5 Months of Vanlife

It’s been five months now since I said goodbye to the career-focused 8-5 city life and moved into my van – And what an amazing five months it has been.

It feels like time has just flown by but at the same time my old life feels so far away, I can’t even really remember anymore what it used to be like.

I’m about to take a little break from living in my van. Friends who are overseas for several weeks have offered me to stay at their place. As much as I love living in my van, I do have to admit that I am a little excited about having a house with a shower I don’t need to crouch under, a full kitchen with an oven (hello roasted veggies), and a bedroom that’s separate from the lounge so I don’t have to assemble my bed every night.

But to be honest, those little comforts are not the real reason I’m excited about the next few weeks. I am looking forward to being closer to my friends again so I can spend more time with them. Of course I could just park the van in Auckland for a while but that’s expensive and there aren’t really any nice campgrounds where I’d love to spend several weeks.

And then there is the book I want to write. I’ve started the research and brainstorming work but I’m finding it a bit hard to do in the van for two main reasons; lack of space and power.

I’m looking forward to having space to write down and layout ideas, to brainstorm and scribble on paper. I would love to have all my ideas, theories and concepts right in front of me as I work on the overall structure and content of the book. But that’s really hard to do in a van with limited space and where you need to turn your office / lounge into your bed every night. Being in the house will make that so much easier – I can already see me sitting on the floor in the living room surrounded by colourful scribbles on paper, post-its, mind maps, and empty coffee mugs :)

And the other reason is that now the days are getting shorter and greyer, the solar panel doesn’t produce as much power anymore and I need to watch my usage more which means I can’t keep my laptop charged all the time - which makes writing a book a bit tricky. Of course this problem could also be solved by being on a campground but that gets expensive really quickly.

So when my friends offered me their house for a few weeks, I was quick to say Yes!

As I enjoy the last few days in my van before the break, I’ve been reflecting on the past five months and thought about the highs and the lows.

There weren’t any real lows. Yes, of course there were days where I felt a bit lonely or lost or just somehow a bit gloomy – but no more than when I was living in a house in Auckland (probably fewer). The only time I got a bit scarred was a night a few weeks ago when it was super windy and the van would shake and bounce in the wind. I actually found myself googling in the middle of the night what kind of wind strengths could throw over a van… :)

There was a night where it was raining so heavily that the van was leaking a bit, or the night some random person threw an egg at my van (clearly not everyone is a fan of campervan life). A few times it would just be grey and rainy for days without any surf or wind and I would get restless. There was the time where I lost all confidence in my ability to ever learn to surf and I almost gave up on it. Or the time the mechanic who was doing a service told me I had to spend almost $2k on repairs.

I’m not gonna lie, I miss having a proper toilet and shower and an oven (did I mention how much I love roasted veggies). But definitely not enough to make me want to give up the vanlife.

Winter is coming and it’s getting colder in the van at night but so far it’s been nothing that an extra blanket and a hot water bottle couldn’t handle. One thing that’s becoming a problem though is getting stuff dry. With colder, less sunny days it’s getting hard to really dry out my wetsuits or kitesurfing gear and I’m a bit worried about all the damp stuff in the van.

But all of that is just minor stuff that would be replaced with other problems if I would be living in a house and is far outweighed by the positives of living in a van.

There is only one thing I really do worry about sometimes: That I love it too much, especially the peace and quiet and the solitude.

Ever since I left Auckland five months ago, I’ve spend most of my time in fairly remote areas – fully intentionally. I’m drawn to the remote, off the beaten track areas. I love the feeling of being in the middle of nowhere without any human noise. I love falling asleep and waking up to the sounds of the ocean or trees rustling in the wind – not the sounds of traffic or noisy neighbours or flatmates. In many ways, I’ve actually enjoyed the last few weeks more than the height of summer simply because there are now fewer people around campgrounds and other places I go to.

But the more I get peace and quiet and solitude, the more I find myself needing it and the harder it is becoming to relax in noisy and busy environments. Now all it takes is for the people parked next to me to play some music or having a louder conversation and I feel annoyed and find it hard to relax or focus. It worries me sometimes because the reality is that we live in a busy and noisy world and even though I like spending time on my own, I also do want to be a part of society. I don’t want to be that crazy lady that lives in the middle of nowhere all by herself and never talks to anyone other than her cats and dogs – not yet anyway ;-)  Which is also one of the reasons why I accepted my friends’ offer to live in their house for a while. I look at it as a chance to re-adjust to the busy, loud world that’s Auckland before it’s too late.

But none of that comes even close to outweighing the highs of the last few months.

I’ve loved the chance to explore new areas of New Zealand like the East Cape or the West Coast between Raglan and New Plymouth. I’ve loved spending more time in one of my favourite areas of New Zealand; The Far North. I’ve loved meeting other travellers and vanlifers – almost as much as I’ve loved spending time on my own ;-) I’ve loved surfing and kitesurfing in new places, going on hikes and other random adventures.

It has been such an amazing experience to be free and independent, to just follow my heart and the wind and waves, to live day by day without any real commitments or plans for the next day.

I’ve always believed that if you want change and to bring something new into your life you need to make room for it. You can’t keep doing what you’ve always done and expect anything to be different in the end. You can’t expect the new thing or the change to come to just come to you. You need to give something up to make room for something new. That’s what the last five months were all about; making space for new things to come into my life, for me to learn more about myself and the world, to re-discover my values and priorities and to figure out what I want to do next.

I have learnt so much! Having time has allowed me to read more, to think more, to listen more to my inner voice and instincts. Being free to do whatever I want has helped my figure out what really matters, what I really want to do. Meeting other people or connecting with them online has taught me how many others there are that are questioning status quo and the traditional life.

It has given me something to write about, something to share with others, something to use as a starting point to show another side of me through my writing.

And most of all, it has connected me to so many people who continue to inspire me to keep going my own way and to keep doing life differently!

So even though I’m looking forward to being in a house for a few weeks, I also can’t wait to be back in the van and see where the road takes me next.