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.

5 Self-Love Rituals for City Dwellers


When I tell people I live in New York City, I usually get a wide-eyed, charismatic “oh! that’s awesome. I would love to be in such an upbeat, diverse and creative environment like New York!” To which I respond, “haha yeah… I’m in a great city.”

Don’t get me wrong, New York City is a place of pure magic. Nonetheless, it is a chaotic, toxic, overly stimulating, hard-to-pick-and-choose-my-battles-on-the-subway kind of place. I admire the marvel of it all. Walking the streets with my de-stress herbal tea in one hand and metro-card in the other (Tea is a must for this environment!) The day begins a little something like this:

I speed through the station to get to work early this time. There are people all around me doing things – A businessman on his tablet, a baby crying (probably cause of the lack of fresh air and the sound of screeching rail wheels) a woman putting on her mascara as she waits to fill her metro-card. But mostly, these people are getting in my way. I know it’s not their fault but the city makes you believe each and everyone of these people conspired to make you late to work a second time this week. As I approach my platform, I am met with a border of bodies blocking every entrance to the train. Greaaaaat. And am I really sweating already? You quickly check the time to see if there is any possible way of making it but that hope is soon gone. You chug your tea and hope the next train really does get there in 6 minutes.

These 6 minutes seem like a lifetime, but in fact are a grace period for you. An opening for your mind and body to recalibrate, refocus.

Waking up to the sound of never ending construction and urine scented commutes, I knew it was necessary to make my world a little more pleasant with 5 self-love rituals.

Read and Write. Two beautiful creative outlets. We love to write, get our ideas on paper, feel connected to others who can relate to our situations. (um, yes this is what I am doing right now by writing this on living in NYC and how it gets overwhelming at times and how we can help ourselves realign with self-love. Heck, if I happened to stumble upon this blog while waiting 6 minutes for my subway I would probably think one of these conspiring subway people hacked my phone.)

Carry a journal and a book you like with you at all times. Write down your thoughts and experiences so that 1) You will remember them and 2) So you can see how much you have learned and grown. A book is never a bad idea. You can read it while you wait and hey, you might even spark conversation with someone around you who has already read it! Reading and writing are the two self-love rituals I use the most and I think other people do too. The only difference is that I consider these two things a form of self-love while others may just think of them as reading and writing. (Self-Love Tip: When you tell yourself you are doing things because you love yourself, you are reminding your mind and body that you are worth the time and effort. You are worth the learning and expressing.)

Get a Journal. Find a good book.

Music. Gives you all of the feels. I wonder if anyone else has sat down after a long day, felt this weird absence in their body and quickly realized how they hadn’t listened to music much at all that day. It might just be me, but I have played this game before where I trace back the really good days and think about what went differently and it comes up time and time again that music makes a difference. It has been the biggest determinant in my mood, mindset and outlook. For this reason, it has made it to my self-love ritual list. Everyone should have a wicked playlist to tune into anytime they’re feeling like they need a little love.

Love yourself. Make a playlist, or many!

Since this is a list of self-love rituals for city dwellers, I wanted to make sure the first two rituals could be done anywhere. A train, on the sidewalk, at a park. The beauty of reading, writing and music is that they can be easily accessed by anyone at anytime. I also believe that self-love rituals can be more profound when in the comfort of your own home, so the next three will require you to be there.

Soul Food. When most people think of soul food, they can almost smell the image that comes to mind. Mac & Cheese, Mashed potatoes, the stuff that feels good in your belly. Well… the kind of soul food I’m talking about is a little different. It feeds more than your appetite for fatty, greasy, delicious plates of homemade dishes. It is the nourishment of the mind, body and soul that come from simple, whole and organic foods.

Self-love begins with what you are made of, and if what you are made of is heavy toxic foods, then you are going to feel heavy and toxic. On the other hand, if what you are eating is coming from the soil and nurtured by the sun, you are going to feel that difference in your body. If our body is being taken care of, then our thoughts are going to be a lot clearer. My definition of soul food consists of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and purified water. The self-love moves into the kitchen when we keep high energy food around and then moves into the body when we prepare and eat our food.

Preparation is just as important as ingestion. Take your time with your nourishment and growth. When we look at our lives in a span of a lifetime, we can see that each meal we have ever consumed has quite literally, become us. With this understanding, we can see that how we prepare and ingest our food makes a difference.

Try to buy organic local foods, rinse food with purified water, try to use as little heat as possible to conserve nutrients(heat kills vitamins) cook with family, make your food look as appealing as it is nutritious(make art with your smoothie bowls) think about the resources it took for your food to be on your plate(the sun, water, farmer, love) All of these elements bonded together to make you grow. Be thankful and share the meal.

 Share a wholesome meal with those you love.

Herbs. Wow. Our planet is seriously something special. Of course we all know there are tons of wildlife in the forms of animals, plants, fungi and a whole lot more I don’t exactly know about. But damn, we have it all. This mystical world actually has plants that help us heal in many different ways. Herbs are under acknowledged in my opinion. I believe a lot of us use these plants without even knowing we do. In our food, medicines, beauty products, and so much more.

I believe that by not just simply using these plants in our daily lives, but actually forming a connection with each type and understanding it’s power we can build a lot of self-love. This is one of my favorite self-love rituals for the simple fact that it includes the natural world. The power of self-love multiplies when you let the power of our feminine earth connect with our being.(I may be losing you to all the hippy talk but I felt that writing in this way was most authentic and revealing of this ritual.)

Chamomile for relaxation, Lavender for restful sleep, Rose Hips for glowing skin, Passionflower for anxiety relief. The list goes on. Now tell me, would being relaxed, getting good sleep, and having glowing skin not be a beautiful case of extreme self-love? You can use them for tea, run a bath with them or both. Vital for living in the city and a great way for outdoorsy people to bring the plants back home.

Herbs are a gift to us from the earth. Use them.

Unplug. Is this the 3rd or 4th article you’re reading on the web? Have your eyes been glued to your screen for quite sometime now? I can feel the guilt from over here. Don’t feel guilty. Just do something about it. Turn off the screen. Be by yourself.

The city can be stimulating and hectic by nature and now we have technology that allows us to be on several different social platforms that pretty much do the same thing but only exist because it’s another place for marketers to place fat ads in your face that won’t go away unless you find the little ‘x’ on the bottom left of the screen. It’s just this constant stimulation that we often times get so wrapped up in we let our days slip away, as well as our minds.

This self-love ritual is one I take kinda seriously. A lot of people might not like to agree with me that we are addicted to our phones, computers and TVs. The kicker is we believe these gadgets are keeping us happy and in the loop, when in reality… its not reality.

Go for a run, meditate, hike, talk to a stranger(in the right setting), walk your dog, practice any of the above rituals to get you back into your mind and body.

That’s the extraordinary thing about being in a city, you have every reason to unplug.

There are plenty more self-love rituals out there and I’m sure you can create your own personalized rituals that adapt to your life and needs. I hope this has been helpful to you and if you know someone who could use these rituals, well, spread the love!