Sometimes, I have a strong need to express my thoughts and feelings in writing. It’s such a good thing to realize I can transfer what I carry inside me to the blank lines of a sheet of paper and be able to share it with others. Slowly, those feelings or thoughts become phrases, paragraphs or pages, something that was once abstract eventually becomes concrete.
When I moved into my van, I realized those fragments were much more joyful than ever before. I feel now immensely happy to share with you the best part of myself through insights I’ll be writing.
In this short article, I would like to explore the importance of two elements that challenge me on a daily-basis as a vanlifer and that might concern us all: adaptability and expectations.
For me, van life turns around our capacity to adapt. The better we deal with changes, the faster we’ll be able to fully enjoy the here and now. Regarding the expectations, I think it goes the same way. The smaller the expectation, the bigger the reward.
When we live in a van, only a single layer of metal separates the cozy interior of our van from the mysterious and wonderful world waiting outside. It means we are exposed to a multitude of possibilities wherever we are. Within a few movements, a door or a window can be opened, revealing a brand-new horizon and whether we want it or not, we become part of it. We can, of course, keep moving, trying to fill out our expectations, but at some point, we’ll need to stop, adapt, and content ourselves with what we have.
From the first days after moving into our old Mercedes-Benz, I immediately felt that it would be necessary to embrace both, the pleasant and unpleasant environments. Thus, I decided to try my best to transform undesirable realities into enjoyable moments. I can’t deny the fact that one of the best things about having a home on wheels is the possibility to choose our neighborhood.
After six months traveling, I can honestly say I feel better writing those lines down while surrounded by mountains, instead of being parked in some busy avenue or locked in my flat. In my quest, being close to nature was always a priority and I want to spend as much time as possible in the woods, enjoying the fresh breeze, contemplating the fauna and flora, learning from animals and from trees.
I want to climb mountains, whether limestone or granite, and I want to be high enough to see how small we are. I want to burn my feet in the hot sand while walking on the beach, swim a few meters and leave half of my body covered by water while the other half is soaking in the sunlight.
However, I will always need to go to the city to buy food, get petrol, empty the grey waters, withdraw money, or any other thing I cannot get from birds or pine trees. It’s alright and I enjoy it as well.
The ability to manage expectations
Whether in a city or in nature, we need to adapt our expectations. In both contexts, we can find advantages or disadvantages. After all, we are talking about priorities of what we are looking for in our life at a specific moment.
The best example as a vanlifer is that I had peaceful and quiet nights while sleeping in a supermarket parking lot in Lisbon and had stressful loud nights when parked nearby some paradisical beach along the Costa Vicentina, in Algarve. But how is that possible?
Well, I probably had lower expectations when I stopped to buy some food, decided it was too late to keep driving, and just laid down in the bed for a few hours of sleep. I probably had higher expectations after driving for hours trying to reach that perfect spot at the top of some surrealistic cliff facing the ocean. But when we finally got there, we noticed there was a massive rave party in a bar nearby and that it was already too late to hit the road with our old fares and bodies. The tiredness was there and the ability to adapt was mandatory in order to get some sleep.
So, whatever is important to us, finding the right balance between expectations and adaptations makes our life easier and prevents us from being unnecessarily frustrated. We should embrace the challenges life is offering and adapt ourselves the best we can. The better we use our creativity and wisdom to find a way out, the better it will be.
Finally, I think about the importance of being grateful, because even if I missed a good night of sleep, the next day, I could enjoy the beach, lay down in the sand and close my eyes for a good and restorative nap.