No. 40 | Seven things you appreciate more when you live in a van

Breakups take the brain to strange places. I got dumped back in August. It was weird, bad, sudden, hard. The relationship had moved fast, probably too fast. We’d been talking about living together, good names for kids, that sort of thing. I thought I had a plan, and then, POOF, I didn’t. My brain went wild with ideas about living a completely different future. Maybe I’ll join a monastery! Maybe I’ll move to the Netherlands! Maybe I’ll go to grad school and study, I don’t know, plants or something!

The alternate future that seized me most strongly took form in a list (natch) called VAN PLAN. There’s a whole amazing subculture out there of folks who life full-time on the road. Hashtag van life, as it were. There’s a lot to learn, and I started to soak it all up. It was a fun diversion, and it felt good to plan. Was I really going to live in a van?everyone kept asking. Don’t know! For me that wasn’t the point. To quote Ike in a very strange context: “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.”In this case, the “everything”was feeling like I could plan an exciting life that was just about me and didn’t depend on falling in love again and getting married and all that.

Okay, wow. This got incongruously personal. That’s all by way of introduction of this week’s list, which was written by two very lovely people I know, Amanda and Eric, who do live in a van full-time and also have some adorable dogs. I asked them to reflect on and share about their version of van life. They sent me this great list of seven things you appreciate more when you live in a van. Enjoy!

Eric and Amanda posed in front of their van.

We’re full-time freelancers who live and travel in a van. About a year ago, we bought a used Roadtrek RS Adventurous, got rid of our stuff, and started traveling the country with our two dogs. We’ve been to 20 different states and plan to continue as long as possible. The lifestyle change has made us appreciate many of the basics we once took for granted. Here are a few of those things.

1) Running Water

Water is always a precious commodity, but especially in a van. Our fresh tank holds 30 gallons of water, which we mainly use for dishes, the toilet, and the occasional shower. For drinking, we carry three one-gallon jugs with us. If we stay with family/friends or happen upon a public spigot, we take advantage of the free water. Otherwise, we rely on water vending machines where refills can cost anywhere from $0.15 to $0.47 per gallon.

2) Warm Showers

If you require a daily shower, van life is probably not for you. Although we probably shower more often than you think. Through our health insurance, we signed up for a Healthways membership (now Tivity Health). This gives us access to gyms all over the country. If we feel gross, nothing motivates us more to workout like the prospect of a nice, warm shower afterward.

3) Wet Wipes

On the topic of showers… wet wipes are pure, slightly dampened gold. Our gym pass works well in most areas, but there are times when we can’t find a gym and can’t shower in our van. Wet wipes to the rescue! Of course, they’re not the same as a real shower, but you can use them to wash your face, freshen your pits, and even clean up messes and spills.

4) Reliable Wifi

When we first started traveling, we thought we could just park anywhere and steal wifi. Sometimes this works, but often, it’s just frustrating. We have a hot-spot for light internet use, but really, libraries are the way to go. They’re free. They’re quiet. They have restrooms and drinking fountains (free water!), and they usually have nice desks with pretty reliable wifi. Pro Tip: Most libraries have small study rooms you can reserve. This is great for conference calls or when you just need some quiet time.

5) Electrical Outlets

Charge all the things! When we set up shop at a library, we find a nice desk or table with an outlet nearby. We charge our laptops, phones, Kindles, watches, headphones, battery packs, and occasionally a magic mouse. Our van is outfitted with 300 watts of solar which can charge most of our things, but if we’re hanging out near an outlet for a few hours, you can bet we’re charging something.

6) Google Maps

How did anyone travel before cell phones? Obviously, we use Google Maps for directions but on a typical day, we look up gyms, grocery stores, laundromats, libraries, coffee shops, restaurants, and campgrounds. If we’re going to stealth camp on the street, we use satellite view to find street parking in the perfect neighborhood.

7) Online Reviews

Google, Yelp, and Facebook reviews are all super helpful, but the nomadic community has developed some wonderful online resources. People actually take the time to contribute to these websites, sometimes with extremely detailed information. If you are one of these people, you da real MVP. Here are a few RV- and camping-specific websites we use almost daily:

We are heading south for the winter, follow @freshtank on Instagram to keep up with our adventures.

Thank you Amanda and Eric! Lots of food for thought. I am very much a shower every day person, so that would be a challenging adjustment.

Originally published as List No. 40 of the 7x77 newsletter project.
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