VANLIFE LEARNINGS: 4 MONTHS ON

Location: Sydney, New South Wales

We’ve hit a quarter of year living on the road and I can tell you that it’s made for an interesting ride so far. After spending so much time in each other’s company and in Bea, Siu On and I have learned a lot about how we live and about ourselves. Although you don’t have to sell all your possessions and buy a van to figure out the answers to all life’s pressing questions, because I’m going to tell you the main one that we’ve discovered on our journey across Australia. 

You can live with very little

The answer to all your woes and insecurities isn’t in buying or owning more things, because in reality you can live and be content with very little. I’m constantly surprised by this fact, and it’s been freeing to not be bogged down by the things that I own. This also goes for essentials like food and water as we’ve found that being frugal means we don’t over eat or over indulge which has been good for our health overall. Siu On and I place a much higher value and amount of care for the things that we have as a result. Those Buddhists were definitely onto something.

Filling up precious water

We waste too much

Food, water, time, energy – the list is endless! We started off our trip filling up and binning a bag of rubbish every single day, now we can barely fill a bag up in two weeks with how little we throw away, especially since we changed our lifestyle to be more environmentally friendly. This wastage relates back to the first point about how you can live with very little, because today’s society has became so throw away that we need to reassess the way we consume if our planet isn’t going to become one giant trash can.

There is an unglamorous and Instagram unworthy side to Vanlife

Don’t be fooled by those amazing and envy eliciting #vanlife images that you see because it’s never 100% rosy, and that’s because they don’t make for popular social media imagery! Half of the time it is an amazing experience to have the freedom to be and do whatever you want, but the other half of the time it’s down right rotten when you’re depressed, lonely or the weather is horrible. And no one really wants to see the ugly and honest side to this lifestyle either; however, Siu On and I have realized that despite this, it’s still an experience and a lifestyle that is worth pursuing.

Siu On is not happy with me

You can’t help but look homeless

Fact: People judge you on both a conscious and subconscious level according to your appearance.

No matter how much you try, it’s always your shoes that give it away, so to avoid the raised eyebrows keep a clean pair of shoes handy for those times when you don’t want to look like you’ve been out bush for too long.

You are more resilient than you realize

Siu On and I are in each other’s faces 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; which means there’s little room for us to hold grudges or play mind games with each other over disagreements and arguments. As a result we’re commitment to resolving any issues and tackling any challenges head on together. We’ve found that after awhile you care less about the little things and more about the big things, which means you’re able to cope with tougher situations than you would back home. And yes, sometimes you just have to get over stuff when you don’t want to.

No matter how much room you have, you always wish you had more

Van envy.

It will strike you, and it will rot your bones. Tame the green eyed monster.

VW Van at Patonga Beach

A good nights sleep cures everything

A lot of thought and investment should go into your vanlife set up, especially when it comes to your sleeping arrangements. Your quality of life on the road will depend on how well you sleep, and this is the main reason why I believe that investing in a real and comfortable foam mattress is an absolute must! You’re going to be in a lot of situations where getting a good night’s sleep will be hard and if you’re planning on driving long distances or getting the most out of your day, then you’ll need a good sleep more than anything. Proper rest helps cure everything from hangovers and sickness, going to bed angry and sore muscles; plus it’s cheaper than drinking coffee or energy drinks.

Spices are the key to a cheap and tasty meal

Never underestimate the power of fennel seeds and dried chilli flakes because when you’re eating on a budget and all you have are lentil and cous cous, believe me, you are going to want to have a variety of spices to make your meal interesting. I firmly believe that correct spice usage should be added to the educational curriculum and taught in all schools from now on.

Camp food cooked on a fire

We rely too much on the internet

This didn’t hit me until I attempted the BioLite’s Off Grid Weekend challenge last month, and discovered that my default for every single query I have was the internet. For example, researching you destination, searching for accommodation, looking up directions, getting information on activities, and so on. I was pretty ashamed that I had been swallowed up by the inter webs electronic tentacles so much so that I couldn’t go an hour without checking my phone.

Now that is a lot of very deep and meaningful things to have learned in only four months, it makes me wonder what I’ll learn in the next four! And you can read more Vanlife posts right here and musings from the road.

All photographs by Jelena Stipanicev.