Why We Paused Van Life
If you've been following along with my daily Van Life blog posts or follow me on social media (Instagram @almostfabme) then you know we have officially paused Van Life. If this is news to you then I highly recommend reading "My Van Life: Day 51," to learn more about the moment we officially made the decision and our reasoning behind it. OR, you can simply keep reading this blog post where I'm going to dive into the behind the scenes look at why we paused Van Life.
It all began in Boston. Which is horribly sad because it's a city both of us were very much looking forward to visiting. My mom has a love affair with Boston due to the Red Sox (of course) as well as her first experience visiting the city thanks to a group of friends who gifted a trip to her many years ago, so we were both looking forward to falling head over heels in love with this highly regarded destination. Not to say that we didn't, we both loved the little taste of Boston that we received during our few days there, however, Boston really kickstarted Van Life trials and tribulations that ultimately led to us making the decision to put a hold on it all.
It's been so long ago now it seems but in Boston we experienced van trouble. The tire sensor light went on, the check engine light went on and after thousands of miles of traveling and over a month on the road, it was time for our first visit to the Mercedes Dealership (aside from when we first got the van of course). It's not the typical "taking your car to the dealership" experience when the "car" you're taking in happens to be your home on wheels. That first day we visited the dealership was a challenge. We dropped the van off at 7:30am, packed up a day bag and walked into town. We weren't too far from Harvard Square so we walked (with Coco) about two miles to Harvard Square and hung out there for the day, working and sightseeing. If you read that day's blog post then you know it quickly turned into perhaps the longest day of Van Life and we didn't end up leaving the dealership with our van until much later that evening. Of course if you read that blog post then you also know that another light went on the dashboard shortly after leaving the dealership so the next day was ALSO spent at Mercedes of Boston.
That was Boston. I guess I should also mention it was $3,000 in repairs which was certainly a sucker punch to the gut that neither of us were expecting. The trials and tribulations of having a luxury vehicle I guess.
It was all downhill from there. It got progressively harder to find places to stay overnight, places that weren't a Walmart or Cracker Barrel parking lot and didn't cost upwards of $80 a night. Lest we forget the Walmart parking lot incident in North Carolina...Nothing like an ant infestation to start your day off am I right?! (read more about that one in My Van Life: Day 47). With it getting progressively harder to find places to camp, we also ran into Tropical Storm/Hurricane season on the East Coast and found ourselves quickly moving through towns in search of higher and safer ground. Thankfully we were able to remain safe (and dry!) throughout Hurricane Ida's destructive path but it certainly changed the course and trajectory of our trip quite unexpectedly.
As I'm sure you can imagine, Tropical Storm/Hurricane season goes hand in hand with tumultuous weather and as if I didn't think it could get any hotter or more uncomfortable, ohhh boy was I wrong.
We continued forging our path along the East Coast and with each passing day it got hotter and hotter, more and more humid and progressively more uncomfortable. It got to the point where we couldn't even turn the car off during the day if we were posted up inside working, sleeping, hanging out, anything. I can still remember being parked in the laundromat parking lot at probably 11am one weekday when Adam was working and I had the week off. I was juggling our laundry bag and cleaning supplies going in and out of the laundromat and returning to the car where we had the air conditioning on full blast and Adam was managing calls and work. Unfortunately that's what we had to do in order to manage the severe weather in Van Life.
While Florida was our ultimate goal destination, it was also our last straw. That Sunday we made it to Florida and while both of us felt overwhelmed with pride in having made it all the way from Sacramento, CA to St. Augustine, FL, the truth is any of the joy or pride we felt was severely overshadowed by tremendous stress. We hadn't figured out a place to stay for the week, we were exhausted and physically drained from the driving and the heat and personally, I was feeling nervous about going back to work after two weeks off and taking on new responsibilities starting that Monday as well. Not to mention the fact that we felt like the last couple of weeks or so had actually put a strain on our relationship. We were being pulled apart because of the stress of Van Life that we were both navigating on our own terms. Each of us dealing with the unique challenges we were facing while simultaneously wanting Van Life to work so badly. Wanting it to be that dream adventure we both envisioned from the start back in July. While we wanted to be able to continue the journey and see all the destinations we had planned to see in Florida, we prioritized our own well-being and ultimately made the best decision for us.
It was by no means an easy decision. Personally, I felt like we were giving up. I knew that once we left Florida there would be no going back. We wouldn't be visiting Disneyworld or Miami or Key West in our Van. It was likely that the only time we'd return would be far in the future, flying to Florida and making a vacation out of it. While we met our goal of making it across the US to Florida, it still felt like I was accepting defeat. And to have something like the weather be the ultimate victor in this battle also felt crippling. Even talking about it now I feel like I have to justify it by reiterating how absolutely horrid the weather was, especially for two people not at all used to humidity. The reality is, the weather just plain sucked. And we didn't have air conditioning in the Van aside from when the van was on and running. As someone who naturally runs quite hot, I should have known this would be a recipe for disaster.
While it wasn't an easy decision, I cannot reiterate enough that it was the right decision. The second we decided to drive up to Illinois from Florida and stay at Adam's family home in Central Illinois a massive weight was lifted off my shoulders. Knowing we would have air conditioning, a surplus of running water, guaranteed WiFi, space to roam freely in a house, and more waiting for us on the other side of a 14 hour drive, I felt immediate relief. Sure it was an incredibly long Sunday having left Florida at 4pm but you know what, we made it and both of us ended up having really slow work days that Monday and were able to catch up on some sleep.
Van Life has been one of the most challenging but rewarding experiences of both of our young adult lives. While a lot of this blog post sounds quite negative, that's not the case at all! It was really only the last couple of weeks or so (starting in Boston, remember?) that our Van Life experience took a negative turn. Both of us are so very grateful (and still kind of in shock and awe?!) for the experiences we shared, the places and destinations we visited, for just under two months Van Life was an absolute dream come true for this adventure seeking couple. But at the end of the day, it's quite easy to admire the captivating photography shared by fellow young millenials or adventure seeking souls desiring a change of pace, but actually taking the plunge and doing it, now that's a different story. But for the last two months it's been our story and I truly wouldn't change it for the world. The good, the bad, the in-between spaces, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.
For now, we're enjoying our last few days in a home before taking off again for the month of October. Both of us are very much looking forward to getting back on the road and heading out West once again. My only concern now is I may not have enough layers as the temps get cooler. How quickly our #vanlifeprobs change, right?
And so, the adventure continues...