Why I Left the #VanLife

Many of us dream of the freedom, simplicity, and adventure of living out of a van, and these days more and more of us are getting out there and doing it. I spent nine months this year living out of my 24-square-foot Honda Element, working and playing on the road. 

In January, I woke up in the coolness of the Sonoran desert listening to coyotes howl as twilight broke. In February, I got a major ego check as I struggled up boulders in Joshua Tree. In March, I traveled to Tucson for a workshop with some of my favorite yoga teachers, and in July I got happily lost in the late summer snowfields in Olympic National Park. I didn't have much in the way of savings when I headed out on the road but what I did possess was a lot of enthusiasm and a little determination to make things work, and a plan for pulling in some income.

Overlooking Enchanted Valley in Olympic National Park

I chose a path as a freelance graphic designer partly because I knew it'd give me the freedom to be my own boss and to work from almost anywhere. I can wake up early in the morning and practice yoga in a quiet place outdoors, then head into town to find a cozy coffeeshop with a good Wifi connection and hammer out a few hours of work. I can head out in the afternoon for a hike into the mountains, cook myself a nice meal and stay up late taking star photos. Or I can have a couple marathon sessions of work to give myself a few extra days backpacking in Yellowstone or touring southern Utah.

As most people living on the road will tell you, however, it's not all glamour and ease. I can barely begin to count the number of times I conferenced clients from a McDonald's parking lot, how many "bird baths" I gave myself in public restrooms, how many nights I spent sleeping in neighborhood streets hoping that no one would call the cops. Plus, there's the small detail that I actually hate driving.

Admiring the La Sal mountains in Canyonlands National Park

But these challenges aren't why I abandoned a nomadic lifestyle. When I started this in January my plan was to do it for as long as I could make it work. Years, if possible. But it didn't last. Nine months later I'm happily settled, living in a house with my partner, working full-time at Coalatree, sleeping indoors most nights. So what changed? Why would I give up a life of adventure for a life of stability?

For me, there is just something about spending time in one place. Something about having a space to practice yoga every morning, rain or shine. Something about the depth of my adventures, how intimately I can get to know the mountains in my new home of northern Utah. Instead of bagging every peak, I can pick a few and climb them again and again to see how they change with every season. And to me there is something very grounding in that.

Life is fluid, and my dreams and goals change as I grow and adapt to changing circumstances. I still get the itch to drop everything and get outside, but now it just looks a little different. I can still get out and climb or hike all day, but now I get to come home and hug my boyfriend at the end of it.

Do I miss living on the road, waking up to the birds chirping in the forest? You bet. I'm sure the need for a major adventure will strike again, but until then, I'm content exploring everything I've got right here.

Danielle is the newest addition to the Coalatree team! Even though she now sleeps in a warm bed she's still out having plenty of adventures. Check them out @danigoesoutside.

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