Vanlife is a state of constant motion.
Since I left Texas about a month ago, I have been living on the road full-time. (Though I can’t say for sure whether it’s been a month yet… Living this way tends to create a vortex where time doesn’t really apply, make sense, or matter.)
It’s safe to say that I’m now exiting the honeymoon phase. Since I got to Southern California, life has been a whirlwind of driving, surfing, hiking, and visiting old friends I haven’t seen in years. Sounds pretty rough, right? That’s the glamorous side… the “other side” consists primarily of trying to find bathrooms, places to sleep, washing dishes on the roadside, and trying to get an occasional shower in so I don’t look/smell like too much of the bum that I truly am right now.
I intentionally took a few weeks off from work in order to fully embrace and settle in to my new lifestyle (I run a small freelance digital media/marketing/consulting business – shameless plug for www.tasharivard.com). What I’m beginning to realize, however, is that no matter how long you live in a van, you are never technically settled.
The weirdest part I’ve found is that I’m actually more functional when I’m alone in the van. All my “stuff” has its place, and I know where everything is at all times. My keys go on a particular hook, my phone is generally always next to me, my computer is in the safe, and my clothes are organized neatly into their respective categorical drawers. Everything I need is always within arms length and neatly tucked away into particular nooks.
Last weekend, my friend Kelsey from high school was nice enough to let me couch surf at her apartment in the South Bay (West LA). I hadn’t really strayed far from the van at that point, but parking in LA is just insane, so it was kind of a hike between my van and her apartment. As much as I appreciated having open access to the indoors (and plumbing), it felt really weird to be ditching my home – and everything I own – on the side of a road and leaving it to fend for itself in the concrete jungle. Eventually, I got over the separation anxiety, and was able to successfully switch gears from “vanlife” to “baglife” for the weekend.
The problem I had with baglife during previous travels was finding a bag that would be big enough to hold everything, but small enough to stow away when not in use. I would usually have to split my gear up between a backpack and a suitcase, and sometimes even a reusable grocery bag. This system always left me feeling scatterbrained with a cluttered mess to deal with when I got to where I was going.
I have a few spare bags in the van, but the one I use most frequently is the Mountainsmith Travel Trunk. The thing is a black hole. When empty, it packs down to about the size of a half-gallon milk jug and easily fits under my drivers seat. When it’s full, though, it can hold just about everything I have.
Since Kelsey had a big weekend planned from the beach to the town, I had to bring clothes for every occasion to change into for three days. I filled the bag with everything I thought I could potentially want for the weekend and dropped it in the corner next to the couch. I was able to keep everything organized and out of the way without cluttering up her city apartment. The only things I lost were my keys… Which after 20 minutes of hard searching I realized were clipped to my belt loop the entire time.
Overall, I definitely prefer living out of my van than living out of a bag. But it feels good to know that I’m prepared when the opportunity to have open access to a friend’s shower presents itself. I’m looking forward to more traveling, adventuring, bathroom scouting, stealth camping, hikes, surfs, and everything else that comes with general vanlife in the foreseeable future!