6 Things We Learned Our First Weekend in the Van

Travel, Van Conversion

Having a toilet in your van is a game changer. We brought our Nature’s Head with us since we weren’t sure where we would be sleeping overnight and wanted to have a place to pee just in case it ended up being some random parking lot. It was amazing. We didn’t have to look for a bathroom all weekend, and could even just stop on the side of the road and go to the back to pee if we had to. I honestly don’t know how people van life without a toilet at all. I’m already spoiled and don’t even live in it full-time yet.

Sometimes talking to the police will get you exactly what you want, and more. We had 2 run-ins with the cops over the weekend. Once because we were (knowingly) parked illegally on the pavement, and once just because he thought he had seen us and the van before. The first time she was so nice and just told us where we were allowed to park to hang out, and even gave us her Facebook info so we could follow her photography page. The second guy told us all the laws in North Topsail, including the fact that women are legally allowed to be topless, drunk in public, and can park overnight. He basically told us he wasn’t going to bother us as long as we didn’t bother him. They were both super stoked on the van and what we were doing, which was so cool! The stereotype is that every police officer is going to chase you off and be really against the whole traveling thing – but in reality there are some really cool ones out there that will give you the information you need, all you have to do is ask!

Having no plan is the best plan. We pretty much went into the weekend knowing we wanted to spend some time at the beach, maybe surf if possible, and eat some tacos. I think sometimes having a general idea of what you want to get out of a trip is better than having it planned out minute-by-minute. We didn’t feel any pressure to get anywhere at any certain time, and we weren’t bummed when there really weren’t any waves because we were just hanging out exploring. We found a really cool place to park on the sound after dinner and we just hung out and waited for the beach shower across the street to clear out so we could rinse off before bed. If we had it all planned out, we might have ended up in a campground and not finding an awesome parking spot with a view of the ocean from the back of the van to park.

Everything tastes better in nature. We ate everything outside all weekend, even when we went to dinner at Shaka Taco… ’cause what’s better after a day in the sun than some freakin’ TACOS? Food is better when you’re actually hungry from doing stuff all day, and even BETTER when you get to enjoy it with a view.

Being intentional makes life slow way down, in the best way. This little tiny taste of living in the van definitely confirmed that it’s what we want to do. Being in such a small space means you really need to think about what you absolutely need to have, which honestly ends up being way less than you think. The convenience of a house and knowing that you will always have running water, air conditioning, and be surrounded by all kinds of stuff is definitely comforting – but living on the basics can be just as comforting in it’s own way. It teaches you that you can survive with way less than you’ve been conditioned to believe, and that you don’t need all those extra things all the time. Plus, when you’re focused on figuring out where you’re going to sleep that night you don’t have time to worry about the infinite amount of stupid things your mind occupies itself with when it has too much free time.

You get to meet some cool people. I learned that people are generally way more interested in the van than I originally thought. People were constantly stopping by and slowing down to check out what we had going on in there and giving us thumbs up and smiles. It’s really cool to see how many people are stoked on what we are doing and have a chance to talk to them. We get to hear an outsider’s opinion on what we’re doing, get some feedback and maybe hear some ideas, but we also just get to meet some really rad like-minded people. We may never have talked to 90% of the people we did if we weren’t in the van, and it’s a really cool thing to make connections when you’re out doing something you love. You never know who you’ll meet or what you might learn from someone, and it’s awesome to have the feeling of a community being brought together by something so little as living little.

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