Reina Mystique

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5 Tips for Super Stealthy Urban Boondocking

With so many people opting to live the #vanlife I was surprised to hear so many parking horror stories from fellow travelers on the road. Urban boondocking (sleeping in your vehicle for free) is outlawed in some cities, like San Luis Obispo, Ca. In other cities like Eugene, Or van life feels like the way of life. Either way with my list of essential urban boondocking tips you’ll be able to get a good night’s sleep wherever you find yourself for the evening.

  Kid's World Park in Santa Barbara, Ca.  Look for other van lifers. There is safety in numbers. We knew this would be a good spot to sleep when we saw other van life "neighbors" on the block.

Kid's World Park in Santa Barbara, Ca. Look for other van lifers. There is safety in numbers. We knew this would be a good spot to sleep when we saw other van life "neighbors" on the block.

Before you park -

A mistake we made early on was getting to our parking space for the night and realizing we had to pee. We also had to make the bed, change into some night time clothes, and settle in. Without fail someone would have to pee, and as soon as you open the doors consider your cover blown. The goal of boondocking is to be as unseen as possible. No out the door pee breaks before bed. No litter falling out when you open your doors in the morning (I’ll discuss the morning after later in this blog post), and after 2 weeks of sticking our butts out the door to pee just before bed, we finally got a routine that works for everyone, even our 3-year old son.

It’s always preferable to roll into the town you’ll be staying in during daylight hours. This way you’ll have a chance to check out the neighborhoods before you sleep in them. You’re less likely to be singled out and you won’t have any surprises in the morning. Find a store, cafe, park or other late night establishment near where you’ll be parking for the night. This will be the last place you visit just before you bed down. Establishments with private stall/sink combos (like all-gender/family bathrooms) are best because you can wash your face, handle lady business, and otherwise have a private moment in the restroom before the night is over. A luxury on the road.

We usually bed down sometime between 10pm and 11pm depending on the day’s events. Van life is incredible, but most days are filled with adVANture so 11pm is a late night for van lifers of all ages. Do any necessary lights on bed prep stuff in the parking lot of where your bathroom is so that way you can roll into your sleeping spot, turn off the headlights, and get to bed stealthy like.

Residential Neighborhoods -

We have spent the majority of our boondocking nights in residential neighborhoods. We try to look for “average American family” looking neighborhoods. Not the wealthiest because you might encounter snobs and cop callers. We also try to avoid the sketchier neighborhoods because we care about our safety. Middle of the road neighborhoods tend to have just enough traffic to keep the bad guys away, but still quiet enough to get some sleep.

Be sure the area you pick has flat streets. Sleeping at an incline or with your van tilting towards the curb absolutely sucks! I’ve only made that mistake once. Be picky. If the first spot you find has too much overhead street lighting, gives you a bad vibe, tilts, or otherwise don’t feel right, trust your gut and find a new spot. Parking by fences, hedges, and shrubs will provide an extra layer of privacy and will help you avoid staring in someone’s window at night.

  Amazon Park Eugene, Or.  Being stealthy during the night is a must. During the day relax. Find a park and feel free to spread out a little. We met some other van lifers and had a block party potluck. Of course we left only footprints when we were done!

Amazon Park Eugene, Or. Being stealthy during the night is a must. During the day relax. Find a park and feel free to spread out a little. We met some other van lifers and had a block party potluck. Of course we left only footprints when we were done!

Shopping Centers -

Before we left for our adVANture we did a lot of Google research :) Every post we read listed the basic places to park (i.e. Home Depot, Walmart, etc..) but they didn’t necessarily tell you what to look for. We initially thought we would just park in shopping centers every night and life would be all cupcakes and rainbows. Throughout our trip we have probably slept in a shopping center about 6 or 7 times. Because the information is so readily available shopping centers have been seeing a lot more traffic, and thus have been re-adjusting their policies regarding urban boondocking. Shopping centers do have their advantages. They are super flat. A security personnel is usually present. Bathrooms are onsite. And, they are usually situated in areas with other amenities you might need.

Be sure to look for other van lifers if you decide to go this route. You’ll get really good at recognizing other people existing out of their vehicles. If you are the only one in the lot, abort. This is not a good place to be. Most likely you’ll be awakened at some point in the night, and asked to move. This only happened to us once. We knew it was not the place to be and we parked there anyways. Driving to a new place at 1am, half awake is not fun, but we knew the risks of our choice.

