Despite what Instagram may lead you to believe, van life isn’t all rainbows and butterflies. Living in a van is very unpredictable. Often tasks that would be simple in a normal living situation can be far more difficult in a van due to logistics. Though it is not easy, van life can be exceptionally beautiful and allow for a lot of self growth. In order to appreciate the beautiful moments and learn all the lessons van life has to offer, self care in incredibly important. Now it may surprise you to find out, self care is not bath bombs and facials. Self care is intentional habits that lead to a clearer headspace. We are not perfect at these habits by any means but we definitely see a difference in our mood, productivity, and overall enjoyment of van living when we follow them.
There is very little about living in a van that is routine. You often have a different schedule every day, are sleeping in different places, and don’t have access to the same gym, grocery store, or coffee shop. This is why having a morning routine is important for self care. Having a simple morning routine can bring you into the present moment and start your day off centered so you aren’t rocked by any curveballs thrown your way (because we all know van life loves to throw curveballs). We like to start our morning off making the bed, making a pot of coffee, eating a good breakfast, and walking our pup Joni. We definitely feel it when we start our morning off early driving and skip our morning routine. Be sure that whatever you choose as your morning routine is simple and sustainable.
Meditation is a super simple and accessible way to step up your self care. It has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety, increase mindfulness, increase attention span, and improve sleep, among other things. I don’t know about you, but these all sounds like awesome benefits for van life. You can meditate in many forms and there is no right or wrong way to do it. You can do meditation just sitting where you are focusing on your breathing. If you lose track and your thoughts trail off, just non-judgmentally come back to your breath.
If you are someone who prefers guided meditation, we love both Ten Percent Happier, and Calm. Ten Percent Happier was created by the author of Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics which is a great book to introduce yourself to meditation if you feel like it’s a little too foo foo. If meditation isn’t your thing, you can also try breathing exercises such as square breathing.
Moving your body every day can do wonders for your physical and mental health. Keeping a workout routine can be difficult on the road as you don’t have a ton of storage for weights etc. and if you’re moving around you don’t always have access to a physical gym setting. We like to keep it simple with our “van gym” and carry with us exercise bands, a yoga mat, and light weights. We try to find body weight workout routines. Sweat has a great no equipment HIIT workout plan. Beachbody is another great option for workouts on the road with simple equipment.
Many van lifers get a gym membership for showers like Planet Fitness. The Black Card gives you access to every gym across the country, guest passes, and showers for $22/mo. If you have a membership for showers, grab a quick workout before. Other super accessible means of workouts are walking, hiking, running, and swimming in lakes. Another barrier to exercising on the road that we have found is making the excuse of not having a shower after a workout. When we workout and don’t have access to a shower we will either do a “keg shower” or a “bed bath” with baby wipes. It’s not as satisfying as a full shower but we have found it to do the trick in between visits to town for a full shower. Check out our tips for Van Life Hygiene here.
Did you know that 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated?! Did you also know that the recommendation of eight 8 ounce glasses of water may be inaccurate? A simple recommendation tailored to each person is drinking half an ounce per pound of body weight. This means that if you weigh 150 pounds, you should drink 75 ounces of water. Having a good water bottle is key to hydration. We have a 20 ounce HydroFlask so we aim to drink four bottles of water per day. Try hitting this goal for a week straight and we promise you will see a difference.
Not only are sugar and processed foods bad for your physical health, they have an impact on your mental health as well. According to Sutter Health, a diet high in sugar and processed food can trigger inflammation which can lead to anxiety and depression. Cooking most of your meals in the van gives you more control over what you’re putting in your body. When planning your meals, aim for a balanced diet low in sugar and processed food.
Travelling too quickly in the van can leave us feeling frazzled and unrooted. When we slow down and make time to soak in a place and stick to our habits we feel much better mentally and can connect better to the present moment. If you’re feeling disconnected while travelling in a van, ask yourself if you are travelling too quickly. In addition to settling down, it’s important to acknowledge when you are feeling burnt out from living in a van. Van life is not easy and there is no shame in treating yourself to a hotel or AirBnB for a night. Sometimes having a single night reset can make a world of difference.
Journaling is a powerful form of self care while living in a van. There are so many different ways to approach journaling so try a few different methods to find what works for you. Eric likes keeping a simple objective journal of things that happen each day. It’s a good way to look back at the good and bad moments without emotion attached. It’s also so fun to look back at moments we may have forgotten about down the road. The Five Minute Journal is a simple way to get into a habit of journaling allowing you to set intentions for each day and then reflect back at the end of the day.
Spending a few minutes each day reading a personal development book is a great way to promote growth. Some of our favorites are Untethered Soul, Daring Greatly, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, and Inward just to name a few. We love using Kindle on our E-Readers to have easy access to books without taking up too much space in the van.
There are so many benefits to a gratitude practice that are backed by science and research. Just to name a few, gratitude can make us happier, increase psychological well being, improve relationships, improve decision making, reduce depressive symptoms, and increase physical health. A simple way to start a gratitude practice is starting and ending your day with three things you’re grateful for.
Getting good sleep can make a world of difference in your mood and is an important aspect of self care. When you are sleeping in different places and hearing different noises in the middle of the night, it can be hard to get good sleep. We’ve found a few tips and tricks to get a good night sleep while living in a van. The first is having a good blackout curtain and window shades to block out the light at night. Another is using white noise, we use this app on our phones.
One of our most effective sleep practices we have incorporated is using Synchronicity CBD before bed. We have used Melatonin in the past and found it to leave us feeling groggy and concerned that we wouldn’t think clearly if we did have to address something in the middle of the night. We have found that CBD will get us over the hump of sleep anxiety, leave us feeling refreshed in the morning, and be able to wake up in the middle of the night if we ever had a safety issue. Use the code FULLSPECTRUM to get 20% off your order. We love the capsules for sleep and the tincture for anxiety during the day.
If you live in a van with a partner, having alone time is important self care. When you live in less than 70 square feet, getting alone time can be difficult. We intentionally carve out time alone by having one of us take Joni for a walk while the other hangs out in the van. Since we’ve built our deck, one of us will go “upstairs” while the other hangs out downstairs. While we obviously love spending time together (we wouldn’t survive living in a van together if we didn’t) we’ve found it so important to have time to ourselves to process and have space.
Taking care of yourself while living in a van is incredibly important. By focusing on self care, you can improve your mental and physical well being and improve your enjoyment of life on the road. Do you have any self care practices that we missed? Drop them in the comments below. Be good to yourself, be good to others, and Create Your Own Roadshow!