Ten Vanlife Lessons We Have Learned

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Vanlife can be such a beautiful opportunity to challenge yourself and pursue personal growth. After spending extended amounts of time traveling in our Chevy Express Campervan, we know this to be true. We joke that everything we do in the van is at least 25% more difficult than living in a traditional home that doesn’t move. Every added difficulty is an opportunity for growth. We have learned so many lessons about ourselves, each other, and the world. Below we will share our biggest vanlife lessons.

The Value of Teamwork

Though Eric and I have always known we make a great team, living in a tiny space reminded us how valuable this truly is. If Eric is cooking, I am tidying up the van. When I am making the bed, Eric will be backing up pictures. If Eric is driving, I am looking up campsites for the night. Living in a van simplifies your life in many ways but it also presents a lot of unique challenges. Having a partner to share the load makes it much more enjoyable.

Vanlife in Sequoia National Park
The best adventure buddies!

Not Having a Loo is Really Not an Issue

People’s favorite question to ask when they see our van is “Where is your toilet?” Well the simple answer is, we don’t really have one, and it’s really not a problem. We do have our beloved Nalgene pee bottle (come on van-lifers, we all have one) for middle of the night potty trips and we have an emergency poop bucket (which we never had to use). For the most part though, we are either out in nature where we can go freely, or in spaces that have public restrooms. There ya go for the TMI for this post!

Being Self-Reliant is a Game Changer

Supplying our own power, having water on board, and a stocked fridge and pantry, means we really don’t have to worry about much on the road. Between 300 watts of solar, our DC-DC charger, and 200 amp/hrs of lithium ion, we have more than enough power. In fact, often cook electrically almost as often as we use our propane camp stove (Go Instant Pots and electric hot plates!) We sprung for a 20 gallon water tank and have not regretted it. We generally have to fill our water every 5-7 days.

Vanlife Cooking
Cooking out the back of Casper was so enjoyable!

Having Minimal Set Up is a Game Changer as Well

Rocking up to a camp spot and literally not having to do anything to set up camp will never get old. When we travelled to Costa Rica, we rented a truck with a rooftop tent. After dealing with putting that thing up and taking it down every day, we vowed never again. Our van is so dead simple and we absolutely love it.

National Parks Have the Best Services

After visiting countless National Parks, we have learned this lesson well. Having never owned an RV before, we weren’t familiar with having to use dump stations and water fills. Virtually every National Park we visited had a campground that offered these services regardless of whether you were paying for a site there. Additionally, recycling has been hard to find on the road, virtually every National Park we have visited had recycling for glass, paper, and plastic. Shoutout to NPS for saving the day! Be sure to get your parks pass to save the most money!

Vanlife in Death Valley National Park
National Park love!

Related Post: Our Guide to Visiting National Parks

Never Take Warm Showers for Granted

That being said, finding showers is not as difficult as we imagined it would be. Still, when you’re used to showering daily, stretching that to 3 days while using body wipes in between can make you feel less than clean. When we do get a shower, it feels so unbelievably glorious. I’m pretty sure every time we come out of a shower we exclaimed “I feel like a new (wo)man!” More on vanlife hygiene here.

Breaking Out of Routine Makes You Feel More Alive

This applies to all forms of travel and it is what attracts us to explore again and again. We have been guilty of going to work, making dinner, having a beer, watching Netflix, and falling asleep on the couch, repeat ad infinitum. When you give in to routine in this way and start living on auto-pilot, you are no longer fully present and time starts to blur together. By changing up routine and spending time more intentionally, we feel ourselves waking up. We are more present, light-hearted, and all around happier. Obviously vanlife is not a pre-requisite for being fully present, but it has been the reminder we needed.

Boondocking in Utah BLM land
Having new digs like this every night definitely changed up the routine.

Related Post: Vanlife Essentials

Prioritizing Storage Space Pays Off Royally

Our van is just shy of 70 square feet so we knew we couldn’t waste an inch of space. We wracked our brains for quite some time coming up with our layout and we can honestly say, we wouldn’t change a thing. We have more than enough space to store all of our food, cooking utensils, tools, clothes, etc. Having a dedicated home for everything also paid off. It has made keeping the van clean so much simpler.

Van conversion interior
We love how much storage Casper has.

The United States is Full of Beauty

Building a van was not an easy decision for us. We debated for a long time whether we wanted to prioritize international or domestic travel. In the end we decided that the van was an investment and literally a vehicle to allow us to travel more often. This country is truly stunning and has so many unique corners to explore. We have seen everything from mountains, to desert, to ocean. We are so excited to continue to explore with Casper in the years to come.

Julia Pfiefer State Park California Big Sur
The beautiful Pacific Coast.

Life is Really Not as Complicated as We Make It

When you boil it down, all you really need in life is food, shelter, water, and connection to humans and nature. The van allows us to simplify the first three needs so that we can focus on our human and natural connections. We are able to have so many moments where we were fully present with each other and our environment. It is exactly the reminder we needed that so many of the distractions and complications in our lives are simply a human construct. We have created this crazy culture of constant connection, but we are just as capable of opting out of it. This has been our biggest and most important vanlife lesson.

Astro photography in Sequoia National Park
Our problems are quite tiny in the grand scheme of things.

Well there you have it, our biggest vanlife lessons! We hope this post has inspired and enlightened you. Whatever brings you passion in life, we hope you get out there and Create Your Own Roadshow! Be sure to subscribe below so you never miss a post!

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. tehokaswriter

    I hope you’ll share more about your experiences. I’d be particularly interested in the preparation and van build. Did you have relevant construction knowledge or did you learn as you go?

    1. There will definitely be more posts to come about the van build. Eric is a product designer and minored in wood working so he had a fair bit of knowledge going in. There was a fair bit of learning as we went though, especially for electrical and plumbing!

  2. pam@ichoosethis

    Whoa! you guys did a great job on the van and what a fun adventure!

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