Reflections on Two Weeks of Van Life

I know, I know, I used nearly the same blog title last week. An uncreative title for an uncreative week.

This week started mildly, but for the past two nights, I’ve been camped out in a room at the Comfort Suites, waiting for repairs on my van to be done. It’s gone from “done in six hours, no problem” to a three-day ordeal. And the fun continues.

If all goes well, I’ll be on the road in a few hours headed toward Maryland to stay in a real house for a few days. Indoor plumbing and hot showers here I come.

I keep waiting for the switch to flip, for this to be novel and exciting like a scene out of a movie. I’ve always had a problem with unrealistic expectations. As my grandmother reminded me, reality rarely lives up to our hopes.

I spent eight hours in a dealership on Wednesday. The first time I was there, the TV played nothing but the Tiny House National Channel. Every 30 minutes the hosts would run through two square footages; the house the couple currently lived in, and the tiny home they were moving to. Every 30 minutes I thought to myself “I live in a house even smaller than that.”

It is an odd realization, that this is reality and I live here. It hasn’t worn off yet. With a trip, there’s the anticipation of, the pressure from the finality of it. You’re always thinking of the fact that this will end, which gives your days a tinge of excitement. But with no end date in sight, and indeed no real plan for ending this, my days take on something different. I don’t not feel crazy for doing this.

But on Wednesday the dealership TV is playing the Bob Ross Channel and I much prefer this vibe (did you know there were so many channel-specific shows? I sure didn’t.) Every 30 minutes is a rotation of Bob’s soft-spoken voice, the swish of the paintbrush, and the masterful creation of something beautiful. Watching him makes me miss the art I had on my walls. Paintings lovingly created by family, artwork from friends, photos of us, and pieces my husband and I picked together during travels.

I wanted to bring one print with me, but there simply isn’t enough wall space. And yet the walls still feel bare and blank. I know it takes time to move into a space of any size and fully make it yours, but it feels compounded when you have such a small space. We had had fairy lights strung on the walls in an impermanent manner, but the USB cord broke a few days into this. I’ll order more, but they were new so it was disappointing. Just one more piece of straw on the camel.

The only piece of décor in the van right now is a short string of bunting gifted to us by my sister-in-law. The cool tones of grey and green match our style perfectly, and it warmed the space considerably. Still, I miss the warmth of a well-decorated space. Creativity is called for to make such a space cozy without being overwhelming.

Calm and cozy is key, because so much of van life is overwhelming. The small space, the constant decisions, and reinventing every system you already have in place. With how the past 12 days have been going, it’s easy for me to lose sight of why I’m doing this.

Why am I doing this?

It’s a question I ask myself daily. The answer is usually some form of “because… I chose to.” The why beyond that is intangible, something I’ve forgotten under layers of chaos, altered plans, and stressful days. I hope that being able to leave Pennsylvania, finally being able to head further south will help bring it back.

Nothing against Pennsylvania. I love this state and its tiny towns tucked among the hills. The woods here are lush and old, and feel like home to me. But I want to get back on track, stick to the loosely-constructed plan. I want to go south.

Hopefully, the van gods will smile on me today and I’ll be in Maryland by nightfall. I’m grateful to have had such a comfortable landing spot in PA, but I am ready to move on.

Published by Jessica Reilly, Writer

Writer, cannabis aficionado, and poetry lover

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