What We've Learned After One Month on the Road
I’m not sure which date we consider our official launch in to Van Lifery, but it’s been at least a month since we set off. We are still very much new to this life, so I am certain there will be more posts like this as we learn more of the Divine Secrets of the Vroom Vroom Livelihood, but for now here is a quick look at a few things we’ve learned so far.
You’ll pack way more than you need
We actually predicted this would happen and luckily our travel schedule worked out in a way that it didn’t affect our storage space for very long. Our first trip was up to visit my family for a week over Thanksgiving. It was a great soft launch because we could work out any kinks should they arise before hitting the road for an extended period of time, and we had grandparents to watch the kids while we fixed something and couches to sleep on if the repair required more work. Luckily no such issues arose (which I’m owing 1000% to Tyler’s amazing building skills and my knack for overthinking everything almost to a fault) and the only real thing we realized was that we brought so.much.unnecessary.shit. I don’t even drink corked wine—why did I think I needed to bring my full Rabbit wine-opening set along with us? Winking Owl screw top is my jam!!! Ain’t nobody got time for a corkscrew!
But you’ll forget a few things, too
Let’s not call it forgetting so much as it is not realizing how handy certain things would be. Like rain gear. And towels. And acetaminophen. And extra pens. And the best resurfacer on the planet that you actually did remember to bring but your husband forgot to grab out of the shower in Florida. Fortunately we live in 2019 and between Amazon Prime and Target you can get basically everything you need.
Cracker Barrel is the bomb
I feel bad admitting this, but previous to van life I’d only ever been to a Cracker Barrel once- one Sunday after a ridiculously fun wedding where it’s quite possible I drank way more than any one person should. Truth be told I wasn’t the slightest bit impressed, and really only remember enjoying the fountain orange pop that morning. I’d kind of written them off in general and felt good with my previous decision to have never tried out the ole’ CB, but it’s really been a life saver for us and I’ve since changed my tune. You see, when you live in a vehicle, you need to park it while you sleep. I know, I know, that’s an obvious statement. Sure, there are RV parks and campgrounds galore, but those aren’t ideal for us for a few reasons. Mainly, that they aren’t free. Sure, they run much cheaper than a hotel, ranging from about $30-50 a night on average, but if you’ll consider we need to go to sleep every night, that adds up to around $1,000 a month just in parking spaces. That is a considerable amount and far more than we want to spend. Cracker Barrel often comes to the rescue because they welcome overnight parking in their lots. Never did I think I’d write a paragraph professing my love for a restaurant whose lot I’m excited to fall asleep in, but here we are.
I’m currently writing this as we are driving away from an area we had originally planned on spending a few days exploring, but had to cut our visit short because of rain. Don’t get me wrong, we aren’t afraid to go out in inclement weather; I mean, we are from Illinois. There is a lot more that goes in to it than just dealing with wet shoes for an afternoon. We woke up this morning after it had rained all evening (which is fabulous to fall asleep to!) to our van parked in a field of red mud. We were able to get out with relatively little issue, but since it’s supposed to rain all afternoon we weren’t sure we’d be able to get back to our spot tonight. With it being a very ‘outdoorsy town’ with not a ton to do indoors, we decided to move on. So much of our travel plan revolves around just being outside—hiking trails, exploring National Parks (don’t even get me started on how much the government shutdown has already affected this trip), lazing on the beach—and we knew weather was a thing we would have to deal with, but it truly feels as though we accidentally packed shitty weather in our belongings somewhere. Tyler joked that he knows how Elsa feels now, as we’ve seen snow in places that haven’t gotten this cold in over a decade, while back home it’s unseasonably warm (like, mid 50s. WTF?!)
Slowing down is hard to do
We are still working on this one. So much of ‘normal’ life is lived hurrying up to the next stop, the next thing, the next day. When you take a standard vacation, there is a start date and an end date, and usually far too few days in between. Last spring we spent a couple weeks on the road (in a must smaller, less equipped vehicle) exploring The Mighty Five, along with a stops in Denver, Las Vegas, The Grand Canyon, Albuquerque, and Oklahoma City. While we had an incredible time—and it solidified our decision to take our lives on the road— we were only able to spend limited time at each stop because Tyler had to be back to work. We are so used to cramming so much in such a short timeframe, having to adjust to ‘stop and smell the roses’ speed has been tricky. Aside from the fact that there is no need to rush, we have to be mindful of how much fuel we use, as it is one of our main expenses. It’s a skill we’ve yet to perfect, but we are getting better at slowing down and enjoying the ride.
I am certain I’m leaving a few things out, but that will give me something else to write about for my 6 month recap!