After living in my van for several months, the colder temperatures and lure of ski mountain life forced me to move into a house for the Canadian winter. This is the account of my first few months living in a house again.
The last weeks of vanlife had me worried. Not due to the temperatures reaching well below freezing, but because I had adapted so well to my house on wheels that the thought of moving into a house again made me panic.
This was a far cry from the time when, a few weeks into vanlife, I thought I’d made a terrible mistake. I was incredibly lonely and living in a new town without a job, a sense of direction or belonging. I was drifting aimlessly, sitting alongside my insecurities and fears which had all surfaced because I had so much time alone to think.
Naturally an introvert, I didn’t know what to do. Wait, I actually want to be around people? It felt so needy and desperate. I wanted to be this badass, independent chick living this nomadic lifestyle (because being nomadic is romanticised endlessly in society). You can read more on my struggle with loneliness here.
So, when people asked me how it was going in the van, I lied.
It’s great! Saving so much money! Love peeing in the bush!
Okay, so I was saving a lot of money by not paying rent, but driving to the gym to shower, parking my van inconspicuously each night to avoid a fine from Parks Canada, and living without a kitchen required so much more effort.
Adjusting to my house on wheels
When I landed a job and found a social circle, things started to improve. Living in the van also opened up opportunities to escape with friends for the weekend, exploring and camping in ambiguous spots. It also opened up the opportunity to meet an array of other vanlifers; some of the most open-minded and kindest folk I’ve met. People who understood the highs and lows of this lifestyle. The loneliness evaporated.
And so this lifestyle became the norm for me, and weird things started happening.
I stopped taking things for granted. The simple act of having a shower; sleeping on a friends couch and having access to a toilet in the wee hours of the night; finding free Wi-Fi spots that covered the vicinity of my van; the microwave for customers to use at the grocery store. I realise how ridiculous this sounds to a normal person, but man those small things are so GOOD.
99 per cent of the time, my life was stress free. The only times I encountered stress was when I lost my job, had $20 to feed myself for a week, and came down with a virus. Even then I knew those situations were only temporary. Vanlife was making me more resilient.
I was finding joy in the tiniest of places: lying on my van roof at night and staring at the stars; waking up each morning to the view of the Canadian Rockies outside my window; reading a book underneath my fairy lights; making a pancake breakfast on my propane stove for friends down by the river.
In short, this was happiness. In my entire life I had never felt this strong, self-reliant, stress-free and light.
This is why when it came to moving back into a house, I panicked.
From Vanlife to Houselife
Initially I planned to live in the van for three months; that would basically pay off the cost of the van and give me time to find somewhere to live in the competitive housing market in Banff.
After three months, I decided I would go on for another month. That month ended and well…seven months later when the sunshine hours dwindled and the snow arrived, I moved into a house.
This wasn’t just a house though. It had three levels, two kitchens, three bathrooms and five bedrooms. I was sharing this monster of a house with 10 others. I had a roommate.
It was the complete opposite to vanlife, as far as opposites go. But there were some good aspects, I had to acknowledge that.
There was a couch! Oh how I missed being able to sit upright with a book, my head not grazing the ceiling. I had a microwave! My soup would be warm in minutes! I wouldn’t have to get out that clunky propane stove anymore. I could charge my devices without worrying about running my car battery flat!
But…would I start to take things for granted again? Would I become lazy in my routines? Would I forget the lessons vanlife taught me?
I can honestly report, two months in, that I do miss many aspects of vanlife. Some days I have to remind myself how lucky I am. Some days it all feels to easy, and I find myself wishing my daily routine were a bit more challenging and therefore rewarding.
However, I haven’t forgotten what vanlife taught me over the summer. My spending habits have improved, and even though I now have room to store stuff, I went so long without extra items I’m now used to living with less. I’m still humble. I’m more grateful.
Houselife vs Vanlife
So which is better?
Living in a house is easier, but living in a van and making it work is more rewarding.
I think most vanlifers will agree the lifestyle is bittersweet, but once you’ve adjusted you tap in to a certain kind of peace.
This summer I plan on moving to the UK, so I listed Betty for sale. It was sad saying goodbye. I will miss our road trips together, singing along to the country radio station, and laughing when she slipped into reverse and started rolling down the street without me.
What I’ve learned is that I want to strike a balance between these two lifestyles. I want to have the comfort of a home, but I want a van I can take off in whenever I feel the need to.
So vanlife isn’t over for me yet. I plan on buying a van when I get to the UK and renovating it how I’d like it. For now, it’s nice living in a house.
I’ll see you in summer, future van.
Have you gone from vanlife to houselife? What was your experience like? Which do you prefer?