Thanks to YouTube, when you hear of van life, you most likely conjure up the image of a twentysomething nomadic hipster with a decked out van. Thanks to the news, you might conversely envision someone who hit hard times and consequently had to live in their tiny two-door vehicle. My family is neither.
Why Van Life?
Both my partner Cheeno and I were interested in van life before we met. A few months after dating, he brought a van with the intention to travel. I was in a between stage of my life where I had decided not to pursue a master's degree. I knew I wanted to divorce myself from the status quo and be a writer, but I had no idea how to make a living from it four years ago.
I was scared of what my family would think if I moved into a van, but not scared enough not to do it. Though I had other options, I decided to live with Cheeno. His way of life emulated peacefulness with its carefree minimalism. I wanted to ease in my life.
Keeping the story short, we ended up living in that van for ten months. There were many ups and quite a few downs, but the strength and bond we developed felt much like one forged in lava-like fire. It cooled into a durable foundation.
The vehicle he brought caused some issues, and we weren't able to travel. We ended up parking on a farm for those months until we decided to travel and make money as 48 states, big rig truck drivers. Our sleeper was vastly smaller than our van, but we both ended up loving the intimacy of it overall.
Choosing Van Life Again
We decided to take a Hawaii vacation a year later after feeling a little rundown. We came, we saw, we fell in love with the island, and decided to stay after we found a beautiful off-grid treehouse in the forest. It felt like faith, mainly because we always talked about living in nature off the grid one day.
A month later, we found out I was pregnant. The treehouse seemed like the perfect place for pregnancy, birth, and raising our son, but the house always felt too big. There were three rooms and an outdoor kitchen and bathroom. We used one room for almost everything, and the loft has used a handful of times in the beginning.
I had a very serene pregnancy and an incredible homebirth there, but I felt extremely stagnant, especially in my new role as a mother. I missed the freedom of movement. When our son was three months old, we decided to take the course not often traveled by starting up the van life again, but with a baby.
Pros & Challenges
Whether a house or Dodge Caravan, there are pros and cons to everything. Let's start with a few challenges.
- Assumptions. A lot of people assumed we hit hard times because why else would anyone elect to live in a van with a baby? Because it makes us happy is the answer, by the way!
- Trials and successes. There were quite a few learning curves when it came to living with a baby in a small space. Nine months later, we've got it all (parking, eating, laundry, etc.) figured out.
- The baby becomes a toddler. Our caravan is small now for this energetic 13-month-old boy who lives to walk and climb. Nonetheless, he gets ample time at the beach park almost every day to move around freely and explore nature. Our bed also folds out into 7 feet of space! Still, we're looking into a bigger van.
And now for the empowering points!
- Moving. Our first move was rough. Our original vehicle broke down the day we were heading to the other side of the island. We had to act quickly because Cheeno had to start working. Our move back was easy: we simply drove here. That's it! We love that we can visit or live anywhere on the island at any time.
- Night and day. Many people feel van life can be quite unsafe. We've always thoughtfully picked our locations, and we've never felt unsafe. We currently sleep across from the beach and spend most of the day at the beach park enjoying grass, sand, sea, sun, and sometimes all the above.
- Minimalist. Our life is simple, but it's not dull or without purpose. With less stuff, we are more organized. You have to be with a baby! We also get to do more of what we love, like working on ourselves, being with each other as a family, and working on our passions (I'm a writer, and he's a multi-medium artist).
- Savings. We don't pay rent, utilities, or other fees associated with living in a traditional space. Our car bills are the same as most people's. We get to save a little every month thanks to the van life.
There's so much more to van life than I've covered here. It was a conscious decision we'd make every time if given a choice. The challenges make us sharper, and the great moments make life even more worthy of living. Please reach out if you have any questions about living the van life.
Meet Our KeaMommy Contributor: Nadia Rumbolt
Nadia Rumbolt is a mom of many trades, including creative writing, blogging, van life, minimalism, veganism, the beach, nature, and the occult.