Van-life: Finding Comfort in Discomfort

Culture, Environment, Food, Health, Self-Love, Travel

The idea of packing up your bags, loading up the car with your best friend and heading Southwest sounds like a dream, until you realize you need to make cooking, bathing, sleeping and all other human necessities happen out of a Kia Sedona.

Before leaving on our 3 month adventure, we did a lot of research on how other people were living out of their cars successfully, visiting natural wonders around the Southwest and planned our route; seeing picturesque landscapes, pimped out vans and happy travelers, we were ready to get out there. Don’t get me wrong, van-life is one of the coolest learning experiences one can enjoy in life and I wish for every person the opportunity, but I do want to highlight some of the challenges or unglamorous realities one faces while living out of a car/living outdoors that put you in positions of discomfort, ultimately helping you grow to become a more resilient, resourceful, life-hacking individual.

You will face:

  • The unforgiving extremities of nature (blazing hot sun, frosty cold altitudes)

From the Sonoran and Mojave desert to the canyon peaks in Colorado, its hard to find homeostasis when your body is adjusting to varying temps and altitudes.

While in the desert we made sure to pack the car with at least 5 gallons of water everywhere we went. You never know if your car will will break down and you’ll be waiting in the sun for hours; this didn’t happen to us but it likely could have!

If it wasn’t the dry desert heat beating down on us one day then it was the bitter cold reminding our fingers and toes how insignificant they are. These discomforts heightened my senses and awareness, the kinda feelings you lose when you live in a thermostat controlled home. By putting yourself in situations of discomfort, you awaken your senses to be receptive to the feelings of being warm, cooling down, resting sore muscles, all of the things that have become a given in your own home.

  • Keeping up with Personal Hygiene

Unless you’re living out of a vehicle with a water system, keeping up with personal hygiene gets tricky. California beaches have outdoor showers for beach goers which made it easier, albeit at times down right creepy to get a solid shower in public. Picture Venice beach, suns down, 12am and we’re showering with flashlights in hand.

Life-hack: If you find yourself a 5 gallon water container and enough privacy you can shower out in nature! We used a window curtain, ran a metal wire through it and attached carabiners on the ends to make a removable curtain; if you find a tree you can tie the water container to a tree and you have yourself a makeshift shower.

After leaving warm weather and outdoor public showers, we just started showering less altogether. What once was showering whenever desired in the comfort of one’s own home became a periodical luxury even if it was a shower in the back of a laundromat that lasted 5 minutes.

  • “Me time” with limited Space

Personal space and me time is hard to come by on the road if you are traveling with a partner, but I would much rather be on the road experiencing natures beauty with another person by my side… at least that’s my mentality until human annoyances get in the way which is expected when you’re sharing small spaces. Be prepared for bettering your communication skills and learning to compromise.

  • Driving long distances

If you want to see the beauty of national parks, other states, diverse landscapes, chances are you’re going to have to drive there.

Make the most out of spending hours in the car by taking photos, discovering new music, making pit stops, listening to podcasts, reading, having meaningful discussion, keeping an eye out for wildlife. Make the time you spend in the car as productive as possible.

  • Working around daylight

Daylight is your #1 friend on the road when you depend on it to scope out campsites, spot wildlife and stay warm, which means you’ll be planning your days around the sun.

Tip: Prep your food for the day and keep it in an easily accessible cooler, that way you can munch while driving. Easy to make foods that don’t require cooking like – sandwiches, fruit, nuts, etc. are great options. Another good reason to pack your food for the day is that once you get to your destination late at night, you won’t have to cook in the dark.

  • No Service, you’re off the grid

A blessing and curse. A chance to disconnect, breathe, be present. But where are we again?

Download maps! Mark your coordinates in your GPS so you’re able to use them offline.

  • Time of the Month for Women

Dealing with personal hygiene is hard enough as it is, add dealing with your monthly cycle on top of it all and things can get difficult.

Lucky for me and many other women who travel often, we have found some of the best goodies on the market for periods like menstrual cups, re-usable cotton pads and period underwear!

The menstrual cup I use is the Diva Cup and it can be left for up to 12 hours before emptying. Um hello full day of hiking a National Park without carrying tampons or having to stop and find a place to put them!(if that is even an option.) Worried about leaking? There’s a solution for that too! My favorite pair of underwear were gifted to me by a friend and made by Thinx, a rad company that uses a highly absorbent fabric to make their life-saving undies to wear on your flow days. (Thank you Sammy for being the first to bring Thinx into my life!)