If you do see other van lifers in the lot check to see that they are staying the night. If you see them start pulling off around closing time, I would recommend you do the same. If everyone is staying put try to find a spot off to the side of the lot. Away from the overhead lights and away from the parking spots that early morning shoppers might use the next day.

  Salt Lake City, Ut.  It's easy to wake up on the right side of the bed when the world is your backyard. We snapped a quick morning selfie as we got our heads together. 

Salt Lake City, Ut. It's easy to wake up on the right side of the bed when the world is your backyard. We snapped a quick morning selfie as we got our heads together. 

Car lots -

If you have a stealthy vehicle, car lots are a great place to bed down for the evening. There are already a ton of cars, trucks, and van for sale on the lots. Even better, sometimes car lots have fleet vehicles parked on a side street near the lot. If your van is white, or black you will most likely blend right in with their other vehicles. Be sure not to stay too long the next morning. Car lots tend to get going pretty early, and if you’re anything like me you don’t want to be bothered.

The next morning -

We find that we naturally wake up each morning between 6:30am and 7am, without an alarm, since we’ve been on the road. There was one day that we slept in past 8am, but that was like a unicorn day. It hasn’t happened before or since. I recommend you not opening your doors where you just slept. To the people on the block you were just a visiting vehicle for a neighbor or something, Once you open your doors you become a traveller who parked on their block and didn’t pay tax.

You’ll probably have to pee within 20 minutes of waking up so give yourself enough time to settle into your brain, and then drive to the place you visited last night to go potty. I try to always buy a little something from the places I visit. Especially if I don’t have to ask for a key/code, and the facilities are clean. Patronage as appreciation.

Be sure to put your van back together after you potty and before you head out to start your day. It’s nice to have some anonymity away from your vehicle. The face of a van lifer is so different unless you’re ultra conspicuous, or inviting people into your van, you’ll be able to blend in with the conventional lifers when you want. It’s like being a day-walker LOL.

  San Jose, Ca.  Not much to see here folks. During the day we keep all the bed stuff stored. It's pretty roomy inside our crib, and not 100% obvious we're living in it. 

San Jose, Ca. Not much to see here folks. During the day we keep all the bed stuff stored. It's pretty roomy inside our crib, and not 100% obvious we're living in it. 

Lastly some general Do’s and Don’t for Urban Boondocking

1) Do keep everything inside your vehicle. This includes chairs, awnings, trash, smoking, and drama.

2) Don’t be sloppy. It gives us all a bad name.

3) Do trust your instinct. If it doesn’t feel right, it isn’t!

4) Don’t turn on unnecessary lights or loud music, and don’t open your doors. Try to use your sleeping spot as a sleeping spot

5) Do a few practice runs in your own city before you venture out into the world. Figure out your basic routine while you still have a support net. Just know that your routine will change as you get more experience on the road.

6) Don’t return to the same spot more than once. You can sleep on the same block 2 or 3 times but even that I wouldn’t overdo.

7) Do it! Stop thinking about van life. Research, Prepare, and Do it! You are going to LOVE it. Bonus...I'll be your neighbor :)

 

Van Life Without the Fancy Conversion:

Despite what social media would like you to believe, van life does not require a $30,000 startup fee. It’s not cheap but you definitely don’t need the latest cabinet finish, or that $1000 composting toilet you've seen online. A comfortable place to sleep, a way to keep perishable food cold, and a reliable vehicle are the basics. Just like your home now, you didn't move in fully furnished, everything as you like it, ready to go. It was built over time, with your lifestyle.

When you start your van life conversion it’s important to know what basic activities you’ll be scheduling for yourself. This will help you better know what items are necessities for your adVANture. For our van “conversion” we planned on staying mostly urban, lots of boon docking. We do day hikes often, but we usually don’t stay in rural camping areas. Our van life family consists of myself, my hubby, our 3 year old son, and our 60 lb dog Kaya.

 Hercules Mulligan stuntin' in the woods.

Hercules Mulligan stuntin' in the woods.

Our vehicle, “Hercules Mulligan” (Yes... I am a huge fan of Hamilton. In fact, it’s officially, unofficially, the soundtrack to our adVANture) a 2002 Dodge 3500 Maxi Van. 15 passenger. All white. With a conversion top it makes the standing room inside exactly 6 feet. We have 2 captains chairs in the front, and one bench seat (the second to last row) intact.

