This was our first foray into #vanlife and, in a lot of ways, we kind of blew it. I hate to admit it, but our van was a mess. We thought we had packed light only to find that we were constantly battling our stuff for living space. Wine glasses? Whhhhaaaat? They broke within a week. Yoga blocks and straps? Maybe if you used them regularly before you set out in your van. A salad tosser? Really? Before we set out, we were super enthusiastic about all of the things we were going to do with these things: Cook, read, write, paint. Cultivate our own yoga practice and self-massage with balls. Start fire dancing. The irony of packing up our lives and seemingly trading down to live in a van isn’t lost on us. We just didn’t think about the implications of having too much stuff. We didn’t consider the consequences—heightened difficulties of otherwise simple tasks like washing dishes. So when you’re ready to try out your own #vanlife, don’t make the same mistakes we did. Here’s what we wish we knew before we went.
Start SimpleWhen planning for an epic adventure, it is very easy to get carried away, whether that means planning every detail or packing every little thing. There is definitely something to be said about planning intelligently (and planning for the unplanned), but don’t get ahead of yourself. Start simple. When we set out, we were also driving to every Wanderlust Festival of the 2015 summer season. Our schedule was packed and we only had limited time between each stop. As such, we tried desperately to pack it all in—both with things and experiences. At first, when we arrived at each new destination, we were exhausted. On our route from Colorado to California we tried to see all that we could, hitting multiple hikes a day and logging long hours in the van, catching up on work at night. A few weeks in taught us to slow our roll and enjoy the fresh air. At first we didn’t know what to do with ourselves when we weren’t pushing for the next destination. Setting up camp before dark and reading felt odd; staying in the same place for three days felt luxurious.
If you find yourself on the road heading somewhere, slow down, take your time, breathe the air.We finally figured it out from California to Whistler. We stopped here and there for no other reason than to enjoy ourselves and take it all in. Once we got the hang of it and let go of the must-do’s, real moments and experiences opened up both in our travels and in our relationships with each other and ourselves. If you find yourself on the road heading somewhere, slow down, take your time, breathe the air. You will get there when you get there, and there's much to see along the way.
Pack LightLiving in a small space makes your stuff big and debilitating. Our van turned into a giant black hole the minute we moved in, and organizing and finding anything was a real challenge. Our first few weeks were spent smothered by our entire Brooklyn apartment—at least everything we couldn’t bring ourselves to leave behind. We realized very quickly how much of a burden excess is when living in a van, though this isn’t a lesson exclusive to vagabond living. When we arrived in Colorado with a place to store what we didn’t need, we emptied out the majority of what was in the van and still had WAY TOO MUCH. Here is a list of what we cherished while on the road:
- 2 bowls (vs. plates, you can eat anything out of a bowl)
- 2 mugs (great for coffee and beer)
- 2 forks (you can drink things that need spoons, for the most part)
- 2 pillows 1 blanket and 1 bottom sheet (if your van has a bed)
- 1 sharp knife (really, you only need one)
- 1 fold out table (or picnic blanket but having a table made everything much easier)
- 1 frying pan
- 1 sauce pan (having one of each allows you to cook more faster)
- 1 spatula (we didn’t have this for a long time and really messed up our pans with our forks)
- 1 hammock (best thing for starry nights)
- 2 fold out chairs
- 1 container of wet wipes (you can use them for everything)
- Tea (or coffee, or both! Hot liquid on cold nights and early mornings makes everything feel better)
- Honey (you can put it in everything!)
- Almond butter (Don’t have anything else? A solid fork-full will tide you over for a bit)
Simple cooking and simple living are part of the perks of living on the road.While living in the van, we pretty much wore the same thing every day and only changed when deemed necessary. Many RV parks also have laundry, so only a few clothing items will get you a long way. You are not going to turn into a master chef while living in a van, especially if you aren’t one to start with. Simple cooking and simple living are part of the perks of living on the road. Don’t overcomplicate your experience with superfluous stuff.