Jon’s Van

On The Road with Jon Douglas

Jonathan Douglas has been living on the road for a while now, skating and filming to his heart’s content. We rang him up to ask a few questions about his migrant lifestyle. Check out some of his work for Loaded, both in front of the camera and behind it.

Justus: Where are you right now?

Jon: (Laughs) Right now I’m sitting by a dumpster outside of McDonalds using their WiFi, living it up!

Justus: Life on the road, eh? That’s awesome.

Justus: Why don’t you introduce yourself a little bit?

Jon: My name’s Jonathan Douglas, I’m 18 years old, just out of high school. I’ve been skating for a year and a half, almost two years now and it’s basically taken over my life. I had plans to go do the whole university route but skating took over and that’s basically my only option! I love it so much, it’s my addiction.

Justus: I think that’s a pretty common story! What was it that inspired you to go on the trip, beyond your love of skating?

Jon: It was pretty much the options that I had: Go to school and get a job, or do something cool with the little bit of savings that you have. I basically just thought of the coolest thing I could think of, being on the road for long periods of time in a really cool spot, escaping the Calgary winter. This was pretty much the best thing I came up with.

Justus: So how’d you get started? You said you had an RV that broke down?

Jon: Yeah, my first vehicle of choice was a 20-plus year old Toyota motorhome with a four cylinder engine and it was an absolute dog, I had nothing but problems with it. I bought it in Arizona and drove it back [to Calgary] and it seemed fine. But I got it checked out and one of the cylinders was not working at all, so we had to get a brand new engine. Then I went on the trip and the flywheel went, which cost me over $1000. I just lost a lot of trust in it and didn’t want to be down in LA with something you could break into with an axe!

Justus: So you bought the RV in Arizona and drove back to Calgary. Explain your route after that.

Jon: Well, that was a while before my adventure. Once I got back to Calgary I still had to finish school. So once I finished school, I had planned it to go through BC to Vancouver stopping at all the cool spots along the way. And then from Vancouver down the coast all the way down to LA. And there were a few other spots I had in mind, especially Eugene, OR, I have a bunch of friends there. Up near Portland and Seattle and all that sort of thing. But I only got as far as Eugene when I decided to redo the vehicle situation.

Justus: So you actually drove back from Eugene all the way to Calgary?

Jon: In one night.

Justus: In one night?!

Jon: In one day. It was 21 hours of absolutely solid driving, only stopping for gas and I stopped to watch one episode of a show. No caffeine, and no music.

Justus: Last fall I hitchhiked from Portland to Calgary and it took me a week to do that distance! So you got back to Calgary, then what did you do?

Jon: I started looking around for vans and my dad had basically already found one. It was an ex-City of Calgary vehicle, it was a mobile office for the waterworks and it had lights and stuff on it. So they’d park it in front of a manhole that wasn’t working and redirect traffic around it, and it’s got a big wraparound desk and a nice chair in there.

Justus: So you rigged that up and set out on the road again?

Jon: Yeah, New Year’s Day is when I set out again. It took about a month to get everything right this time. Put in a solar panel, ripped out all the cupboards and put them back in the way I wanted them, in a way that works for what I’m doing.

Justus: And what is it that you’re doing?

Jon: It’s a big skate trip, so I have it so that it fits all my skating stuff: A board rack, wheel racks, places for hardware, a big drawer that locks to put all of my camera equipment in. And then I have a whole drawer dedicated to first aid stuff.

Justus: So you’re well prepared for the life of a skate bum on the road.

Jon: I think I am well prepared. There’s been a lot of trial and error to get here but so far it seems like it’s working out pretty well.

Justus: So did you follow the same route back again or did you go straight to Eugene from Calgary?

Jon: Actually, I took a very different route this time. My mom wanted to go on a trip with me, so we went straight down to Yuma, Arizona, which was really nice because then I had companionship. And we got to share the driving and the gas money, which was really, really nice. Then we did Vegas and we did Sea World and then she left. As soon as she left, I typed Tuna Canyon Road into my GPS and went straight there.

Justus: So what are your parents like? What do they think of you putting university on hold and setting off on this adventure to live the vagabond lifestyle?

Jon: They’re absolutely 100% in support of it, which is really, really, really cool. I basically explained to them that if I did university, I could do it, but I would give maybe a quarter of my effort. I would hate every second of it and it just wouldn’t work out if I did it at this point of my life. I needed to get out and live, and experience all sorts of cool stuff before I could settle down and take the normal route. So they’re really cool with it. They’ve helped me fix the van, my dad probably put in more work than I did getting everything fixed up! And they’re stoked that I’m out here.

Justus: So how long have you been on the road in total now, including the first trip in the RV?

Jon: I’d say it must be getting close to about two months in total.

Justus: And how much longer do you have planned? Is this an indefinite trip?

Jon: The plan is three and half more months on this specific trip so that I’ll be back in Calgary in the middle of April. But then after that I’m probably going to take off for a couple more months and do all of the races in BC. Stick around there for the summer and then hopefully come back down to California for the winter.

Justus: So what have you been doing besides skating and driving around on your trip?

Jon: I really like filming, so I’ve been doing a lot of that. I’ve been taking a lot of pictures and that sort of thing. And just trying to find the cool spots everywhere I go and experiencing what those places have to offer. Traveling is the best thing ever and seeing places that you’ve never seen before is the coolest thing that you can do.

Justus: So what kind of advice do you have for other people who might be looking to do something similar?

Jon: My advice is don’t wait, do it while you’re still young. Don’t buy a motorhome! It’s a bad idea. Things like a shower and an oven are appealing but you absolutely do not need them. When I had them, I never used them once, and I don’t miss them now. Get a vehicle that works on the road because you’re going to spend a lot of time driving. It’s really easy to live cheap, you can live off 3 dollars of food a day if you need to. I have more advice, I just can’t think of it right now. I’m sitting in a parking lot and there are ambulances and stuff. Actually, McDonalds always has free wifi, so that’s a good tip too. Just get out there and do it, it’s a blast.