It doesn’t all have to be fantastic.
It’s easy to get caught up in the Instagram lifestyle- even before Instagram existed. The thought that your life needs to be exciting and fantastic all the time. That you should be exploring and adventuring and finding new friends everywhere you go. Okay, maybe that’s just me. But whatever the story is you have in your head about how you are and what you do and way you do it- that you have to be that person at all times.
I used to own a baking business. Over the course of time, it became my identity. If I didn’t bring some fantastic new dish to every event I went to then people would be disappointed… at least that’s the story I told myself.
But the truth of it was that I got tired of looking for new dishes and sometimes I was just tired in general… I didn’t what to need to be that person everywhere I went.
I’m feeling the same about this van adventure. It’s nice to have time to myself and quiet for my brain- but some of it is just life. I cleaned my van yesterday. I was parked at a nature conservancy area on the coast of California. It was a slow, relaxing day. I cooked an okay lunch for myself and made a friend in the parking lot- another person who was traveling the country, living in a minivan with his dog, Winnie the Pooper. She was adorable. He was friendly and geeked out with me about my van and the ability to be stealthy and literally sleep anywhere.
But for some reason by the time I parked in a residential neighborhood to sleep that night I was feeling a little melancholy. I hadn’t written anything all day- and when I tried to I just couldn’t get into the right headspace. I was nervous about people in the neighborhood discovering I was sleeping in my van and concerned about police. There are “no sleeping in cars” signs all over the city and California has really cracked down on vanners- they are not welcome.
I ended up giving myself permission to just relax and watch a few episodes of New Girl and eat some of the leftover birthday cake from my birthday celebration with my sister on day one of my trip. I’m glad she insisted I take it because it was the perfect snack to enjoy that night.
This morning, by the light of day, everything feels a bit better. I realized I didn’t take my ADD meds yesterday- which affects my moods when I don’t wean myself on or off. But in the disrupted schedule of my life it can be difficult to remember them- it’s the cruel irony of ADD. I woke up to rain and gloom- which helped my mood as well. Today just feels like a writing day. I always feel better when I write.
But every day doesn’t need to be Vantastical to be enjoyable. Sometimes it’s just life, and that’s okay.
- Pulling out on the side of the road to write and being entirely self-contained. On the beach, a cliff or in the middle of the giant redwoods
- Being able to sleep on the side of the road for a couple of hours, or the night
- Not needing to set up camp- or haul a tent
- Cooking breakfast out the back of my van along the coast- overlooking the ocean
- Having leftovers and being able to offer them to the homeless guy sleeping in the park (then again, maybe he wasn’t homeless- just wanted to sleep in the park for a while?)
- A hot meal that isn’t fast food- cooked wherever I go
- Feeling like my options are limitless- I can go as far or not go at all. There is no real deadline or rush.
- Other vanners. I’ve met several. They are willing to nerd out, share advice, and swap stories. It’s a unique sense of community.
- Other vanner dogs. I don’t need to expand on that really. Dogs are cool.
- Feeling not welcomed in most places
- The pickle jar- Accidentally missing the pickle jar and needing to figure out how to not have my entire van smell like pee.
- The smells in general- smaller garbage bags are better, thrown away at every chance.
- Ice- the constant need to refresh ice to not lose my cooler full of food
- Bugs- cooking at night/dusk turned out to be a real problem. Because I was cooking outside, with the back of the van open, there were bugs attracted to the smell and the light and they ate me, my food and then were also in the van when I got in.
- Nightime cooking is something I’m not doing anymore either- by the time I’m done cooking I’m starving and exhausted (and being eaten by bugs) and still need to do the dishes and put everything away,
- Loneliness- Traveling by myself can be awesome- but there is a sense of loneliness that can be overwhelming. My second night, but first night boondocking within city limits, I was nervous because I’d never done this before, but also hadn’t spoken to a single person all day. Now that the night has passed I can see this as a common solo travel experience I’ve had- it’s exciting at first, but then I have to adjust to being alone. It’s not a bad thing, but it’s a thing.
- Bathing. I need to figure out a better option. It’s hard to mix city vacation with a camping vacation when you feel dirty and gross. Baby wipes can only get you so far.
Advice/Things to remember for next time:
- Bathrooms in grocery stores are superior to bathrooms in gas stations. If you bring a change of clothes, baby wipes, a toothbrush and toothpaste in the bathroom with you it’s amazing how good you’ll feel when you’re done. Pro-tip: a small hand towel is a fantastic thing to have to wipe your face off with after washing it in the bathroom sink with warm water.
- Eat a hot breakfast and a hot lunch- then eat a cold dinner.
- Organization is key- and is impossible.
- I’m really glad I took this trip to get a really good feel for the space in the van and to learn about my travel style. I was planning to build a kitchen that was mostly accessible out the back of the van- but now I know that isn’t ideal. I want to be able to cook and access food with all the doors shut tight for several reasons.
- Know where you’re planning to sleep before it gets too dark if possible. Although- it is easier to spot likely spots to stealth camp after dark when you can see unlit areas and tell where the quiet spots in town are. It’s a conundrum.
Builds to add asap:
- Curtains for both privacy and stealth camping. If no one can see in (and if light isn’t escaping) then no one suspects anything.
- A bed frame and a real mattress
- Insulation- it got cold last night- insulation would have helped.
- A cabinet “kitchen” unit
- A fridge unit
- Inside lighting (soft)
This was written during my San Fransicso trip Sept 2019