We bought our van for $3200 on Craigslist after months of searching, and manifesting of the perfect vehicle to fit our needs. It had 92,000 miles on it. The exterior, where the conversion top was added, was pretty rusty so we spent another $1700 on a paint job. It wasn’t the best paint job available so we will probably need another one in a year or so. Also we have one small leak by the door from the conversion top install as well. We’ll need to patch that before the major rains start, but it’s been great for summer because it allows a little extra air flow when we sleep :). We opted to not install vents in efforts to remain as stealth as possible.

 A shot of the rust before the paint job

A shot of the rust before the paint job

After the van was painted we had new tires put on for $600. We also had belts and hoses replaced, along with brakes and an oil change. There were no major mechanical issues so we were pretty excited about that.

Onto the inside:

The Fridge - A 3-day Coleman. We originally added 2 bags of ice with each fill up of fresh fruit and hummus and such, but we learned that if we bought less food at a time we could buy one bag of ice and keep everything sufficiently cold. We keep all our food in rubbermaid containers inside the cooler to keep it from getting waterlogged as the ice melts. We buy a 10 lb bag of ice every other day. The price of ice adds up, but we didn’t have the extra cash for a Yeti cooler. Until we upgrade the Coleman works great. *Link to this product on Amazon HERE

 Where the inverter lives amidst the macadamia nuts LOL

Where the inverter lives amidst the macadamia nuts LOL

Electricity- Bestek 300W Power Inverter. It plugs into the lighter. We used velcro to keep it attached to the front console. We originally had it just sitting on the console, but it kept slipping and wires were getting tangled. This device has been wonderful. It charges quickly. We can leave it on to charge our laptop without draining the battery, and it doesn’t need to be turned on to charge via USB. *Link to this product on Amazon HERE

 Mike cooking up a feast van life style

Mike cooking up a feast van life style

 Cookware for van life safely secured under the seat

Cookware for van life safely secured under the seat

Stove - We have 2-burner Coleman portable propane stovetop. In 43 days on the road we have used it about 6 or 7 times. We bought 2 small propane tanks and have used half of one. The stove is great for having a hot meal, but prep, and clean up make it more of a daytime accessory. It gets food cooked super quick, and doesn’t take up much space. We store it in an under bed plastic storage bin. We keep all our kitchen supplies (pots and pans, bowls, plates, etc..) in a separate under bed storage bin with the stove. *Link to this product on Amazon HERE

 Van life toilet (Home Depot bucket) gets strapped in the back during the day. Pro Tip**Don't waste the money on the extra toilet seat attachment. It's not necessary for urban dwelling.

Van life toilet (Home Depot bucket) gets strapped in the back during the day. Pro Tip**Don't waste the money on the extra toilet seat attachment. It's not necessary for urban dwelling.

Toilet - We have a 5-gallon bucket with lid. This potty is only for nighttime emergencies when we are already in our sleeping location and don’t want to open the doors and draw attention to ourselves. We put a trash bag in the bucket, line it with kitty litter and we’re good to go. We haven’t had any leakage problems or smell issues. If it gets used at night we dump it the next day. Clorox wipe the bucket and reset it. Definitely don’t want pee in the van! It’s not the most eco friendly so we try to keep it only for emergencies.

 We keep the water jug secured with a bungee cord thru the handle

We keep the water jug secured with a bungee cord thru the handle

Water - We bought a water pump off Amazon. It attaches to a 5-gallon water jug. This was one of my favorite purchases. It makes refilling our personal water jugs, the dog’s bowl, or cooking super easy. The directions say you have to boil the pieces prior to using it to ensure proper fit. We didn’t do this and have not had any problems with leakage or with creating a tight seal for the pump to work. *Link to this product on Amazon HERE

 An average living room look into the van. The bed is folded up being used as a couch.

An average living room look into the van. The bed is folded up being used as a couch.

 A shot of the bed still set up. Everyone is slowly waking up. Bishop playing with toys. Mike on his phone. 

A shot of the bed still set up. Everyone is slowly waking up. Bishop playing with toys. Mike on his phone. 

 We store the bedding in the overhead compartment along with our hygiene box.

We store the bedding in the overhead compartment along with our hygiene box.

