I’m no newcomer to the gear junkie art. I have more outdoor gear than I know what to do with. At one point I had the odd 10 backpacks. Each one for a different ‘purpose’. Yep, I just kept telling myself that. Well, that all went out the window when my girlfriend and I hit the road in a new country, living the ‘vanlife’.
Making this sort of change can be a big surprise to people who haven’t camped outdoors before. Its a lifestyle shock, that's for sure! But its quite interesting to note the changes that occur to your life.
Some may not be too hard to guess, others, quite surprising.
So here's my list of 12 things van life will do to you!
1. You produce less daily rubbish
Back when we lived in our townhouse, every 3 days we would have a ginormous rubbish bag of who knows what! Since starting vanlife, every 2 days we drop off a small grocery sized bag into the nearest bin. Without all that extra room like we had in our townhouse, we seem to utilise our waste load better in the van. Not to mention, we try and buy less stuff that will produce waste in the first place!
2. You use less water
Hand in hand with waste is water usage. It drops significantly! We use exactly the same amount of water for doing the dishes every day, regardless of how much we need to clean. We quickly learnt to eat ALL the food and clean plates and pots with a single paper towel before the washing up stage. You also realise how precious water is when its not on tap.
3. You become a wizard at meal sizes
Not until you have had a mountain of leftover food and no fridge, do you very quickly become a master of meal sizing. Our meals that we previously cooked at home soon became altered for ideal portion sizes without any waste. And now when trying new meals, we also notice that we can estimate how much we will eat before we start cooking.
4. Appreciate hot showers
We shower almost every day that we can. If we don’t make it to a shower, a dip in rivers or lakes are our substitute. Of course, skipping a shower day here of there when we haven’t done much happens occasionally, like on rainy days. But we try every day we can. Less water is used on each shower as well as there are generally restrictions on paid showers. And once winter rolls around we truly appreciate those hot showers even more!
Side note: Living in a reasonable climate without hot, humid weather makes this much easier!
5. Worry less about ‘things’
General worrying seems to be reduced. This can be due to the fact that there's less bills, less cleaning like in a large house, and just less stuff to worry about in general. It’s amazing how much material things take control of your mind.
6. Worry more about the van
Just because you worry less in general doesn't mean there's no worries at all! The van soon becomes the most important thing in your life as it's both your accommodation and transport. If it breaks (which it sometimes does), it can get a little stressful! Plus, literally our entire life is inside the van so theft is on our minds some of the time as well.
7. Live with less
Living with less was always a goal of mine. Its surprising how little we actually need. Those 10 different knives and drawers full of kitchen utensils can all be done away with and replaced with the odd 6 implements. The same goes for clothing. We now choose high quality garments that will suit multiple uses. Living with less is refreshing and leads to some good feelings, one of which is…
8. Freedom… sort of...
You do feel very free when you live in a van. Escaping bad weather by just driving away, or just for a change of scenery, is very liberating. Alas, we will still have to work eventually, and restrictions in freedom camping in New Zealand make this life harder and harder as time goes on. But we will enjoy it while we can!
9. You learn patience
Living in a tiny space with someone else, as well as being at the whim of the weather and mechanical fortitude of your van, will teach you a great deal of patience. You just have to be flexible and roll with the tides as they change.
You really get to see what's important in life when you live in a van. All those material things you never needed, the careful use of water and waste, its all a big lending hand in altering your perspective. There's many people that live on even less, and counting yourself fortunate for what you have is important. Realising there are many good people, but also some bad ones, hones your people skills.
11. Weather gods exist
When it's been raining for days and your hands are numb while trying to cook dinner, you will be wishing for a little sunshine. Then when its stifling hot and you can’t sleep, you'll wish for a little cold. The weather has its own plans, you just have to make the best of it.
12. Vanlife isn’t always easy
For every ‘instagrammable photo’ there's an equally bad place we’ve stayed at. While most people are good, there are always the odd bad characters out there. Thankfully it’s mostly just dirty looks or a little verbal abuse. Van breakdowns are annoying at best, and having your on-board toilet leak is not the slightest fun at all.
Most people envy the lifestyle of living in a van with the amazing places you can wake up and go to bed to, but truth be told, it's just different to normal one we had before.
While we don’t know if we will continue the vanlife forever, it’s an amazing experience that has so far has been eye opening and rewarding, in equal measure.
I can highly recommend everyone try it just once on a holiday or two. Who knows, it might just be ‘your thing’!