OK, it’s been almost a year and I finally spent the night in my van. Yes, I was in my driveway, but so what! I’m proud of myself that I finally took the plunge and spent a night in the van that I bought for the sole purpose of traipsing around and exploring.
I’ve got many decades under my belt of traditional living. As such, making the transition is not only something very different for me, but it’s looked upon as crazy and weird from the folks in my circle. They’re just as traditional as I was. They don’t understand my desire to downsize and travel, not to mention traveling in a 20-year-old Chevy Express van.
The First Night
My van was pretty much equipped with everything I needed for my first night of sleeping. The only two things I forgot were vitamins (it’s allergy season) and the portable charger for my phone. The charger wasn’t much of a problem for two reasons, 1) I didn’t really use the phone and 2) I’ve got USB plugs in the van and can charge devices from the van’s battery. The vitamins, on the other hand, were more of a challenge. I went through the night with itchier ears than I’d like and sneezing a time or 5 more than preferred, but I managed.
Sleeping in a Van: One Big Mistake
My big mistake, however, was not lowering the bed. I decided to sleep on the bench seat as is. I’m 5’8” and needed about 3 more inches of bench length to sleep comfortably. Knowing that I usually sleep on my side in a curled position I didn’t think it would be a problem. Note to self: You only sleep curled up because you know you have a king-sized bed. When sleeping on a bench seat in the back of a van, you want to stretch out!
Not putting the bed down (which was as simple as pressing the down button), was a big mistake. I didn’t sleep well. I tossed and turned and wanted to stretch, but couldn’t stretch properly. That was a mistake never to be repeated.
Temperature, Potty and Privacy
The temperature was a bit warm, but I was fine with the windows open and the two portable battery operated fans running. The only issue I had with the fans was the little blue light that illuminated when the fans were on. Being one who likes total darkness when she sleeps, the blue illumination was a bit annoying with the tossing and turning I did all night.
Because I prepared for the inevitable potty time with a portable toilet and cedar chips, having to go to the bathroom was not an issue. I also have a sink in the van to wash my hands afterward, so I was okay with going to the bathroom.
Privacy was also pretty cool. I made insulated curtains when I first got the van in preparation for camping or even stealth camping, so privacy wasn’t an issue. Plus, I was in my own backyard. I was able to close the curtains, go outside the van to see if any of the inside lights (solar Luci lights), were visible outside. All was good.
With the portable Coleman stove and water stored in my Thermik cooler, I was able to boil water using my camping cookware and made a nice pot of tea. I pre-made a batch of herbal tea which I keep in the overhead storage compartment. I invited my husband to come and join me (he is not a big fan of my camper van desires, but I’m hoping to slowly win him over). He did at least enjoy the tea but is still not a camping convert.
Next Time Around
A week later I tried it again. This time I lowered the bed and brought my vitamins and charger. I also covered the blue light on the fans. Fortunately, it was cool enough so I didn’t need the fans, but I was prepared. The second time around was a much more pleasant experience. I slept well and felt rested in the morning.
The second time around made me realize something. The sink I made takes up too much valuable real estate. As a result, I removed the sink and in its place put a 3-drawer storage container. I think I need storage more than a stationary sink.
Sink alternative: I came across a site that shared a cool kitchen conversion for less than $50. After reading the post, I decided to order a collapsable sink that I can store in a drawer when not in use. As far as draining the gray water, I think I’ll use a 5-gallon bucket (got plenty of those around the house). No need for fancy tubes or piping. When it’s time for emptying, I’ll take the container to the appropriate spot and empty it. Oh, and my water source is a 2-gallon Chapin garden sprayer to which I connected a “showerhead”.
More Baby Steps
I’m glad I spent those two nights in the van. I’ll spend a couple more before my first overnight on the road. The more time I spend in my van, the more I like it and the more tweaks I’ll make.
I’m aiming to use my Harvest Hosts membership in a few weeks to spend the night at one of the beautiful wineries in my area. Granted, the winery is only about an hour away, but at least it’s not my driveway. Once I get that under my belt, I believe I’ll be ready for more adventurous trips.