This Married Couple Revamped a Van, Hit the Road, and Is Traveling Across America
"The first year of marriage is always the hardest." Spoken like a fraternity brother to a new recruit on day one of initiation. You know the look: slight smirk, soft hand on your shoulder, perhaps even a head nod.
No one was shy about reminding us what a challenge marriage would be. Now imagine our surprise when the honeymoon was but a glimpse in our rearview mirror, and my husband and I were still in marital bliss. Hmm, maybe it hits after a few months. Four months went by, and still no more than a tiffle over the dishes (because if you don't grunt over who does the dishes, you're both Virgos). Fast forward seven, eight, ten months and when friends asked me how married life was I got that faraway look in my eyes like I'd already had three glasses of wine. "Wonderful," I would say, immediately accompanied by, "no, really!"
Our first year of marriage was magic. I know what you must be thinking. Um, this is irritating, where's the lesson learned here? It's coming. See, we've given this time in our lives a lot of thought, and we've reasoned that the big changes that come with marriage didn't really begin for us until about two months ago. It was right around our first wedding anniversary in August of 2017 that we traded in our Brooklyn shoebox for a mobile one . . . about 70 square feet give or take.
Van life is like our marital hazing.
Luke and I live, work, and travel throughout the country in a converted Sprinter van that we built out ourselves with the help of my family back in San Francisco. Living in a van has really grown into quite the phenomenon (ask our parents, they loving finding #vanlife memorabilia and sending it our way). People of all ages have decided to ditch their stationary addresses for a life on the road. Van lifers across the globe commit to this lifestyle for various reasons but for us, it was all about that search for adventure. Safe to say, it's not just adventure we've found but also the biggest adjustment we've had to make in the seven-plus years we've been together. When we got married nothing really changed; same house, same possessions, same friends, same jobs. It was business as usual, but sprinkled with extreme joy at the idea we were with our forever person.
When people ask us about the first year of marriage and the lessons we've learned, it will be these months we refer back to. Van life is like our marital hazing. 24 hours a day, seven days a week with the same person will definitely teach you a thing or two about what it means to be a life partner. Read on and, who knows, maybe there's something that resonates with you a bit more than ye olde, "the first year's the hardest" adage.
Goodbye Embarassment and Secrecy
For one, you know that "little bit of mystery" they say you should keep throughout a relationship? That's out the window. Not a lot to divulge here other than all of this time together has made us real close. Luke makes up about 90 percent of my human interactions so it's only natural that he assumes the position of partner, friend, mother, soulmate, confidante, advisor, nurse, and more. Of course there are times when we're sick of each other, but the more surprising part is how much we're both clutching on to this time together as we both know van life can't last forever.
Thank Goodness We Are Unique Snowflakes
I think the best part of our trip has been seeing how our differences have had the opportunity to shine through in the most helpful, hilarious, and beautiful ways. My all-time favorite acronym is "jfgi," (just f**king Google it) due to an unhealthy relationship I have with Google and the many answers found there. It isn't uncommon that I spend hours scouring the interwebs for our next week's dream itinerary.
On the contrary, Luke doesn't require the instant gratification that comes with a quick answer. It started off as a joke, but soon became one of my most favorite traits he possesses: the dadsplanation. Different than mansplaining, which implies the given explanation is directed to a crowd already well-versed in the subject matter, the dadsplanation is usually of solid curiosity to its audience, but hotly contested as to whether or not it's total bullshit. Moss on the north side? Geography of the continental divide? Reason behind three-hour parking? Luke's ready with an answer and a way to test his theories. Mix this with my propensity for planning, and we've got every angle covered.
Every Decision Matters
One thing we're both getting used to is that every decision/careless non-decision we make affects the other person. For example, maybe you're like me and tend to leave half-consumed glasses of water around the house despite your greatest attempts to the contrary. (Hey, I'm not proud of this, but when aliens attack, I have my tin foil hat and weaponry ready). Well, in a van, the cups will inevitably get knocked to the floor usually drenching a pillow, the rug, a magazine or really anything within arm's reach. But don't worry, we are not alone in this tomfoolery. Luke over here undresses like a teenager at Summer camp about to skinny dip for the first time: jeans spread all over the floor, both pant legs yanked inside out, keys still dangling off the pant rings. In this square footage, the jeans of a grown man might as well be a parachute the way they grab my ankles as I walk by.
Disagreements Are Just Part of the Process
Something you might expect to come of living in a van but that is still worth mentioning; we argue about teeny tiny things that are of zero consequence. When we lived in the city the decisions we faced were relatively consistent. Where should we go to dinner? What movie should we see? This bar or that bar? We got into a groove and knew without a shadow of a doubt the other person's preference. In a van, suddenly there isn't a fork in the road, but a broom, each bristle illuminating an untouched path. The possibility for differing opinions multiplies tenfold. Each day we face hundreds of questions and produce even more answers. The likelihood that the two of us will agree on every single one is minimal at best. With so many choices, a disagreement is bound to arise. We've learned to embrace it and even goof around if things get tense.
We Make a Pretty Good Team
One magical yet surprising occurrence? When bad things happen in the van, we subconsciously take turns being the strong one. Unlucky things just happen in a mobile home: you blow a tire, accidentally light a small kitchen fire (what), take a wrong turn, or finally reach your destination that doesn't appear to have anywhere to sleep. After something like this happens, one of us will inevitably take it pretty hard and immediately upon realizing this, the other will pick up the positivity slack. It's easy to get bummed when things don't work out but the best part of adventuring with your partner is, well, just that. We know that we're on a once-in-a-lifetime journey together, and we're there to remind each other of that.
There's Still More to Come . . .
It is work, there's no doubt about it. Every decision I made up until uttering "I do" was my individual choice to make, but when you join forces with another living being (and say, move into a tiny home), you officially are no longer an island. Our lives on the road are similar to our city ones, just magnified: the lows may be pretty low, but the highs are at an all-time peak. We wake up each morning to the fact that we are living our dream with our best friend by our side, so when the sun is shining it's never shone so bright.
Among other things, living on the road has been a reminder that there are still so many things to know about each other. You know what they say, if you can make it in van life you can make it anywhere . . . or is that New York?