The Bed - We started with camp flooring that we bought at Dick’s Sporting Goods. That was horrible. Not comfortable at all. We knew that sleeping was going to be important to ensuring that we enjoyed van life. When the camp flooring didn’t work we bought 2 foam mattress toppers from Target, but those on top of the camp floor still sucked majorly. Thankfully Target has a great return policy so we were able to return the toppers. We decided to keep the camp flooring because it created a nice floating floor for our living area. We wanted a bed that could be out of the way during the day, and we really didn’t want to build anything. From what I’ve seen the bed takes up the most space in vouses (van-houses) and empty space is super important to us. We literally found the perfect solution and I would recommend this option to anyone. We got a full size tri-fold memory foam mattress from Amazon. It’s lightweight, takes up hardly any space during the day, can function as a couch or daytime nap spot, and is more comfortable than we were expecting. When unfolded it fist perfectly in our living space between the front seats and the back bench. Because the mattress sees so much action during the day we bought a nice mattress cover to protect it. We keep the pillows and bedding in our overhead storage area. We will usually set up the bed in a store or shopping plaza parking lot before we drive to where we’re sleeping. In the morning we pack it up before we start opening doors and starting our day. Our dog sleeps on the back bench next to our son’s carseat.

 The back of the van: The Coleman "Fridge" the misc net, the food pantry, clothing behind the fridge, the dirty laundry bag, and the infamous red tote. This part of the van gets messy so quickly. 

The back of the van: The Coleman "Fridge" the misc net, the food pantry, clothing behind the fridge, the dirty laundry bag, and the infamous red tote. This part of the van gets messy so quickly. 

 Over the door coat rack turned guitar holder and bathing suit dryer

Over the door coat rack turned guitar holder and bathing suit dryer

The Closet and Pantry - We have (2) 3- drawer organizers behind the back bench that we use for storage. One hold our non-perishable foods and spices. The other holds our clothes. We each have one drawer for clothes. We also have a large red rubbermaid tote that we use for our misc items (towels, jackets, merchandise for shows, etc…). Lastly, we have an over the door coat rack hung up for drying towels and keeping my hubby’s guitar off the floor.

 The dog bowl. Besides a brush. some Frontline, and poop bags, this is all she travels with.

The dog bowl. Besides a brush. some Frontline, and poop bags, this is all she travels with.

That’s pretty much it. We have dog food bowl that has its own storage for the dog. I have my own box for my office, and Bishop has a special bag for all his art supplies, toys, legos and dinos. We also have truck bed net that hung along the back row above our clothes storage that holds random stuff we use often like our gym bags (a necessity that will keep you van life and not homeless), Clorox wipes, my 420 stash, a road atlas, and a couple books. For dirty laundry we use a black trash bag, nothing fancy, and it’s only ever as big as the dirty clothes. For trash we use paper bags from the grocery store.

Things we haven’t done yet, but need to do sooner than later - Curtains. We have dark tint on our windows so people can’t see in during the day, but during the night if we have any interior light on people can see right in. I highly recommend curtains!! I’ll update when we get it done so you can see what we used. I also bought some bug screen to line the windows with so that we can sleep with the side windows open at night without bugs getting in. We haven’t installed it yet because we’ve been so consumed with just living (a blessing for sure), and haven’t been down south yet LOL. I know once it becomes necessary we’ll get this one done quickly. I do not want to deal with late night mosquitos!

If you have any questions about our “conversion” or want to share your ideas I would love to hear from you in the comments section below. Also, don’t forget to follow me on social media to see even more BTS of our adVANture.

**NOTE*** I tried to be as authentic as possible with my photos to allow you a real look into what van life can look like. Each of these photos is unstaged. Van life can get super unorganized. Try to keep just the necessities so that you can spend less time organizing and more time living.

What Happens When Your Van House Breaks Down!?!

We had almost one full month of fun, and traveled to five states, before we encountered our first mechanical issues on the road. Back home car issues suck because they can make you late to work, make you miss important meetings, cost a lot of money on top of rent/mortgage, and are generally an inconvenience.

Van life mechanical issues present an entirely different set of concerns. While you may not have a ton of meetings to attend each day, or rent to pay, when you take your van to the shop, you are literally taking your HOUSE to the shop.

We were in San Luis Obispo the first time that we had to leave our Vouse (Van-house) at the shop. We don’t have much in the vouse, but the few things we brought along are everything we have. We were 300 miles away from home, and on top of finding a mechanic that would do a great job on the van, we had to find a shop that we could trust with our domicile and all its possessions.

