How ironic that this post follows my last.
It comes in waves, this vanlife. My first foray into vanlife came at the end of 2011, and truly began in early 2012. I would buy a cheap Vanagon off Craigslist, build it out, and hit the road. I would live in it for about 9 months, much of which was exploring the United States. At that time, like this time, I thought it could potentially last forever. The dream dies, or at least slips into a slumber, when I come back to stationary life here in Portland. For a few months I can hold on, but ultimately, when here for months on end it becomes necessary to move out of the van and into a room. This has now happened twice, and twice it has been a sad moment of conceit.
In 2015 I lived in a tiny house in Eastern Oregon, and by the end of 2015 I had purchased another Vanagon and built it out for life on the road. I had so missed the freedom that I felt back in 2012. This time I spent the majority of the winter along the California coastline. Up and down the 101 I would sleep in driveways, parking lots, along dimly lit streets, and whenever possible outside the city under the stars. Out here it feels wild, maybe even feral. But when stationary, when here in Portland for months, it no longer felt like an adventure, but rather an awkward point of conversation; and so it ended, a second time.
I am not sure where the happy medium is. Can one be semi-stationary and live this lifestyle or does it require constant movement? Here in Portland the winters are wet and cold, and thus life in the van also wet and cold. No longer did it feel like the outdoors were my living room. Maybe it requires a heating system, and maybe a bit more room? I found myself wondering if I would be able to continue this lifestyle here if I had a warm sprinter, or at the very least a Wabasto heater and a high-top on the van. Or, perhaps the key is to head back south when the weather turns, be a young snow-bird.
Whatever the answer is, I have yet to figure it out. Now, living back in a warm house, I find myself wondering how long it will be till the itch starts again. How long will I live the life society expects from a thirty something year-old? Perhaps the middle ground is to build a tiny house and find a plot of land to park it. I have seen what is possible and what is necessary, and it is not a fancy house on the hill. What is necessary is a life outdoors, and maybe a warm bed to come back to at the end of the day, but not always.
So what now? For the moment, it’s back to #houselife. This time I don’t intend to sell my Vanagon though. For if history has taught me anything, it is that this soul needs to wander and it is only a matter of time before the call of the road is too much to ignore.
I believe the whole point of van life is flexibility and spontaneity, certainly not an obligation to go full time. The entire concept of this nomadic lifestyle transcends societal expectations and demands however there are very few people who are living in a van full time unless out of desperation rather than freedom. I love my van and would never consider staying at a motel when travelling but it’s not always appropriate such as when ill.
Hi Steve, definitely. I think I get hung up on the “how long” aspect of it. I have met a lot of folks on my travels that have been at it for years on end and it starts me thinking I could/should do the same. Then I have other friends who do it most of the time, but then stay in a house a little here and little there – which is looking more like the approach I seem to be working into. Either way, I think a high top and a wabasto would be a nice addition to the van 😉
This was so beautifully written! Just keep living. Doesn’t matter if it’s a house or a van or a little cardboard box, just keep finding places that bring you joy. Sending love! Merry Christmas, Ron!
Thank you Danielle. Merry Christmas!
thanks for the post…it is not the easy way here in the PNW to continue to do vanlife through the winter. I happen to be loving it however and do feel the urge to travel here and there. Though I work full time as a teacher, I find myself going into the mountains and to the coast as much as possible. It is also helpful for me to have many of my days with my kids at school, it is like a second home. If I had more choices tho I would most likely be in the South, Baja, Cali, or the Southwest, at least part of the winter. But last night I was by myself on a secluded beach sitting next to a fire. I love, love, love the PNW in winter just for those infrequent gems…this is not related to van or not van however so enjoy what you have when you have it and make the most of what your doing when you doing it.