What We've Learned From Our First Month Living In A Van
I'm gonna be real with you.
Van life is harder than you think. Well actually maybe not..Who am I kidding! I mean we don't have a shower, toilet, and we are living in 66sq ft of living space. Who really actually believes this lifestyle isn't hard?
Instagram does a dandy job of glamorizing selling everything you own and quitting your current life opting for one full of adventures and waking up every morning with pristine views of the ocean. Many people live vicariously through the ones that decided to go this route. I remember when I was sitting in my 700sq ft apartment in downtown Portland dreaming of this day.
I dreamt of it for the entire year, I kept telling myself.. "once I live in a van, i'll be so much more creative/have more time to make stuff/have more adventures." I was excited to get rid of everything holding me back, to get rid of all this stuff I didn't need, and to have the freedom to go where I please, when I please. I was ready for a big dramatic change in my life. I was tired of doing the same thing every day. I was tired of not going on the adventures I would tell myself I was going to do...Which brings me to my first lesson...
The grass isn't greener.
The reality of it is..just because you live in a van doesn't mean you will be more outdoorsy, adventurous, creative, happy, have more time. The reality is, you won't have any of those things unless you really sit there and decide to take action and do something about those issues. This won't happen on its own, its gotta happen with the decisions you make every single day.
My problem of believing the grass was greener on the other side came to reality when I found myself in the van. Still, the same old me I've always been. Still not creating as much as I wanted to, still sitting on my phone for too many hours of the day, still not having time to do all of those things I wanted to do. Like watercolor painting, drawing, yoga outdoors and reading more books.
So, I came to the realization that I have to make a conscious effort to keep creating, to make stuff, to get off my phone, and to make sure I make time to do those things I tell myself I wanted to do.
Any issues in your relationship have to be dealt with immediately.
It's been hard, especially in a relationship. You have to be right next to the same person every day and you have to handle things in your life so much differently. You can't just say - "you are irritating me, so I am going to my friends house" and you can't just ignore the problem that is going on because the space is small, and the air gets tense. You have to sit there, in silence, with no where to go, and you have to face it. If there are any problems, they have to be talked about.
Adjusting to the small square footage definitely is a true test, I don't recommend doing this with someone that you haven't known for years and years. Cody and I have been together close to 6 years, so we really know each other like the back of our hand. We quickly realized that every issue you have surfaces immediately, and its been really good because it forces us to talk about really uncomfortable things and to sort through everything together. Thus positively bringing us closer together and learning to resolve issues differently.
Opening your back doors to a pristine view makes everything worth it.
After spending a few nights in Walmart parking lots on our way to our next destination..we were feeling pretty over it. It's not always the best situation, but you gotta do what you gotta do. Anyway, the next day we were in Big Sur and got to park our van on a cliffside looking over the ocean. Right in that moment we realized that THIS is what makes van life worth every second, every Walmart parking lot, every difficult task that used to be so simple..worth it. Those glamorous Instagram photos you see.. those moments are 100% worth all of the hard times.
Meeting friends on the internet is cool and you probably wont get murdered.
We were stalking some other van lifers on Instagram (@webetraveling) that were building at the same time as us. We would randomly chat on instagram here and there. Eventually our paths crossed and we finally met up. It was pretty crazy that we became INSTANT friends. There were people at the campsite we were staying at coming up to us asking about our vans and they were shocked that we had just met and were acting like we'd known each other for years. We made tacos, drank whiskey and port, played bananagrams, and made vlog videos together. We just wanna say..if you like someone on instagram don't be too shy to say hi. You never know what that could turn into! Were pretty excited to have met these two and are planning to meet up with them again for more adventures. Check our their Vlog and Instagram!
It's not that hard to find a shower or a bathroom.
Everyone constantly asks us "but where do you shower or go to the bathroom in the middle of the night?" First of all, you don't need to shower every single day and smell like flowers. Actually we advise you not to shower every single day and save some water. Showers can be found at friends houses, campsites, hot springs, lakes, rivers..etc. Plus, dry shampoo and baby wipes are great for when you want to not actually look homeless.
As for bathrooms, we haven't had a single issue with it. We currently don't have a port-potty but we also don't wanna clean up our own poo. So public restrooms and the great outdoors is where we go.
Your friends and family wont get it and they'll probably think you are crazy.
