Keep Your Mind in Gear: A Van Lifer's Guide to Mental Wellness
August 21, 20235 min read
Life on the road can be as thrilling as a ride on the highway with the wind in your hair, views for miles, and your favorite tunes filling the air. On the other hand, it can sometimes be a tough uphill journey, like getting stuck on a one-way street behind a tractor... at rush hour... when you're late for a meeting. Jokes aside, the rollercoaster of van life can sometimes take a toll on our mental health. That's why it's crucial to invest as much in your mental engine as you do in your van's.
1. Establishing Routine: The "Groundhog Day" Effect
Ah, the "Groundhog Day" Effect. Picture Bill Murray in that iconic film, looping through the same day ad infinitum. Sure, it starts as a chaotic repetition of mundane events, but Murray soon realizes it’s an unmatched opportunity for growth and mastery. And no, we're not saying you have to be like Bill, kidnapping a groundhog and learning to ice sculpt. Instead, let's view van life through a similar lens.
Establishing a routine in your ever-changing van life might initially sound as thrilling as a hamster running on a wheel. But trust us, it’s the magic sauce that adds stability and normality to your mobile lifestyle. Think of it like building your unique rhythm - a custom-made daily beat that keeps you in sync with yourself even when your surroundings are in shuffle mode.
Start your day with a calming yoga session, as the rising sun peeps through your van window. Reserve the morning hours for your most demanding tasks when your energy levels are high, following the natural energy ebb and flow of your body. Make a ritual out of meal prep, turning it into a creative and meditative practice. Unwind in the evening with some reading or journaling, processing your day and setting your intentions for the next.
Just remember: flexibility is key. This isn’t the corporate 9-5 grind, and you don’t need to plan out every minute. But a basic structure will help you find balance amidst the freedom. And with apps like Google Calendar or Todoist, you can easily plan and adjust your routine as you go.
So, go ahead, create your own version of Groundhog Day. But instead of Phil’s Sonny & Cher wake-up call, maybe opt for some acoustic tunes or nature sounds to start your day. Who knows, with enough repetition, you might end up mastering the harmonica or perfecting the art of sourdough baking while on the road. Now, isn't that a worthwhile twist to van life?
2. Connection: Befriending Road Signs and More
Living the van life, there will be days where the most vocal companion you've got is your GPS, ardently spouting phrases like "At the roundabout, take the second exit." Let's face it, while "Siri" and "Google" have indeed come a long way, they still lack that little spark that makes human interactions so invaluable. And no matter how desperately you try, befriending a road sign just isn't the same, even if Mr. Stop Sign looks like he's raising his hand for a high five.
Isolation can sneak up on you when you're traversing remote landscapes or rolling through endless highways. You're away from traditional social cues and common spaces where people usually mingle. But remember, just because your lifestyle is mobile doesn't mean you need to turn into a solitary tumbleweed.
Reach out to your loved ones regularly – a call to your best friend or a video chat with your family can do wonders for your mental health. Keep in touch through platforms like WhatsApp or Facetime. Remember those fancy devices in your pocket aren't just for Instagram-worthy shots but also serve as a lifeline to your social world.
Don’t forget the vibrant van life community! You can use apps like Meetup, Outdoorsy, or even check out the hashtag #vanlife on Instagram to connect with fellow van lifers. There's also the ever-hilarious, often eye-opening prospect of striking up conversations at gas stations, grocery stores, or local events. You'll be surprised at the golden nuggets of travel advice and rich tapestry of stories you'll gather.
So, while you might find yourself in conversation with a road sign (admit it, we've all done it), don't forget to keep the lines open to other humans. Remember, it's the stories we share and the connections we make that enrich our journey on the open road.
3. Physical Activity: The "Van Workout" Phenomenon
Picture the scene: you wake up to a sublime sunrise, birds are chirping, the air is fresh, and as you slide open your van door to reveal a stunning landscape, what do you do? You knock out a set of burpees, of course! Sounds ridiculous, right? Well, as laughable as it might seem, maintaining physical activity is not just essential for your physical health but it's also a game-changer for your mental wellness. We promise we're not just trying to turn your morning coffee routine into the next viral TikTok trend.
When you're living the van life, it's easy to fall into the trap of spending long hours driving and sitting. But the beauty of van living is that your gym can be anywhere and everywhere - the world is your oyster, or should we say, your yoga mat?
You can sprint on the beach, lift some logs in the forest (nature's free weights, right?), or, indeed, try to master a Downward Dog pose while waiting for your pasta to boil on your camp stove. Now that's multi-tasking!
Incorporate workouts into your daily routine, be it a brisk walk, a swim in a nearby lake, or a quick HIIT session by your van. Not only will this boost your mood and energy, but it also helps reduce stress and anxiety. Apps like 7 Minute Workout or My Fitness Pal are excellent tools to help you keep track and stay motivated.
Sure, attempting squats while stirring your morning brew in your compact van kitchen might turn into a comedy sketch. Still, it might also become van life's answer to Peloton's home workouts — who needs a $2000 bike when you've got a kettle and a sense of adventure? So go ahead, make 'Van Workouts' the next big thing. You're just a jumping jack away from starting a fitness revolution!
Remember, maintaining your mental health on the road isn't a one-size-fits-all map. You need to find what works for you. Perhaps it's meditation in the morning, Zoom chats with friends in the afternoon, or salsa dancing in the moonlight (just be careful not to hit your head on the van roof!). Most importantly, embrace your journey—ups, downs, and inevitable U-turns included.
The phenomenal Brené Brown once said, "Imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders that we're all in this together." So, buckle up, hit the road, and remember you're not alone on this journey.
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