The first 150 days of van life

October 8, 2017

Today marks my 150th day in my van. Since I left Berlin in May I visited 6 countries, drove more than 12,000 km, collected more than 180,000 Wh of solar power and met a lot of interesting people.

The van life definitely left its marks on me.

Getting inspired by ideas instead of following a plan

As a remote software engineer, I can work when I feel productive and rest when my brain is tired. Still my life was very structured around my flexible working hours. Usually I had a detailed plan for the upcoming week: lunch with my ex-co-workers on Monday, a birthday dinner on Tuesday, cinema on Wednesday, giving a talk on Thursday, going to a concert on Friday, going for a bike ride on Saturday and so on.

I rarely spent time relaxing in my hammock or in the park around the corner to enjoy the sun and let my thoughts flow. Even though my job was amazing I regularly felt the need for a break: vacation or just working from another place for a couple of weeks.

Since I’ve lived in my van I’ve never felt the need for a vacation or a change. Instead of following a fixed plan, I get inspired by random ideas: When the waves are great, I go surfing. When it’s chill and fresh, I work. When it’s hot, I go for a swim. When I’m tired, I sleep. When I like a place, I stay. When I meet someone cool, I join them for a while. When my van breaks, I try to get it fixed.

My life in the van feels like a smooth flow of uncontrolled events. Things just happen without too much planning. And sometimes I just do nothing but relaxing in my hammock.

Relaxing in my hammock

Living more healthy

Berlin offers a great variety of delicious and affordable places to eat. Why should I have spent my valuable time on grocery shopping and cooking, if I could get a great meal right around the corner? Although it’s very easy to eat out in a big city, it’s more challenging to stick to a healthy diet. I often ate stuff like shawarma, burgers, doner kebab, schnitzel or pizza.

Since I moved in my van I’ve cooked a lot. Usually my meals consist of a variety of vegetables and a lot of olive oil. Sometimes I refine them with meat or fish. Cooking doesn’t feel like an effort anymore. I’m not in a hurry because I have to be somewhere in 20 minutes. I take my time and enjoy it. Win-win: I relax my mind while preparing a healthy meal.

Preparing a meal in my van

I park my van in open and green areas whenever possible. The windows are usually open. I can smell the fresh air all day long.

Working in the van right next to the sea

Sometimes I even work outside of my van on a camping table.

Working outside of the van right next to the sea

I work in a natural environment instead of a smelly office with a fake climate produced by an A/C. When I turn my head, I see trees, the mountains, the sea or a river. It takes me one second to leave my desk and walk barefoot in the grass, sand or water. No need for a bike or train ride for several minutes through a crowed city full of fumes.

In Berlin I regularly had a slight cold. Roughly every third month, I would feel a little sick or exhausted. Since I’ve lived in the van I haven’t been sick once in five months.

Living more sustainable

When you live in an average apartment in Berlin it feels like resources are unlimited. Whenever you open the tap, there’s endless fresh water. Whenever you plug a device into an outlet, you can run it as long as you want. Drying your hair with a 2000 watts blow dryer after taking a hot shower for 20 minutes at night: no problem!

That changes when you live in a van. All of a sudden everything is limited and you start using things more sustainably. When my water tank is empty, I have to go and find a source of water and carry the water back to my van. When it’s dark, I have 200 Ah in my battery until the sun will charge it the next day. The amount of water that I used in Berlin to brush my teeth is probably enough for a whole day in my van. Maybe 80% of the water just flowed from the tap right into the drain without even touching my body.

The limitations of a van don’t necessarily result in a lower quality of life. I can still do everything I want. I just don’t waste that much resources any more, because I am more aware of their limitations. We often forget about these. Especially when we live in western urban areas.

Being more outgoing

In Berlin, I usually didn’t approach the next random stranger on the street and started a conversation. Instead, I made plans with my friends and mostly ignored all the unknown people around me. Even if I would pay attention to these strangers, they mostly seemed busy or tired from work.

When I leave my van after work and go to the beach, I usually meet relaxed and open-minded people: vacationers, travelers, surfers, hippies. They don’t seem to be stressed and everyone has interesting stories to tell. No stranger is surprised if I approach them out of the blue and say “hi”. It’s normal. I definitely get more in touch with new people than I did before my trip.

Eating together with together travelers

A simpler, happier life?

My life has gotten way simpler within the last 150 days. I feel more flexible because I don’t plan that much any more. If I don’t get something done today, I don’t worry and will continue tomorrow. As a Spanish traveler once told me,

The sun rises every day.

I feel very balanced and am looking forward to all the things ahead of me!