 Dave's Automotive in San Luis Obispo was amazing and made our first van life break down totally stress free!

Dave's Automotive in San Luis Obispo was amazing and made our first van life break down totally stress free!

After tons of phone calls, assessing in-call personalities, and of course incessantly reading Yelp reviews, we found a perfect place. Dave at Dave’s Automotive said we could bring the van right in. He was busy so he couldn’t guarantee that he would be able to get it done, but he understood our situation and he would try his best to get it taken care of.

Our situation...the fact that if our vouse wasn’t completed we would have to pick it up so that we could have a place to sleep. On top of car expenses we definitely could not afford a hotel last minute. Anyhow, we dropped off the vouse, and walked away. We had a basic idea of how we would spend our day, but with no transportation, a toddler, and a dog, we knew the day was going to be long.

When your car is in the shop and you have a house to go to, or you plan on having the car fixed while you’re at work, the day is rather easy. We didn’t have a shelter necessarily but like I said we had a general plan. We started off our walk by heading for the closest YMCA. We (Me and the hubby) wanted to workout a little, enjoy the AC on the super hot day, and give ourselves a moment without Bishop, so that we could talk like adults about our plan of action going forward.

 We found these tracks on the way to the Y and had to have some fun.

We found these tracks on the way to the Y and had to have some fun.

After the Y we headed downtown to busk. Busking was one of my top to do list items during van life. I had never done it, and was super excited to have some street corner fun. Not having the van gave us the perfect opportunity to get out and make some music. The walk downtown was long (2.2 miles) and hot, but the streets were paved with fruit trees and wild berries, fun statues and friendly faces. We made it downtown and busked for about 2 hours. We made $8 and lots of smiling faces.

After that we headed to the library which was also downtown. It was 3:45ish pm when we got the call that our vouse would not be ready today. The diagnosis. Air Control Valve. Easy fix, not too expensive, but the part wouldn’t be available until the next day. We planned to ride the bus back to the shop so we could pick up our vouse to sleep in, but the driver of the bus was clear that he did not want Kaya (our dog) on his bus.

We began our walk back. Bishop was tired, and crabby by this point. I don’t blame him. He’s 3. He was in the elements all day, and probably overstimulated. Thank goodness for the library or he probably would have melted down sooner!

We made it to Dave’s at 4:58pm. 2-minutes before he closed. He had only loosely placed our engine cover on so that he could work on it first thing the next day. We couldn’t drive far so we headed to a nearby shopping plaza, ate some dinner, and hung out till bedtime. We ended up parking near a few car dealerships not too far away. A great place to sleep when boon docking, especially if your vehicle is unmarked white or black, because it can pass as a fleet vehicle.

We woke up super early and took Hercules Mulligan, our vouse, back to the shop.  We were exhausted from the previous day’s adVANture, and Dave told us he would work on our vouse first thing, so we didn’t go too far. We landed at a park about a half a mile away from the shop. We hung out there for about 2.5 hours. Just as we were leaving the park we got a call from Dave that we were all taken care of and ready to be picked up.

 I was playing paparazzi with my camera phone, spying on the guys in the park. 

I was playing paparazzi with my camera phone, spying on the guys in the park. 

We walked back. Picked up the vouse, and were back in action. He made a point to tell us that his technician noticed the transmission was having a hard time shifting from 1st to 2nd. He said he wasn’t a transmission guy, but he hoped we didn’t encounter any trouble. Fingers crossed we drove off. Babying the transmission as we drove away from SLO and onward to San Jose. Thankful to have our vouse back. We made it to Mt. Shasta, Muir National Monument, the Umpqua Hot Springs, Roseburg Or., and Eugene Or., before our transmission started sticking in 1st gear.

What do you do when you’re transmission starts acting funny on the road? We are about to find out!!

Day 3: Patron Pick Blog Post  

***I’ve been writing about our adVANtures everyday during this trip. (We are currently on day 38 as I post this entry) Last week I asked our patrons to pick an entry day from the adVANture notes for me to share. They chose Day 3. I originally thought this day would be boring because it was so early in the trip, but when I went back and read it I realized it was very special to our journey. Thank you picking such a fun day to share!! And...extra thank you for being our patrons!!** 

 My sister Heaven and her sweet Baby J in Washington state. 

