First a quick reminder about the travel aspect of #vanlife. If you don’t like to travel, you can still live in a van if you have somewhere to park it long term. But the idea of van living sprung from travel. Setting yourself free on the open road, finding your rhythm with nature, exploring hidden wonderlands and discovering yourself. There is a 2015 movie based on a true story about a lady who lives in a stationary van. It’s not unheard of but that’s not why I’m doing it and that’s not what this blog, my Instagram, or my podcast are about.
I am not a spontaneous person. Weird, right?! But neither do I accomplish each daily task at a specific time without deviation. I prefer a solid plan for my daily goals, but my plan seldom has specific times set for each task. For example, I may have a list that says: finish chapter ten in book X, write a blog post for pen-name Y, create automation sequence for newsletter Z. But it doesn’t look like: 9am to 10am = X, 10am to 12:30pm = Y. I’ve tried this and I’ve failed. Lists without times work best for me.
I usually have so much on my list to accomplish each day that I have to prioritize and put the most important items first. This means the items toward the bottom are often carried forward to the next day. And the joke among my friends is that I usually accomplish more in one day than most people accomplish in a week. This may be true, depending on which person it’s based on, but it’s also subjective and I always want to accomplish more. (don’t we all?)
Working two jobs for forty years without stopping has made me proactive, disciplined, productive, motivated and focused. Not every single day. I have my off days just like everyone, but 80% of each week, I am working. I’m starting to understand this is not necessarily a good thing. I haven’t scheduled (and therefore haven’t taken) time to stop and smell the roses, have fun, explore… I haven’t even been to the beaches near my house! I live forty minutes from some of the most beautiful beaches in my state and I love the beach. I’ve lived in this particular location for eleven years and I still have yet to explore it. That’s not something I’m proud of.
When I travel I am spontaneous. When I travel, I explore. I still manage to work when I travel too, but I don’t fill my days with x, y and z between 10am and 2pm.
I walk out the door of whatever hostel or airbnb I’m staying in and I go where my little feetsies (size 5.5) take me. Sometimes I’ll research a highly recommended place to eat (right before I walk outside) and I’ll head there, but more often I’ll walk until some place catches my eye.
There are definitely some things I loosely plan. Like when I was in Barcelona, I was told I had to buy tickets for La Familia Sagrada months ahead of time or I’d never get in. So I did. But you know what? I still didn’t get in! I made a mistake and bought the wrong ticket for the wrong day! But in that moment, standing in front of Gaudi’s unfinished masterpiece, I simply did something else.
When I travel, I point my boat downstream and go with the flow. It’s the ONLY time I do this!
Before I leave for a vacation, I always plan where I’m going and when because when traveling through Europe (my obsessed destination) and having a set amount of time, you kind of have to.
So I will know that from this date to this date I’ll be in Prague and from this date to this date I’ll be in Berlin. I print out a calendar and I write in how many days I’ll be in each destination and which day I’ll travel to the next. I sit with my laptop and book all my accommodations and plane fares. I don’t book most train rides before leaving. Those I book when I’m there, usually the day or up to a week prior. Sometimes I book them after arriving at the train station. If it’s a particularly important train ride to a smaller town, like the time I flew from Spain to Italy and then had only 5 hours to get down to Cinque Terre, I’ll book ahead.
So what does vanlife look like for me? I plan to work on the road. Currently, when I’m not at Job #A which takes place in an office, I’m at Job #B, which takes place at home. And I AM disciplined. I work from 10am until 4pm, five days a week and from 9am to 9pm, two days a week. I used to work 12-hour days, all 7 days a week, but 2 years ago, I decided that having a life was more important. Most days that I work from home (my preferred job/passion of writing, editing and publishing) I also exercise for 90 minutes, walk/run the dog for 30 minutes, make dinner and eat for an hour.
When I’m on the road, I know everything will change. But I still plan to work for four to six hours each day, exercise and eat well. At night instead of watching TV or playing video games, I will probably plan my next day of finding the local grocery store to purchase water and somewhere to park and sleep the next night. While I hope to be spontaneous while living in a van, I will have to stick to a schedule too.
There is a method to my madness. I will follow vanlifers before me and go south for the winter and north for the summer. I’ve already written out a list of where I want to go and a rough idea of when. For example, I’ll be moving into my van in August 2021 and for the first month I plan to explore the Pacific Northwest and visit friends there. I have a rough idea of where I want to go and what I want to see in the fall and then plan to visit family and friends in Southern California for the winter. But I know plans can and will change, and I love that. The idea of shedding my belongings, all this STUFF, and hitting the road to the great unknown is my anecdote to the forty years I’ve worked my life away in tiny, stagnant, windowless rooms.
A new beginning. Forced spontaneity. Moving out of my comfort zone. Facing fears. Yes, please! Where do I sign up?