I remember spending hours on Instagram scrolling through images of converted vans and dreaming of what life would be like once we finally took the plunge and built our own. I knew there would be things that would change, but we were ready for it! Or at least we thought we were.
I didn't fully realize how my life would change for the good when we moved into our tiny home on wheels, but it did. Here we are, exactly one year later, our original end date. This year flew by, and there is no way we are stopping this train..err..van.
It wasn't easy at first, and sometimes it still isn't, but the good outweighs the bad by a landslide. I no longer find myself missing the comforts of our 1,600 square foot, four bedroom, two bath, typical American home. I love falling asleep to the sound of a nearby train or rain on our metal rooftop. I love waking up to the sunrise on a new home base.
The world is ours. It's a beautiful, magical place ready to be explored.
If you think you're ready for this journey, make sure you realize that there are things you will give up. Here are six of them:
This one is obvious. If you are moving into a vehicle and turning it into your house, there is NO way you are bringing everything you'd own in a "normal" home with you.
Sacrifices will have to be made.
We have exactly what we need and we use every bit of what we have. If we don't have a use for it, it doesn't stay with us. Each of us has one drawer for clothes. This was difficult. However, it's incredibly therapeutic to shed what no longer serves you.
After a while, you'll begin to forget about all of the things you thought you had to have, and the addiction to stuff will slowly fade away.
We got rid of our stuff, but with that, we also got rid of our other car payments and our mortgage. If you're renting, that's even better news! You no longer have to pour money into the black hole that is renting.
Vanlife could be a way to help you save up for other dreams, or a more normal-sized home of your own.
For us, we rented out our house. It's still there if we ever want to return. But in the meantime, we can build equity while working toward our bigger aspirations.
If you're inhabiting this small space with anyone other than yourself, just know that you're about to get to know each other better than you ever have before.
Your kitchen, bedroom, child's room (in our situation), living room, dining room and bathroom are all within a couple of steps from each other. At times, your van will become a Ninja Warrior course.
In a normal home, you take turns to use the restroom. In ours, we take turns to use the walking space. Soon you and your team will become a well oiled machine of stepping around each other and respecting one another's zones.
Letting go of the need to control is a great thing to practice whether or not you are living in a van.
Life will always throw you curveballs. They're just a little more obvious in 80 square feet. I've had to become much more patient and aware of my emotions. I'm not the greatest at it, but I'm better than I was one year ago.
You also never know what might happen on the road. We've spent hours looking for a spot to park with no luck and had to figure things out on the fly. The unknown is also part of the adventure.
Most people don't understand this lifestyle, and you'll be questioned about it quite often. You can't control what people think, or their opinions of you. As a vanlifer, you'll be propelled into owning who you are and letting go of outside expectations.
5. Unlimited Supply
This was probably the biggest adjustment for me when we first started vanlife. I'm used to living out of a suitcase, but I was really unaware of how much electricity and water I use on a daily basis.
We have a six gallon fresh water tank in the van and two 100W solar panels pulling energy to our 1000W Goal Zero power station.
Every little thing we use in the power station drains the battery. We therefore have to be super cognizant of turning things off and only using them for exactly the time we need.
When doing dishes, I try to use a bowl to catch the water so I won't waste any.
In this photo, I actually took a silver tub we have on the back deck and filled it with water from the river to do the dishes and then refilled the tub again to wash my hair. I felt pretty resourceful and also like I could fare pretty well in a post-apocolyptic world.
I'm not going to say you are totally limitless, but we feel like it most of the time. Because we are selective and intentional with everything, our stuff adds value to our lives as do our friendships and environments.
Little by little, the things that held us down have faded into the background. After one year, I can see things clearer and I trust myself more. There is less stress, less worry, less weight. There's a feeling of limitlessness.
"Where should we spend the Fall?"
"Let's go to the northeast!"
"Let's spend next Summer in Canada and Alaska!"
"Let's create more and write music together!"
Everything feels reachable.
You no longer have to be limited by a 9-5 job, a mortgage payment, naysayers, or a zip code. Home is wherever you decide you want it to be. You realize that happiness wasn't found in things. It's underneath everything you've piled on top of yourself over the years.
Little by little, living minimally and chasing sunsets has stripped it all away.
You realize underneath it all, you were already limitless.