Livin' in a van in a city actually kinda sucks.
There are a lot of benefits to living in a van, and I know many people who chose to do the vanlife thing in a city. It's great for them! But in my experience, it kinda sucks. That's why, after getting stuck in Grand Junction Colorado for a week and then getting even more stranded back in Santa Cruz for a few weeks, I decided to put together a little guide for staying happy and sane in the van in a city/town. Hopefully this will help y'all out if you have to hang out in a mechanics shop for a bit longer than you would have liked.
If you've been following me for a long time you KNOW I have been meaning to do this for a while. If you haven't been following me for a long time, then welcome! This is the DIY hangboard set up for my 2006 Dodge Sprinter Van.
I get this question ALL THE TIME. So I decided to start tracking all of my expenses.
I’ve also compared my expenses to the national average because I like data and numbers.
Average Rent in America: $959
My Average Rent: $198.49-$378.49
Car Insurance: $128.49
Kate and I are cruising down highway 191 headed back to Indian Creek after getting rained out of Castle Valley.
We had been planning on climbing the North Face of Castleton and Fine Jade, two excellent (and challenging) climbs, but the weather decided otherwise.
I've been living in a van for two years as of today! Yay!
It's been a really crazy two years, and one of the most recent challenges for me has been managing my personal health and well being.
When I first met Kate, she was in her standard post climbing attire.
Sundress, spandex shorts, Birkenstocks. We were hanging out at a dirtbag potluck, which is basically just a bunch of climbers hanging out in a parking lot and sharing food together. I was instantly drawn to her bubbly attitude and her impressive list of badass climbs she had been ticking off in Squamish. Kate wasn't afraid to go for it.
I was lying in my bed, half asleep, when I heard the first knock.
It wasn’t so much of a knock as a bang. Someone was pounding on the side of my house. In the large metal box that is my van, it reverberated around the small space and startled me awake.
I had been half asleep when it happened. Just in that place before sleep, where you aren’t quite awake but you can still sense what’s happening around you. My heart rate skyrocketed.
I blink and it’s morning.
My shoulder hurts so I roll over onto my other side.
I blink again and the sun has risen higher in the sky. I’m on my back. I look over to see Mike with his puffy jacket covering his face.
I never thought I would be bored at 500 feet off the ground.
Standing on Ahwahnee ledge on the West Face of the Leaning Tower, I pace back and forth in anticipation. Or what amounts to pacing when you have less than 3 feet of space to move around in.
One of the things I get asked all the time is ‘How do you insure your van?’
I think it’s a valid question and since I’ve done a bit of research on this exact subject I thought I’d share with you how I got my van insured and how you can most likely get yours insured if you want.
Big wall climbing is the culmination of all of the climbing skills I’ve been honing over the last 5 years.
It takes technical skills, mental toughness, physical endurance, and good communication with a partner. I borrowed gear from friends, grilled them on the terrain, looked over maps that climbers before me had drawn, and scrolled through comments people had left on the mountain project to try and prepare myself mentally and emotionally for the hardest thing I had attempted to date in climbing.
Turn the key. Hear the rumble of the engine. Beep, beep, beep, beep, click. Roll the automatic windows down. Feel the warm breeze on my skin. Smell the wet grass and the still damp asphalt. It’s hot outside.
I’ve wanted one of these for a while because they allow you to open the door halfway and let some light/air in even if you’re parked on a hill. I got it from the blog Traipsing About, it was only $45 (with tax and shipping) and took about 20 minutes to install.
The circuit is the pathway between climbing areas for a year. It takes you round and round, from Yosemite to Red Rocks, to Indian Creek, to Joshua Tree, back to Indian Creek, Red Rocks, Smith Rock, Squamish, Index... It chases the good weather (read: sunshine) and the sending temps (read: mildly cool). When you jump on you typically meet a few people who are riding the same wave as you. You’ll see them in Indian Creek, lose track of them for a few months and then see them again in Squamish. The circuit brings you around and around, like a merry-go-round of climbing destinations. After getting on, it can be difficult to get off.
One of the questions I get all the time is:
"What made you decide to live this lifestyle?"
I wanted to address this question because it IS really important to me and I think it’s really relevant to my generations struggles to fit into our society.
I’m standing on a hollow flake,
about 150 feet above the ground, and only 20 feet from the summit. Hidden Valley Campground is spread out below me, people are cooking around their campfires, chatting about the day and playing music. The pinyon pines and Juniper trees create shade in the late afternoon, while the orange white boulders create stools, tables and playgrounds for the park visitors. Normally I would be down there with them, enjoying the sunshine, stretching and talking, but right now I'm more focused on not dying. My palms are sweating.
I see more and more people with uterus’s moving in to vans and since I’m a uterus having person I thought I would dedicate some space to the period experience for van lifers.
So I have a really heavy period, that can last anywhere from 5-10 days and I get really bad cramps that make me nauseous and crabby. I’m all about low impact and minimalism so I don’t use pads or tampons, although they are great, I use the diva cup!
So I’ve lived in my van with a full-time partner, alone, and for short periods with other people.
And I have to say that living with two people full time in a van… is pretty difficult.
I do think it can be done, I know lots of people who do it really well, but I think it forces you and your partner to talk about things you wouldn’t otherwise confront because of the close proximity and space.
You both have to be really on top of your space management, and if you weren’t super close before then you are going to get SUPER close really quickly.
It’s pretty easy. You need a 13 mm socket wrench, an oil pan that can hold close to 3 gallons of oil, rubber gloves, paper towels or shop towels, a new oil filter, 12 quarts of oil, and an oil filter wrench.