When you stay at a friends house or family member, they really think you are crazy when you tell them you are going to sleep out in the van. They don't understand that its our bed. We would rather sleep in our own bed than a couch or an air mattress. It's ok though, they won't understand and that is fine. This lifestyle is definitely interesting and unique. They also will ask you tons of questions, mostly just about where you'll go to the bathroom.
Double check everything you've built and see if it stays put while you are driving.
So, the last thing we built was our closet drawers. We were rushing to finish the van because we were so excited to leave that we installed our drawers, packed up and left. Only to find out while driving that the drawer slides we bought couldn't handle the weight from our clothes. So all of the wheels broke off the tracks making our drawers fly out at full force when we were turning a corner. Making them nearly impossible to open. (they do open but with a little finesse) It's something we need to fix which we hopefully will do this coming week.
Doing laundry sucks even more.
We have like 4 bags of laundry shoved in our benches. We have yet to go to a laundromat, but one thing that sucks is you gotta carry around your dirty clothes everywhere. Then you run out of socks, then you run out of towels. It's not a huge deal, but if you already hate doing laundry then you'll really hate it living in a van! Haha.
Doing the dishes is a task.
So, we have a 15 gallon tank of water strapped to the underneath part of our van. The first thing we learned is that if you aren't already water conscious and know how much you are using..then you will blow through 2 gallons of water just to wash dinner dishes. After realizing we definitely can't wash dishes like we used to we've had to strategize. So heres the most efficient way. If you boiled anything in water save the water for washing the dishes. First soap up and scrub them, then use a little bit of water in a bowl and swish it around..then dump that water onto the other dishes that need to be rinsed. Then you have to hand dry everything and put it all away. otherwise you'll get a bit stressed. Living in a small space requires you to always put everything away to reduce stress,
You start caring more about your consumption and the impact it has on the environment.
After we sold everything we owned, downsized, and moved in the van. You start realizing how much you never really needed that stuff anyway. How much you don't need to take 40 minute showers every day. How much you are consuming and throwing away. Because we live in such a small space, we noticed that we cannot buy things the way we used to. We have to really think about if its something necessary and if it'll fit in the van. Even food. All of that excessive packaging. Where will it all fit? Buying food in bulk is the way to go.
We realized that we chose to do van life not only because of being able to travel all over the world, but to make us more actively aware of our over consumption and how it negatively is impacting our world as we know it. We want to show the world that you can live a happy fulfilled life by using less. We can make conscious choices every day that better the world. Even if you don't live in a van, you can make a difference by taking shorter showers, using less water brushing your teeth, washing your face, doing the dishes, recycling, and being more aware of the type of things you buy and throw away. We believe the only way to make a difference is to realize that it only takes one person to make progress.
All of your stuff is always with you.
No more forgetting things when you go on trips, because everything we own is literally right there. Need a flashlight? Or band aids? Cough meds? A beer? No problem. We've got it all.
Working from the van is amazing.
Just look at this workspace view.
How could you not feel inspired here? Its definitely a challenge to find WIFI, but we plan our days around getting work on the internet done in the morning, and then the rest of the day we won't rely on it as much. We tell our clients to give us a call if they are needing anything urgent. Coffee shops are also really fun to explore. There are so many unique places!
Plus our table makes it nice for us both having enough space to work on our laptops and when the other person wants to keep working the bench is large enough for a quick nap. :)
Waking up somewhere new every morning is really exciting.
Even when we are staying somewhere not so ideal, its so fun to be able to wake up and be in a new place. There are so many new things to see and do. The inspiration for ideas never goes away. Change in environment is always a wonderful thing for motivation, inspiration and tackling overwhelm.
The plan to not have a plan is the best part.
One day, Cody and I woke up. We didn't have anywhere in particular to be, so we looked at each other and said..well what do you wanna do today? We found a nearby beach, grabbed our camping chairs and a bottle of champagne and just sat on top of a hill watching the waves go by. It's one of the best feelings to just find a new place, decide to check it out without knowing what it even is..and then experiencing the environment and everything going on around you. I love it. Cody loves it.
We're SO happy with our decision, and while there have been a lot of hard times and new things to adjust to, we don't think were going back to normal life anytime soon.
Have any questions about van life? Or how we managed to make it happen? Send us a message or leave a comment below and we are more than happy to answer any questions you may have!