I never have to worry about my period when I travel thanks to the women who found a problem with how products are designed for them and did something about it. They started their own companies and I am proud to be a supporter of reusable, comfortable, healthy, cost-effective, planet saving products.

  • Cooking

Ahhh besides the fuel you need to get around in a car, it’s easy to forget the fuel your body needs to enjoy your trip to it’s full potential.

I can’t count how many times we’ve forgotten to eat a meal while on the road, and it’s something that affects your trip more than you think.

Too tired to drive? Getting irritable? Try to recall the last time you ate. 4 hours ago? Get on munching the healthy foods and drinking water as soon as you can. Seeing the difference in my mood and outlook after munching on healthy food really puts me in check.

Don’t let being on the road and the challenges that come with it get in the way of your self care and health. Put your basic needs first so you can have the energy, positivity and patience to enjoy every experience.

Van life is worth giving up the comforts of home, routine, security; In exchange for stability you get the discomforts of the road that force you to remember the simple comforts every person needs – water, warmth, healthy foods, clean air, hugs – and come home with a new found appreciation for pretty much everything.

Meditation is For Everyone

Zen

I don’t know a single soul that couldn’t use meditation for the betterment of their life. The simple act of sitting still and releasing thoughts as they come. I honestly think this is what our pets are doing most of the time. Eckhart Tolle, a renowned spiritual influencer once said, “I have lived with several zen masters – all of them cats.” and I really do believe it. Animals have a much easier time staying in the present moment than us humans do. Whether it’s because they have no societal pressures, or an understanding of past and present, we can’t negate the fact that these creatures have mastered something so simple yet humans struggle with it all the time.

Here are some tips for anyone looking to find the breezy, blissful meditation your pets have so naturally mastered.

  1. There is no “trying to meditate” there is just being. When we go into mediation with a mindset of accomplishing something and or trying to find inner stillness, we are already setting ourselves up to fail. It isn’t about putting in effort but rather letting the effort go.
  2. You are your breath. The breath is the center of meditation. It’s what we feel. Our nostrils opening up to allow the oxygen to slip down into the depths of our lungs, filling up each pocket with new life force energy, the same stuff that is coursing through our veins, through the trees and the waters surrounding us. It’s the rhythm that grounds us. A good way to be present is to count your breaths through your meditation.
  3. Thoughts are just little clouds. Think of your thoughts like clouds passing by in the sky above you and meditation as you laying on your back on a lush green field looking up at the sun. As you are looking at the sun you notice a cloud approaching. The more you focus on the cloud, the closer it gets to blocking the sun, the light, the present moment. You notice that once you acknowledge the cloud and accept it for what it is, you can let it go. Thoughts are just like clouds. Accepting and letting go of your thoughts is what makes them disappear. The more attention you give them, the more they will linger and block your light. Focus on the sun and let the clouds go.
  4. Start the day this way. Meditation in the morning is an excellent way to start your day. It allows you to clear your mind and tune into your body before facing the world. You will see how your interactions with other people become brighter and more fulfilling after your meditation sessions. It helps you see things in several different perspectives. Meditation can ultimately help you improve relationships, work ethic, and overall attitude about life.
  5. Find your comfort spot. Getting comfortable in your environment is crucial and makes all the difference in your meditation experience. You want to find a spot that is relatively quiet, seclusive and peaceful. The more ideal you can make your environment, the more benefits you’ll receive from your meditation session. You might even want to light a couple of candles or incense, use sage to smudge the room and maybe incorporate some healing crystals in your space. The more personal and quiet your area is, the better you will feel going into the mediation. Make your space your own.
  6. Body Boost. Meditating in the morning is often favored because its a great way to start the day, however, a lot of people choose this time for the fact that their bodies are fresh. Since meditation requires you to have as few distractions as possible, people do a good job of clearing a space for themselves physically but miss the opportunity to prepare their bodies. You may have heard that meditating on a practically empty stomach helps you with your practice because digestion isn’t happening. And it is true! To have a more impactful practice it is recommended to mediate before a meal.  
  7. Just get started. Why wait? Take 5 minutes out of your day to just be by yourself with nothing but your breath. Don’t tell yourself you don’t have the time. Tell yourself how worthwhile it is to refocus and build awareness. Set time out each day to meditate if only for a few minutes. Spend the time to improve your life.

Remember, there is no right or wrong way to meditate. Enjoy your practice. Enjoy yourself and just grow.

If you have any meditation tips leave them in the comment section below! I would love to hear what other people are doing in their practice and how it has improved their lives.