hero(ine). This is exactly what I want to do when I “retire”–not too far off now. I hope she has a blog so we can follow her adventures.

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    • Sadly I don’t think she has a blog 🙁 But maybe she’ll consider starting one. And I know she’s on several Facebook groups. I’m inspired by her, too!

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  5. I do admire this woman! I’ve wanted to start a solo journey for so long but never had the moxie. She is inspiring! If she’s ever in Kentucky and needs a place to regroup, have a hot shower and do some laundry, she is welcome to stay at my AirBnB for free!

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  6. I love this woman! I want to be as excited and hopeful about life when I’m her age! Hell, I want to be that excited and hopeful about life NOW! You’re an inspiration, Joan!

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  7. So happy to have found this… I am 63 years young and getting info to do van living in next year or two at latest.. Family and friends telling me I’m crazy and too old…hah… now can show them this as evidence am still a youngster compared to some on road. Thanks again.

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    • That is so cool! Good luck on your adventures! You are never too old to lead a life full of adventure 🙂

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    • Oh my. I am going through the same thing with family. I am in the process of purchasing a 2019 Dodge Grand Caravan, used, but new to me. I am so excited to start a new journey. I am 68 years old. I have no doubt I can do this. Really trying to keep positive and excited so I do not get talked out of it. Bought some things today I will need in my camper van. I will be traveling with my little princess Millie, a 6 year old shiz tzu dog. I really want to get a stop into Quartsite to check it out. I think we are all so awesome to take this new journey I am hoping to get on the road ASAP. But do need the Van to get going. 😄Hope soon. Stay safe everyone and hope I meet up with you.

      Reply
  8. Wonderful story! I’ve read so many, mostly by younger folks. Would love to here more from people near to 50, opting to travel in a converter van.

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    • Totally! I think it’s important to highlight all the age groups who are living this way!

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    • I’m 83 and for the last 25 years have been working in national parks and hosting campgrounds traveli.g mostly the northwest. Now I’m at my daughter’s in Calif and getting bored. I was traveling in a 22 ft class c Lazy Daze motorhome.. gave it up for a class a with a bedroom. But feel the need soon to move. It has kept me 8nteresting and young.

      Reply
  9. I love Joans enthusiasm! What model Ford Transit is she using? And what changes has she made since the article was originally published? Go Joan!

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  10. I love this story!
    Joan is very inspiring and I too have a dream to travel as she does.
    Kristin than you for your blog. I’ll have to figure out how to blog/twitter, so much to learn! The works is our oyster and I won’t stop learneing til I die 😊

    Reply
  11. Love everything abouts what you are doing. I just turned 64 and would love to join up with solo travelers for help and company. I am fananizing about this lifestyle for the freedom and would focus on being a better artist thru travel and living more simply. I still want a home base. I think I would want a Ford for the affordability. I’m not real handy, is there a diy class for conversions?

    Reply
    • Hi Patsi! Thanks for reading. I’m not aware of any diy campervan classes at the moment, but Parked in Paradise is a site with amazing resources. Also, there are several campervan for women groups on Facebook if you’re looking for community! The Escapees RV Club is good for that as well. Good luck on your ventures!

      Reply
      • Hi Patsi,
        Last year in January and again this January I attended the RTR in Quartzsite, Arizona. I had always wanted to travel the country in an RV, but never thought I could afford to buy an rv. After attending the RTR, an annual event, and meeting so many women my age, 65, at the Womens only sessions, who built out their own vans I got inspired and started researching the subject. I have since bought a Dodge promaster high top cargo van and am planning to self build with the help of a handyman. There is a great van guide from Scott Adamson of Comes with a View on his website http://www.wanderful.co It has videos of each step of the build process with instructions and parts list. There are several other great self builds including, Anywhere Adventures on Instagram with lists of what they used, as well as Mr. And Mrs. Adventure, OneadVANture at a time, and Captain Vantastic. If you are interested I will keep you posted on my build which I will be starting next month

        Reply
  12. Reading this has set me thinking, how could I do the same, I’m 76 but feel about 40 so why not start living a different life, I admire this lady.

    Reply
  13. I want to travel with my 6 dogs. I am 79 years young, widowed for 6 years. My husband & I did lots of thing & I miss it terribly. Any ideas now to travel with My dogs will be appreciated! Love your blog. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Hi Dorothy! Saw your post and would sure like to hear of any responses you get! I’ve got 4 dogs, I’m 73. Boarding would be too expensive, don’t have any family or friends who would want to take them in. I want to do some extensive traveling so I figured I’d take them along and just boondock or find spots away from other campers. I’m still looking for a van…..with multiple animals it would need to be a largish size van. So, hope you get some answers!
      Best to you,
      Helen Fisher

      Reply
      • Helen, I don’t have the means now to live my dream of travelling at this point. I’m still dreaming & planning though. I’ll stay in touch via email if that’s ok.
        Dot

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        • Hi Dot, That’s great! Love to hear from you. I’m so sorry I haven’t responded sooner., had a lot of computer issues last month and I’m not at all tech oriented. I’ve been doing a lot of planning…on paper. Have been tossing thoughts around about van or motorhome…..just difficult to decide. I’d really like something I can actually live in, room to move around, etc. I’m really tired of trying to maintain a house and yards, just not worth it to me. With a lot of dogs we’d both have to plan the layout for them really, I mean, in terms of where to contain them while driving, feeding, potty stops, etc. If mine had their way they’d all be sitting in my lap, LOL. It will be a challenge, I’m sure. Don’t know about yours but mine are very opinionated and seem to have attitude problems, ha! And I will have to be careful with my finances, of course……I’ve heard or read different stories about how expensive it is or how cheap it is, so forth….won’t know until we actually get out there, I guess. h

          Reply
        • How are you doing, Dorothy?? Any closer to your dream? please write, I’d love to talk to you.
          Helen Fisher

          Reply
  14. “How old woud you be if you didn’t know how old you was?”
    I heard this about 50 years ago, and have carried it in my heart ever since.
    Keep On Keeping On. KOKO.
    Happy traisl!

    Reply
  15. I’,M 79, started thinking about this and was very inspired by Joan. I HOPE she does start a blog. I’d love to connect. Patricia W. (retired in Florida, a state I’d love to get away from.

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  16. Wonderful, I started camping (not full time) two Summers ago after not doing so for over 20 years due to my husbands stroke. I am 84 years of age love the outdoors and I take my two large dogs with me. It is so refreshing to read the posts from the more EXPERIENCED women I can pick up the great energy. My mode of convenience is trailer which needs towing so that limits me, however I am sniffing out information on vans if I could part with my little 11 foot rig. What an energetic group, I’m hoping to get involved with similar here in B.C.Canada. Stay young. Enjoyed all the ports. Angela.

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  17. Coincidently this is my dream right now. I am 52. My husband is open to the idea but I don’t get the feeling he’s as excited about trying this life style. I want him to be happy but I want to be happy too. What’s a girl to do 🤔

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    • Hi Lora! Maybe you could start taking him on weekend camping trips to get him used to the idea 🙂

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  18. I’m totally with Joan. I’m 77 and finishing out the van build on my Promaster. Then traveling alone too from TX to ME to Newfoundland and across canada to Alaska where my home is. But actually plan to keep the journey going in Alaska and then who knows. Joan’s life philosophy is totally true. One of my favorite quotes: the only death you die is the death you die every day, by not living.

    Reply
  19. Joans My hero. And all the other older women (and guys too) who are re-creating their stationary lives for one on the road.

    Reply

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