Thursday, November 1, 2012

Living in a van full-time.

I've been a bit slack on the updates but it's because I have been staying put in Phoenix for the last four days or so. I foolishly left my bank card in an ATM and the bank shredded it. I've been playing the waiting game at my friends place for it's replacement so I can continue on my way. In the meantime, I will share this potentially boring, hopefully informative post.

When I tell people I'm living in a van they are very eager to see the inside. When I show them they are often surprised that I have everything I need. I was talking to someone the other day who has spent quite a bit of time living in vans and we both experience lots of questions about the everyday practicalities of living in a van full time. I thought since my site says it's also about the van-dwelling lifestyle I should dedicate a post to it.

Before I left I was a night person, going to bed between 12am and 2am but since being on the road my bedtime arrives much earlier. I tend to start looking for a place to sleep around dinner time. I don't care to drive after the sun sets because I can't see what I may be passing by. We pull into our spot for the night, be it an RV park or the side of the road, I feed Okie and myself and then if my laptop is powered up I go through my photos from the day. If that's not an option I read or write or often just sit with Okie in silence.

The mornings have virtually the same routine as home except now I spend a good 10 minutes snuggling and playing with Okie before we have to venture out into the cold. Then it's coffee for me and breakfast for her. I have a small portable butane stove and an old perk coffee pot which I either set up outside or, if I'm not somewhere I can do that, put it on the floor of the van with the doors open. There have been times finding the butane cartridges has been difficult so I've had to rig up my propane BBQ to perk my oh-so-necessary morning brew.  It turns out the pot won't perk if its just placed on the BBQ so I had to use tinfoil to concentrate the heat under the pot. It will work but it uses up a lot of propane. I have learned to drink my coffee black.... and often cold.
It is impossible to keep the floor clean. Every morning while the coffee is brewin' I tidy up. I did the same thing when I had an apartment. I put everything back in it's proper place and sweep the floor. I enter and exit the side doors so frequently that I bring in all the dirt, sand, mud and whatever little bits of nature that decides to attach itself to my shoes. I always have a small cloth hanging by the door to wipe Okie's feet off and to wipe everything off the floor and out the door. Every little thing has to have it's own spot in the van and if too many items are out of place it makes my home messy quickly. I have one shelf for food an another for dishes and such. Under the bed is the largest storage space where I keep towels and bedding, extra shoes and sneakers, BBQ, fold-up chair and table and extra supplies. Often, when I have to get to something it involves moving other items out of the way. I've gotten used to having to shuffle things around and arranging stuff so the most often used is the easiest to get to.

My food is kept in the fridge, of course, but I seldoml have power so I buy a bag of ice every day or two to keep it working like an icebox. I keep it modestly stocked so nothing goes to waste. I am now thinking I need to attach a bungee cord around the front of the fridge. Many times while driving the door has flung open sending various items tumbling out. It is important to always put the heavier things, like a jug of water, on the bottom shelf because it seems to stay put better. Just recently I absentmindedly put a jug back in on the second shelf and it came flying out on a sharp left turn sending water all over the place. It's quite hazardous when trying to keep your eyes on the road.

The sink has two containers under it; one full of water for doing dishes and the other empty to catch the drainage. I have to keep an eye on the drainage jug because if it spills over it is a disgusting, smelly mess. Think of cold, greasy, rotting food-water. It will only overflow once and you will never neglect it again. The clean water jug gets filled up any time I stay at an RV park. I recently bought a small hose so when I have the opportunity to hook up I have running water through the taps instead of using the little pumping arm to bring the water up from the jug through a smaller spout. On the counter I have fastened, with strong double-sided tape, a basket to store bread, bananas granola bars and other food stuffs which don't fit in my food cupboard. If I sit on my toilet, which has a cover making it look like a little ottoman, I can prepare meals on the counter. If I could change one thing about my van it would be the height of the ceiling. I didn't think I would mind not being able to stand but I am a tall girl and bending over all the time hurts the back.

I was never good at cleaning the bathroom when I had an apartment but I would take that any day over dealing with my portable toilet. RV parks and some gas stations provide dump sites for my Campa Potti. It is in two sections, the top one needs to be filled with water for flushing and the bottom partly filled with a cleaner/deodorizer added. I use it as little as possible but I'm very happy I have it.
I believe the bed is queen size which allows for the large amount of storage space under it but it is much larger than I need for me and the little one. I use half of the bed, against the back doors, to keep two suitcases for my clothes and dirty laundry bag. I had intentions of doing laundry in the van using the natural movement of the van while driving to agitate a bucket of soapy water. I read about this method in Steinbeck's "Travels with Charley" and thought it was a great idea, however, I've never gotten myself organized enough to do it that way. I've been using laundromats, campgrounds and peoples houses. I have a clothes line in the back, stretching from one side of the van to the other where I hang my jackets and sweaters. The same line is also used to dry my wet towel after taking a shower. Before I left I bought a solar shower bag I planned on using but haven't used it yet. Instead, I have paid as little as $.50 and as much as $5.00 for a shower. In between having access to a shower I take bird-baths at gas stations and truck stops. I will never take cleanliness for granted ever again. A person only needs to go three days without a proper shower for it to feel like heaven when you finally get one.

At the fear of making this post too long I think I'll stop here. Maybe I have left out some details. If you have any other questions about my day-to-day life traveling and living in a van don't hesitate to ask. Thanks for stopping by.


  1. Okie looks pretty comfy there. Thanks for this post. xox

  2. 3 Days without a shower?!?! I'd kill someone for sure.

  3. I love that photo of Okie, a picture of pure contentment. I sure hope that the you both have had a much better adjustment period

  4. hope things are ok.. you havent posted in a while...

  5. Thanks for the update. You have one happy dog there. I have to shower 2 times a day (morning and night) otherwise feel pretty dirty. Friends tell me I am a clean freak . Works for me though.

  6. You have a home and a car and a dog. Cool! Plus, this lifestyle is economical. I’m sure there are some difficulties that come with it, like being more assertive with maintenance. But the freedom it offers, I think, is much more substantial to go on with this affordable escape. :]