8 Lessons for 8 Months on the Road!

We have learned so much living on the road since February. Now that we have spent 8 months traveling and living small (in order to live big), we would love to share 8 lessons that we have learned.

1. Don’t Chip at the Ice in the Freezer!

Maybe this sounds silly, but it was something that I didn’t know beforehand. This lesson applies to everyone who has a freezer, whether you are in an RV or not… DON’T CHIP AT THE ICE! At the very worst, if your freezer must be defrosted, use a hair dryer. Also, if your freezer is really freezing up and making a lot of ice and snow, it probably isn’t closing properly. Make sure it is latching well! (A big thanks to my stepdad, Michael, for this last tip!) Also, we fixed our fridge thanks to our friends Emily and Clark..Thank you guys!!

This will be what you have to do if you break your fridge while chipping… Don’t do it!

2. Take it Slow, Rest!

When we started Vanlife, we were overwhelmed by the amount of adventure that was possible. Even though we knew we’d be on the road for at least a year and a half, we felt like we had a travel deadline looming. So, we went out and we adventured, adventured, adventured. We spent very little time in one place, and spent very little time resting. Also, we are so grateful for the opportunity to travel, so please don’t misunderstand. However, it is important to remember that even though Vanlife allows for a lot of travel, it must also include rest and relaxation. Constant movement is exhausting and will burn you out. We are learning now to go more slowly.

One of the most beautiful places that our van has been parked at for the last 2+ weeks– our friends, Grayson and Harrison’s house!

3. Whatever is meant to happen, will happen.

This one has been a big one for me. As many of you know, I have been applying to medical school while Zak and I have been living in the van. This is my second cycle. The process is very long and very competitive. Recently, I have had a few interviews, which is a huge positive step. However, I find myself stressing about when I will hear about decisions or if I will get in or not. Sometimes I even find myself comparing myself to others, which is very toxic and unhelpful. Of course these feelings are natural, but I am trying to remind myself that I need to keep my mind in the present and enjoy right now. Furthermore, regardless of whether I get in this cycle or not, I am going to live a successful and happy life. Whatever journey I am on, I am meant to be on it, and I am meant to learn the lessons it offers me.

After my second medical school interview at the University of Iowa

4. Everything is Learn-able.

If there is anything we have learned from building out the van (especially with no experience), it is that EVERYTHING is learnable. Consider a very difficult skill, or something you feel you may never get good at… We are not saying that learning this skill will be easy and effortless– but we are saying that if you put in enough work and time, you can absolutely learn that skill. We have never been more grateful for YouTube and the internet’s vast resources. If you told me last year that I’d be fixing our refrigerator, I would have laughed at you. But here I am now, learning about soldering and freon!

Me sitting in the van, about half way through the build.

5. Less is more.

Our van is about 86 sqft and it includes a kitchen, a bed, a shower, a toilet and a bench. So do we have a ton of room for extra stuff? No! As we were preparing to move into the van, we sold about 90% of our belongings. Now with less stuff, and less space to store stuff, we spend our money on experiences rather than things. It’s amazing the things we buy that we absolutely do not need. Having such a small space really forces us to think about additional purchases.

Our itty bitty home on wheels

6. Life is bigger than conventional expectations.

After 8 months on the road, we have seen a lot of our friends go through the conventional and very exciting changes that many of us thought about as we grew up. Some people are getting married, some are buying houses, some are getting cool and exciting promotions, some are having babies. We left “conventional life” in our mid-twenties to do something that was not very mid-twenties-ish. I am sure that there are people who are skeptical or believe that this is a waste of time. I even sometimes find myself envious of my friends who are doing these conventional things– sometimes I feel like I long for a corporate job, only if it is for the stability of a regular income. However, for all of the people that we have met that have not done Vanlife, almost every single person has said, “I wish I were doing this now.” or “I wish I did this when I was your age.” We are very grateful that we have had the opportunity to step outside of conventional bounds to experience life outside of a 9-5.

A beautiful hike we took in Montana the other day– neither of us had ever been to MT before!

7. Budgeting is important.

Neither Zak nor myself have full-time jobs at the moment, so it is really important for us to budget and to keep track of how much money we are spending monthly. I personally record every transaction I make in an excel doc. Zak and I have a lot of financial goals that we would like to achieve, but budgeting and financial tracking are two of the baseline financial habits that we have really started to solidify in the van.

My spending and income excel doc, with different categories for spending and each transaction

8. Spend time in nature.

Nature is an extension of our home. Of course, we love our 86 square feet, but the best part about our home is opening the doors and being part of the environment that we are traveling in.

Have you ever had a nap in the park? Because if you haven’t I highly suggest!

This is all we have for you this time, but if you want to know more about what it is like to live on the road, make sure to check out our Vanlife Journal!

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