It took about five months for me to get lonely in the van.
I’m not an incredibly social person by nature. I have my moments of extroversion, but for the most part, I’m happy with activities of quiet enjoyment. Sedentary solitary hobbies like reading, writing, and playing solitaire (you should see my Xbox ranking.) I have no problem spending time by myself or being alone.
I can take a while to warm up to people too. Less so in my professional life where I can focus on shared loves like cannabis and writing, but undoubtedly in my personal life. So to be in the woods with my best friend, dog, and everything I need at my fingertips is practically paradise.
But one person can never be everything you need, and after 5 months of spending all day, every day with my husband, I found myself feeling something I wasn’t accustomed to. It took me some time to pinpoint it, to identify that this sense of restlessness, of missing. I was missing people. Not just people, people I loved, people who knew me.
The tipping point came in early August in a week where I spent more time talking to complete strangers, the unhoused people who approached my van, than I did with people who loved me.
I knew I had to change something, to put more focus on reaching out to my friends and family. When I was younger, I would get into a funk with my relationships because I felt like I was the only one reaching out. It hurt and annoyed me to be the main person driving plans, seeking connection. And sometimes it still does, but these days I see my drive for connection as a strength, not a weakness.
These past few weeks I have done just that, and it has bolstered something in me that was low, unattended.
It is easy to get lost in the day to day life. This life that seems so glamorous in the photos can feel quite heavy with responsibility, the burden of tasks greater. And for the first six months, it weighed on me. Not only did I have to use my executive function at work, on cooking and cleaning and meal planning and shopping, but van life comes with tasks that are taken care of for you in houses. To monitor your water levels and refill the tank, keep the grey water tanks from overflowing, dispose of garbage, and worst of all, your waste.
It does not feel glamorous, or even desirable some days. In the midst of all it, what fell off was leaning on my support system. And it took getting genuinely lonely for the first time in years to realize it.
These blogs have been a helpful place to let some steam off. It took longer than I expected to adjust to the differences, but after taking a week off everything entirely, I came back feeling refreshed.
It’s a new month now, and a turning point in my van journey. I have 180 days of van life under my belt, enough to help me understand what tasks need to be completed and when in order to keep the van clean and my sanity intact. These are not the same systems or processes I have at home, nor can they be.
I am heading south now, my summer in the northeast is over. My goal for the next six months is to avoid the snow entirely. I am heading down the coast to the southeastern states where I will whittle away the long cold weeks of winter in the sun. And when I make those calls to my friends and family, I will be reminded of just how glamorous this life can be.