Vandwelling puts things into perspective
Over the years, I accumulated so much crap. I felt certain things held a sentimental value and so I held onto them. This was by far one of the largest hurdles (at least for myself) when moving into the van. Some of my stuff was really hard to let go of - at first. After dropping some of my more sentimental items, I realized I wouldn’t really miss them, nor have a need for them. This is going to sound super-cheese, but everything important to me was either in my head, or could fit into a backpack.
Sell your stuff to fund your adventures, or give it away and feel good
In the weeks before moving into our van Zeus, I let go of things I’d been hanging on to for years and even decades. It felt great. We managed to make a pretty sweet pile of cash and made some people happy by handing out the remnants of our frivolous material stash.
Part of the charm of living in a van is the freedom to hit the road whenever you want.
The first couple weeks in the van were anxiety-ridden and stressful. It’s a huge move, mentally and physically, to give up your own room or a large shared living quarters for 236 cubic feet of inefficient 70’s camper-van living. In the first weeks, we learned the true value of space. We ended up dropping even more of our stuff, realizing we were still hanging on to things we had no use for. We simplified and minimized everything we could.
We were so into minimalism, that we started upgrading the things we did have to keep. Smaller, lighter, more efficient kitchen utensils, plates, bedding, towels, shoes, and clothing; a single jacket to rule them all, a high quality breathable sweater, several pairs of high-quality light hiking socks, etc.
Down with consumerism!
As a precursor to moving out of our static residence, we gathered all of our bills and monthly commitments, sorting through and tying up any and all loose ends. In doing so, we quickly realized how much money we would be saving.
Van life does have it’s monthly payment responsibilities, like a gym pass, maintenance fund, cell phone, credit card, etcetera, but we were able to drop hydro bills and rent, which felt like a huge step in the right direction.
“The things you own, end up owning you”. - Chuck Palahniuk
It’s truly amazing how much invisible stuff (also known as debt) we needlessly accumulate. Unsurprisingly, months into living the van life, we were realizing we really didn’t miss much of the old life. I mean, the sheer weight of rent and hydro being lifted was exciting enough, but there are so many more politics involved with renting an apartment, damage deposits and roommates that I will never again miss*.
Travelling in a van is fun
Part of the charm of living in a van is the freedom to hit the road whenever you want. Even for vandwellers living in a city, getting out is just that much easier. It just becomes a way of life.
A roadtrip with all the comforts of home
Roadtripping in your home-on-wheels provides an incredible stepping stone to adventure. Save on accommodation or go camping whenever and wherever you want; city, forest, suburbs or beach.
At any point in your trip, you could stop and camp at that hidden gem of a lake you spotted from the highway, skip over the prairies in one shot, pull over for a comfortable nap in your own bed, barbecue, latté, cocktail, a bowl of cereal, whatever.
Make your own damn schedule
This freedom is unmatched. If you’ve got your food and gas sorted, you now have the freedom to make your own schedule (assuming you are no longer on somebody else’s) with all of your bases covered.
Having this flexibility is sure to keep your stress levels at bay. Nothing dampens the mood like a tight schedule or unruly itinerary while travelling. Sometimes, you just want to lay in your hammock, or listen to your favourite radio program, or just enjoy the silence, far from humanity, instead of meeting the rest of the tour group for salsa lessons around the pool. No hotel reservations, no rental car return times… if that’s your thing.
Your windows frame the landscape
If you have any interest at all in nature, architecture, urban planning, design, engineering, history, geology or the world around you, you’ll truly enjoy the view. The view is ever-changing, yet transforms whenever you want it to.
Anyone who’s had the opportunity to find themselves far from light pollution can speak to one of the most amazingly mind-blowing views ever. The unpolluted night sky. I won’t get too poetic about this subject, but dang! This is something we don’t get in the city. In fact, I’m sure there are many people who’ve never seen a true night sky in all their lives.
Travelling by van is the only way to get a feel for the entire landscape. Every hill provides a new perspective, every valley - a new horizon. Driving away from the sunrise is a fantastic experience and one that will always remain with me. There’s something about hitting the road early, ready to see new things, feel new feels, and write new words.
Of course, my daydreaming above only covers a fraction of vanlife. Most often, we’ll be driving through cities or between towns. This also provides an incredible view into the lives of locals, of history and of culture. It’s the perfect way to get acquainted with a new city of residence, get your bearings, and mentally map your next itinerary.