By living in your vehicle, you have the option to explore wherever you like. No longer reliant on public transportation, the world is quite literally your oyster. Hop from one location to the next at your own pace and soak up your surroundings. The luxury of being flexible with your itinerary permits you to travel at your leisure - with much less stress! Pull up on the beach, the base of a mountain, or by a lake: the world becomes your front lawn and you can change up the backdrop as frequently as you like.
Life Is A Challenge Anyway
Living in a car or van definitely throws some challenges at you, but hey, isn’t that what life’s all about, anyway? Vehicle dwelling allows you to get creative with your problem solving skills and to think outside the box. You might find yourself dangerously low on gas or perhaps you’re down to your final pack of instant noodles in a remote location. Whatever the situation, you have to rely on your own critical thinking to find a solution that works. For example, when my car wouldn’t start, I used Tinder to find someone who could help jump-start my car. Sure, it can be challenging at times, but you the memories you make certainly make up for it.
Fun, Fun, Fun
Living in your vehicle is rewarding because of how much fun you can have in your new home on wheels. If you’re sharing the car with someone, it’s inevitable that you’ll get closer (both literally and figuratively - hey, living in a car can be a tight squeeze!) I spent six weeks living a van with my friend, and I haven’t laughed so hard in yonks. We managed to make the long journeys fun by having road trip sing alongs, playing endless rounds of “fuck, marry, kill” and “would you rather”. We also developed a fondness for playing chess and games of pool at any given chance. As two single, childless women, our van was our “baby” and we named her Ilana. That definitely satisfied any maternal feelings I had: Ilana was well-behaved (when it suited her) and we were sad to part with her at the end of our travels.
That 2-4-1 realness: your car doubles as your humble abode and your mode of transport. The cost of accommodation is slashed down to a pittance. You no longer have to travel with the regular folk as you have your own private transportation. In many instances, driving is much cheaper than getting a train/bus/flight and you don’t have to be a slave to schedules. Sleeping in a car can be comfortable if you invest in a decent enough mattress and you embrace the fact it’ll never quite compete with your bed from home. However, there’s plenty of money to be saved that can be used for unique travel experiences. If you calculate a 90% comfortable bed for a 50% saving, it’s worth it* *OK, these are fabricated statistics, but you get the gist.
Keep It Minimal
Living in a car forces you to downsize as you certainly can’t fill a whole house worth of belongings in a small metal box with four wheels. I travel with a 22 litre backpack as it forces me to scrutinise every item: if it doesn’t serve me well, I have to make do without it. And the same principle applies for living in a van - limited space gives you the opportunity to simplify your possessions. You’ll find that you don't need half the crap you think you will. Life with less filler is always a winner.
Bye Bye Personal Hygiene
Going more than a couple of days without a shower is a no-no, especially if you are doing some sweaty activities in the day time, such as hiking. Doing your laundry on the road isn’t always ideal: laundromats are time-consuming and the dryers are a rip-off.
The perception that people who live in their vehicles smell is valid to an extent because you will not be able to maintain the level of hygiene you might be accustomed to. If you’re travelling on a budget, forget about changing your bedsheets weekly and taking cold, timed showers become the norm. This is where hats become your best friend (cover that greasy hair up) and deodorant applications throughout the day are essential.
Is It Really Cost Effective?
Ultimately, if you know about cars and can do repairs by yourself, then go for it! However, if your car breaks down and you don’t know a thing (like me), then you may have to fork out a small fortune to get your car repaired. Repairs can cost hundreds of dollars, so you might end up spending more than you would have on public transportation. Plus, gas is killer expensive if you buy an old vehicle with poor gas-mileage. Not all campsites are free, so you still may have to pay to park your car. And heck, if you’re visiting a busy city, be prepared to pay double digits for hourly parking. Just sayin’.
It’s Not All Sunshines & Rainbows
Living in a car is challenging. Some simple things you might take for granted (rinsing your mouth after cleaning your teeth or washing your pots and pants) become a lot more difficult. Many campsites don’t have basic facilities like running water (hello, drop-loos!), so you have to wrack your brain to find a suitable solution. In addition to this, simple tasks like going to the loo in the middle of the night can become arduous tasks, especially if it is raining. No one wants to climb back into bed in wet clothes. However, once you apply some smarts to a problem, you can usually overcome it.
Lord of Weather, Have Mercy!
My, oh, my. You really are at the mercy of mother nature. If it’s raining, prepare to get wet and not have anywhere to comfortably get changed into dry clothes. In fact, getting caught in the rain isn’t the most inconvenient thing, it’s having to scramble into the car (wet), and somehow strip naked without someone seeing you and getting changed into dry clothes. And then where do you dry the soaked through clothing? Your guess is as good as mine…
When it’s chilly, prepare to FREEZE. Sleeping inside a car is fucking freezing, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. During the New Zealand “summer”, there were times in the South Island where I slept with pyjamas, socks, a fleece, a coat with the hood pulled up over my head and towel wrapped around my legs inside a hefty sleeping bag and my teeth were still chattering. The worst night I experienced was the day before cyclone Gita hit and in the morning, my friend told me that she slept with a pair of socks on her hands to act like mittens. My goodness.
Conversely, when the sun shines, it scorches. Now, investing in a cooler for food & drinks is a wise move, but it doesn’t work for everything. We left a plastic bottle on the dashboard and it was partially melted after a full day in the sun.
Rebecca Da Silva is a small business owner (seriously, she’s very tiny) and freelance writer. She is the founder of Zero menstrual cups and spends her time breaking the taboo around menstruation. Visit www.zerocup.co.uk to learn more about sustainable period products. Rebecca enjoys living out of a tiny backpack, calling new places “home” - for a short while, at least - and slow, long-term travel. You can follow her journey on Instagram @_becular or stop by her blog becular.wordpress.com.