Sometime last year, my husband and I came to the realization that our desk jobs in Washington, DC, weren’t speaking to our souls in the way we’d always dreamed they would. Maybe it’s because we’re millennials or maybe we’re just romantics at heart, but we both craved day-to-day lives that inspired us to jump out of bed in the morning, daydream about work in the shower, and lose track of time as the hours raced by in a flurry of excitement and creativity.
So we decided to make a change. Or, rather, we made a lot of changes. We bought a van. I sewed curtains, while my husband tinkered with the engine. We quit our jobs. We packed the things we couldn’t live without in the trunk of the van and put everything else in storage. Then we hit the road.
As we close out our third month in Madge The Van, I’ve started to make some reflections on this new chapter that I think are applicable to VanLifers and non-VanLifers alike:
1. Change doesn’t have to be scary or painful.
The biggest shock of living in a van and traveling full-time is just how easy it is. And I think that applies to a lot of change in life; the idea is much more debilitating than the reality. So take the leap. If it’s terrible, you can always make another change.
2. Living with less isn’t always less.
“Wait, you don’t have a toilet?” is the top response I get when I tell people about this adventure. No, we don’t have a toilet. Or a shower. Or most of the conveniences that make up the average, American life. And you know what? I don’t miss them. None of those things are what make your days exciting or meaningful. It’s remarkable how little it takes to lead a completely normal life.
3. There’s no “one size fits all” when it comes to life.
When I was living and working in DC, I saw the career track as one-dimensional; a tight rope that I had to walk perfectly or risk utter and complete failure. In my three months on the road, I’ve quickly realized that is so far from true. I’ve met older couples, embarking on a second life after kids and careers; young people, dodging the picket fences in search of adventure; free spirits, looking for an accepting community. Most of all, I’ve met lots of people living life on their terms, not the other way around.
4. Home is where the heart is.
My third wedding anniversary is quickly approaching, so perhaps I am overly sentimental, but when I left behind my beautiful apartment in the city, I worried I was going to feel lost and homeless on the road. The truth is, I’ve never felt more rooted or self-assure. I’ve realized that home is a state of mind, not four walls and a roof. Of course, keeping up a regular yoga and fitness schedule has definitely helped me to feel strong and at peace in my own skin.
5. Living in the moment is trickier than it sounds, but so worth it.
I sort of thought breathing in the mountain air would just naturally awaken my senses, and I would immediately feel more alive and stress-free. But it turns out, if you go looking for stress and worries, you will find them lurking everywhere. Part of this journey has been reminding myself that things will work out and, if they don’t, I always have the power to change my circumstances. So I am making a daily commitment to stay present, savor the good, and change the bad (or at least change my mindset).
Living in a tiny van isn’t for everyone (some days, I’m not even sure it’s for me!). But you don’t have to pack away your worldly possessions and drive off the grid to pursue your passions and live a fulfilling life. Just trust yourself, listen to your gut, change your circumstances when you’re feeling stuck, and remember there is no “one-size-fits-all.” We are all figuring out this crazy life together, one day at a time.
Have you ever made a drastic change (maybe not live-in-a-van drastic, but still)? What did you learn? Share in the comments!