Friday, October 18, 2019

Van Life So Far as a Solo Woman and Other Observations...

It has been several months living the van life now.  I get little questions from friends and family from time to time, and I see a lot of discussion around the subject of being a lady living in her van.

There is a lot of great women who have a lot of cool insight into this subject for sure.  But here are a few observations I've made so far!



My Take On Van Life So Far...

I have done the whole van life thing for about 4 months or so. Full disclosure... there was a whole month I lived indoors in a house, trying out renting a room from a friend.  And it is nuts...I realized I really, truly missed my van.  And here is why: it's mine.  I may not have a lot, but it gives me a place to call my own, do my own thing, and save up for future goals.  I find that my new career is all about being flexible and able to travel at any given moment, so my van makes this happen without a lot of added expense.



But, of course, there are tons of things I have had to come to terms with. Everything takes longer. You often have to have a bathroom plan, because I don't have room for one.  Showers are a thing.  Oh, it snowed last night - Is that why it's so f'ing cold?  OMG...how did all these mosquitos get in here?!  Hold on, I need to put this item away before I can get to and use that one...

None of these are bad things for me I am learning (well except for mosquitoes.)  I know it is definitely not for everyone, but I like having a small routine. I (mostly) like pushing myself a bit and not being complacent.  I like that it makes me workout to get a shower.

So...you ask...what does that routine look like?  

It all depends on where I stayed the night before.  My preferred place is a campsite that is secluded and free (which often means without amenities) but this lends itself to comfortably making coffee and breakfast and getting ready without feeling weird and not really worrying about the morning routine.

Morning routine + no power = foam rollers!

Other times, I may stealth camp in town.  If I stay at a truck stop or parking lot, I skip the morning routine almost all together, throw on clothes and run in to buy a coffee.

And if I stay at a campground with amenities, you better believe I take my time, as I probably paid for that shiz.

I also have a gym membership so I workout in the evenings when it is quiet and can take showers there.

Which all that brings me to observations of being a solo-woman living in her van...

First and foremost, I always listen to my gut feelings of a spot.  If I feel weird about it, I just leave.  Honestly, I also had to feel out what I was comfy with and what I wasn't.  And I have become more comfortable with a lot, actually.  Less than a year ago, going camping by myself freaked me out- quite a bit, actually.  It was a combo of being a woman and being newly single.  I'd gone straight from living with my parents to living with my husband.  I'm not saying it because it is a bad thing, but for me, I realized doing things alone was a tough new experience.  I just had to learn I could do it. And now I find that I am pretty cozy in my little van wherever my gut says is cool.

First solo camping trip!

In addition to gut feeling is defense. An awesome friend bought me a badass knife and some bear mace, and that helped me feel much more in control.  I know some ladies keep a gun, or a bat, but basically I think you should choose some kind of defense that makes you feel comfortable and helps alleviate concerns.  Hopefully you never have to use it, but it sure feels good to know I have something I can use if I felt the need.

However, I also realize that all I can do is take precautions, and I can't control everything that happens.  That drives me a bit crazy but is also freeing.

Here are my go to precautions...I park the van to where I could easily drive off if I need. I keep all doors locked all the time I am in the van, and if I am sitting outside the van (campfire, picnic table, etc) then I keep the front of the van locked and my rear door unlocked for quick access. I keep the aforementioned mace and knife within reach.  (Last night my knife doubled as a fire poker. Think about how that would smart! haha) I put up my blackout window covers even when camping in a secluded spot.  If stealth camping, I make a strong effort to only exit and enter from the driver side door and not the back doors (which are my access doors) so it isn't obvious I am living in there. And I wear leggings to sleep in, because it's what all the cool kids wear now. Oh, and mostly because they are not obviously PJ's.



I am also lucky in that my dad made sure I knew how to do basic mechanics, and I am now pretty good at changing a tire, jumping my vehicles, etc.  But I also have roadside assistance just in case.

Other observations...

