It’s been four weeks now since I gave up ‘normal’ life in Auckland to live life differently. Four weeks of living in my van and working less to travel and enjoy life more. And I love everything about it.
Mind you, it’s only been four weeks - let’s see how I feel about all this in four months, when it starts getting cold and rainy… But right now, I could not ask for a better life! I absolutely love the vanlife. It feels so right. I know I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing right now.
It’s about more than just living in a van and traveling around New Zealand. It’s about changing my priorities and focus. It’s about getting out of the 9-5, Monday – Friday, office-based lifestyle. It’s about being free and independent. It’s about realising what really matters to me, what really makes me happy. It’s about getting off the beaten track and away from societies expectations. It’s about discovering a life done differently.
It has been an amazing experience so far and I’ve already learnt so much. I’ve been trying to put into words what I love most about it and why it feels so right. Here is what I’ve come up with.
1. I’m super active and spend a lot of time outdoors
The best thing about the last four weeks has by far been all the surfing and kitesurfing.
It’s not like I used to be a total couch potato in Auckland. I’ve already been fairly active for the last few years. But it’s different now. Back when I was doing the ‘normal’ life in Auckland, I’d do my fun activities on the weekends but during the week I would exercise because I felt like I had to (to burn off all the chocolate I eat…).
Now I do it because I want to, not because I feel like I should. I don’t think of it as exercise. It’s just life :)
After my first week of vanlife at Lake Taupo, I had 10 days of surfing every day – often twice – in the Bay of Plenty. After that I started heading north. One of the reasons me and my friends love it so much up here, is that you often get waves and wind on the same day. We’ve had a couple of days of surfing in the morning and kitesurfing in the afternoon which are my favourite kind of days.
I love being in and near the ocean so this kind of lifestyle is a dream come true for me!
And when I’m not surfing or kitesurfing, I go for walks, hikes, bike rides or swims. I even went for a run a couple of times (I’m so NOT a runner!) and also created a little workout routine to work on my strength and agility for surfing (so I can pop up faster).
There hasn’t been a day yet where I haven’t done at least one activity outside – most days I do something first thing in the morning and then something else in the afternoon. Not because I feel like I have to or should but just because I want to!
2. I’m the right kind of busy
Believe it or not, but my days actually feel quite busy. But it’s a different kind of busy than what I’m used to from my Auckland life.
I’m busy with the right kind of things and in the right kind of way. I’ve not been bored for a second but I’ve also not been stressed out. I have things to do but I also have the time to do them well, slowly and considerate. I don’t feel like I need to rush things. I have time for everything to just take however long it will take.
That is a really amazing feeling. I don’t remember anymore when ‘stress’ and the feeling of not having enough time entered my life. Probably around the time I went from childhood to being a teenager. But for as long as I can remember, I’ve felt rushed. Like I need to do things faster so I could move on to the next thing on the list. It’s amazing how liberating and, in a way empowering, it feels to be able to take my time, to not have a To Do list several pages long.
And it’s not like I’ve got no responsibilities at all. I still work about 12-15 hours per week and there have been other commitments and little tasks along the way. And of course, I’ve got a blog to write and I’m also working on a few other stories I’m hoping to publish elsewhere. It’s been really good to have this more intellectual work along with all the physical activities.
But I’m not stressed. I don’t worry anymore about getting everything done in time. I don’t feel bad at the end of the day if I didn’t make it through my list for the day. I just enjoy the days and the feeling of being able to give everything the amount of time it needs.
Life really is the perfect balance between activities, work, life admin and just time to read, write and to think and be.
I’m usually really tired at the end of the day – but in a good way. I feel tired because I’ve been active and because I’ve achieved things. I don’t feel tired in a drained and exhausted kind of way like I used to be so often when I spend all day at work just sitting at a desk.
3. I’m more patient
Those people who know me well, know that patience isn’t exactly my strength. I’m more the ‘hurry the fuck up’ type ;)
When I prepared for the vanlife I thought there are a few things that would annoy me. Like the fact that the van isn’t exactly a race car and getting to places takes longer. Or that I need to do the whole dump grey water and fill up fresh water routine every 4-5 days – which takes a while because I need to take off the bike and the boards each time because they are blocking access points (small price to pay for having all my toys with me).
I’m also more patient with other people. Like right now, as I write this, I’m waiting for my friends to wake up so we can go surfing. I used to feel really impatient in these situations, always worried we’d miss the good conditions and feeling anxious to get out. Now I feel a lot more relaxed about it all and am quite happy to just chill for a bit. Though I might start to make some more noise soon to get everyone out of bed – there’s still a limit to my patience ;)
But most importantly, I find I’m more patient with myself. I allow myself to just sit and daydream. I don’t have the constant need to achieve something anymore.
4. I’ve got everything I need – but (almost nothing) I don’t need
I would love to be able to say that I have nothing I don’t need but the truth is I probably still have too much stuff with me. I think, overtime, I will get rid of more and more as I find I don’t need it.
But compared to my old Auckland life, I really am living a pretty minimalistic lifestyle. There is only so much you can fit into a van – especially when you have equipment intensive hobbies. I have way less clothes than I used to and, even more importantly, less ‘clutter’ like home décor items, DVDs and books, jewellery, and all that other stuff that seems to pile up when you’ve got the room for it.
I’m not missing anything! And it feels freeing to have less stuff, almost like all the stuff I used to have was not only taking up space in my house but also in my mind. And now that’s it’s gone my mind and life are free to focus on the important things.
There are many, many other things I love about the vanlife, like the freedom to go wherever I want, the fact that I get to explore new places all the time, that I have my own little space what’s just mine – and of course that fact that I can reach the kitchen from the couch so I don’t have to get up again when I forget the tea in the kitchen ;)
Maybe there will come a day when the excitement and newness of it all wears off a bit, a day when maybe I get a bit lonely or bored or just miss the conveniences of ‘normal’ life. Maybe I’ll start missing the security and comfort of a more traditional lifestyle.
I don’t know how long I’ll be living the vanlife for. I just know that it’s perfect right now and that’s enough!