My sister Heaven and her sweet Baby J in Washington state. 

Day 3:

“Today is our first official travel day. I am so excited to get this adVANture started. The last two days have felt like purgatory. My mind and body are ready to get this show on the road, but my spirit is stuck here, being crushed like a can in a recycling center.

We woke up in front of an apartment/condo complex in Rancho San Diego. We put away our bedding and headed to the McGrath Family YMCA to exercise, poop, and shower. We chose this part of town because Heaven (my sister) will be traveling with us for the first leg of our journey. Once this is all said and done I will be an expert on living in a van with not only a toddler, but also an infant. My sister will be accompanied by her son Julian, 8 months.

We left the Y and heaed to my sisters house. We got there around noon. We lingered at the Y for a little longer than I would have liked, but the slow morning was worth it because I knew we’d be traveling all day.

 One of the fun traditions we started during van life is to celebrate Bishop's birthday whenever we go to a restaurant. He's had a number of birthdays this year LOL.  Heaven and Baby J were along for the ride this time. We celebrated at Puerta Vallarta in Redding, Ca. on day 9.

One of the fun traditions we started during van life is to celebrate Bishop's birthday whenever we go to a restaurant. He's had a number of birthdays this year LOL.  Heaven and Baby J were along for the ride this time. We celebrated at Puerta Vallarta in Redding, Ca. on day 9.

We were officially on the road by 12:45pm. All day on the road. Lots of pit stops. Surprisingly most of them were for Mike (my husband) and not for Bishop (our son). I don’t know what, but as soon as we got to the central valley I felt a weight lift. I felt freed from something. An intanglible something, but a very real something. I have been preparing for this trip since mid- August of last year. Reading articles. Watching movies. Lots of google and youtube. One might say I had a slight obsession with van life. LOL

We got to Berkely late at night and drove around looking for a spot to sleep for the night. We slept in a residental neighborhood across the street from a Bart park and ride. It was a super artsy community. Very hippie-ish. Some of the homes have blight, but nothing like what we’ll probably see when we get to Detroit. We all fell asleep pretty quickly. As I drifted off to sleep I wondered what it would be like, sleeping with a baby in the van."

*unedited from original entry, minus spelling, and (     ) to explain who people are. Sorry for any grammar mistakes

What I learned My First 30 days of Van Life:

What I learned My First 30 days of Van Life:

I left on this epic adVANture hoping to find greater clarity, connection, balance, and peace. I’ve learned more than I could have hoped for and connected with some wonderfully like minded people along the way. Below are some of the highlights and universal truths that I have been blessed enough to have resonate with me during our first 30 days on the road:

 Week two of Van Life

Week two of Van Life

  1. Simplicity is a skillset - Life in the conventional sense is way too complicated. I used to complain about the fact that we had only one toilet in our house. Now we have a bucket in the back of the van for nighttime potty emergencies. I lived in an amazingly walkable community and during my breaks (I work from home) I would just move to a new room in my house to relax. Now I get my work done and enjoy the beauty and scenery of each neighborhood we visit. Why was I getting stressed out about losing spoons and having a mountain of laundry each week. Now our entire wardrobe could fit inside of a laundry mountain, and we only have 3 spoons, total, yet I’m happier than ever. Simplicity is a beautiful thing. We are taught to want, and to buy through our current social setup. We should be teaching our children, and ourselves how to live with one another. To work together. To share. If everyone did their share we’d all be well provided for. Instead everyone wants it all for themselves. Having just enough and not wanting or needing for more is a skillset. I have learned this lesson once before in life, but was too young to appreciate it. I think it will stick this time.

  2. Freedom is happiness - As we drove away from San Diego County limits, and drove away from the house we created for our family I felt the tension release between my shoulders. A heavy tension that had been there for about four years. (I know the time frame because that’s about the time I got pregnant and my life changed forever). I felt a calm euphoria as my anchor was pulled from the ground and I sailed away into the world. I have never in my life not worried about the future, and in that magical moment, as we drove away from the city, I turned to my husband, asked him where we should go. He replied “I don’t know.” I said “I don’t know either.” And I was perfectly content. For the first time in my life I was living in the moment. No worry, no stress, no nagging feeling like I could be working harder. Just a quiet calmness that was new to me. I smiled, drove on without direction, and for the first time in my life felt completely free.

