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How to live in a tiny space as a vanlife couple
Traveling around going from city to city seems like quite the dream, and it truly can be. However, you are still living your day to day life it just looks different now. This means you still need to do basic chores that you did in your “normal” life before living in a van.
- Split up your household chores. Just like in a house, you have chores. Try and split these chores up. Communicate who is going to get what done and work together. Without this, chaos can quickly ensue. If someone leaves a dish, just wash it. If the trash is full, take it out.
- Don’t keep score. As noted above it’s a tiny space, if you let things pile up because it isn’t your turn the van can quickly turn into a disaster area and you will find yourself bickering due to the vibe in the van.
- Understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Unless you are super lucky chances are one of you is the clean freak and one is more laissez-faire about life. For us, it’s a little of both. Shawn loves to have things organized and in their place, I love a clean kitchen. It is easy to forget what he values and only care that he left a pot in the sink and miss that I’ve got clothes all over the bed. It’s a tiny space meant for both of you, be mindful!
- Consider testing out Vanlife for a week. This is something I wish Shawn and I would have made the time and reserved the money to do. You can rent out a campervan just like ours or one that will be similar to your van for a weekend, week, or as long as you want. It’s a great opportunity to see how you function together and what kind of things will be beneficial to have in your new van build. The right set up can go a long way in keeping you both happy. Outdoorsy is a great Van and RV rental company that functions similar to Airbnb but for vans and I recommend using them if you want to try out vanlife before you jump in.
How to find alone time as a vanlife couple
The number one issue that comes up when living with your partner and traveling full-time in a van is finding the time to be alone. When you are stationary in a house or apartment, chances are you work in separate locations. This means you have 8-10 hours completely apart, 4-5 days a week. On top of this, you might have girls or guys night out or even decide to go out by yourself occasionally.
So when living in a van full-time I recommend FINDING the time to be alone. You might have to ask or tell your partner that you are going to do X activity alone. Something Shawn and I often do is try to do our computer work alone. He might stay in the van and I go into the library or vice versa. Another great option is to go to the movies together but watch different movies. Whatever it is that you do, you need to make time to be alone.
A tip a friend told me was to find pleasure in the small moments alone. Even if it’s those few moments in the morning when your partner is asleep and you can journal and be with your thoughts. Find these moments and treasure them.
How to spend quality time together while on the road
Since traveling full-time means you are likely always together then you need to be intentional about your time. It’s easy to get sucked into the motions and not realize you aren’t paying attention to your partner.
A few ways to spend quality time together as a vanlife couple:
- Cook your meals together. Often it’s easy to let one person cook the meal since the space is so small. Something Shawn and I try to do is no matter who is cooking (most likely Shawn) the other person can’t be on their phone. That way you are still hanging out and are enjoying the moment together. If possible it’s also great to try and cook alongside them by cleaning up or chopping up items. Some of our favorite memories are cooking together in the van just listening to music and enjoying the moment.
- Eat Dinner together with no phones. This has always been one of my favorite rules when eating dinner. Not only do you enjoy your meal but you enjoy your company too.
- Meditate or Journal Together. These items are typically done alone but sometimes doing things alone, but together is a great way to bond. It’s very intentional and personal which makes you feel that much closer to your significant other.
How to resolve conflict as a vanlife couple
Fighting when living in a tiny space with literally nowhere else to go other than outside can make for some real blow-ups. You are in 60sq ft and chances are you have one living area. You can sit in the cab or you can hang out in your bed/couch. When you are angry you can’t just walk away or ignore when something is bothering you. Living on the road means you have to face your conflicts head-on and with care.
- Let your partner know when they upset you. Pre-vanlife Shawn and I were still figuring out how to communicate. We would fight and then typically just let it go. There wasn’t a ton of talking it out or really getting to the bottom of it. That’s pretty easy to do when you can go to work and by the end of the day you just want to relax. In a van, those issues compound so quickly and being in a tense situation like that in a small space leads to huge fights.
- Listen when your partner gives you feedback. Just as you need to actually communicate to your partner that they did something to hurt you, you have to let them do the same. Take the information in and realize that whether you agree, this is how THEY Feel. It’s their reality and it’s up to you both to work on how to change that.
- Take notice when your tone isn’t kind. Remember that it’s not always what you say but how you say it.
How to Spend More Time Outside of the van
If you are like me and lean into the introverted side then a tiny home on wheels with a cozy bed is your childhood dream. It’s so easy to stay inside the van, curl up and watch the world go by. Before you know it though, you might find yourself going a little stir crazy and this can translate into a snipping at your partner for no reason.
Some easy and enjoyable ways to get out of the van for a few hours:
- Find a park or library to get your work done. We designed our van so we could work inside of it. So it can be easy to stay cooped up in it all day long when we have computer work to be done. Instead, try finding a public library or park to work in for the day.
- Go out to eat or have a picnic. I know van life pictures show couples on mountains and beaches every day but that’s simply not the reality. When you can splurge try to go out to eat or have a coffee or drink for happy hour. Even a few hours outside the van can make a huge difference in your sanity.
- Have a personal hobby or passion. It’s so important to have something going on in your life that is all your own. Whether it’s a book your reading, side project or hobby, having these passions allows you to keep a sense of independence and allows you both time apart but together at the same time!
How to build out a van with your partner
Honestly, the ins and outs of building out your campervan with your partner is an exhaustive list that needs to be its own post. For now, I will leave you with a few tips for building a tiny home with your significant other and NOT killing each other or breaking up.
- Be patient with one another. When building out a campervan, whether with experience or not it is easy to get frustrated. Remember that you both come to the table with different skills and you are both learning as you go.
Use the pause button. This is actually something we learned from HIMYM. If you start to fight aimlessly or if one person is being harsh without realizing it say “pause”. Take a break or ask them to reframe what and how they are saying something. This IS NOT an opportunity to get back at them or start a fight, it’s a chance to avoid a fight or stop one in its tracks.
- Communicate. Truly I think this is a blanket statement that covers all of this entire post but it’s a good one to remember. Tell your partner what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Tell them if they are doing something wrong or if you don’t understand what to do. You are building this together and once you see it as a group project that you can enjoy the happier the van conversion process will be.
- Go on walks or hikes. I think this is something a lot of vanlifers are already doing but it’s a great reminder. No matter where you are, try to go on daily hikes or walks.
Traveling full-time with your partner means you get to go on the ultimate road trip with your best friend. You get to explore an alternative lifestyle and experience an entirely new side of yourself with your best friend. You are going to have the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Personally I can’t recommend it enough.
When you are feeling low make sure to look at these quick tips and I have faith you and your partner in crime will be just fine.
Top Tips for Vanlife Couples:
- Be patient
- Always have food
- Get outside of the van
- Spend QUALITY time together
- Find alone time
- Split up chores
- Don’t keep score
- Have fun!
Are you traveling full-time with your partner? What are your top tips for surviving life on the road with your significant other? Let us know in the comments!
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