The Wayward Home Podcast

48: Transitioning from Van Life to House Life: An Emotional Journey

August 23, 2023 Kristin Hanes Episode 48
The Wayward Home Podcast
48: Transitioning from Van Life to House Life: An Emotional Journey
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What's it like to swap the nomadic freedom of van living for the bricks and mortar security of a house? As I temporarily exchange my van life for house life, I've encountered an array of emotions and hurdles. The transition hasn't been smooth sailing— navigating my way from sleeping under the stars to being confined within four walls can be challenging, especially during a blistering heatwave.

You don't always realize the significance of comforts like like a hot shower, or the convenience of free-flowing water until you've lived without them. Yet, transitioning from a van to a house isn't all about the luxuries. It's also about the challenges—dealing with the clutter, the disconnect from nature, and losing the endless possibilities that van life affords. You may think it's easier, but you might also find yourself yearning for the simplicity of van life.

Speaking of simplicity, I also discuss a less talked about element of van life—burnout. The relentless search for parking spaces, the need to stay active, the pursuit for resources—it all adds up. Transitioning to a sailboat or taking advantage of house sitting programs has been my way of combating the burnout. 

Join me as I share all the ups and downs of the journey as we traverse through the trials and tribulations of transitioning from van life to house life (and back again)!

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Speaker 0:

So for the past number of days I think it's been about six days I've been living in my sister's house in the Beaverton Oregon area, trying to escape a brutal heat wave. In Hood River and Portland it's been a hundred degrees for days on end, and so we're taking refuge in this wonderful house with air conditioning while my sister is out on a vacation, and it's been a blessing. And also it's been pretty difficult to move from the van into the house, and you might be surprised when you hear that In fact, a lot of my relatives say oh my gosh, you must be so happy to sleep in a big bed, you must be happy to be in a house. And when I answer them well, I'm not really that happy about it they get pretty confused. So I figured in this episode of the Wayward Home podcast I talk a little bit about what it's like transitioning from a van into a house and also, on the flip side, what it's like transitioning from the house back into the van. I also want to touch on van life burnout, which is the time you really do want to live in a house, is when you're just tired of living in a van. You really need a break and that's the perfect time to live in a house, and I'm going to go over some options on how you can take advantage of living in a house when you do experience van life burnout, because that's also a real thing. My friends over at engineers who van life have been experiencing van life burnout themselves while up in Alaska. So in this episode of the Wayward Home podcast I just wanted to talk about transitions transitioning from a house to a van, transitioning from a van to a house and kind of what that feels like and the difficulties and the positives of those transitions. Let's go, hey there, I'm Kristen Haynes with the waywardhomecom and I spend half the year in my camper van in the US and half the year in my sailboat in Mexico, and I hope to inspire you to live nomadically too. So this episode of the Wayward Home podcast is all about transitions, and this was inspired by the fact that I moved into my sister's house a number of days ago to beat a heat wave in the Portland Oregon area, where temperatures have been in the triple digits and we would have had to drive at least five hours to find cooler temperatures. So we figured staying in her house while she's on vacation was the best option for us. However, we have gone through some interesting emotions during this transition to living in a house, which made me think this is a great time to discuss some of these transitions in a podcast episode, because living in a house, especially during a heat wave, is not as exciting as you might think it is for someone who's living the van life, because, you know, I live the van life because I love it, and so I wanted to talk a little bit about some of the feelings and challenges I have when moving into a house, and also the positives, because I feel really lucky that I do have this gorgeous new house to live in. It's a blessing, and I know that many people are stuck on the streets without air conditioning and they're just having a very hard time through this heat wave, and so I do feel lucky and I am very grateful, and so I wanted to get that out of the way first, because I don't know what I would have done if I didn't have this house to stay in during this heat wave. But it also is challenging, and I think that's sometimes hard for people to understand who live in a house, because when you're living in a van, you know the world is your oyster. Every day is a new adventure. Every day you're in nature, you're exercising, you're hearing the birds, you're smelling the fresh air. There are changes in your life, you don't get stuck in a rut. It's really an amazing feeling, especially being an organ. We love being in