We Live in a Van! 6 Months. 5,000 Miles. 5 Nuggets.

6 months ago in a land far, far away: Our hearts raced and our minds filled with excitement as we realized we were pulling out of the driveway to our house for the last time.  This was it.  The moment we'd talked about for the last 2 years.  Happening.  Really.  We headed down the road in giddy anticipation for our first real night as van dwelling vagabonds.  So many realizations floated through my head as I piloted our new home out of suburbia.  Filled with euphoria, my focus shifted back and forth from the road to the windshield as oncoming headlights hit the glass and passed from bottom to top, bottom to top.  Each car making it's way past us on their rhythmic return to their assigned suburban plot.  We find our back door exit from the neighborhood and head down a dirt road to some camper-friendly public lands.  Street lights and houses fade in the dust behind us.  

After searching for far too long for the "perfect and epic first night parking spot", we realize that we've found nothing but a redneck wasteland full of broken bottles, shotgun shells and the charred remains of high school weekend pallet burns.  Well decide instead to settle for the flattest spot we can find.  I shut off the engine and lights.  Dark. Quiet. Cold. We look at each other... "We live in a van."   We say to each other.  It feels so weird, yet so entirely awesome to say.  "We live in A VAN!"  Over the next several days, we repeated the phrase to each other in disbelief as the shock of it all soaks in.  We rolled out our sleeping bags on our respective benches and drifted away into our first night's sleep.

Ok, fast-forward 6 months and over 5,000 miles later:  As "veteran van dwellers", we now experience a different level of euphoria.  You see, we still live in a van and now our euphoria comes from the realization of just how acclimated to this new life we've become.  The past 6 months has taken us on an incredible journey across the United States in our metallic abode.  We've experienced incredible exhilaration, extreme misery and even a few moments of zen along the way.  We've learned that the "simple life" can tend to be incredibly complex at times.  We've scavenged for food in dumpsters, slept in questionable warehouses and have even peed in a cup on occasion (yes, both of us).  Daily worries have shifted from questions like "Does my tie match my shoes?" and worries like "I hope they love my power point presentation regarding impending sales department restructure..." to questions like "How do I find a shower today?" and worries like "I hope we can find legal overnight parking in this Godforsaken town."  Funny thing is, we've also learned that we humans are certainly creatures of habit and are susceptible to falling into ruts no matter how odd the surroundings.  We find ourselves seeking the path of least resistance and gravitating toward the familiar.  I swear, it seems like we spent 50% of our time in the midwest sitting in either Barnes & Noble, Subway or wandering the isles of Target.

With all that being said, I'd like to offer up a few simple nuggets of wisdom that we've acquired over the past half year:

1)  You can almost always get by on less than you think you need.  While preparing for this journey, we bought stuff.  Too much stuff, in fact.  Most people who see inside our van might be surprised by that statement as it appears more like we're headed out for a weekend camping trip than actually living in it.  Even so, we find that much of our stuff just sits and takes up valuable space.  Having sufficient space is certainly crucial to van living and digging through unused items to locate something you do need can drive one to the brink of insanity if it takes to long.  I still find myself surprised by the fact that things can still get lost when living in a space so small.  Aside from space, money is also (unfortunately) crucial.  There's no sense in wasting it on items that you think you'll need only to find that you rarely use them.  

2)  People are awesome.  Meet them.  We're introverts.  Funny thing is, when we tell people that, they don't believe us.  I believe this is, in large part, due to the fact that traveling has forced us to break out of our shells.  That's not to say that we haven't spent many-a-day hidden away in the corner of some random Barnes & Noble in a Facebook-induced coma, because we certainly have.  Which is why I give this advice.  Talk to anybody and everybody you can.  You'll find that everyone, if given the proper chance and attention, has an amazing story to tell.  Still not sure how?  Ok, a couple easy avenues for meeting people in non-akward situations:  attend a weekly or monthly meeting through CouchSurfing.org or browse Meetup.com for like-minded people getting together.

3)  Explore.  We've  learned that the journey can often be greater than the destination (which is why we don't have one).  There are few things more exhilarating than finding some random treasure or place you never knew existed and knowing you didn't have to consult some guide book or website to find it.  It's not as hard as we tend to make it out to be in our heads... just step out the door and walk, get behind the wheel and drive, whatever.  Just do it and you'll be happier for it.

4)  Slow down.  "You only need sit still long enough in some attractive spot in the woods that all its inhabitants may exhibit themselves to you by turns." -Henry David Thoreau, Walden.  Everything is amazing.  Truly.  But you're going to have a very difficult time seeing it if your focus is moving from point A to B quickly with the music turned up.  Roll down the windows.  Drive 5 or 10 below the speed limit on a deserted road.  Walk.  Sit in one spot for an afternoon just watching life roll by.  Smell things.  Listen.  Remove every label you've ever applied to anything and just be for a while.  

5)  Every second really is an adventure.  We adopted this mantra when we very first began this blog.  Before we lived in a van.  It still rings incredibly true today.  You need not travel far to find adventure.  Sometimes it'll come in the form of jumping out of planes, off of high rocks or wandering the dangerous city streets at night.  Other times it can be as simple as hanging out with a 2 year-old who's thrilled to death by dropping rocks into a storm drain and watching the splash.  Adventure is all around us, we just have to be ready to look.


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