I’ve been living in my Sprinter Van for a little over a year now, and during that time I continue to be surprised by the little joys of living in a van, the ones I didn’t expect when I moved in. I expected the freedom and the flexibility and the beautiful scenery, but I didn’t expect the pure joy of a nice parking space or the giddy feeling I get when the wind blows through the curtains on my open door.
I’m also continuously surprised by the bittersweet sorrows and just general inconveniences of living in a van. Not the ones you expect like getting woken up by the cops at 2 am, or the troubles of finding a bathroom. It’s a unique irritation when your pee jar breaks and you have to find another one ASAP, or when a cat jumps on your roof at 6 am and scares the crap out of you.
I wanted to compile a list of hidden gems of both varieties that speak to me as a unique van living experience, the positive and the negative.
Joy: That 5 seconds right after you wake up where you forget where you are, and you could be anywhere.
Sorrow: Knowing that you have to empty your gray water tanks before you wash dishes and not having a place to dump them out.
Joy: When the van is perfectly clean.
Sorrow: When the van is a huge mess.
Joy: Having exactly 2 forks, 2 spoons, 2 bowls and 2 mugs.
Sorrow: Having exactly 2 forks, 2 spoons, 2 bowls and 2 mugs.
Joy: Having new friends sit on your floor, your countertop, your swivel chairs, the bed and share road stories into the night while waiting out the desert rain.
Sorrow: Sweeping away the dust from the boots of the people you shared an adventure with, knowing you might not see them again.
Joy: Sharing a cup of coffee with a stranger on the side of the road.
Sorrow: Running out of propane at the worst possible time.
Joy: The smell of campfire smoke lingering on your clothes even after you’re 200 miles away.
Sorrow: Changing your bedsheets.
Joy: Nice notes people leave you on your dashboard.
Sorrow: Finding mold. Anywhere.
Joy: Sitting on the roof and watching the sunrise.
Sorrow: The baking heat waking you up in the summer.
Joy: Setting cruise control at 70 with an open highway in front of you, music blasting, and mountains in the distance.
Sorrow: Hugging a travel companion goodbye for the last time.
Joy: Finding out the wifi connects if you park close enough to the coffee shop.
Sorrow: The sound of someone banging on your door at 2 am.
Joy: The feeling of the warm summer breeze passing through your windows.
Sorrow: Parking tickets.
Joy: Gaining a new appreciation for a hot shower.
Sorrow: Seeing the fuel light turn on when you are miles away from a gas station.
Joy: The feeling of soft blankets bunched around you while it rains outside.
Sorrow: Finding a leak in your roof.
Joy: Afternoon naps with the doors open.
There are things about living in a van that will always be challenging, no Instagram filter can change that. But the hidden moments of joy I find in having a space that is exactly the right size for me are precious. They aren’t always as obvious as the scenic views and the freedom of the road, and I think we should take more time to acknowledge the little moments, good and bad.