Like many folks, I didn’t enter adulthood with van life as a goal. Over the years it made the most sense.
Back in 2014 I thru hiked all 2185.3 miles of the Appalachian Trail. I lived out of my backpack for six months, and I loved it. I carried everything I needed to survive on my back. For the first time in my life I felt organized — I knew where everything was in my backpack. I spent all day outside, and enjoyed every minute it wasn’t raining, and it didn’t rain much that year. Each night I found a new spot to call home.
Coming back to my structure (stationary dwelling, aka house) shocked my system. I felt trapped in a box, and aside from the unlocked doors, I was. My structure didn’t go anywhere. Also, why was this structure so freaking big?! I lived in a tent for six months! What the heck did I need a 1900-square-foot structure for?! Then I looked around at all the stuff packed into my large structure. Being overwhelmed with the mounds of useless junk taking up space, I called my sister.
Me: What do I need all this crap for? I should get rid of it ALL.
Sis: Well, it wouldn’t hurt to get rid of some stuff and purge.
Can I get rid of everything? Like everything inside the house except for my backpacking gear, and then get rid of the house?
You are married, so you probably shouldn’t get rid of everything. A good rule of thumb is to get rid of anything you haven’t used in six months.
But I haven’t used anything except my backpacking gear in six months, including my house!
But I couldn’t ditch everything. My second husband wasn’t exactly fond of having only what was necessary to survive. I escaped to the mountains as often as possible and volunteered on trail crews, trying to relive the freedom and happiness of my thru hike. While on the road I often slept in my hatchback. With my backpack I had everything I needed to survive. Add that to my car and I also had shelter from the rain and mobility. Sleeping at a trailhead one night it hit me — I should move into a vehicle!
Van life made the most sense to me. Knowing how much my silly second husband valued indoor space, I entertained living in an RV or a boat. He rejected living in any sort of tiny home unless it was some $1 million boat. A boat we not only couldn’t afford to buy, but couldn’t afford to maintain or take anywhere. Long story short, our marriage ended in 2017.
When Jeremy and I got together, one of the first things I asked him was, “Would you be willing to live in a vehicle with me?” He said, “Hell yes!” We did a bit of a “dry run” of vehicle living by driving across the country and living out of my VW Sportwagen for a week. Wagenlife was a success! Our original plan was to move into a van sometime in 2023, so we didn’t need to buy one anytime soon. Thanks to my gracious and generous mother, we bought Mark in February 2019. We spent a little over a year building out the van, and we moved into Mark full time at the end of March!
Van life gives us freedom. Financially, it frees up at least $1,000/month needed for a structure. Living a simpler life lends itself to spending less. We never have to leave home to travel, and like a backpack, we have everything we need everywhere we go. A small space forces organization, which Jeremy and I are not good at when living in large spaces. Plus, a clean, organized living space helps my mental health. A small space also forces us to leave it and get outside, making the great outdoors our home too. It works for us!