  3. Not All Love Grows the Same - Me and my husband are free spirited musicians. Our romance began in a fun way, but somehow we ended up living the average American marriage reality. You know, work, marriage, house, baby, work, work, work, try to fit in a date, work some more, etc… Through music we were able to free ourselves from traditional 9-5’s but our marriage was still suffering. Up until the time we left for van life we were at each other’s throats. I was over him and he was over me, but deep down we really loved each other and were hanging on for Bishop (our son). We just had to find a new existence for our relationship to continue growing. Think of it as transplanting a plant to a bigger pot, or better yet directly into the ground. Was there an initial shock period? Yes. Was it totally worth it? Yes! On the road we’ve been able to find clarity and peace within ourselves. This has opened up new channels of communication, allowing us to grow in our love for one another once again. To find a path that works for us and our family.

  4. I Love Van Life - Everyone should pack it all up and throw caution to the wind at least once in their life. Comfort doesn’t promote growth, it breeds restlessness and idle energy. Van life is a chance to experience life through new eyes, at your own pace, with your own rules. We left for this trip with plans for it to be a three month thing. Now….who knows….

 Chiling with Bishop and Kaya

Chiling with Bishop and Kaya

I’ve heard over and over again it takes like 60 days for something to become a lifestyle. (I’m not totally sure of the amount of time it takes. Just misquoting LOL) I’ve learned so much along the road so far. I look forward to what the next 30 days have in store for not just me, but for my family as well. I encourage and fully accept the growth and changes that are happening within me. I hope to share my lessons with others, and encourage exploration and courage for everyone that reads this post. Stop thinking and start living.

Staying Connected On The Road (5 Best Places to Connect to Free Wifi)

Staying Connected On The Road (5 Best Places to Connect to Free Wifi) : As an 80’s baby this whole wifi on the road thing is truly amazing. I’ve had a lifelong dream of getting paid to be me. Maybe it was too much Real World. I don’t know, but either way technology is helping me live my dreams. (I also have the dream of being the singing voice of a Disney princess, but that’s for another blog).

With the continual incline of online careers, more and more people are finding it possible to work from anywhere in the world. With my list of the 5 best places to connect to free wifi on the road, you’ll be able to travel, explore, connect, and earn a living!

 (connected to YMCA wifi at a park. Also enjoying miso soup cooked van life style)

(connected to YMCA wifi at a park. Also enjoying miso soup cooked van life style)

  1. Laundromats - When I worked a conventional 9a-5p I hated doing laundry. I was so tired from the long days that washing clothes was just one more thing to wear me down. Now I look forward to laundry day. Minus one establishment in Eugene, Or., every laundromat we’ve visited has had exceptional wifi. Put a couple loads in the wash, and get to working, or playing, or whatever it is you do when you log on to the web. Try to get all your work done between washing, drying and folding, and when you leave you can adVANture away with no worries. Clean laundry to boot.

  2. Coffee Shops and Cafe - Every city has at least one coffee shop or cafe with the wifi to write home about. If you are only looking for a place to upload videos most places will do. If you require a strong, fast signal like I do, I recommend doing a search before settling down. I usually type “Best wifi in ______ near me” or something like that. Once I find a spot that I like I always buy something. And if the wifi is majorly awesome, like Kreuzberg Coffee in San Luis Obispo, Ca., I’ll go back and buy something else before I leave as a thank you for allowing me to work on the road so easily and worry free.

  3. Starbucks - This one is a no-brainer. Starbucks and wifi go together like peanut butter and jelly. When I first started van life this was my go to spot for connecting. (I now prefer laundromats and coffee shops for the stronger, secured network. Which is why they were listed first.) Depending on what location you’re in the signal could be anywhere from super lame, to how awesome is this!!! If your online work requires privacy (like the online voice lessons I teach) you should definitely test the range of the wifi in the parking lot. If you can get a parking spot in front of the store you’ll probably be in luck. You can pop up a window shade and work from the comforts of your van, or whatever type of vehicle you’re traveling in. Just note that while the signal may work well in the store, bars drop real fast once you exit through the doors.

