Salvaging Our Van Trip

The day an oncoming driver illegally turned left across our traffic lane, was the day we almost lost everything. Being involved in any kind of car crash is traumatizing and stressful. We were lucky no one was hurt in the collision, however, we were incredibly unlucky with the timing of the incident. We had just spent a lot of money and time working on our recently purchased Wander Wagon. She had good bones, but needed a lot of work and our goal was to completely remodel the inside. Project demolition was currently very much in progress, and the inside was basically gutted leaving an empty shell for us to build from scratch.


The insurance company agreed the other driver was completely at fault for the collision. The issue was with the current state of our van. It was gutted remember? The insurance company valued the van at it’s scrap metal worth of about $100 – even though she was still running and the mechanic had determined all damage done was purely cosmetic. Naturally, we were furious.


There was no way we were going to give up our dream and all the work we had put into it, especially when we were not even at fault for the collision. So began a long battle between us and the insurance company (the other driver had the same insurance company, so only one representative from the company was involved on the case – not sure how that’s ethical). For two weeks we searched the internet for a van like ours to prove her value, and we tried to explain we were in the process of remodeling the interior. But, we couldn’t find a van like ours anywhere, and we were informed it did not matter what our plans were for the van, the value is established by the van’s current state.


Corbin, my husband, was constantly on the phone arguing our case and refusing to accept their offer. If we accepted their offer, either way we lost. We either kept the van, now with a salvaged title and paid the mechanic out of our own pocket to fix the damage, or we accepted the $100 our insurance would have gotten for our van’s scrap metal, and lost everything. No way.


The battle was coming to an end, and it appeared we had lost. But, Corbin used his words a bit aggressively, and eventually refused to talk with anyone else except for a supervisor. His request was granted, and what happened next felt like witnessing a miracle. Corbin explained the situation as he had numerous times before. He shared our story and our plans and how much we had worked on this van, and he also explained we had documented everything on video. That last part is important.


As soon as Corbin mentioned our YouTube channel, the supervisor told him to hang on and he would call him back. Within a couple minutes, the supervisor called him back with the offer we were hoping for. Because, we had documented our entire experience searching for and working on our Wander Wagon, our van was more than just a vehicle, it was a brand. Branding our van made it significant to our lifestyle and online business of sharing our story. Realizing this, the insurance company agreed to cover the cost of the van’s repairs and the title to our van would remain intact. We would soon be able to put this whole experience behind us and we would have our Wander Wagon back!


The overall lessons I took away from this experience are ones I’ve continued to learn throughout this vanlife adventure and life in general. I’ve realized even the times when it feels like there is no way out and all is lost, eventually it will all work out and everything happens for a reason. I’ve realized control is an illusion, and life will always put roadblocks in front of you when you least expect it. I’ve realize it’s all part of the journey and you just need to trust in yourself and in life.


We made it through this obstacle, and after holding our breath for two weeks we could finally breathe again. With the Wander Wagon home again, safe and sound, we were ready to get back on track. We had lost valuable time, though, and it wasn’t long until we would be packing up our belongings, saying our goodbyes to Portland, OR, and heading to Idaho.

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