1. Where do you go to the bathroom? As I'm sure all van dwellers will tell you, this is by far the question we get asked the most. It's a little weird, because in normal society it's a definite faux pas to ask other people about their bathroom usage, but I guess moving into a van takes us out of "normal society" and opens the door to such questions. Some people are just curious or want an opportunity to point out how impractical van life sounds, but there are others who want to know because they are considering the same lifestyle. I'll start by pointing out that not all van dwellers forego bathrooms. There are plenty of people who put in composting toilets and some even have mini showers. We chose not to go that route to save space, but if you don't think you could live without a toilet nearby, it's a viable option. We're able to live without a bathroom, because honestly, there are bathrooms everywhere: stores, gas stations, parks, libraries, gyms, restaurants etc. Your mind set changes. If you're somewhere that has a bathroom, you take full advantage of that fact. Before moving into the van, I never used the bathroom at grocery stores. Why do that when you can just drive home afterwards and use your own nice clean bathroom? Now, I stop by the bathroom almost every time I shop. As you may know, Justin and I work at a hospital, which provides us with a ton more bathroom options that are available 24/7. The hospital also has employee showers that we use on a regular basis. We also have a gym membership and use the shower there as well. Some people want to know what we'll do if one or both of us gets sick and we don't have a bathroom. If that happens, we'll just get a hotel room... but hopefully that doesn't happen!
2. Where do you park? We park at the hospital most nights, but if we're not parked there, we park at friend's houses. Other options include street parking in neighborhoods or at stores like Home Depot and Walmart that have huge parking lots and usually don't mind people staying overnight. If we're not at work, we usually take the Sprinter to a park. When we're traveling, there are obviously even more options for parking overnight, such as BLM land and campgrounds.
3. What do you do about mail? We chose to get a UPS mailbox because, unlike P.O. boxes, they provide a street address. That means that we don't run into any issues with companies that won't mail things to P.O. boxes. When we get packages, UPS keeps them behind the counter and puts a notification slip in our mailbox. We have a key to enter the mailbox part of the store, which means we can get our mail 24/7.
4. How do you not kill each other living in such a small space? It probably helps that we both work, so it's not like we spend all day every day sitting in the van together. When we're off we like taking trips or hanging our hammocks up in a park for the day, so we don't actually spend that much time sitting around together in the van. Plus, the van is big enough that it allows us to have our own space when needed. For example, I can hang out on the bed and Justin can sit in the cab or hang out on the bench seat. We don't have to hang out side by side when we're in the van. Winter will be a bit of a different story and I'm sure we'll get some cabin fever and maybe we'll get cranky and fight, but so what? Even when we lived in a big house we got cranky and fought. What married couple doesn't?
5. Where do you do laundry? At a laundromat. Although it's admittedly annoying going back to doing laundry in a communal setting with a bag of change (that's what I had to do at university), it's worked out fine and it's just another thing about van life that you quickly get used to.
6. Where do you get water? We usually fill up our big water containers from a spigot in a local park, but sometimes we also fill them up in one of the hospital parking lots that also has a spigot for whatever reason. We also carry water bottles to work and make sure that they are filled up before heading home, which provides us with most of the drinking water. Because we're at work a lot and usually end up eating at the cafeteria, we've found that we don't cook and wash dishes a ton at this point, which are the two things that would use the most water.
7. Do you feel safe? So far, we've felt very safe in the van. As mentioned previously, we're usually parked at the hospital or friends' houses overnight, so we're never in a situation where we have to be parked on some alley downtown with strange people wandering around. I will say though that a couple of weeks ago, Justin woke up around 3:00 AM with someone walking around the van trying all the doors. This was while we were parked at the hospital, so it was presumably someone walking around trying to break into cars. Fortunately, we make a point of always locking the doors, so nothing came of it and while it was rather startling, it hasn't made us feel unsafe.
8. What do you eat? Since we have a fully functional kitchen, we're able to eat the same things we did before moving into the van. However, since there's obviously less prep space, I don't feel as inclined to make big elaborate meals and we aren't able to store quite as much food as we did in our house, especially when it comes to refrigerated goods. We have a 50 quart refrigerator, but that's about a third of the size of the fridge we had in our house. As such, we have to grocery shop a little more frequently then we did before.