Hood River because we windsurf in the river, we climb on Mount Hood, we climb on Mount St Helens, we're going on walks and we're meeting people, and just every day is different. And when you're suddenly thrust into a house environment, things suddenly become the same, and that's a really interesting and hard transition, especially at first. So I've always noticed the first couple of days of living in a house are when my feelings are the strongest. It feels jarring and amazing at the same time, which is kind of hard to describe. The first thing I notice is that, wow, I get this really hot shower in a wonderful clean bathroom. There's endless running water, I can do my laundry, I can put my clothes in drawers, I can really spread out and I can enjoy that air conditioning, the kitchen and everything that comes with having a house, and so at first it just feels Incredible. But then I tried to sleep for that first night in a house and that's where things really start to go wrong. First of all, it's really hard for me to sleep in a real bed, a bed that has box springs, you know, that has plush feel to it. Our van in the bed is only three inches thick. It's incredibly comfortable and it's foam and it's wonderful and it's probably the best, most comfortable bed I have ever slept in. And so it's kind of funny when we transitioned to sleeping in a bed in a house, because our friends and our family always say how excited we must be to sleep in a quote real bed, and when we tell them we actually don't like sleeping in a bed, they all look at us with a really weird expression on their face, like how could you not like sleeping in a real bed? But to be honest, the bed in my van is actually a queen sized bed and both of us fit very comfortably in that bed, and we built out the van so that it has maximum air flow, so we have windows in the back of the van and on the sides of the van, and so when we're sleeping in there we just get this wonderful fresh night air washing over our faces. And so the first thing we notice about sleeping in a house. After the bed that's kind of uncomfortable is the fact that there is not that fresh air just washing over our faces. And you know, even when it's a cool night and the AC is turned down, we open the window into the bedroom but we still, you know, there's not that air flow, and that's something that's really hard to get a custom to, as you're breathing in this more stale air in a house and you don't have exposure to that fresh natural air that we're just so used to. And so the first few nights of sleeping in a house are actually quite challenging for both of us. We find ourselves feeling uncomfortable, we don't sleep well, we roll around a lot and this might shock you but I eventually end up sleeping on the floor. I get to a point where I just can't handle the bed anymore, and so I make myself a little floor bed and really all that is is a couple of comforters on the floor and I lay down on the floor on those comforters, and it's a firm surface, it's hard, and then I start sleeping better. I get used to not having that fresh air in my face and the bed becomes more comfortable and I get used to sleeping on the floor. But really in almost every house I sleep in, I end up sleeping on the floor and sometimes when I tell people that, they again look at me like I'm insane, like I'm a human from another planet and maybe I am at this point, after living in a van for so long, I am kind of more of a feral animal than an actual civilized person. And so definitely the bed and the sleeping is the first major hurdle when it comes to that transition to living in a house. The next transition is sort of similar, along that same wavelength, in that we are suddenly very disconnected from nature, especially during a heat wave. When there's not a heat wave, living in a house is easier because we go on walks, we sit on the deck, we open the windows, but during a heat wave, since the air conditioning is running, we have to leave everything really shut up. And the only time I actually opened the windows in this house was early in the morning when I woke up around 630 or 7am and I opened all the windows, just so I can hear the birds chirping and just so I can hear the wind and the trees and feel that fresh air on my face as I'm drinking my coffee. Because when you live in a van, you're living outside a lot of the time, and when you're not outside, you're sitting in a chair or at a table or in the bed and there's airflow. Your windows are open, your roof fan is open, sometimes the side door is open. We have a screen that we love called the bug wall that fits over the side door of our van, so oftentimes we can just have that side door wide open, and so there's always a very fresh exchange of air inside the van. And when we're not inside the van, we're outside, so we're doing some sort of exercise or we love just setting up our camp chairs and sitting outside, and so when you're used to living almost full time outside, it's a very jarring experience to suddenly be living full time inside. The other day we were here and the wind was rustling the leaves of the trees behind the house and Tom looked at me and said I see the wind rustling the trees, but I can't hear it. And we look to each other and we're like there's something not right about this, there's something so weird. So you become very disconnected with nature when you start living in a house. You can't hear