9 Side-Effects of Van-Dwelling
In case you were unaware, I’ve been in a chaotic situation with employment recently and I am already looking for something new. Moving to a new place regularly and attending plenty of job interviews, I am often asked lots of questions. ‘Where do you pee?’ ‘How do you shower?’ ‘Do you have a fridge?’ are the common ones, although the more professional and conservative prospective employers have asked me the same question and it got me thinking.
‘Has living in a van had any repercussions in your job search and caused consequences to you career aspirations?’
I’d be interested to hear how other full-time van-dwellers answer. Realising, yes, that some van-dwellers keep very hush about their living arrangements when seeking conventional work, whilst others remove themselves from conservative employment altogether. In an ideal world, I would work, but I wouldn’t be employed, mainly because I don’t think it’s particularly healthy for anyone so free spirited and wild to be working under anyone. For me, traditional employment, requires a certain detachment from myself; I’m often not comfortable having a boss (or at least a boss in the outdated sense), but I am not an expert in anything so for now, it’ll do. Nonetheless, I realised that this is just one of the side-effects of full-time vanlife.
1) Staying indoors becomes stifling
I recently visited family and enjoyed the comforts of their home for a two nights; a running shower with hot water, an electric kettle, huge kitchen, large fridge, large mattress, washing machine etc etc. The common commodities of house-dwelling that I will never again take for granted. However, staying indoors becomes so stifling that I feel I can no longer breathe, no matter how clean and fresh the house, the truth is that the lack of salty air, crisp breeze or smells of nature prove impossible to compromise. I slept with the windows open, secretly loving the larger bed, but feeling so out-of-tune with the nature that surrounds the bricks. Once you’ve fallen in love with the great outdoors, its impossible to go back to anything else, regardless of its fluffy softness.
2) Suddenly occupying a larger space provokes anxiety
During a recent visit to a homewares store I found myself passing time in the model kitchens and suddenly feeling confused as to why people needed so much space for food. I felt sick that people could occupy such space, fill huge areas with food (and often its accompanying plastic wrapping) and within minutes a huge anxiety was bubbling up from within me. After some deep breathing, and an acknowledgement that I would never have to have a huge kitchen, I felt a new anxiety; I would most probably never be hosting one of those fancy dinner parties that seem to happen to thirty-somethings. But then, some more deep breathing later, I realised I could have countless BBQs and wild berry-picking.
3) Suddenly occupying a larger space starts spontaneous indoor dancing
In the same visit to the same store, and admittedly in every store these days, the large open space and music, fill me with an urge to skip, jump and dance around the shopfloor. I’ve been caught shimming in front of the soup, skipping down the confectionary aisle and pirouetting at the self-service tills. Last week, this behaviour caught the eye of the security guard who threatened to call the police if I didn’t ‘behave’. He probably thought I was on drugs although I was really just filled with energy- a side effect of living a healthier life outdoors.
4) Your sense of smell becomes superhuman
Do you think van-dwelling has changed your senses too? My sense of smell was always pretty good but now, when laying in my van-bed, a quick sniff can determine how far I need to push the windows ajar, if the food in the box at my feet is starting to go off, or if someone is starting a fire nearby. Fire is a reasonable fear that has intensified since van-dwelling full time and I thank for super-nose for keeping me safe. Luckily, as I am outdoors most of the time, I hope that I don’t go nose-blind to the smell of my van-we all know people whose house stinks.
5) Your tolerance to dirt increases
Years ago, putting on dirty clothes seemed an impossible thought. I was never so bad as to wash clothes after only one use, but I was aware of when clothes were visibly, or nasally, dirty. Vanlife, and minimalism has taught me not to care about the odd bit of dried dirt on my trousers or dust on my shirt. I do laundry every ten -fourteen days and haven’t had any complaints yet-I just look like I work hard, even on days I haven’t!
6) You become impressively tidy
Living in a small space requires a lot of discipline to keep a tiny place tidy. Leaving yesterdays clothes lying around could clutter up the entirety of the floor space I have. In Kiwa the campervan, my clothes are stored in drawers under the bed, so if there is clutter on the floor, I can’t get to my clean clothes easily. I’ve noticed this change in how I work too. My working space is remarkably tidy and even when I am building or crafting my tools are carefully organised and arranged.
7) You develop an incredible skill to fix anything, even if it is with duct tape
Fighting that gender stereotype of being a little princess in need of a man to fix things, build things and change lightbulbs, so I learnt from a young age to change lightbulbs! I can fix other things too. Building Kiwa was a huge achievement and before that I built a shed from scratch. DIY has always been a fun hobby, but now its my life. Any van-dweller will tell you that things break whilst on the road; potholes, speed bumps and the worst, speed-dips (Urgh! Who invented these dips of the devil!). Even I am guilty of driving off in a hurry without securing some items down and looked back in the van to see my books, toiletries and food thrown around. Im a big fan of bungee cord, non-slip mats, elastic bands and duct tape. I made Kiwa with the help of youtube and my midnight scribbles so it seems fit that I fix her with equal amateur-ability. Nonetheless, no problem is too big- I feel fearless and strong and certainly not dependent on anyone else for fixing things….although, should any interesting man or woman want to help out…..just kidding!
8) You are no longer a nervous pooper
I realised I was a nervous pooper as a young teenager in secondary school. The school toilets were so gross, and also a haven for bullies, I would hold my pee in all day, and almost explode by the time I got home. As soon as I started college and began travelling around, staying overnight at friends houses, or wildcamping alone, I understood quickly that I needed to be able to pee and to poop anywhere. I can poop literally anywhere, squatting over a dubiously dirty public toilet, squatting over a hole a dug in the mud with my tiny portable trowel or even pooping into a plastic bag hiding behind a bin during carnival. Anywhere, if I need to go poop, I’m going to poop. Also, as lots of you ask where I pee, the answer is anywhere I need to. Often in cafes or pubs, regularly in the supermarket, but most of time I use my Peeing Funnel (I use Pee-Zee from amazon). If I need to pee in the night Ill use the funnel to wee into a bottle that I will rinse out in the morning to spare myself from having to get dressed and wonder around in the dark looking for a safe bush- which admittedly bring about some interesting stories, but no-I pee into a bottle.
9) You become a creative genius
The lack of TV and wifi in the van means that no time is wasted on meaningless and mindless Netflix binges or kittens on youtube. Reading novels and non-fiction fills my brain with new vocabulary and creative ideas, bracelet making, colouring in, sketching, and photography fill my free time in ways that would have felt rushed in a previous life. This summer I have decided to learn to crochet some clothing. I have time to call my friends without being distracted by emails or sneezing panda videos. I have focused time to draw out ideas for alternative living , sketch out ideas of how to plan out new van conversions, map out routes and find new places to visit and park-up and can allow myself the luxury spending time on myself. Currently, as I search for work suitable for van-dwellers, I remember how years of moving around have given me the inner resources to make any opportunity work, but also how I have the material resources to be able to go anywhere for any opportunity with the ‘comforts’ of my ‘home’. Kiwa the van has become my greatest therapist and teacher and I hope that soon she will become my office, as well as my home. Some friends of an ex-colleague claimed I was ‘just a rich kid with a trust fund’ and I felt insulted that they couldn’t have been further from the truth, but impressed at the same time, that my life, on the outside, looks that luxurious that strangers would assume I’d never lifted a finger for it. Ironically, since the creation of the The Fudgelling’ I’ve actually become more productive and focused on work and personal projects. And for those of you still unaware-to ‘Fudgel’ is to pretend to be working when in fact you are not doing anything productive at all.