I’ve recently returned to the UK after a 11-month stint wandering around the southern hemisphere. To round-off an incredibly epic year, I quit my job and lived in a van for a bit with an amazing friend. I didn’t shower that much, forgot what washing up liquid was, and wore the same clothes for days and I have never felt so zen in all my life.
I felt a lightness in my body that I haven’t experienced since childhood. You know when you were a kid you could just drop into bed and nod off without a single wandering thought or worry? To be followed by a restful 8+ hours of kip? Then you’d wake up all energetic and happy to be alive and excited for breakfast? Well, it was like that.
Also, after casually fracturing my spine two years ago, I am prone to a bit of back pain almost all of the time… and it just kind of went away. Which makes me think pain in itself is waaaaay more psychological than originally thought.
I noticed things that would usually bother me completely fell by the wayside. For example, I’m usually very conscious of the fact my hair, when left to its own devices, is like a cavewoman just discovered lightning. Usually, a quick blow-dry will to the trick to keep it (sort of) in place. Van life changed me in the best way as I genuinely did not give two hoots what the actual f*ck I looked like.
Lack of light at night meant we were getting incredibly early nights and waking up with daybreak… this is what I imagine to be a human’s intended body clock, before the invention of electricity. We didn’t have to go to work either obviously, so there were no dream-intruding alarms and we spent the days filling our time with soul-filling activities (painting, writing, singing, walking, yoga, etc). The lack of signal also meant I stopped checking my phone all of the time. That was bloody good. Digital cleansing could become part of my routine… maybe.
I also realised I wash my clothes and myself too much in normal life. It’s so needless and wasteful. I’m not that smelly, really. And when you’re sure to be walking long (sometimes strenuous) uphill walks around New Zealand’s extensive backcountry, nothing feels more right than jumping into lakes, rivers or the ocean for a quick wash. No soap required.
I can hear your gags from here, and maybe it’s not for everyone… but it was an incredible and freeing experience for me. I loved every minute of it.
More blog posts on van life sure to follow, remember to let me know what you’d like to read about. In the meantime, enjoy the my impersonation of a cavewoman-meets-lightning and my beautiful friend enjoying a perfectly deserted Kiwi beach.