What’s it going to be like?

I've read about van life, I've talked about van life, but I have yet to live the van life.
a view of mark's interior from the bed

The day Mark becomes our permanent, albeit mobile, home is quickly approaching. Like we’re talking days, as in less than a week. Since the day we bought Mark, I’ve been attempting to mentally prepare myself for moving into the van full time. I’ve read blogs and Instagram posts about other van lifer experiences, but reading about it and living it are two different things. I’m not exactly stressed, anxious or nervous about the transition from a 1,600-square-foot structure to a 76-square-foot van. I’m more expectant and somewhat leery.

Van life is full of uncertainty, which is both intimidating and alluring at the same time. Nobody wants to get in a car accident, but when someone t-bones your car you’re out a vehicle until it gets fixed. What about if we crash Mark? Suddenly we’re out a vehicle and our home. Same if Mark breaks down. This is nothing compared to the thought of someone stealing the van. If someone steals Mark, they’ve basically stolen our entire lives.

Mark’s layout I made during the planning phase. As you can see, there’s not much floor space.

Van life comes at a cost. The first thing that usually comes to mind is space, but it’s not so much space as it is convenience. Space gives you convenience.

In such a small space Jeremy and I have to be far more conscious about where we stand or sit when doing anything inside the van. Instead of simply grabbing what we need from a closet or cupboard, we’ll likely have to pull out a dozen other things to get that one thing we actually need. And then put those dozen things back just to take them out again to put back the thing we needed and then put everything back again.

With no hot water heater we have to boil water every time we do dishes. There’s no endless supply of water; we need to keep the tank full. There’s no magic pipe to carry all our gray water away; we have to dump the tank (ideally before it overflows). There’s also no endless supply of power unless we’re plugged into shore power. Each electron pulled from the battery must be carefully considered if we don’t want to run out of electrons before we can charge the battery again. There’s no temperature control to keep us cool in the summer or warm in the winter.

“Plumbing” is a loose term for our sink setup.

When I prepared for my thru hike of the Appalachian Trail, I took a week-long class with Warren Doyle. He said the most important part of thru hiking isn’t the gear you bring, the weather or the millions of footsteps you take, it’s what’s in your head and how you deal with it. I think van life is a lot like thru hiking in that aspect. It’s not how big the van is, the layout or what you have in the van, it’s how you adapt and deal with what you have.

Getting used to the smaller space, inconveniences, and extra work of living in Mark will likely take time. I’m sure it’ll even be downright frustrating and aggravating at some point. We just have to work through it and be patient. Over time the van won’t seem so small. The so-called extra work will be second nature. The inconveniences will simply become a part of normal, everyday life. Once this happens, we can truly reap the rewards of van life and appreciate the freedom it gives us.

And if Jeremy’s snoring ever gets too much for me, I can always set up the tent since I can’t move the couch.

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I served 11 years in the Navy, and in 2014 I thru hiked the Appalachian Trail. These experiences helped prepare me for vanlife. My husband and I now live in our self-converted van, Mark.

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About Us

We left “normal” life behind and now live in our self-converted van, Mark. Our time in the military and backpacking adventures made vanlife an easy choice. The leap into vanlife and a self-conversion can be exciting yet daunting. We want to share our experiences and provide resources to give you vanlife your way, and the highway.

jeremy and christina at sunset

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