Vanlife Diary: What a Year

A year ago, I’d begun building the van that is now my full time home. I was about a month into the build. My stepdad had come out and helped me finish insulating the walls before we hung sheets of plywood across them. They were a bright light wood that glowed in the winter sunlight. Now, they’re a dark cherry. The last day and a half, I’d assisted him as he built a chest style bed that he assembled from blue prints in his head. It took me watching most of the process to realize what and how he was doing it. I’d told him I was thinking about a slated bed, like the ones most van lifers have, but he didn’t know what I was talking about. I handed him tools and watched him work, grunting and groaning.

The next weekend I problem solved my way through hanging plywood for the ceiling. We’d talked about it. It should only take two pieces of plywood but this didn’t align with the structural ribs across the roof of the van, so I ended up doing it in three pieces. Reason, I suppose, does not always match reality.

Now I’m keeping mental tabs (which need to be physical notes) of little fixes needed around my home on wheels. In some places, the maps on my ceiling are peeling away from the plywood. Most notably so above the camp stove. It seems 90 3M adhesive is no match for regular heat rising off the propane burners. It’s too cold in Denver to do much with the van these days and my schedule has been a little erratic for these sorts of grounding exercises, but I feel I need them.

For now, I am experimenting with van living in approaching single digit nighttime temperatures. It takes a surprising amount of energy to live this way, though I am loving it. I feel empowered and capable, although decidedly ungrounded. I managed to keep my food and my contact lenses from freezing last night. I remembered that coolers work well as warmers too, or at least for combating temperature changes. My REI down sleeping bag has been crucial. Cooking breakfast in the mornings alongside my Buddy Heater heats the van up quickly, although it doesn’t stay once they’re off.

I’m hermiting pretty hard these days in my best intention of completing my book before April 1st departure to Ecuador. I’ve romanticized this type of solitude all my life and although mostly suites me, at times, it is paralyzing. For now, I’ll head to some public place with good heat and power outlets to regain a bit of normalcy. Until next time, live easy and love freely, my dears. ❤️

On Van Life: Month 1

It’s been a month now.  Five weekends.  

The first two I didn’t get out of the city, because I still had moving out to do and a few projects to finish on the build.  

The first weekend I finished moving my stuff into storage and hooking up the solar electricity.  I bought a deep cycle battery at Interstate, a battery box at Home Depot, and though still intimidated by the project of hooking up a solar system, I managed not to fuck anything up.  

Late Sunday night I mounted up the water pump and ran what hose I could to get the sink operating, but I was short a couple of hose clamps and was very tired so I called it quits just short of completion.  

One day the following week, I stopped by the house to hang out with my cat and finish up the plumbing.  He slept with me in the van that night, first curled up on the driver’s seat, but as the night cooled down he ended up next to me.

The next weekend I was so burned out that instead of making a rugby trek into the mountains, I opted to lay around the house with my oldest best friend and binge movies.  It was 100% worth it. I was feeling 6 months of working overtime weeks and van build weekends and I was tired. I may still be, but the more I minimize, the more centered I feel in my decision to make such a radical change in lifestyle.  I’m finding rest in a variety of places now and doing my best to listen to my body and my mind’s desires to be still.

Here are a few reflections from the last month.

1. Firsts are difficult.

The first week was the least comfortable. The first morning I cooked eggs and chorizo on the camp stove was the least graceful (the propane kept leaking). The first time I peed in the middle of the night in a wag bag was the weirdest (as I squatted just a few feet from my pillow). The first time a coworker asked if I needed a place to stay was the most awkward (he completely understood my decision once I explained). Now all of those things feel regular.

2. Food is a relationship.

I purposefully didn’t design a fridge in the build because my intention was to only be traveling in the van.  I was also considering that they use a lot of energy and a bit of space and I didn’t think I needed it. I don’t.  I’m at the grocery store every couple days and I’m (mostly) eating everything I buy. I currently have a jar of strawberry jam and I’m afraid I’m going to be sick of PBJs before it’s gone.  I’ll get back to you about that. So far, the small cooler I have is perfect.

3. Solitude.

I’m alone A LOT which generally suits me since I’m an introvert (also because I’m trying to find an artist’s way aka hustling all my waking hours to do something meaningful), but it has made my weekend interactions more intentional and my chosen tribe more apparent. I’m also very productive, because I have no excuse not to be. Equally, my sleep schedule is on point.

There’s so much more to say, but I’ve run to the end of a train of thought.  More to come another day. Peace.