Unexpected #vanlife challenges

If this finds you at work, grumpy and missing the camping you did over Labor Day weekend, allow me to share a few #vanliferealities that might help you appreciate some of the comforts of #houselife.


It never occurred to me that exercise would be harder on the road. I thought van life would be inherently more active, a natural workout on top of my regular morning runs. Don’t #vanlifers just frolic in fields of wildflowers and swim naked in lakes? Surely after a few months on the road, I’d sport a Jennifer Lawrence “Hunger Games” body.

Turns out cooking beans and rice on a propane stove is not in the same family as hunting, killing, and skinning game. I would argue it’s harder. Not only do you have to refrain from killing your husband who did not put the can opener back in the utensils bucket, but you have to find the can opener, and he is not as hungry as you are, so his sense of urgency doesn’t have much urgency, and it’s been, like, 1.5 hours since your last snack.

But it’s weird I don’t look like her yet.

Vanlife is more practically challenging than physically demanding. Sadly, it’s just not a more active lifestyle, not when you’re still working full time from coffee shops and libraries 8 to 5, Monday through Friday. Maybe it’s more active for that always-half-naked #vanlife couple sipping hot coffee on white sheets in a West Elm decorated airstream with the kid-less flexibility to climb and GoPro Class 4 mountains, making money through sponsorships who identify with their “brand.” Maybe for them. But we are married (so always-fully-clothed) with an 8-yr-old whose captain chair collects dog hair, gum wrappers and soggy goldfish. It’s a Class 4 hike when we make it to the bathroom without skid marks. We make our money sitting in front of a computer developing carpel tunnel. Quick, what company matches our brand? Advil? Pharmaceuticals, call a mama.

I probably got more “natural” exercise by running up and down my stairs at home looking for clean underwear.

And the regular workouts? The running I used to do? That sitch is worse. Here’s why:

  • On the road, your daily and weekly routines vary wildly, so planning for a run is much harder than in the city where you throw on your shoes and hit familiar pavement or trails. You don’t know where you’ll be or what time you’ll be there or if bears will be waiting for you when you arrive.
  • It’s less of a priority. Work, school, and simply knowing where you will sleep next are the priorities. JK, planning for your next snack always takes precedence.
  • You don’t know when you’ll shower next, so running for an hour means sitting and sleeping in your own sweaty B.O. for who knows how long, and you were once told by a sage and reliable 8-year-old that bears are attracted to B.O. So, safety first.
  • Seriously, safety. I will run alone in the city on familiar trails with my dog. But I’m not so hot about running alone in foreign places. The fear is less murder-by-creepy-white-guy-with-a-molestache and more bear phobic. Let’s call it, “A healthy respect for wildlife.” That makes me sound like I’m taking on a sedentary lifestyle for the animals. #SaveTheBears #DontRun

I’ve been a runner for so long it has never occurred to me to get exercise in other forms. But I give. I’m assembling some non-running workouts (yoga, squats, jump rope, bear wrestling) that are conducive to van life and I’d love your recommendations/favorites. Write me on Instagram. @hobomom.

Catching up with friends and family/talking on the phone.

You live in a van! How hard can it be to talk on the phone?!

Hard. The most obvious reason here is cell service. If I don’t have it, I can’t call you. But it’s imperative for business. So what typically happens is we find a cool place to camp, it doesn’t have service, so we spend our days in a nearby town where reception is great and work/school is productive. I would normally call you on my commute to work, but I now commute through a forest. And I can’t call you when I finally get to civilization because I have limited time to work. I never realized how much talking I did while commuting between activities until that wasn’t possible.

Food costs and eating healthy.

I don’t need to write much here, right? You’ve camped before and know it’s full of bad habits. We are conditioned to crave and feel very much entitled to beer and hot dogs and marshmallows in the forest. Americans are classy that way. But this is a lifestyle, not Labor Day weekend, so it takes recalibrating my brain every time we set up camp to not reach for the graham crackers.

Then, there’s the challenge of buying/cooking healthy and we haven’t nailed this yet. There are so many other moving parts and costs that we haven’t quite figured out how to buy kale salads that feed the family and save well in the cooler without making the van smell like, well, kale.

Campsite costs.

Here’s how this should work. If you let me sleep on your land, outside, in the forest, with bears and bugs and monsters, but don’t have running water or plumbing, you don’t get to charge $30+ per night. Mmk?

Camping is expensive. Yes, National Forests maintained by the Bureau of Land Management are free, but it’s not always practical for us since we work/school/Instagram a lot and require cell service, wifi, and kid-friendly activities. We’ve joined the #KOA cult and will write more about that soon.



There’s your sobering glimpse into van life. It can be hard. And by “hard” I mean slightly less 1st world but still comfortably and ridiculously 1st world. These problems are not inclusive of ALL of our problems, so please do not limit us to only these hardships. We reserve the right to complain of many other problems in the near future. Your continued use of this blog is an expressed agreement that our hardships are hard hardships and you will nod sympathetically when reading.


Continue Reading