Personally, I think the benefits of minimalism are worth shouting from the rooftops and attempting to convert everyone to a simpler and less materialistic way of life. At the risk of sounding like a travel douchebag, I enjoy travelling with a 22 litre backpack because I like that it forces me to scrutinise every item I carry with me. If it doesn’t serve me well, I have to make do without it, simple!
Me & my possessions
Living in a van was even more of a challenge for me because I wanted my set up to be both minimal and practical.
Your Personal Hygiene Will Suffer
It’s inevitable. You’re living in a vehicle with no running water, so the frequency of your showers will certainly be on the decline. There’s no beating around the bush: you will not be able to maintain the level of hygiene you might be accustomed to. Sorry.
In addition to this, you might find that you’re more likely to re-wear clothes that are a little dirtier than you usually would choose to put on. Doing your laundry on the road isn’t always easy: laundromats are time-consuming and often expensive. Oh, and you can forget about washing your bedsheets frequently.
My top tips for appearing presentable when you might be a little sore on the eyes are wearing hats (cover that greasy mop), opting for clothes that don’t smell or wrinkle (hello merino wool!), and baby wipes (it almost feels like a mini shower).
You’ll Become A Five Star One-Pot Chef
Your culinary skills will certainly come under the spotlight when you’re living in a vehicle. Whilst I love cooking, perfecting simple no-cook dishes for when the weather wasn’t as pleasant as one would like (I’m looking at you, gale-force winds and torrential rain!) was a challenge in itself.
I embraced the opportunity to get creative (and a little bit weird) with my recipes, become speedier than Usain Bolt in rapid cooking, and transformed into a master of washing the dishes in under 2 minutes flat.
When It Rains, It Pours
Living in a van taught me to roll with the punches. The biggest punch, in my opinion, was the weather. Now, this might be because my van didn’t have a functioning air-con system. But honestly, you can’t leave your engine on overnight — so being exposed to the elements is inevitable.
Being at the mercy of mother nature for prolonged periods of time definitely takes its toll. Prepare to get wet and not have anywhere to get changed. Once you’ve been caught in the rain, the worst part is still yet to come: scrambling into the car when you’re soaked to the bone, attempting to strip naked without giving someone an eye-full and getting changed into the safe haven that is dry clothes. Ah, the dilemma of where to put your wet clothes… your guess is as good as mine!
Your Flexibility Will Improve. In Both The Literal And Figurative Sense.
After spending a couple of months getting dressed horizontally, brushing your teeth in the driver’s seat, and cooking on a portable stove in a hunched over fashion, you’ll see just how important being able to stand up is. Deep breath in, back straight, neck elongated — what a treat! Spending your living time sitting/lying in a van makes you really appreciate the time you spend when you’re out and about — hiking, stretching, sitting in an office chair… it’s the little things.
You’ll find so many times when things simply don’t go to plan and you need to seek alternative arrangements at the drop of a hat. Unexpected road closures, unforeseen laundry day disasters, and sudden road stops are all part of the fun.
However, there were times when I couldn’t find my only “clean” pair of socks (they were hiding in the bottom of my sleeping bag) or I discovered that the last banana I was saving for breakfast was badly bruised beyond eating. Living in a vehicle certainly amplifies the stress. That’s because you value the little things more, so when something small goes wrong, oh boy does it feel terrible.
On the flip side, living in a van forced me to become more organised and a better planner overall. Vehicle dwelling allows you to get creative with your problem solving skills and to think outside the box. These invaluable soft-skills have assisted me in many other areas of my life and I have van life to thank for that.
Rebecca Da Silva is a small business owner (seriously, she’s very tiny) and freelance writer. She enjoys long-term travel, drinking earl grey tea, and has a penchant for learning new things. Follow her journey on Instagram @ _becular. Rebecca is the founder of Zero Cup - a reusable menstrual cup that provides an eco-friendly alternative to pads & tampons. Visit www.zerocup.co.uk to learn more about zero waste periods or support Zero Cup on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.