the sounds, you don't really know what's happening outside. Even if it started to rain, you wouldn't really know if you were inside of a house. The air is always the same temperature, it always feels the same, the air has the same scent to it, but when you're used to living outside, you notice all those changes. You're like, oh, it's windy now, or it's raining, or there's been a temperature change, or, oh, a storm is coming, I can smell the rain. There's all these indicators from nature about what's going on outside, and so that's a very jarring experience when it comes to transitioning into a house, and something we definitely both struggle with at first. So during a heat wave, both of us also had this intense feeling of being trapped. The other night I think it was two nights ago I ended up just pacing around the house. I was walking back and forth, I was feeling like a dog that hasn't gone on its walk for the day, and I couldn't go on a walk because it was too hot, and so I found myself pacing around. I was feeling really antsy and really miserable and uncomfortable, and I finally had to settle down my nerves by doing a half an hour yoga session just to breathe deeply, to get into my body and out of my head. But I have this feeling of sometimes feeling very trapped, and I figure that's what a wild animal feels like when they're in a cage or that's what a dog feels like when they're in the house all day. It starts to feel like I'm just inside these four walls and I'm not outside, and it's a really weird feeling. And so that's another transition that I have to get used to over a period of several days living in a house. Another thing I have to get used to is my stuff. Suddenly, instead of my stuff being contained in this perfectly small capsule of a camper van, my stuff is everywhere. Oh my gosh, when we start living in a house we pretty much bring everything in. You know, the food that we're eating out of the van on a daily basis, our laundry, our computer stuff, and this time we actually unloaded the entire back of the van so we could sort through some of our bins and clean out the back of the van, and so the garage here is just full of our van stuff. The house has our stuff scattered all over it and it becomes kind of overwhelming. You're like, oh my gosh, there's just stuff everywhere and all these rooms, and the house is big and so there's stuff in three different stories on this house, and so that can be kind of weird. You sort of forget where you put things. It looks like everything's in disarray. You don't have a home for your items, cause in the van. You have to be highly organized or you end up living in a complete pigsty. You know, I always know where everything is in the van, so living in a house it's kind of funny. I just don't know where things are. And another thing that's weird is that I'm used to being around Tom every day, like very close quarters with Tom, like we're within 10 feet of each other, and so when we're in a house it's like wow, I'm here on the third floor. He's down two stories below me, and so we become a little more disconnected from each other, which is really interesting. And so we're working on staying connected in this really large space. But what's interesting and what happens after a period of a few days is we start to get used to being in the house. You know, this becomes our home base. We stop noticing that we're disconnected from nature, the, you know, the floor starts to feel more comfortable and we start getting used to having a large amount of space and all the positives that come with the house. You know the positives like having endless hot water and laundry nearby and a big refrigerator and a really comfortable large couch to spread out on. We start to get used to all these amenities and amazing things about a house which, for us, feels extremely luxurious after living in a van, and so that's something that's interesting that we start transitioning into living in the house and then we're living here and we start getting used to that environment, because humans are adaptable. We get used to whatever environment that we're put in, and so now I'm starting to feel like, oh, this house feels like home and we're starting to go toward the other end of the transition, which is loading the van and getting back out into nature. But that becomes hard Because we're used to everything in this house. We're used to having our stuff spread out and stored. It's nice having an empty van to run around and do errands in, and so things start moving over to the flip side of the equation when it comes to transitions. And that happens to us every time, and I also find that extremely interesting. When we start living in a house for a while, then we start really melting into the experience of being in the house and the thought of loading up the van and doing everything it takes to get back out into van life starts to sound really difficult and cumbersome. For example, now we have to load up all our bins and windsurfing boards and surfboards back into the van, reorganize all of our clothes and food and then get back into that pattern of I call it hunting and gathering, which is kind of what it's like to live the van life. Every day you're searching for something. You're searching for water, you're searching for a trash can, you're searching for food, you're searching for a place to sleep, you're searching for a hike or the best