I think about quitting van life a lot.
It’s not easy to talk about the challenges that come with this. I want to be grateful for the opportunities afforded to me and I certainly don’t want to use my platforms to complain.
Earlier this week I got on a call with a woman who is pursuing van life. It was fun answering her questions, but I was also acutely aware that I wasn’t in the best headspace to promote #vanlife. I don’t want to dissuade people from trying this if they want it and yet my most honest answers center how challenging it is to live like this.
Because it is, without a doubt, the hardest thing I have ever done. And every time I start to find a flow, I’m reminded that there is no such thing as a van flow.
A few weeks ago at a conference, a colleague of mine remarked how much he loved to push him, to be uncomfortable and he thought van life was amazing for that. I replied that he was right – it is amazing for being uncomfortable, but I hate discomfort. I am slow and sedentary at heart, preferring cozy blankets, long books, and hot beverages to the discomfort of adventure.
And yet here I am, 182 days into the biggest adventure of my life, and discomfort has been a central theme.
There is no one thing that has made this past week more challenging than others; it’s been grey and cloudy, I haven’t felt 100%, and we’re entering into an area where grocery stores are small and limited. None of these things are terrible on their own, but they add up quickly.
When I feel the most discomfort, I am also most disconnected from gratitude. It has been weeks since I got out on the trail for a hike, and I know that has a lot to do with my current mental state. Gratitude and nature go hand in hand for me.
It’s the fresh air, the abundant beauty, the reminder that life goes on no matter what I do – and it’s the movement. We have a Planet Fitness membership, but I am not a gym rat. I hate the smell of the treadmill, of other people’s sweat, of cheap cleaning solutions. I don’t like movement in an artificial environment – I long to be outside. These past few weeks have been busy with travel and visiting people, and it’s been nearly a month since I went for a proper hike.
When I pictured my van life, it was all about hiking. I would hit the trail more days than not, logging long miles and summiting mountain peaks. But this was not my life before I lived in a van, and you don’t magically become a different person just because you live in a vehicle. So I hike now about the same amount as when I lived in a house, and that disconnect from ideal to reality disconnects me further from gratitude.
But gratitude is a practice after all, and all I can do is return to practicing over and over again. So here’s to practice, to sticking it out through discomfort, and to losing myself in the beauty of the natural world.