Van Life | Relationships in (Very) Small Spaces
Take the happy moments, late nights full of laughter, gross personal habits, bodily functions, and meaningless arguments... and then cram it all into 72 square feet with the person you love. Living in a small space with your partner doesn't leave much room for private time or things you used to consider private.. When I say Edgar has seen it all, I mean he has seen more than any other human on this earth. I can't think of hardly anything that I haven't done in front of the poor guy (and wonderful boyfriend).
People can be judge-y about pretty much everything these days and have an opinion/input about EVERY thing. So here are my best suggestions while keeping in mind that every relationship is different, and you know yours better than anyone.
Things to Consider Before...
Every other blog you read about the subject will say something like "Do NOT do this unless you're married or been together for an eternity." My opinion has always been do what you think is best for yourself and your partner. Edgar and I genuinely thrive on adventure and traveling (even before we got together). We didn't need to get married to know that experiencing our passion together would be an amazing time, and if anything, enhance our relationship.
Don't get me wrong.. we argue, and we have days where killing each other sounds like the easy way out. But I mean, is it really any easier for couples that have been married for years? I don't think so. It's just really stressful sometimes, and we take it out on each other because... who else are you going to naturally blame than the only person around you ever.
But we knew we were good for each other before this, and we made an intentional decision of moving into an incredibly tiny space. We knew it would be hard, and we knew that nobody would recommend a couple of 1 year to move into a van and be up each other butt's 24 hours a day. However, clearly we aren't the conventional type.
I think the most important thing is to make sure you and your partner are on the same page before making a single purchase or even diving too deep into research. Both people need to want it as badly as the other AND fully understand how it will affect the relationship. If things are already rocky, avoid this lifestyle at all costs. It will not make things any better nor will it save your relationship. Be up front and get used to communicating more than ever before.
During the build (AKA the most stressful time of the process)
So you're at the point where you've spent more than you thought possible on the build and it's taking way longer than expected.. welcome to the club. If there is a van lifer out there that isn't in this club, it's because they're a liar (maybe there's one out there but he/she is one lucky mofo.) This is the most stressful part of it all because you have this dream in front of you that you are so ready to be living but the universe is just like LOL nope.. Just keep your cool and take one day at a time.
My honest opinion is to not set a specific date in mind or a dollar amount. Make your deadline a month (i.e. any time in June) instead of a date so that it feels looser and not so stressful. Have a budget and then have a we-cannot-afford-one-more-dollar budget. Because it will end up closer to the latter. This will alleviate some pressure from the build which in turn will alleviate stress within the relationship.
Other than that, just keep telling each other what you've bought, what colors you want it to be, what will look better here, etc. Communication is key people.
After you did the damn thing!
Once you've moved into the van, it'll probably be awhile of smooth sailing (key word: probably) relationship-wise. You have finally accomplished a huge milestone with finishing the build and it's kinda euphoric at first. Even the gross things just come off hilarious and Walmart parking lots seem magical.
..And then you, unknowingly, plan a hike that just reaching the trailhead requires 4 wheel drive which your van SUPER does not have. So it takes 2 hours to go the 20 miles and then you get lost on the hike in the middle of the desert and see no humans and the sun is going down. You're very turned around and bulls are everywhere (yeah, bulls..?) So you're scared, pissed, and irritated beyond measure AND have that same 2 hour drive out on the same gravel road to look forward to. That's when you may find yourself wanting to kill your partner slowly.
The above is not a personal experience from last week I swear.
The thing is, these bad days are going to happen and you will totally want to strangle your person by the end of it. We have honestly sat in the same car and not spoken for hours because of frustration (the not-personal-experience may have been one of them). But that's okay and sometimes needed. The same night when we finally got to our campsite, Edgar started cooking dinner and I started putting the bed together for us. We knew we just got overwhelmed, took it out on each other, moved on separately, and then came right back together.
The Moral of the Story
If you loved your person before van life, you will love them during and you will love them after. There will be bad days in every relationship whether you have 72 square feet or 7200 square feet. But hopefully, the good days will far outweigh the bad ones.
Try to have alone time even in the van. I read up front sometimes while Edgar watches tv in the back. At the gym, we both put in headphones and go our opposite ways. Get your me-time in when you need it.
Don't listen to what others have to say when it comes to your relationship, and what adventures you should go on together. The only thing that I would ask that you listen to is this... Go on adventures. Any adventures with one another. Stay excited for each other. Keep your partner on his/her toes. Be spontaneous and even surprise yourself.
On one final note for the rest of you reading this... YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE IN A RELATIONSHIP TO ADVENTURE. Take ya self on a damn nice trip. Fall in love with yourself and travel because you want to. Maybe some day you'll come across the perfect travel companion and maybe not. But who the hell wants to wait around for that?
Life is beautiful and exciting.. let's keep it that way.
To my travel partner and best friend, you are perfect in every way. I love you.
Thanks for reading!