I don’t know if it’s my desire to find something, anything, that is familiar or the extra time that allows for some creativity, regardless I’m compelled to share the similarities between van life and pandemic life. In a lot of ways, van life prepared us for days like these.
Sure, in a million obvious ways these two experiences are extremely and apparently dissimilar but in a handful of ways, they are not. We spent over a year planning for van life and securing our finances in order to set out and explore with nothing but wonderment + a sense of adventure. Pandemic life, on the other hand, has rolled over us like a tsunami with very little warning and complete financial insecurity. So, how are they similar? Let’s discuss this.
Roles – The first week at home for Jon and I was spent triaging our businesses, apart and together. Jon has a CBD start-up to save (iKOR Labs) and I have a physical therapy/personal training business that I’m desperately trying to move online (Koa Fit) During that week I acknowledged to Jon that I felt like we were two silos acting independently and barely interacting. I think that was true and was necessary, but now we are firmly into week two and things are relatively less urgent.
I started to draw the parallels between van life and our current status with Jon last week and, while he probably rolled his eyes at me, I think he gets it. In an effort to unite our silos, I told him that I’m looking at this house like the van, a place where we each thrived in roles that evolved naturally and were organic to who we are. I reminded him that my two biggest roles were cleaning/organizing and ensuring that we did not waste any food. I told him that I’d be taking on those roles during pandemic life.
It was important for me to say this out loud for a few reasons. One, we learned early on in the van that it’s a small space and it’s better to say things out loud because there is no escaping. True, the house is bigger and you can “escape” but it’s not a behavior we tend towards and I don’t want to start now. Second, I don’t want to be a nag. I want permission to flex my muscles, control what I can and not have Jon becoming frustrated with me. He got it then, he still gets it now in week two.
I then asked Jon to identify what van life role he wants to take on. As of a few days ago, it was: driving. My marinating husband will get back to me on that one 😉 We currently have a list of house projects to tackle slowly over time and, just like the van, those will likely fall in his column but I’ll be there to support and feed.
Social Distancing – This is easy. It was just Jon, Penny and I in the van and it’s just Jon, Penny and I now. While we did nickname the van trip the “Hug Everyone You Know Tour”, a name that would highlight extremely unfavorable behavior at this moment, in between those hugs it was just us. We are good at being just us. We naturally establish routines + roles. Penny continues to be the third leg of our tripod, our crazy glue. We know how to tell each other that we don’t feel like talking without offending the other person. We know how to ask if someone is busy (like are they distracted or can they give their full attention) before we randomly start talking about something important. We naturally know how to add timeframes to rather timeframe-less days. We know how to recognize when the other one is stuck on a loop in their head and needs some distraction. We know how to let moments pass without the “oh + ah” of every second of every day. We know days can be mundane. We know how to face many days of the foreseeable sameness but know, from experience, that each day will likely be different than the previous or the next. Yes, we got bored and annoyed in van life. Yes, we will get bored and annoyed in pandemic life. Accepting those facts now (or years ago for us) is helpful. These are all skills that came with van life. We don’t remember learning them on the road, but we did and they are helpful.
You can’t do/see it all – When we first hit the road we were consumed by messages about what we should see, what we shouldn’t miss, where we should go. We loved the input and I started a list (of course I did) but pretty early on we said out loud “we can’t see it all”. We had to accept that quickly or the next 16 months were going to be filled with nothing but FOMO and missed opportunities. We decided that we were off the hook to “see it all”. We were going to see what we wanted to see, what felt tangible + relevant to us and promise ourselves to return again for more. I remember the levity that came with that shift in our outlook and expectations.
The same goes for the internet right now. Week one felt like a lot of “did you see”, “you can’t miss”, “you have to watch” and I felt pummeled. Yes, it is amazing to follow baby hippos, watch a broadway show, listen to a famous orchestra and do a thousand home workouts but holy smokes, you cannot do it all. You will miss stuff. It’s ok. Your kids will be ok if they don’t see every zoo. I’ll be ok if I don’t do every workout. It’s totally fine to miss a famous person being “normal” and accessible. Let yourself off the hook. Do what feels like something you want to do, not what you should do. There will be plenty to come back to. We really don’t need more FOMO right now. We just need to stay home, take deep breaths and settle in. There is a levity that comes with this, I promise.
Future – We didn’t know how long we would stay on the road when we started van life. We had the house rented for a year, but we left wiggle room to stay in the van for longer. We left the door open. This meant that, while I’m a type-A list-maker, I was open to seeing where life would take us. I feel that way now. My current day-to-day life has daily lists concocted the night before to address a few “to-dos”, movement and mindfulness, but I have no idea what the future holds. I don’t know how long I will have extremely limited work. I don’t know how the start-up will look on the other side of this. So I’ll continue to live our van life ways: small visions for the next day but really letting go of the big picture. We have no choice but to see where this road takes us.
Despite all the driving analogies, don’t be selfish. STAY HOME. Stay home for my parents and in-laws who are in the 70s, for my disabled brother + his caregiver, for my sister recovering from surgery last week. We will have plenty of time for van life, camping, road trips, etc if you stay put now.