A little over a month ago I loaded the van and left Colorado on my way to a much-anticipated vacation in Oregon before landing in Montana for a late-summer job. It is no secret that I experienced some crazy concerns and emotions beforehand, but now that I am through the first leg of this lifestyle transition, I have great news: Everything is Fine!
I’m no authority on this subject, but if you are contemplating making some adjustments in your life, here are some thoughts I’ve gleaned from my first month of living on the road:
#5: Getting Started Is The Hardest Part
Ready for a change, but not sure where to start? I found that setting intentions, writing in a journal, and being open to possibilities works like magic. Trust is a big part of the formula; but if you show up, are willing to work and aren’t afraid to challenge yourself, opportunities will present themselves. I guarantee it!
Start where you are and take baby steps down the path to your future – you will be glad you did!
#4: No Matter Where You Go, There You Are
If you think you will become someone different on the road, you may be disappointed. In fact you just might become, or recognize, more of who you are. If you are ________ (sad, shy, lazy, nervous, or fill in the blank) you will likely remain (fill in the blank). For example: I thought I might become more outgoing and gregarious (read: less shy), but that isn’t happening. I am quite content to remain a wallflower by listening more than talking. I value quiet time and enjoy being by myself.
Embrace who you are and be grateful for the time you can spend honing those skills!
In spite of feeling not-very-gregarious (and thanks to my Oregon travel partner Kate) I met people from all over the world. Each traveler has a story – like the young graduate who rebuilt a vintage trailer for her thesis project, the family who mentors foster children by taking them on camping trips and the solo through-hiker on her Oregon Coast leg of a trip.
I’ve also discovered that seeing beautiful National Parks, the ocean, forests, desert and rivers while having time to relax and unwind has given me a new outlook on life. I realize I’m not likely to become a world-class artist, writer or speaker, but the ever-changing landscape offers new ways for me to see life and how I fit in.
#3: Camping Is Great Exercise
Living out of a van or tent is good for your body as well as your soul. The first – and most obvious –
disadvantage is that you have to walk more than a few feet to get to the bathroom. The morning commute to the nearest latrine can be one of the most refreshing parts of the day as the rising sun washes the view with fresh light. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?
As you go through the day, there are more “chores” to be done. Setting your camp up and taking it down; hiking, chopping wood, carrying water,
foraging for food, hiking, bending, stretching and lifting in ways you don’t do at home. Did I mention hiking?
Admittedly, living in the van is easier than camping in a tent, but I still have a longer-than-average trot to the bathroom; a higher-than-normal hop into the van; and more time to access hiking trails and play in the river. So today I am still a little stiff and sore from jumping into my new life so enthusiastically. I’m not complaining – just saying that camping will limber you up and put some tone back in those underused muscles – especially the smiling muscles!
#2: Don’t Over-pack, or Over-think The “What-Ifs”
I tend to be a caregiver. That means I pack enough for myself, and a little extra in case someone needs something. I’m here to tell you this is a non-productive and expensive habit (personality trait?). As I shuffle inventory around in the van I realize there are quite a few items I could have left behind like: the curling iron, hair dryer, eyeshadow, foam curlers, sun shades, the vacuum, 5 gal. bucket, table; extra sarongs, clock, broom, flashlights, towels, sandals, silverware, plates, cups, glasses, sunscreen, soap and so much more. Eh gads, what was I thinking?
I’m not the only one who falls into this trap. Almost every full-time RVer has, or had, the same malady. My advice? When in doubt, leave it out!
Note to self: If you pack too much stuff, resist the temptation to give it to someone else – they probably don’t want/need it either!
#1 Living in a Van Isn’t Free…It’s Freedom
The first month of van life wasn’t exactly free. In addition to shelling out $1500 for van repairs, I spent around $430 in campsite fees, approximately $400 in diesel, and $200 in miscellaneous purchases. I’m not counting groceries, eating out and insurance costs because they are the same wherever I go.
Why do it? Because I got to travel 3,000 miles through seven western states, visiting world-class sites such as the Flaming Gorge in Wyoming; Craters of the Moon in Idaho; parts of the Oregon coast; the Columbia River Gorge along the Oregon and Washington borders; the wheat fields, orchards and vineyards of Washington, the Sawtooth Mountains in Idaho and the wide open skies of Montana. Who could ask for more?
These five off-the-top-of-my head ideas aren’t new but let them serve as a launching pad for your own explorations and discoveries. I challenge you to think of what you would do if you had all the time and money you needed to accomplish your dreams. It might surprize you how easy it is to catch a little magic when reaching for the stars.
**Bonus – a Katrina (the wonder van) Update**
If you followed the blog posts from a few months ago: Searching for my new home – Part I, Searching for My New Home – Part II and Searching for my new home – Part III you might remember that I questioned my
sanity decision to buy the van. If you are wondering how Katrina is holding up here’s a quick summary:
I couldn’t be happier!
After giving Katrina (the wonder van) an engine overhaul to replace the #2 glow plug, a hip replacement (driveshaft), new shoes (tires and brakes) and an overall check-up, she has been purring like a kitten. She scampers down the road and up the dusty trail like a roadrunner. All she requires is a gallon of fuel about every 20-22 miles (no oil, thanks). She starts up quicker than a coyote chasing a rabbit and is always eager to go.
I’m not sure exactly how it does it, but the 100W Solar Panel keeps the little Dometic Refrigerator cold, the 8 LED interior overhead lights on, the Fan-Tastic Fan fanning and charges my phone, computer, camera batteries, iPad and Kindle without fail.
The kitchen is spacious, efficient, versatile and the heart of my living space. Propane powers the two-burner stove, and a small 12V water pump draws water from the five-gallon container to the sink. I added battery-operated under cabinet lights which create a softly-lit, inviting space.
The under-bed storage is arranged in five plastic storage lockers holding everything from tools, windshield covers, shade structures and poles, winter clothes, blankets, sleeping bag, the rice/bean cooker and other items I thought I couldn’t live without. Two Small Dressers hold bathroom and kitchen items and a larger Dresser (on the upper level) holds clothes, the Free-standing 12V Fan , bedding and anything that doesn’t fit in the overhead bins.
Katrina is as easy to drive as your car, parks anywhere, and has a pretty small carbon footprint compared to the larger RVs and trucks with trailers. I love her as much, or more, than the day I stepped into her and said “Yes, this is it!”.
Stay tuned as I introduce you to my first Workamping job at the North Yellowstone Lodge and Hostel and the natural wonders of Yellowstone National Park. Thanks for following me – I appreciate your comments and support!
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