I Lived and Traveled in a Van With My Mom For Weeks, and It Was Both Awesome and Terrible
Living in a van was never something I actually planned to do for any stretch of time. The lifestyle didn't really appeal to me, even if only for a short vacation, but when my mother decided she wanted to travel (and occasionally work) out of her van and begged me to tag along, I couldn't say no. To say I wasn't thrilled would have been an understatement. Weeks upon weeks crammed into a single van with another person? As someone who values their personal space a lot, that sounded like absolute misery to me.
But my mom promised adventure, and as much as I wanted to say no, I decided to go for it. What was the worst that could happen? We'd bicker here and there and I'd get mad about not having access to a shower when I wanted? I decided to focus on the positives — that I would get to spend quality time with my mom, travel the country, and experience something new. Now that our trip is over and I can look back on it, I can honestly say that I have very mixed feelings about living the van life. Keep reading for seven things I learned and why I'll probably never do it again.
Pro: You Get to See So Many New Places
We visited so many places across the US and Canada, from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland to Niagara Falls to New York City to Las Vegas. As long as we had the gas to get to where we wanted to go, nothing could actually stop us, and it was so freeing to just get in the car and drive purely because we wanted to explore some place new. I honestly saw more in those few weeks than I have in years, and I never realized how much of the country I was missing out on until I spent so long traveling through it in a van.
Con: It Can Be Hard to Find Safe and Private Places to Park
Obviously when living in a van, you have to find a place to park when you need to rest or you're planning on staying somewhere for a stretch of time. I never anticipated this to be an issue, but there are so many things that can go wrong. Particularly, I found that even if you're in a public place that's well-lit and safe, people get uneasy about a van never moving. We even had the police called on us once just to check what we were doing. And while I totally understand this, it was still an annoying struggle.
Pro: You Really Get Away From Life's Constant Distractions
While I did have my phone with me while traveling, I didn't have my laptop, constant access to the internet, or the ability to watch whatever I wanted on TV whenever I wanted. To a certain extent, I was no longer surrounded by technology 24/7, and while there were some stretches where this was absolute torture, it also really helped me get back in touch with the little things and embrace a much calmer way of life. Pulling away from social media and all of the devices we constantly use was really amazing.
Con: The Lack of Indoor Plumbing
Honestly, need I say more? There's nothing worse than waking up in the middle of the night because you desperately need to rush to the bathroom and then you realize that you are . . . in a van, with no plumbing or private bathroom. We had to get pretty creative if we couldn't just get out of the car and rush into the nearest place. Also, the lack of a proper shower was really awful. I rarely felt clean.
Pro: You Meet So Many New and Amazing People
When you live and travel in a van, people tend to get curious about you and the lifestyle you've chosen. I was shocked and amazed by how many people would approach me just to ask questions, and most of the time, they were always very nice and interested. I met quite a few kindhearted and quirky people during my travels, some of whom I've still kept in contact with today!
Con: Privacy Does Not Exist
Whether you're traveling alone or traveling with a companion in your van, privacy just doesn't exist. Someone is inevitably always outside of your van making noise or trying to look inside to see what's going on when you climb out. Even covering the windows does little to actually make you feel like you're secluded and alone in the safety of your own "home."
Con: It Can Be Very Isolating and Lonely at Times
After about a month of traveling, I grew pretty homesick. I missed my cats, my friends, and my bedroom, and I found it difficult to enjoy the things my mother and I were doing because I just wanted to go home. When you're living in a van, you can do and see so much, but to a certain extent, you can cut yourself off from a lot, too. Finding a balance was difficult, and that's likely what eventually made me give up the van life.