But it has to still be yellow
Why we think we need a bigger van with a toilet
Disclaimer: The word SH*T Is used a few times
There was always something missing. We never felt totally at ease. Van life is not about comfort in the usual terms, but you have to feel comfortable; it has to feel safe and like home. This standard of comfort is different for all of us and only by trying, by taking the risk and giving it a go can you really start to understand your own ideals and limitations.
To live a life that is sustainable for us we need a bigger van. We need a shower. We need a toilet.
It’s a slight blow to the old ‘wilderness ego’. We wanted to make our little van work. And for many it does. But as soon as I started listening, really listening to myself, it all started to fall into place. Why we were feeling so unsure and unsteady. We didn’t have a home that felt complete and served us totally. We had an awesome van that we could stay in the short term, we had Airbnb, we had parents houses, we didn’t have someplace we knew we could stay for as long as we wanted.
We are coming to the stark and unsettling realisation that like in Jaws, ‘We’re going to need a bigger van’ (or boat, Adam has been watching a lot of Sailing La Vagabonde, don’t even get me started.) We have to make some big changes if we are going to continue with this journey, and my goodness do I want to continue! But I need a home that works, that makes me feel safe and secure, then, at last, our energy can be put to better use. It feels like we have been blocked this last year, no clue what is holding us back from what we know is complete freedom.
We thought we had already found it, we’d already made it, so why didn’t we feel it?
The Real Van Life
It comes down to the physical realities of living in a van this size. No toilet; that in itself can be incredibly stressful unless you are in the arse end of nowhere, where you can literally get your arse out anywhere. Don’t get me wrong, there is little as satisfying in this life as going out into ‘the nature’, digging a hole (2 ft. please) and fertilising the earth that made you with your own offering of gratitude. It’s freeing and squatting is great for the gut, like one of those expensive colon cleanses especially first thing in the morning after a coffee. But you got to bury that shit man, seriously, wet wipes covering human excrement is EVERYWHERE.
The other side to this wholesome act of shitting in the woods surrounded by sweet animals and birds that sing a chorus of joyous praise while you pop-a-squat, is finding yourself in civilised urban society, no public toilet, shops closed, nowhere to park, dodgy character skulking in shadows, you’ve not eaten or drunk anything all day because your desperate for, not only a piss, which can usually be dealt with without much more trauma than urine soaked sandals (I reckon its good for the leather) but you also need to take a shit and although your body is more than ready to do the deed, your outer sphincter (which has a mind of its own by the way as well as a particularly nervous disposition) is scoffing at you, ‘There is no way in hell I’m letting you drop trow here, go on try it, nothing will happen’. Stage fright is the real deal. So yeah, in summary, I’d like a loo.
You Smell a bit organic and not in a good way
No Shower, we shower so much less than we used to and sometimes, yes it borderlines on gross. But overall my skin and hair thanks me for easing off on the constant stripping of essential oils and good stuff. The body really is a fabulous thing and my best beauty secret is stop showering so much, stop cleansing, you are not dirty. I’ve experienced dirty and you are not that. Just let your skin do its thing. All that being said, I was never blessed with the head of ‘I only wash it once a week’ hair. So it gets 90’s rock singer greasy, pretty swiftly. Hats have become a staple part of my van style. So the ability to wash my hair without having to do it outside as a group of spectators gathered around to watch (that’s never happened I am being dramatic) would be a welcomed addition to our humble abode. We also have found that not having a shower effects how often we exercise which in turn effects our mood, which effects how we act, which effects our relationship, which effects the universe etc. You get it, we need a shower.
The Bed. Where no magic happens.
I need a bigger bed. I love Adam dearly, and Angus. But there is just no room for love in that bed when we are all crammed in like sardines. With every turn and stir in the night, you directly affect your sleeping partner leaving the whole van to slowly bounce back and forth as it recovers from your repositioning act. Then that after the whole hullabaloo of moving everything around like an unusually specific game of Tetris to make up your bed, your so hot and bothered from the ordeal that the thought of lying down next to a radiator (Adam) is not that appealing. The roof is an easier option in terms of faff, it allows us to keep our ‘open plan living and kitchen area’ intact while we retire to the ‘upstairs’ bedroom. A truly magnificent idea and we do love this feature in our van but it cannot be ignored that when camping anywhere other than a secured campsite with fences and other obstacles, there is literally nothing between you and all the mass murderers that I can only presume roam the earths surface at night looking for pop tops shrouding sleeping campers, protected with only a thin sheet of not even waterproof may I add, canvas. It can also be noisy as hell. But the main thing is the faff, I take after my mother, she can’t abide faff and will go to avid lengths to avoid it.
The Art Of The Van Shuffle
Which brings me to my next point. The van shuffle. A wonderful skill once it has been acquired, an unspoken dance, a series of timed movements and systems that allow you and another human being to successfully function in such a small space. It takes time and when you get it you feel like a total boss. But then someone else arrives and the whole thing goes to pot because where they are sitting where you usually put the dog or their foot is just taking up too much space and the whole thing falls apart, including your relationship. The van shuffle is almost ludicrous when you have had an argument, each party trying to avoid the other by sitting as far away from each other as possible, which is a grand total of about 2 meters. Impossible. On that note, van life is a terrible good form of couples therapy, but more on that another time.
I have experienced small van life, with its simplicities and faff all rolled into one. And I’m ready for some comfort, which can be achieved rather quickly when your idea of comfort is as simple as a bed that you don’t have to make up every night and a pot to piss in. We set out on this journey of alternative living and van life as an experiment, to test our own boundaries. But I have come to the conclusion that perhaps our boundaries were a little more conservative than I had first hoped.
Stress Killed the curious
It all comes down to stress, we always found after a few weeks of travelling in our small van we were exhausted, physically and mentally. As our trips would go on I would get more and more reluctant to go out to have a wee in the dark, I was sleeping worse and worse each night and I think it’s because the stresses of living in a van that doesn’t completely serve you build up, until your not spending any time in the van and feeling a little lost. We are identifying all the things that stressed us out about living in our little van and we’re gonna fix it. Because less stress for us means we can spend more time on the things we want to do knowing that we have a sturdy comfortable and safe space to call our own. And at the end of the day, life is too short not to take a shit whenever it takes your fancy.