'Wherever you go, there you are'
You know that romantic notion that if you leave everything behind and make a drastic life change, somehow that’s when everything will fall into place for you? Yeah, that's not how things work. And before moving into the van, I reminded myself of this over and over again.
On a logical level, I knew that change is uncomfortable and growth takes time. So when I found myself spending the first several weeks on the road feeling so miserable that I couldn't even keep myself from crying in the middle of a grocery store... or coffee shop... or Zoom work call with my boss... it was clear that none of that had stuck on an emotional level.
Below are journal entries I wrote following moving into my van on October 31, 2020. I was reluctant to share these at first. It's already scary enough sharing unfiltered snippets from my journal, let alone some that show me so vulnerable. But, ultimately, those months of vulnerability while adjusting to life on the road are what makes where I am now, a year and a half later, so rewarding.
Feeling alone and scared of the fact that the only person I can rely on is myself. There isn't anyone I can dull the loneliness or inadequacy with by being around. I don't have any of my usual comforts and I'm doing all of these new things—no matter how small they are, it's still unknown and new. I keep getting mad at myself because this lifestyle is something that is so many people's dreams and I'm just over here scared of everything.
I know that how scared I am right now means this is something I NEED to do, but there are moments of it being so difficult. Like right now. I haven't cried this much in so long! I hope I can maintain this, I hope I like it. I'm trying to be patient because I think things will get better and I hope that a while from now I'm looking back at this and thinking that things feel so different now.
I want to go home. I feel so alone and aimless and empty. I can't believe there was a time when I thought I'd want to be living in a van for at least a year. Or even multiple months. HA.
Woke up with anxiety as soon as I realized I was awake. Another day of uncertainty. I want to go home. Friends tell me to just accept the sadness and know it's going to be there. Lean into it. I'm trying.
While I'm in a good mood and feeling optimistic I want to write down things I'm learning to like about this life;
Feeling my feelings very hard for the first time in a long time (that's also a big, big con most of the time. But I know this is good for me)
Feeling strong when I do challenging things completely on my own
Waking up in beautiful places
Looking at my dog watch out the window while we're driving
Seeing little towns
Seeing national parks
Freedom, even though a lot of times that feels overwhelming
Having the van door open at night and looking at the stars
Getting to scratch states off my scratch-off map
Pushing myself to do something hard
Feeling good about this choice on the rare occasions (like now) when I do
I need to remember that, as strong as the bad feelings are, the good ones are there too. They come after I've successfully made it through another day and feel like a winner for it. As much as the anxiety—physical and mental—wants to control me, I need to remember that there's good coming too. Let it happen, but don't let it take over.
Adjusting to this life has been f***ing tough. I've spent my entire adult life avoiding being alone and I've never, ever been totally self-reliant like this. Some days it's liberating as hell, and others it's just daunting.
I wake up with anxiety every. single. morning. knowing there's an entire day I have to spend with myself, but by nighttime, I'm really proud of having made it through. I'm realizing the lengths I've gone to in life to avoid discomfort, and I see now that this is what I need if I want to grow. And I really want to grow.
This morning, I woke up without that familiar pit of anxiety and uncertainty and I realized it's been days since I've felt that way. Maybe a week? Maybe even two. Randomly, unceremoniously, that constant discomfort I'd been feeling for so long was just...gone.
Perfect day- nice walk with coffee and my pup, yoga on the beach, beautiful drive, ending with a stunning campsite I have all to myself in the woods. I haven't written in weeks and I guess that's because I've been pretty happy.
Feeling those familiar feelings of anxiety and discomfort lately. I'll make it through this again. And again and again and again because there's a lot of pain in life but this is where the growth and change come from.
Tonight as I was driving, I felt so many things all at once that I had to pull over on the side of the road and just... weep. I felt so grateful to be driving alongside Lake Tahoe on just any old day, on my way to literally wherever I wanted to go after spending the past two weeks connecting with so many incredible people. It felt like I was looking at someone else's life.
Wow. I am appreciating life right now. Lounging in bed while it's raining outside and I have my slider door open. Friends parked right next to me at our campsite. I think there's even a pit toilet nearby which is LUXURIOUS.
I feel consistently more and more like me. Aaaaand I actually like who I'm learning that person is.
I’m in my van, parked right on the beach, in Mexico. With five other friends who also live in their vans. I'm just sitting here appreciating all of the things that had to fall into place to get me here. I can't believe there was a time when I wanted to give up on living on the road. Endlessly grateful I didn't.
Here's what I've learned. Living on the road has not been easy. Making myself feel bad at the start for not loving it didn't make it any easier.
It took a lot of time to find my footing but once I accepted that I couldn't run away from the discomfort, things started falling into place. I've never felt more alive than I have in this past year and a half, and that includes the times when I was low. Especially those. I'm incredibly thankful for what both my time alone and time with friends in this nomad community have taught me.
And most importantly, I've learned that you can cry literally anywhere you want to. There are no actual laws against this.