When you live in a van, you don’t look in the mirror (and other changes I enjoy)

It’s only been a short while since we’ve been on the road full-time, but it’s crazy how many lifestyle changes can creep up on you in such a short period of time. We live in a van for goodness sakes, that’s change enough – but more changes are taking place than just those of our physical surroundings, it’s mental too!

  1. Putting away groceries. Everything has a spot and it’s in its place before we even leave the parking lot.
  2. Saving water. At full capacity, our van holds about ten gallons of water (lasting 3-4 days). We use a portable toilet. We pay for showers. While none of this makes van-living sound luxurious, it feels good to know we’re saving water. “Fun” fact: Americans use ~100 gal. of water/day and a running toilet can waste up to 200 gal./day.

    lifestyle changes toilet
    Super “fancy” composting toilet in Smith Rock.
  3. Absence of Mirrors. This sounds weird but hear me out. We don’t have a mirror in the van; it wasn’t some big decision, we just don’t have one. We don’t miss it either. Our theory is that “looking in the mirror” begets more “looking in the mirror” and the same is true for “not looking in the mirror”. I’ll pop in and out of a public restroom before realizing I never once looked at myself. Lord knows what I look like half the time, but it’s refreshing to know that I’m not thinking about it.

    IMG_0816
    Wow, that person looks really happy.
  4. Reading. I’ve always loved reading. I’m the person that would read during every minute of the commute to work. And by every minute, I mean from the walk to the bus to the walk to my desk. Now, I’m not cramming reading into every free moment because I have ample time to read. And it’s not getting old.

    reading
    Gnarly picture of me reading in bed but I don’t care what I look like anymore so it’s ok.
  5. Scrabble. One of our favorite past times. Before embarking on our voyage, I purchased Scrabble-to-go and what a solid purchase it was. So far, both Colin and I have gotten 7-tile bonuses for an additional 50 points (nerds) so we’re pretty much geniuses. And we can only improve.

    vanlife scrabble
    If I recall correctly, Colin kicked my ass in this game and I returned the favor on the next.
  6. Hot showers. We have paid for five showers so far. Two were chilly, one was downright freezing, and the last two, thank my smelly stars, were hot. During my first hot shower, I shit you not, I started singing I was so happy. It was the best five minutes of my life. (The showers with hot water are timed. Just try having the water turn off on you while you still have soap on your legs. BUT if it’s warm water, I honestly don’t care.)
  7. Having everything we need within arm’s reach. God forbid, we need something from the back of the van and have to walk an exhausting 10 steps. We survive, somehow. But it’s awesome to know that whether we’re going hiking, climbing, or clubbing (ha!), we have everything we need, right in the van.

    van storage
    So organized. So easy.
  8. Simple pleasures. We had Starbucks last week and a kombucha today. These were splurges. And they were delicious.
  9. Free (good) wifi. Speaking of Starbucks, good wifi is so amazing. Once or twice a week, we’ll bunker down in a Starbucks or library to charge our Yeti 150, laptop, and phones. We may even download a movie on iTunes if we’re feeling fancy.

    atlas cider
    The best wifi we’ve had yet was at ATLAS Cider in Bend (fantastic ciders too!).
  10. Rock Salt. We recently discovered the trick of adding rock salt to your cooler to lower the temp of the ice, hence making your cooler colder, for longer. This shit WORKS. Almost too well. The first time we used rock salt, we used way too much. Less than three hours later, we went to grab some drinks and they were frozen. So was everything else we threw in there. Talk about learning a lesson.
  11. Dispersed Camping. Free camping in moderate to extremely remote areas, what’s not to love?

    lifestyle changes dispersed camping
    Little creepy in the middle of the night, but otherwise, stellar spot.
  12. Silence. Hello darkness, my old friend….” Suffice it to say, we spend a lot of time outdoors or in libraries (present!). With the exception of popular hikes or chatty teenagers at the library, this usually means we get to enjoy the sounds of silence or each other’s stimulating conversation. It’s a treat to the ears and mind.

    lifestyle changes library
    A LIVE look at me writing this blog, right now, at the Hurricane Library.
  13. Clothes. My entire closet is 2 rubbermaid bins and Colin’s is 1.5. There are limited clothes for varying temperatures. There is no mulling over “what to wear”. Mornings: sweatpants and a t-shirt. Afternoons: clothes pertinent to our activity for the day. Evenings: see Mornings. My flannel shirt could probably have its own category here but let’s not get crazy.
  14. Laundromats! We did laundry for the first time this week and man, did it feel GOOD. We washed ALL THE THINGS! I used to be a compulsive laundry-doer (say, 4-5 times/week?) so this was a real treat. Also, see #2 as I feel I am now making up for my previously frivolous ways (sorry, planet!).

    lifestyle changes dispersed camping
    He’s just excited because all the clothes are clean.
  15. Saving money. This should go without saying but it feels pretty stellar to spend most of our time on free experiences. We’ll visit an alpaca farm or go hiking/climbing during the day and spend the evening reading, watching a movie, or playing Scrabble and it costs $0. Booze, gas, and food (in that order, probably) are our top spenders, but we are trying to enjoy life not deprive ourselves, so we’re ok with that.

    alpaca farm
    Look at my face! See that joy? FREE.

Author: Lisa

Over one year in van life and loving it. Hiker, rock climber, novice mountain biker, and professional napper. Official “documenter” of our time with Vaniel. Favorite podcast: Stuff You Should Know.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Christina says:

    Love it all! Maks me want to dwindle down more possessions and see what local, free, gems the Chicagoland area has to offer!

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