The open road, tiny living and non-stop adventures. Sounds like the dream, am I right? That’s the picture social media has painted about living in a van, and although some days are exactly like that, others couldn’t be more different. It makes perfect sense though. People living in their vans aren’t constantly posting pictures of their van breaking down, that week spent in the city or the lows they experience on the road. Like everything else on social media, pictures only paint a portion of what this lifestyle is like. Before I hit the road I was enamored with the idea of travel and exploration. After a couple months on the road I found myself parked outside a Target with my view of the van life completely shattered. Here are the 7 things I wish I knew before moving into a van.
You will get lonely.
If you’re traveling alone like I am, it’s inevitable. Don’t get me wrong, some days you’ll be surrounded by friends, both old and new, but there will be stretches of road where you’ll find yourself alone in a new place where you don’t know anyone. Life on the road can be lonely but the people you meet while traveling will make it worth it.
There’s tons of free camping across the country.
No, seriously. Just do a quick google search of free campsites in your area and you’re bound to find locations you never even knew about. Although some places may lack amenities like a fire ring or bathrooms, sometimes these free spots will be lifesavers when you’re traveling from one location to another.
Showers and bathrooms are not that big of an issue on the road.
The most common question I get is, “what is your bathroom and shower situation?” My answer is pretty straight forward: “Have to go to the bathroom? Find a bathroom.” Think of being on the road as a really long road trip where you stop to go to the bathroom at gas stations, restaurants, malls, stores, etc. Showers are a bit tricky but easier than most people imagine. Need to shower on the go? You can stop at a truck stop and shower on the road, go into town and get a day pass at a gym and sometimes campsites will have showers you can use. Thus far, bathrooms and showers have not been an issue while living on the road.
You don’t spend that much time in your van…well you shouldn’t.
Someone once asked me what I did when I wasn’t in the van, to which I sarcastically answered, “you mean what I do with the other 90% of my day?” Believe it or not, most people don’t spend a ton of time in the van, other than to sleep and cook. I have, on one occasion, spent my entire day in the van and it was only because I got snowed into my campsite and even then I still hiked around in the snow for a bit to avoid losing my mind in my van all day. When I’m not in the van you can find me outdoors climbing, hiking or backpacking and if I’m in town I’m probably exploring the city or finding some cool local place to grab a bite and get some work done.
Most people are actually really awesome.
Growing up, most of us were probably told not to talk to strangers and into our adulthood our interactions with others sometimes get limited to those within our social circle at work, school, etc. Believe it or not, most people aren’t out to get you. In fact when most people find out I’m on the road they are very quick to welcome me into their homes, show me their favorite local place to eat or give me pointers while I’m in town. With that in mind…talk to strangers and you’ll find that people are awesome and you’re time on the road will be that much more enjoyable.
You’ll miss living in a house or apartment.
We’ve all heard the saying, “you don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone.” The first month I was on the road I was incredibly homesick, so I flew home for a week and found that while I was at home I missed my van. Weird, right? Something to keep in mind is that life in a van isn’t perfect. Some days you’ll want nothing more than to be back home, wrapped up in bed, binge watching The Office for the third time, and that’s completely fine. Moving into a van offers a freedom that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world (at least currently) but that isn’t to say I don’t miss home in the Bay Area.
Downsize before you leave.
Now I know it might be tempting to pack all 14 of your favorite t-shirts but let me give you a piece of advice…don’t. Before packing up and hitting the road really think about what you need. Moving into a space as small as a van is the perfect time to downsize your life and get rid of things you don’t need or use. Pack smart, pack light and remember that at the end of the day, they are just things.
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