  4. YMCA’s - If you’re on a work vacation you may be staying in a hotel each night. If you’re a working musician, or van lifer like myself, you may be living in your vehicle. This means you’ll need a place to shower each day. Or every other day. Whatever floats your boat. In addition to pools, clean bathrooms, saunas, child care, and socialization, most YMCA’s have wifi. A regular routine for my family, while on the road, is to wake up. Hit the Y. And, hit the Yfi. Get it! Most YMCA wifi signals will only work in the building so if you require privacy this may not be the best option, but other than that I consider the YMCA an all in one stop. If only they had laundry services! Note**There are no YMCA full gym facilities in the state of Utah. Plan to visit another establishment for wifi if you find yourself in Utah.

  5. Libraries - The library is great for so many reasons. I personally consider libraries to be one of our Nation’s most valuable assets. Our son can play. We can print documents. Enjoy AC in the summer, and connect with the people in the neighborhood. You can get a good feel for the community by the way it treats its library and each branch is going to have a completely different vibe. Some allow dogs. Some have multiple floors. Some have an entire wing dedicated to children. Most have wifi. Be sure to check ahead of time whether you will be able to conduct business on their network. Most libraries have filters on their systems that may interfere with what you need to get done. Social media, emails, photo uploading or movie downloading should be fine.

 Hapy to have wifi so I can teach from the road!

Hapy to have wifi so I can teach from the road!

5 Things You Need to Know About Van Life With Kids:

As soon as you have a child(ren) everything you do revolves around them. With good reason of course, but even things like taking an epic adVANture in your 30's becomes more complicated when you bring a tiny human into the equation.

Despite what social media would have you believe, van life is about simplicity. Allowing your little ones to learn about life through the experience of travel should not be as cluttered as we make it.

Having our son on this trip has been wonderful, but as to be expected it took some adjusting, and compromising as we settled into our new reality. We've learned a lot, and I'm sure there is more to come. Out of our many van life lessons, below are the 5 things you need to know about van life with kids:

1) They are going to get homesick - If they have a regular schedule at home then van life will be especially difficult for them at first. Pack a special blanket, or plan to prepare their favorite meal on the road. Also, create new traditions, something that makes them feel like they have a role in their new life. You may notice behavior changes during the first few weeks. Remember to stay calm, speak with a loving voice, and include quiet time time each day during the transition. 

2) You definitely overpacked - Even with the messiest of children you don’t need all those clothes. Living in a small space means you'll have to do laundry more often so you only need about 5-7 pairs of bottoms and about 10 tops. This includes hot and cold clothes. Also, you only need a few toys. You’ll probably acquire new books and toys along the way so teach your child(ren) in advance how to let go and they'll have a rotating supply of fun throughout your journey. Also, you'd be suprised how creative you really are when you are away from all your daily conveniences. Sticks, rocks and water are pretty awesome!

 Reading a book he got from the Wallingford Public Library in Seattle, Wa.

Reading a book he got from the Wallingford Public Library in Seattle, Wa.

 

3) Do a few practice runs before you leave - With children you always want to expect the unexpected. We slept in our van for 7 nights before we actully left on the road. This gave us the opportunity to change things around, or rethink our entire layout, without the stress of being on the road. You could probably get away with only 2-4 days, but we liked it and had fun practicing so we kept doing it up until the point we finally hit the road.

4) They eat a lot - It’s like summer break, but they only have one room to be in. All you’re going to hear on the road is, “I’m hungry.” Be prepared with lots of healthy snacks. How you feed your child(ren) can be the difference between an easy road trip or a nightmare. What a child eats affects their behavior, energy level, their health, and their bathroom habits. Grumpy, tired, sick and contipated are not fun road trip buddies. Our 3 year old eats lots of fruit (especially fruit with high water content, like grapes, melon, apples, and berries), avocados, fish (canned or jerky), oatmeal, nuts and green juice. We have a hard time getting him to eat veggies since we’re not cooking as often, but green juices have been a great.

 Epic Bars and Suja green juice help keep Bishop healthy and nourished on the road

Epic Bars and Suja green juice help keep Bishop healthy and nourished on the road

5) What you do is NOT up to you - Once you have a child, your world is no longer about you. Every destination and attraction you visit during your trip needs to made with your child(ren) in mind. As much as I would love to check out all the trendy music spots in every town we visit, I find that our days are spent at the parks, libraries, natural resources (rivers, lakes oceans and mountains), and YMCA’s instead. A fun outcome to this, is you’ll really get to know the town you’re in. Even if your introverted, you’re bound to talk to someone, eventually. Overtime you may even find you like getting away from the “scene” and into the life that surrounds it.


 
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