At first I really hated saying I was living in my van.  It felt weird to say what I was doing.  And to be fair, if my gut feels weird about stating it, I don't say anything.  But I have some super cool people in my life that not only have had faith in me, they know I can handle my shit and have really bolstered my confidence. I kind of love it now when my friend's daughter tells her friends I live in my van. I love how at the moment it makes me a bit unique.



Also, it actually wasn't my first choice.  I wanted to find a little place of my own.  However, life pushed me in this direction, and I am so glad it did. I am now pretty close to self sufficiency.  And it is my long term goal to pay off debts and save my money over the next year and then decide what I do. I think the only way I would live in a stick built place is if I have a yard where I can play outside as much as I can.

All I know for sure right now is that I try my hardest to take each day as it comes.  And (most of the time) that is actually a pretty cool feeling.

What questions do you have about living in a super tiny place?

- Ash

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

5 Things I Needed for Van Life in My 1st Month

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means that if you go through them to make a purchase I can earn a commission.  But I only link to products that I recommend based on my experience with them, not because of the commission. :)

Here's a secret...you can't really know what you really need in your van home (or any tiny home) until you start living in it.  Maybe that is not a secret.  But hey, just know this shit is all a learning experience. However, maybe I can give a few ideas of things I found were super helpful for me.




NOTE... I am living in my van full time on the SUPER cheap.  So these are inexpensive ways to make life in your van a little easier. And these became serious essentials for me pretty freakin' quick.

1) Rubbermaid Brilliance 18-piece Food Storage Set

These are awesome.  Being that I was on a super tight budget, I needed to use my regular cooler for cold food storage, which meant that ice would melt down and I worried about cross contamination of food containers leaking or getting ice water in them.

This set pretty much solved this for me.  They have an airtight seal and seem to have kept water out and food in.  (I generally try not to let too much water sit in the cooler, but sometimes it's a hot day and melting just happens!)

2) LOCK & LOCK Eggs Dispenser, Holder for 12 Eggs

Speaking of the cooler, I wanted to protect my eggs (which I love so I always have on hand) from getting crushed, and I soon also found that the cardboard containers absorbed moisture no matter if they touched the ice or not.  This egg holder has been invaluable!

3) Coleman 2 Burner Grill Stove Combo

Keeping in line with food...you have to have a way to prepare it!  I think one of the ways most people on the road, especially van lifers spend their money, is on food.  Eating out is easy, but it is expensive and also can really throw off your health.  Plus...I LOVE coffee.  So having an easy way to heat water for the ol' french press was a must!

For me, this stove is the perfect solution.  It has a regular burner on one side, and a grill on the other.  The grill is perfect for toast, meats, etc and while that cooks you can make your eggs on the burner! ;)  Plus it is compact and easy to set up and take down.

My stove set up (Knees for added perspective.) 

4) GIOVANNI- Powder Power Dry Shampoo And Instant Volumizer- All Hair Types

Ok...so van life also means you may not get to shower as often as you're maybe once accustomed to.  I quickly realized that a little dry shampoo goes a long way to making me at least look fresh!

I found this awesome dry shampoo.  It is in powder form, smells great, is easy to use, and it is also free of parabens, dyes, etc.  It is organic and cruelty free, too! It is a great way to hold you over when you need!

5) Hopkins SP570804 Go Gear 12 Volt Oscillating Fan

I quickly found that if I wasn't running the van, it was getting pretty warm in there in the summer!  I needed something to cool the van down some.

There are probably a lot of options out there on fans, but this one was economic and easy to use!  I can clip it anywhere I need in the van, and it easily plugs in to the cigarette lighters in the van, so I didn't have to worry about batteries or electricity. It oscillates and has an easy on/off switch.  Basic but totally does the job on a warm summer day! And as it has cooled off, I run my van's heater and use the fan to push the hot air to the back of my van.

As I mentioned, there have been lots of little things in which I thought I would totally use and then found they were more of a nuisance than help. But these things above have been my go to for the last couple months! 

What do you use on a daily basis?  

-Ash