I think you darlings will enjoy todays words. Why? Because you apparently love hearing about my misadventures, unfortunate events, and the times when I am most transparent with you. SO, lets talk about why living in a van isn’t always happy days, sunsets and rainbows (because instagram has already glamorized that part for you). It’s true that the pro’s often out weigh the con’s, but that doesn’t mean that the con’s don’t exist or that they aren’t hard to deal with.
The Challenges Of Vanlife
1. SEPARATION FROM SOCIETY!
Adapting to this lifestyle change requires you to separate yourself from a society that you’ve grown so comfortable being apart of. This can be difficult. You don’t have the constant support system that you once had with your family, friends and community. The people you naturally depended on for emotional, spiritual, or physical support. You may not even realize how dependant you are until you remove yourself. Living in a rolling home forces you to be totally reliant on yourself since you’re constantly changing your surroundings. New places. Different people. Unfamiliar communities. As wonderful as it can be, being out in the world can be a very overwhelming reality. I basically had to leave everything I’ve ever known behind to build this new life of my own. This transformation was hard, and still tests my emotional strengths to this day
2. YOU’RE GOING TO BREAK DOWN!
Old vehicles are going to have problems, heck, even a brand new van will still have it’s issues from time to time. Thats about the only thing you can count on while living this life style. Breaking down can happen suddenly and with no warning. Maybe it’s dumping down rain/snow/hail, in the middle of the night, in a very inconvenient place (exactly what happened to me my first time). Which is all an easy recipe for a stress overload, especially when you don’t have a damn clue how to fix anything(me). Having van troubles will just be apart of your life. Will the van co-operate today? We’ll find out!
3. LACK OF AMENITIES!
I am living with out a toilet or shower. Even though this has become very normal for me, it was a hurtle I had to overcome in the beginning. These two luxuries used to be things I never had to think of being without. Could you imagine living in a home with out a bathroom in it? Strange isn’t it.
Running water is something that I don’t have an endless supply of. I have to be aware of how much I have, and fill up when and where I can. Which can be difficult to do in the winter time. This means I have to be super cautious when cooking and washing, running out of water unexpectedly is frustrating.
Although I have a working water pump, furnace and lighting, I do not have electricity unless I am hooked up to a power source. That’s right! For almost 9 months now, I’ve been living in a home with no power, imagine that? No appliances! No hair straighteners or curlers! No tv! And no charging my devices! Meaning when something dies (like my computer) it’s dead until I find somewhere to charge it back up. This is super annoying, especially in the dreary winter months when my computer becomes my entertainment in the evenings.
WIFI! HOW DO I SURVIVE WITH OUT THE INTERNET?! Not having frequent wifi makes it difficult to work online or just chill out and watch movies. This also makes my daily dose of social media scrolling limited. I’m constantly going over my data.
4. LIMITED SPACE!
It goes without saying (but I’m going to say it anyway for the sake of this post) LIVING IN A VAN MEANS LIVING SMALL. I have had to down size my life into this tiny space. Before this lifestyle change I was definitely a collector. I loved buying little nic-nac trinkets and home decor. I was always growing my wardrobe with all the seasons latest fashion trends. (so reducing my wardrobe was NOT an easy thing for me). Even though I still have an obsession with buying cute van decor, and my pillow collection continues to grow.. I believe I have adapted to this minimalistic life pretty well. But it takes time learning what you need and more importantly what you don’t need.
Living in a small space means things get messy.. and fast. I’ll share a little secret with you (unless you already know me, then this is nothing knew to you) I’m considered a messy person. I always have been, and I think part of me always will be. Living in the van has helped that a lot but I’d be lying if I said the inside of Nancy Jean was always clean with everything in it’s rightful place. To keep a tiny space in order it involves tidying at least 3 times a day. Any little mess looks like a big mess in a van.
Most people would think that a person living in their van is just a dirty, smelly hippie, and those people are 80% correct! I say (this very non-statistical) 80% because we are perfectly clean some of the time..for a short amount of time. Considering most of us don’t have showers or access to constant running water, like myself, we don’t shower as often. During the summer it’s hot and sweaty and my shoeless feet get covered in dirt. And even though I’d love to say I don’t get stinky.. I totally do. Baby-Wipe and bird baths can only do so much. Living in a van encourages me to be outside as much as possible so it’s inevitable that mother nature is going to make her way inside. Which means sweeping, wiping down the floors and shaking out my bed sheets is a daily routine.
Now that you’ve read through all five of those there is something that is so much more important for you to understand. With every single reasoning that I just gave, there are heeps more reasons as to why that con actually becomes a pro. Let me explain.
- Separating yourself from your society is one of the best damn ways to figure out who you are as an individual. If you never leave the comfort of the people you’ve grown up or surrounded yourself with, then how will you ever know what you’re truly capable of? You won’t. Let yourself fail. Fail and do it alone. It’s scary, yes. But what follows great failure is great improvement, self improvement.
- Breaking down in the middle of nowhere and/or having no idea how to fix the problem is a situation that can put anyone into panic mode. But each time I’ve had van troubles, I am physically learning new skills that I didn’t have before that misadventure. I still might not know much about engines but I do know more then I did 9 months ago. Also, It just makes for an adventure every time something goes wrong!
- Lacking humans most common amenities has made my life far more exciting. Where will I poop today? Who knows! It’s always an experience figuring out where I will find a toilet, shower, water or wifi. And as weird as it sounds, I’ve actually met some pretty epic people while hunting these things down. That’s the beauty of having to step outside of your home to get shit done!
Lacking these things has also made me less wasteful. I used to have showers that were far too long or I’d leave the tap running when I didn’t need to. Same goes for electricity. I used to keep lights on all the time but now that I’m running on battery, I’m far more aware of the amount of power I’m using.
- Living in a small space and owning less has opened up my life and mind to more important things. I have what a need (ok, and maybe a few things I don’t really need) and I’m happier this way. Less clutter, less stress!
Living in a small space as a messy person has oddly tuned me into a not-so-messy-messy person. In fact I actually quite enjoy the cleaning process of living in my van. It only takes 10-20 minutes. YA, imagine cleaning your whole home within 20 minutes!? Crazy! This is mainly because all of the things that I do own, have their rightful places only an arms reach away from each other. No running around a house for hours like a mad women!
- Yes, cleanliness is just something you have to get over while being on the road. I bath when I need to, I keep myself some-what clean, and I don’t usually smell bad. I know you’re probably thinking “that’s still gross, Clarissa”..but guess what? I’m one of many dirty-stinky-hippies and you best believe we’re damn proud and happy about it!!
I’m sure you were hoping to read some juicy secrets as to why “vanlife sucks” but I just can’t bring myself to say that. Theres a reason why so many humans are converting their lives into vans and hitting the road! It’s not always pretty.. sometimes it’s very ugly. But it’s all about your perception, finding the good in the bad. This life style definitely isn’t for everyone, but it sure is for me.
If you think you can handle being a full time van dweller after reading this, then you more than likely can. In fact I believe you’d be an epic part of this community, an asset to the team! So what’s stopping you? It’s a huge transition but a lovely one! And to all the other van dwellers reading this, comment below any other down sides to vanlife that you’ve experienced, share your insight!