Each day in the van is different. Like drastically different.
Some days I wake up at 6 am, knock on a friend's door, shower, slap on some makeup and drive to the nearest coffee shop for a work meeting. Then I spend all day on my computer getting shit done and finish up the day with a climb and sauna at my local (or sometimes local) climbing gym.
Some days I hit snooze 9 times in a row until it's too hot to stay in the van any longer and I gradually wake up by checking work emails and starting coffee. Then I just laze around the van writing, playing the ukulele, working on new videos or blogs, and head to a brewery for an evening beer before retiring for the night.
Some days I wake up without cell service and do communal breakfast with the rest of the people in my campsite and then spend the rest of the day climbing until I can drive to service to check emails.
And some days I just spend driving. I listen to podcasts, music, books on tape and call my friends while I head to the next destination.
Things are pretty unstructured in my life.
I've been a freelancer for 3 years now and having to give myself structure is something I'm pretty good at, but recently I was taken out of my vanlife living situation and I found that I was really unbalanced.
There are things in my life that really help me stay grounded even when each day is as different as night and day. This is a list of those things that I hope will help others to stay grounded in their own van travels.
1. I eat the same thing for breakfast every morning.
Hardboiled eggs, coffee, grapefruit. If you've lived in a small space you know that setting up the kitchen, cooking, cleaning up and breaking down the kitchen can be really time-consuming. It can also be stressful if you're spending a lot of time trying to figure out what to eat, what you have left and if you're going to need those veggies for a burrito for lunch or if you should add them to a scramble this morning. I don't have the brain power to make those kinds of decisions before coffee so I take out all the guesswork. Same thing for breakfast every day means when I'm out I know exactly what I need. It's simple and grounds me for the rest of my morning.
2. I (almost) wear the same thing every day.
I have a close friend who makes fun of me when we go shopping. I'm looking through the rack and I see a black zip up hoodie or jacket and enthusiastically tell her how cute I think it is. The joke's on me because I currently own 3 black hoodies that look nearly identical.
I have simple pleasures and variety in clothes is not one of them.
I wear almost the same thing every day. Skinny jeans or leggings, tank top, sandals, and a sweatshirt of some kind. Things get shaken up only when it is too hot to wear pants, or someone invites me to a wedding and then I wear one of three nearly identical black or navy blue dresses I own.
Having a uniform is actually really grounding for me. I don't need to spend a lot of time trying to dress myself in the morning or worry that I don't have the most fashionable outfit. I wear mostly black, grey or dark blue and I like how the things I own look on my body. They are functional and comfortable for my lifestyle, I can wear them climbing, working or driving. I also wear my keys on the same side of my body (the right side) so I always know where they are.
3. I don't work on the weekends or after 5pm.
This was an early lesson for me in the freelance world. I would get home (back when I had a house!) and just casually check my email, when I saw the host of responses people had finally sent me after waiting on them all day long my stress level would skyrocket and I would rush to answer everyone. This lasted for about 5 days straight until I realized I was never going to stop working unless I made myself stop. Hence the no working on the weekends and no working after 5 rule. This helps me focus my work day into chunks of time so I have an 'off' period and an 'on' one. With things changing all the time it helps to have a set schedule I work around.
4. I bring my water bottle with me everywhere. Yes, everywhere.
Other than being a really good idea to stay hydrated, I think keeping my water bottle with me at all times is a bit like a safety blanket for an adult. That beat up water bottle comes with me where ever I go, whether it is to the top of a mountain, the sketchy gas station bathroom, the climbing gym, the coffee shop where I'm working for the day, or the armrest of my drivers seat. It comes into meetings with me and waits in my backpack on hikes. That water bottle is with me through thick and thin and it helps me stay connected to something that doesn't change even when everything around me is.
5. I journal.
Since I was in 4th grade I've been journaling almost every single day. There are days I miss because I'm either too tired or too drunk to manage putting pen to paper. But being able to jot down the few things I did that day keeps me sane. I like to look back on adventures I've had and spend time writing about the ones I'm excited about. My daily journaling practice helps keep the days in order and when I forget to journal for a few days or I can't make it for some reason I feel my stress levels rising.
I think what each of these things is attempting to do for me is create structure and familiarity in my world which is constantly changing.
Most people live lives full of routine and the variety and excitement comes from what they add to these routines. For me, the routines don't exist so I have to create places in my life that are unchanging.
With out these little consistencies I feel myself beginning to unravel. I notice my day feels off if I don't start it with my breakfast, and I get cranky and uncomfortable if I don't have time to check work stuff until the evening. I feel incredibly vulnerable when I can't dress like I normally do and you will see me noticeably fidgeting if I don't have my water bottle with me.
These things may seem trivial, but to me they are some of the few things I can rely on to be the same each day. These things give me sanity and I think without them I might not be able to live the lifestyle I have today.