After completing my van build and bidding adieu to my hometown I spent a few months in pre-van life limbo. You know, that time when you really want to take the leap into full time van dwelling, but you’re still kind of attached to a consistent sleeping spot, or a hot bath, or a nearby group of friends. It took me a while to get out of my head and just go, in fact, it took a breakup to kick me in the pants and officially start my life on the road. Now it’s been a couple months and I couldn’t be happier with my home on wheels. I thought I would get sick of being in a small space all the time, but more often than not I’m outside playing with my dog, exploring new places, or sitting and enjoying the weather; I really only sit inside if I’m working or if there’s bad weather. So here are some things I’ve learned while adjusting to van life with my puppy Theo! (Stay til the end and see some pictures of my adventures!)
By far my biggest worry while traveling is finding a spot to sleep where I feel safe and (somewhat) legal. As a solo female traveler it’s important that I know how to find a safe parking spot, and that I have the means to defend myself should anyone try anything funny. If I’m new to an area I like to use the iOverlander app, on this app other travelers share parking spots they’ve found and leave reviews about safety, legality, and of course how good the views are. Another good resource is Facebook groups for van life, never underestimate the number of people out there who can help guide you through new places and don’t be afraid to ask for advice. I have spent nearly all of my time so far on the pacific coast where van life is abundant and highway pull offs are like mini campgrounds, ok maybe not that luxurious but still great for sleeps. Having a dog with me also makes me sleep better at night, if anyone were to come up to the van I know Theo would throw a fit and let me know someone was there. The most important thing here though is that no matter where you park you should leave it clean and always be respectful of the area you’re in. With van life becoming more popular its important we preserve the free parking we have, don’t leave a mess and ruin it for everyone else who wants to find somewhere nice to sleep.
Cleaning Crud up in the Kitchen
One thing I severely underestimated was the amount of sand Theo is able to carry in his hair and then into my van. Being on the coast means we spend almost every day at the beach so I am in a constant battle against the sand (not the worst problem to have, I know). Luckily Theo is too lazy to hop onto my bed so that usually stays less dirty, though it doesn’t stay completely dirt free. My best defense against the sand has been a little broom that I keep in the living area and a small handheld vacuum. Every day, usually several times, I will sweep out the space so that I can walk around with clean feet. I also use the broom to sweep off my bed, I’ve found that to be the quickest and easiest way to get rid of sand in my sheets. For the counters and cabinets I use microfiber towels to wipe things up because they dry very fast and pick things up super well. The most important thing when trying to keep a clean van is to stay on top of the cleaning, if you let it go for a couple days it can get overwhelming and make it much harder to do normal things like cooking and sleeping. I would also recommend a dog that doesn’t specialize in carrying grains of sand in their hair, but what are ya gonna do?
Top Chef Van Edition
Cooking in the van is really not as bad as it seems. With my table pulled out I have plenty of counter space and my kitchen storage has all the pots/pans/spices I could ever need. Being able to take the kitchen outside is a huge bonus both for space and for a more enjoyable cooking experience. Although home cooking can be done its hard not to get caught in the fast food/eating out trap- you’re already in your car, its only a few bucks, and its so much more convenient than cooking right? WRONG. Because it will add up fast, you will feel gross after eating all that junk, and you will never feel the pride of cooking a whole meal from scratch in a teeny tiny kitchen. But with a teeny tiny kitchen comes great responsibility, pre-planning your meals is essential when you have enough fridge space to fit about one gallon of milk and some cheese. While it was an adjustment for me I now love cooking my own meals and figuring out how to make my favorite dishes with only a stove.
Personal Hygiene Who?
No one said “you must live only in a car with no running water in order to truly be part of the #vanlife community”. Van life and traveling is all about what you’re comfortable with and capable of doing, if you want to spend the weekend in a hotel with a clean bed and a hot tub who’s gonna stop you? Originally I was a little unsure about sharing this part of my lifestyle because it feels privileged and like I’m “faking” van life, but the truth is I have the means to stay at Airbnbs sometimes and I can do that and live in my van too. Its allowed. Probably one or two nights a week I spend at a cheap hotel or Airbnb so I can shower and do laundry. I also love to take advantage of the kitchen space and the occasional pool or hot tub (I’m a sucker for a good soak). Lot’s of people go to gyms for showers which is very cost effective and I would highly recommend if you don’t want to live the van+bnb life, but with all the money I save on California rent by living in my van I feel comfortable splurging on a comfy night every now and then. When I’m not staying in a spot with a shower I keep clean using baby wipes, I spray my hair down with water when I want it to look decent, and I also wash my face daily with water from my sink which keeps me feeling very refreshed even if I haven’t taken a legit shower in a few days. Also for those who are still living in the past: NEWS FLASH! you really don’t have to shower every day, and you definitely don’t need to wash your hair with shampoo several times a week.
Work work work work work
Because of Covid my job is currently remote so the only thing I have to worry about is getting reliable internet wherever I am. I use my phone as a hotspot for work, my T-Mobile plan gives me 50GB per month of hotspot data which is more than enough for my work. I am a software development engineer at Amazon and all of my work happens over the internet so I have to have a good connection. The hotspot works well, but there are times when I wish my service was a little stronger so I could explore more remote spaces while still being able to connect. Some people have a signal booster that helps with that, and maybe someday I’ll get one of those too, but for now I’ll just stick to the land that I have coverage on.
Life Goes On
So yeah, life on the road has been pretty great. I’m so excited to keep traveling and seeing new parts of the country. My biggest question now is do I get another dog now?? I think yes…
Anyway, here are some pictures of little adventures we’ve had since living in the van full time. More pics are on my instagram @anjalijustice if you are interested in seeing more of what my life is like!
Visited Many Beaches
Tried Surfing in Carmel-by-the-Sea
Changed my Brake Pads
Met up with a Friend in Huntington Beach
Explored Some Beautiful Places