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.

Packing for Peace Corps (While Saving the Earth)

Lifestyle, Peace Corps

The time is fast approaching! A month countdown begins today, before I leave the USA to serve in the Peace Corps for two whole years!!(yes, I’ll be nearing age 24 by the time I get back, crazy, I know)

Where am I going you wonder? Nicaragua, where i’ll be teaching environmental education to primary school children, the dream. Packing for a two year trip requires quite a bit of planning, especially if you’re like me and plan on being as environmentally friendly as possible, which means a lot of second-hand thrift shopping and clothes swapping with friends and family.

One of my goals as an environmental educator is to promote sustainability in all forms, and this means being a conscious consumer as I purchase and pack clothing, luggage, shoes, etc.

What’s the big deal with shopping around for new things anyway? Shopping used to be a trip to the mall, ordering online, basically buying anything and everything brand new. This didn’t bother me until I read the numbers…

  1. It takes 700 gallons of water to make a cotton t-shirt.
  2. The average American throws out about 82 pounds of textile waste per year.
  3. Clothes can take up to 40 years to decompose.
  4. Shoes can take up to a 1,000 years to break down.
  5. 95% of textiles cannot be recycled.

After reading figures like these, my immediate reaction was how can I contribute less to these statistics?!

The solution may not be convenient, but it’s certainly less expensive, less pollutive and better for the earth, which is a concern for Peace Corps volunteers who care about people and the planet. Shopping second hand for most of my Peace Corps needs was a fun challenge and one I know will shape my future experiences.

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Clothing

  • 3 Denim Shorts
  • 1 Khaki Short
  • 1 Denim Skirt
  • 3 Long Khakis
  • 5 Pairs of Slacks
  • 2 Rayon-stretch Pants
  • 3 Dark-Denim Jeans
  • 3 Long Skirts
  • 1 Short Skirt
  • 6 Pairs of Yoga Pants
  • 2 Yoga Shorts
  • 6 Cotton T-Shirts for Bed
  • 1 Long Sleeve Spandex Shirt
  • 2 Shorts Sleeve Spandex Shirts
  • 9 Tank Tops
  • 4 Long Sleeve Tops
  • 4 Collard Shirts
  • 6 Cotton Shirts
  • 3 Blouses
  • 3 Strappy Tops
  • 4 Dresses
  • 1 Pair of Overalls
  • 1 Sweatshirt
  • 1 Rain Jacket
  • 1 Cotton Jacket
  • 1 Bandana
  • 2 Swimsuits
  • 30x Underwear (This I would not recommend buying second hand… when put in a situation like this where you must by new, I try my best to shop organic, fair-trade. My favorite brand by far is: PactOrganic)
  • 30x Socks (Same rule applies for socks, if you can try to go organic and fair trade)

Where to find second hand clothes? I found most of the above at: Goodwill, Poshmark(Online Clothing Buy/Sell), Housing Works, City Opera Thrift Shop, and from the closets of friends and family(Shout out to you guys, you rock). Local thrift stores are all over the place and many of them partner with great charities and organizations to raise money for HIV Prevention and Awareness, Train people for Careers, Fight Homelessness, support the LGBTQ Community and so much more. There are several pros to thrifting!

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Shoes

  • Converse
  • New Balance
  • Hiking Boots
  • Mules
  • Slip On Canvas Shoes
  • Sandals
  • Flip Flops

*Tip: When buying used shoes you can disinfect them with a natural homemade mix of things you can find in your fridge like vinegar and lemon.

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(My sister thrifted and gifted this fitting little miss green T, thanks Sam)

Electronics

  • Macbook /Macbook Charger(Laptop is a must)
  • Compact Converter
  • DSLR Camera (2x Lenses)
  • Power Bank/Travel Light
  • Phone/ Phone Charger
  • External Hard Drive
  • Speakers
  • Headlight + Extra Batteries
  • Extension Chord
  • Headphones (x2)
  • Flashlight
  • Flashdrive (x2)
  • Battery Powered Alarm Clock
  • Extra Batteries
  • Digital Watch/FITBIT (Great to track miles/calories without the use of gym equipment)

Personal Health/Hygiene

  • Bamboo Toothbrush/Case (x5) (I like these because they are compostable but obviously you can find these in country)
  • Toothpaste (You can purchase toothpaste or 3 simple ingredients to make your own)
  • Floss
  • Razor
  • Face Wash (You can bring your own, use African Black Soap or make your own with local ingredients)
  • Shampoo/Conditioner (You can bring your own or make your own with local ingredients, I use Baking Soda + Apple Cider Vinegar)
  • Soap/Soap Holder (African Black Soap is magic and can be used for practically all washing needs like face wash + shampoo)
  • Deodorant (You can purchase or make your own with local ingredients, I just use baking soda! Works like a charm)
  • Menstrual Cup (Zero Waste alternative to Tampons or Pads, Saves you $$$ + good for the planet, highly recommend)
  • Hair Brush
  • Hair Ties/Clippers
  • Quick Dry Towels (x2)
  • Shower Bag
  • Natural Loofa (Compostable)
  • Mirror
  • Nail Clippers/Files
  • Tweezers
  • Q-Tips
  • Natural Sunscreen
  • Essential Oils (Great for Skin Treatment, bug bites, relaxation, headaches, all around soothing)
  • Tiger Balm
  • Makeup
  • Aloe Vera (Can be used as moisturizer and for any burns!)
  • Chapstick (You can purchase or make yourself with local ingredients)

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100% Recycled Biodegradable Packaging, BPA Free, Phthalate Free, PVC Free, Biodegradable & Compostable

BMBU Toothbrush


Lifetime Razor, almost 100 years old belonged to my great grandpa during the 1930’s. Besides the sentimental value behind this razor, I am happy to find a razor that isn’t a plastic disposable, and even better allows you to sharpen the blade over and over again. You can actually still purchase a Rolls Razor on EBay.

100% Biodegradable floss, no waste here.

This sunscreen is non-toxic and cruelty free. Most sunscreen finds its way into ocean waters and bleaches coral, however, this brand, Raw Elements is safe for you and the planet.

Work Supplies

  • Plenty of Pens/Pencils
  • Sharpies
  • Highlighters
  • Tape
  • Crayons
  • Scissors
  • Whiteboard Markers/Regular Markers
  • Index Cards
  • Stickers


Found this stainless steel water bottle for $3 at goodwill! Brand new would be $40

Miscellaneous

  • WATER BOTTLE (32 oz. Preferably)
  • Sunglasses
  • Baseball Cap
  • Cotton Sheet set
  • Comfy Pillow
  • Umbrella
  • Reusable Canvas Bags
  • Stainless Steel Straw
  • Pocket Knife
  • Journal(s)/Books
  • Card Games
  • Light-Weight Robe
  • Belt
  • Earplugs
  • Hiking Packpack
  • Gardening Gloves/Tools (For enviro volunteers)
  • Jump Rope (Aside from running, i’m assuming it’s gonna be a challenge getting a decent workout)
  • Pictures of Family + Friends
  • Yoga Mat
  • French Press

This blog post will be a work in progress up until the day I leave; I will continue adding content as I gather more things and discover any useful tips for Peace Corps packers!

This blog represents my own thoughts and opinions. They do not directly reflect those of the U.S. Peace Corps or Nicaragua