windsurfing spot, and so your life becomes about searching and so you're not really spending a lot of time in one place pursuing the things that you might want to pursue, like. For me, one of the challenges of living the van life is trying to find time to work like record a podcast or really work on my business, and when you're in a house, in your stationery, there's way more hours in the day to pursue things like working or playing the guitar or doing yoga or these smaller, simpler hobbies that become a little bit more challenging when you're always on the move, and so the thought of going back and being on the move again is very exciting to me. I'm thrilled to get back out there and go to the gorge and go to the mountains, but it becomes more of a struggle to transition from the house back into that van lifestyle, and so I found that to be very interesting that that happens to us all these three stages of transition from going from the van to the house to slowly melting into our routine at the house and getting used to that, to then moving back into the van again and dealing with those feelings and issues of that constant movement, which is why we live the van life in the first place. We love the adventure and freedom of moving around, but it does come at a cost of that. You are constantly researching and moving. You can set up van life where you're moving less, where you're at a campsite for many weeks at a time and we have done that where we're working on the van or I'm working on my course for my website or various aspects of my online business, and we're more stationary, but a lot of the times we're moving around a lot and other van lifers will attest to that as well, and so it is nice to be able to sit for a while and just be in a house and not worry about as many things as we worry about when living in the van. So that brings me to the next topic I wanted to bring up in this podcast episode, which is van life burnout. And usually you know that goes hand in hand in what I talked about before, which is the hunting and gathering aspects of van life, and this is especially challenging if you're working a full-time job, like my friends over at engineers who van life, and you should go follow them on Instagram and they have a podcast called Van Lab and I love seeing what they're up to. They're in Alaska and they recently had a post on Instagram about how they were experiencing intense van burnout, which was always looking for a new place to park, an activity to do. You know where are the best hikes, where are the best grocery stores, you know where to dump, you know out water and get new water. These are all factors we always have to be thinking about and living in a van and one of them at least, is also working full-time and also trying to maintain that work schedule while being on the move and searching for all these things, and so that can lead to van life burnout and I've definitely experienced that before as well, and it's something that happens to the best of us and I tend to handle that by making switches in my life. So we have a camper van and a sailboat and I think that's the perfect combination to deal with van life burnout, because, you know, in a van you're in a very small space and you move around a lot. As I said before, where our sailboat is 41 feet and it feels more like you know the size of a larger RV, there are separate areas for cooking. I have an oven, I have a, we have a table with benches which can seat four people, we have an area that has settees you know, that are facing each other, a lounge area, a separate bedroom, a separate bathroom, and we go at a much slower pace. We stay at anchorages longer. You know, when we sail we're moving slowly, and so to just have that variety of van life and boat life really helps us with van life burnout. And throughout this entire time of living in the van and on the boat, we've also done a ton of house sitting and the times when I love house sitting the most, or being in a house, is when I am at that point of van life burnout and that's not happening now, because I love being in Hood River in Oregon and hiking and windsurfing, and so I was not having van life burnout when we started living in my sister's house this week. That was forced house sitting due to the heat wave and so that made it more challenging. But when I really am tired of van life and the constant movement, I really love living in a house, and so we've done tons of house sitting. A lot of that has been in San Francisco, where we've lived in a house for up to a month every year. So the combination of van life, boat life and house sitting has been pretty much our savior in the whole. You know nomad life system, which you're on the move a lot, and it doesn't have to be that way. You can also be you know a nomad who books Airbnbs for six months, so you can pretty much create your own nomad life, but we've done it by just creating that variety within our lifestyle. If you do experience that van life burnout, there are some good ways to deal with that, and the first thing I mentioned before is house sitting and I haven't tried this program yet, but trusted house sitters is a program that's really popular amongst van lifers and also people living in sailboats. It gives you an opportunity to live in a house for a while. It could be just a couple of days, it could be a few weeks, and that's a really great way to deal with van life burnout. I