Van Life is a movement that has been gaining momentum in recent years with people from all walks of life choosing to live out of their vans and vehicles. The reasons for doing so vary greatly, but one thing is clear: living in the van can be an incredible experience.
The challenges associated with this type of lifestyle however are many and varied but there are ways to overcome them!
Life On The Road
I started out living on the road almost three years ago with the first few months being an adjustment period. In a fully self-contained home, I had to learn the ropes and fast. It wasn't just learning about the battery system or the hot water, I needed to work out where and even how to park. I recognized It wasn't as simple as finding a spot to park and making it home for the week. I had to know if the place was safe if there were warnings for rain, storm, or heat, and if there were too many trees blocking the solar panels or not enough to shelter me from the sun. I had to know if there was water access, wifi coverage, or level surfaces to park up. The Wiki Camps app (https://www.wikicamps.com.au/) was my best friend for the first year or so, as it provided all the info I needed to know about finding a suitable place to stay.
VAN LIFE: COMMON CHALLENGES
Whether living in a van or not, challenges in life will arise, however, most of my challenges came from items not working such as the diesel heater, fan, hot water, or having fuses break and not being able to find where they were, lol, fun times! Unpeeling the layers to this, I recognized I didn't do enough research, and whilst I gave it a red hot crack I had no fucking idea! Some of the major challenges were and still are not having enough power in the Winter months and having too much heat in Summer. Then there are the leaks, oh dear god the leaks, if you don't have leaks in a van, you’re not really living van life! I have ways to get around some of these issues now such as a generator and an extra solar blanket, as well as window covers to help with the heat, however, I still struggle with understanding the mechanics of how things work and it takes me a minute or so to get it. Another common issue in my experience is technical issues such as not having a clear wifi signal however I have learned to navigate this too with an Optus modem and Telstra phone coverage just in case one goes down.
These are my biggest challenges living in a van but it varies for everyone. Some find that loneliness is the biggest struggle or not having regular work or an income. Regardless of the challenges you may face, there are ways to reduce the stress associated with them.
VAN LIFE: DEALING WITH CHALLENGES
Before you even get to the challenges, do your research, talk to people, know what problems you might encounter, and have a basic understanding of what is required for your van.
When dealing with the challenges that arise, it's important to recognize your own triggers. I recognized that one of my triggers was being unable to fix things, so when things went wrong I would be stressed before I even explored all the options. Consider the things that get a reaction from you, like a racing mind, increased heart rate, tense shoulders, limited patience, or a couple of shoutouts ‘Holy, F%3Kn S*ht B#*lls.
Another important aspect is being able to regulate yourself when heated emotions arise. For me, these include breathing techniques, meditation, being in nature, and spending time with my beloved cat. You might like to cool off by offloading to a friend or listening to music but either way, ensuring you have good strategies will help you to self-regulate.
Also, consider your outlook and the ways in which you respond to stress. Do you find yourself stuck in the problem or do you take a step back and look at it from the bigger perspective? I recognized my outlook depended if I was balanced or not at the time. This leads me to have the right balance, to begin with. When we meet challenges in the stress response, the result can end in chaos so creating a healthy space for your body, mind, soul, and van is essential. This is why I created an e-book called ‘The Weary Travellers Guide to Self-Care’. This e-book covers a series of check-ups (self-inquiries), tune-ups (meditation practices), and a restock of your toolkit (self-care plan). You can purchase a copy here https://www.destinationsacredgrounds.com/meditations which has access to my free meditations that go along with the e-book.
JOURNEY TO SELF-DISCOVERY
Life is a mix of happiness and laughter, pain and tears, challenges and success. You could be living in a van, a tiny home, or a brick and mortar. You may have money or not have money but one thing is clear, challenges will arise. It is not something we expect but instead, it is something that we need to accept.
As I reflect on my experience, I realize these are only minor issues in the big scheme of life and it’s important that I appreciate the journey as I have learned so much about how I handle these challenges. Whilst some of these challenges have been insanely frustrating, they have also been a great learning platform. I just needed to ensure I was balanced enough to meet these challenges calmly and see there was a bigger picture unfolding which ultimately was, learning the stuff I needed to know anyway.
Regardless if you live in a van or not life will always have obstacles but don't let them stop or discourage you from pursuing your dreams!