Post 37: Doubts and Second Guesses

Day 37: 3/27/22 9:52 pm (central time) 

I think that both Zak and I are stuck half way in between vanlife and “regular” life. Most of our friends (all of our friends?) are just getting started on their “normal” lives. Some are getting married, some are having babies, some are getting promoted, some are buying houses or moving into chic apartments, some are starting meaningful, interesting jobs. Zak and I, on the other hand, are trying to leave that life.

We live in a van, with no immediate mailing address. I haven’t had a full-time job in years. (Funny, I have the overwhelming urge to justify and explain this decision to you, too.) We have traded stability, money, and convenience, for travel, for new experiences, for freedom from a 9-to-5, same-five-bars-on-the-weekends kind of life.

Rationally, we both know that what we are doing is exceptionally interesting and exciting, and often, we feel this too. We feel this deeply-when we drive through mountains, when we tour a new city on a Monday, when we jump into lakes fully clothed (or not). I feel this when I am hiking, and when I am reading full books within a day. Zak feels this when he creates content, when he takes pictures and videos; when he shares his feelings and experiences through images. I feel this when I write, when I share my life, my experiences, through words. But why is it that we question ourselves then? Why do I question myself?

Part of it is social media– the highlight reel we feed ourselves of each person’s life. It gives us all of the good, and leaves out the worst, the most mundane, the embarrassing. It is a perfectly curated picture of who we want others to believe we are. So many, so, so many people say that their TikToks and Instagrams are full of van conversions and vanlifers. And they want to live this life. On the flip side though, I look at my own feed, on the other side of Instagram, and I see the highlights of conventional life: engagements, promotions, new houses, babies, dinner parties, new jobs, graduations… They make me wonder what I am missing out on. They make me wonder if this choice, to go out on the road, is the “right” one. The grass is always greener, right? Through this blog and also through our own instagram, we hope to create less of a highlight reel, instead painting a fuller picture of our lives– the best bits, and the bits we’re not as proud of.

The other big issue for me is medical school and my pursuit towards becoming a physician. Medical school is so competitive and rigorous that somewhere along the way, I have tricked myself into believing that I must follow a prescribed set of activities in order to be successful. I tell myself that I should be shadowing physicians more, researching more, working more. More, more, more. But are these additional activities for me, or are they meant to impress an admissions committee? And yes, maybe I would be “better” in some senses if I did more research, if I had more jobs in the medical field. But, one day, when I am old, rocking on my porch and thinking about the choices I made in my life, I know that this very alternative way of living is what will have made me happy, not the research, not the shadowing. There will be time for medicine. There will be time to inundate my brain with the workings of the human body, but there will not always be time to adventure. We will not always have so few “real world responsibilities”.

I saw a post from another vanlifer (@towingwildoats on Instagram, blog) recently that had pictures from when she was at her “professional best”, her “academic best” and so on, and then a picture when she was at her happiest, which is now, in her van, with her dog. And truthfully, even with my occasional doubts, even with my second guessing, I am at my happiest now too. I allowing myself the grace to leave behind the expectations that I had for myself and the expectations that I made myself believe others had for me. I have already achieved so, so many personal goals in these past few months, and this journey has only just begun. Right now, my biggest goal is personal happiness, fulfillment.

And just because vanlife is part of my journey, it does not mean that other more “conventional” ways of being cannot be part of my journey as well. I am still so excited about medical school. I am going to be a doctor, a caretaker, a medical and health educator, one day. But it is okay for me to relinquish some of the more “normal” and “accepted” milestones and activities too. It’s okay for me to have a journey that does not reflect the journeys of those that came before me.

So, for those of you who came here to figure out if you should drop everything too and convert a van… yes. A resounding yes from me (and from Zak and Auggie too). Remember that social media is rarely meant to tell the truth. Remember that you do not have to follow a cookie cutter path to achieve your dreams, no matter how competitive. Leaving behind your old lifestyle isn’t easy. Vanlife isn’t easy. You will doubt yourself. You will pee on yourself. You will sweat more than you ever thought possible. But the growth, the freedom, the joy that comes from this process, from this lifestyle– you can’t find it anywhere else. Take the leap. Trust yourself.

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