know some people go and live in beautiful places, like engineers who van life did one up in Alaska. I know another van life couple who did one in Costa Rica. That lasted, I think it was a couple of months and they just had to care for one pet and the owner left them this beautiful house and even a car so they could get to town and do sightseeing in the area. So trusted house sitters is a really great way to get yourself in a house if you really need to get out of the van for a while. And it's a membership program. I think it's over $100 per year for an annual membership, maybe 110, 120. You can go look at it and sign up if you want, but that gets you endless house sits and if you think about it, that's super affordable. It's way more affordable than renting an Airbnb to get into a house and if you love animals, trusted house sitters is a great way to go. Another one I did was Rover and that's more specific to a certain area. I think it's helpful if you are living somewhere in a city and you sign up for Rover, you can take dogs on walks, and what I did a lot was house sit. So I stayed in people's homes when they went on vacation and I ended up having a number of clients in the San Francisco Bay Area and they all had these beautiful homes and that was really necessary to me when living in the Bay Area Because I think I got van life burnout way more often when in the Bay Area, in the boat and in the van we were in a city, you had to stealth camp. It just wasn't as fun and comfortable as being out in nature boondocking when you know you're legally allowed to be there and you're in such stunning beautiful places all the time. Living in a city is not as fun, and so I was house sitting way more when living in a city because it felt like a necessity to me, and so trusted house sitters and Rover is a great way to get those house sitting needs met and get you out of your van for a while, if you do need a break or if it's too hot out or for whatever the reason you want to stay in a house. And another way is just friends and family. When people go on vacation, they often like someone to stay in their house. You can offer to water their plans or get their mail, take out their garbage and just generally watch over their house, because it's better if someone's moving around. You know parking in the driveway, using the house when someone's out of town, and so you might just want to ask your friends and family if they're going on vacation, or even if they know someone who's going on vacation, and you can do a little bit of house sitting to add some variety to your van life. Of course, you can always use programs like Airbnb to rent out a house for a little while. That'll be pretty expensive and it's not for everybody, but that is an option, so you can check that out. And there's another really interesting digital nomad program called the Landing, and the Landing operates apartments in like 400 cities across the United States and they have two tiers of membership. If you join their more expensive membership tier, you are guaranteed an apartment for a certain number of months. If you book six months you get a deal. But I looked in the Portland area and it seemed like they were charging about $2,500 a month for an apartment, which is pretty expensive but depends on your budget and what part of the country you're in. And that price actually went way down if you booked a six months in an apartment and they have the landing standby program where apartments are $1,500 a month. But that comes with a little bit of insecurity because you could get kicked out and they'll give you like a three day notice if someone from the premium program wants to stay in that apartment. So you can just move and you can move into another landing apartment, either in that same city or in a different city. So if you're super flexible, for $1,500 a month you can just use that program, get a nice apartment, get out of the van for a little while, catch up on work or whatever you need to do. And I was tempted to try that this summer. But I have so many friends and family in the Portland area I deem that to be unnecessary and I really just prefer being in my van in the Gorge and in the mountains. It's really my chosen lifestyle. I'm thankful, I'm happy to choose it and I'm not forced into it like a lot of people. But yeah, those are my thoughts about transitions into and out of the house and how to deal with van life burnout by living in a house, and so I hope you found that helpful and I'd love to hear how you deal with van life burnout or any of your concerns about transitioning if you're living in a house, transitioning to a van, and you can always email me at christen at the waywardhomecom and I always answer and read those emails. Thanks again so much for listening to this episode of the Wayward Home podcast. Remember to sign up for my newsletter. It's thewaywardhomecom forward slash email. I'd love to connect with you over email. I send out lots of van life tips and tricks and sailboat living tips and tricks and just stories from my life on the road, and a lot of my readers love that because a lot of them aren't nomadic yet and it gives them an idea of what my lifestyle is actually like. So head on over to thewaywardhomecom forward slash email and I'll see you over there. And thanks again for listening to this episode of the Wayward Home podcast.

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