8 Things I Learned From Living In A Van

a man sitting in a camping chair, working on a laptop, outside of his van

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My husband and I have been living in a van for the past 14 months. When we first started this journey, I had no idea what to expect. I imagined our days would be spent driving around, going on a few hikes and hitting up a coffee shop to get some work done. Yoga, reading, exercise and sightseeing would all be a part of our daily routine.

Boy was I wrong! Not only is there not enough time in the day to do everything you’d expect, but there were quite a few other surprises I hadn’t considered as well. Living in a van has been an amazing experience, and I’ve picked up quite a few lessons along the way.

1. Don’t stress the small stuff

This was a tough lesson to learn, and something that took quite a few months to get the hang of. When you are living in a van, there are a lot of little things that can add up and annoy you over time. Things like mosquitos getting into the van at night, constantly bumping into each other, and trying to cook on a rainy day can be more than frustrating. The sooner I learned not to sweat the small stuff, the more relaxed and exciting my adventure became.

2. Minimalism is more manageable than you think

I never thought that three boxes of clothes would be too many. Almost every vanlifer that I have come across has said that they packed too much stuff in the beginning. And I made the same mistake! Being in such a small space forces you to prioritize what you want vs. what you need. I still love gift shopping in new destinations, but now I go to look rather than buy.

3. There never seems to be enough time

As I said in the beginning, this one caught me off-guard. It turns out whether you are living in a van or a home, you still get the same 24 hours in a day. I wildly underestimated the amount of extra time it would take to cook and clean in a vehicle. Everything needs to be packed up in-between destinations, and even finding a place to sleep at night takes time. I have learned to prioritize my time better at this point, but living in a van did not magically add ten more hobbies to my list.

4. One pot meals

Now that I’ve been cooking on a one-burner stove for over a year, I have become the queen of one-pot recipes! It has been a fun experience to get creative with cooking along the way. One pot meals are easier to clean, require less dishes, and take less fuel to cook.

5. Getting comfortable with the uncomfortable

Just like being sick makes you appreciate health, uncomfortable situations keeps things interesting. How boring would it be if the weather was the same temperature every day? Living in a camper I’ve learned to embrace the cold days because it means drinking a steaming cup of hot chocolate. As for the hot days? That means it’s time for a swim!

6. Planning is still important

Some people can get away with throwing out all plans once they hit the road. Unfortunately for me, planning is still an important aspect of travel. When I first started the van life, my planning process went out the window along with my old job. Over time I learned that a little bit of planning makes the road trip run a lot more smoothly. There’s nothing worse than driving around after the sun has gone down looking for a suitable camping spot. I still try to keep my plans flexible, but showers, laundry days, and overnighters are still planned out for the most part.

7. There’s a reason we don’t use campfires at home

Scroll through Instagram, and you’ll find beautiful images of people sitting out by campfires with a campervan in the background. The reality is, we rarely build fires. Can you guess why? That smoke gets everywhere! Avoiding the fire will leave you feeling cleaner, smelling nicer, and save you the hassle of hunting down wood. I can’t speak for everyone, but you won’t find us sitting out by a fire!

8. Life is about the journey, not the destination.

The first thing I wanted to do when I moved into a van is see all of the things, everywhere. It took just 3 weeks in one state for me to realize this goal is impossible. There is an overabundance of small towns, hiking trails, and hidden gems. You could spend months in one spot and a local will still tell you dozens of things you missed out on in the area. When it comes to living in a van, the number one thing I have learned is to appreciate where you are.