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I tried van life for 2 weeks, and an aspect of the trip made me question if I'm cut out for the lifestyle

Monica Humphries   

I tried van life for 2 weeks, and an aspect of the trip made me question if I'm cut out for the lifestyle
  • For two weeks, I lived and traveled in a campervan that didn't have a bathroom.
  • I used gyms, RV resorts, gas stations, rest stops, and the great outdoors as my bathroom.

I pulled into a Shell gas station in my rented Ram ProMaster campervan.

Once parked, I headed into the convenience store and beelined to the bathroom.

Inside, there was an impossible-to-describe stench. Toilet paper covered the restroom floor, and pee covered the toilet seat. I used the bathroom as fast as humanly possible.

After discovering an empty soap dispenser, I darted out and remembered I could use the sink in my van.

It was day 10 of my two-week-long van trip. And while I hadn't gotten tired of exploring the country by van, I was exhausted by public restrooms.

I rented a van without a bathroom or a shower

I've been allured by van life for years. The lifestyle's easy access to nature paired with a welcoming, adventurous community has left me itching to ditch my belongings and move into a van.

Beyond following van-life influencers on every platform from TikTok to YouTube, I've also interviewed dozens of nomads for my job.

Often, we discuss their van setup. And if we discuss their setup, one thing is bound to come up — the bathroom situation.

Some people living in vans have compost toilets. Others forsake a bathroom altogether. Rarely do I interview people living in vans with showers.

Naturally, each setup has its pros and cons. Toilets and showers take up space, add weight to the van, and are often expensive. So, instead, plenty of nomads rely on rest stops, gym bathrooms, gas stations, and the great outdoors.

When it came to testing out van life, naturally, I wanted the full experience. I found a van rental that lacked a bathroom and hit the road.

I've camped without a restroom, but doing it 24/7 is a different story

I've gone on three-plus-day camping and backpacking trips, so relying on nature and gas stations for bathrooms isn't new for me.

But relying on public restrooms for two weeks was harder than I anticipated.

Showers, which used to be long, hot, and destressing, became challenging. I'd have to track down a business like an RV resort, gym, or rest stop that offered showers. Then, I'd have to pay for the service, which was often limited to 15 or 20 minutes and typically cost around $10.

Beyond that, the showers weren't enjoyable. I was more concerned about getting athlete's foot or bumping into a dirty wall than enjoying my hot water.

Bathrooms came with similar challenges. Using a public bathroom never has the same amount of privacy as my apartment. And public restrooms, too, were never very clean.

Plus, I missed the convenience. I couldn't get up to use the toilet in the middle of the night or go when I needed to. Often, I was planning bathroom and shower breaks into my schedule.

By the end of the two weeks, I was itching for privacy and a hot shower in my own apartment — something I was shocked I had missed so much.

My two weeks in the van were met with spontaneous adventures, fulfilling conversations, striking nature, and lasting memories. The positives far outweighed the negatives.

But as I continue to daydream about selling my belongings and buying a van, the bathroom situation is still in the back of my mind.



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