It’s the meaning and memories that we should store and take with us throughout our existence, not the physical stuff. In my experience, I’ve found that less really can be more.

Sometimes living on the road makes me and Pete feel like scientists. We’re always learning new things about ourselves and coming to new realizations about our multifaceted lives. Vanlife has granted us a life of abundance, but it’s also grounded us from learning that there are things we can live without.

So I would like to share with you our newest scientific discovery: things we thought we needed that are (surprisingly) easy to live without. (There’s no ranking in this list)

1. An Address

“But how in the world do you order things off of Amazon?!” you might ask as if life did not exist before Prime. And the answer is simple and much less frantic: we don’t! To an extent, we do have an address. When it comes to insurance, taxes, and other bills, our address is technically that of Pete’s parents’ in Wisconsin. But we easily get by without a shipping address. If we really need to receive a shipment on the road, we utilize the friends and family we have scattered around the country. Even though it’s considerably easier and less expensive to order anything and everything online, we get to be crafty and resourceful in order to find the things we need locally.

Van parked in Denver.

2. Showers

Helio camping shower helps us stay clean

Let me clarify real quick. You can live without DAILY showers. Thus far, the longest I have gone without a shower on the road was three weeks. Now I was able to wash my hair a handful of times during this stretch of time, but as for full-body cleansing, we had to drive to a local hot spring with locker rooms to experience the luxury of a hot shower. To be completely honest, it wasn’t as bad as you might think. We weren’t gross and stinky; there are other simple ways to stay clean. And despite popular belief, it’s good to have some dirt on you!

3. Netflix

Yes, it shocked me too. Since ending my love affair with Netflix, I continue to remember these miraculous creations that I used to fill my time with. For example, I rediscovered these small boxes with hundreds of pages full of words in them. They’re amazing, and I learn so much when I read them! There’s also this long piece of wood with strings stretching from end to end, and when I touch them, they make the most beautiful sounds. It’s incredible! And don't even get me started on the things Pete and I have found outside... So to summarize, my free time has been pretty exhilarating without Netflix.

Hiking and exploring Denver and waterfalls
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4. Running Water

Our water system consists of two 5 gallon water jugs and a hand pump, and we quickly adapted to our new water-conscious lifestyle. We have a small 2.6 gallon chemical toilet, in which only #1 is allowed. Even with the caveat regarding numero dos, not having running water hasn’t really affected our lives at all!

Our simple water system and Dometic toilet are all we need to live comfortably in the van

5. Mirrors

A life with less mirrors is a life that I desire. I know I’ll sound like a broken record when I say that the world today is too focused on appearances and surface-level impressions, but it’s so true. We have one small mirror in the van that’s mostly utilized for putting in/taking out contacts and the occasional eyebrow plucking. Besides that, we typically only see ourselves in gas station bathroom mirrors (remember that #2 caveat?). We prefer looking at others and our surroundings over looking at our own faces.

6. Starbucks

As much as I love and respect Derek Zoolander, an Orange Mocha Frappuccino is not a daily essential. But I’m no superhuman. I’m not immune to Starbucks’ Pavlovian conditioning. I, too, salivate when I see that green circular logo and dream about a Grande Nonfat Chai Latte, but with our chosen lifestyle, a daily trip to a coffee shop just isn’t affordable. Luckily, I have concocted the perfect mixture of milk, water, and chai mix to create an almost identical taste!

7. A Microwave

Believe it or not, you can heat up any food or liquid in the world on a stove. It may not be as quick, but it will definitely taste better.

8. Personal Space

Pictures can speak volumes louder than words. So I’ll let these pictures of Pete and Snoop explain how sometimes life is better without personal bubbles.

Snoop loves the vanlife because he has an excuse to always be close to us.

9. A Schedule

We all have our simple daily routines, but we’ve learned that everyday holds unanticipated opportunities and letting the day unfold is so much more exciting than following a set schedule. We’ve chosen to forgo plans when spontaneously invited to go for hike or grab a drink, which has only resulted in closer friendships and greater memories.

Entertaining guests in the van with games and brews

10. Hairstyling Tools

Short and straight VS. long and natural.

Short and straight VS. long and natural.

In preparation for vanlife, I ordered a 12V mini blow dryer and a USB-charged mini straightener from Amazon (of course). I promptly learned that the blow dryer only blows cold air and the straightener basically only works on small, out-of-place hairs; it certainly could not handle the task of a full head of hair. My hair has grown long and wild, and it cherishes every day it doesn’t get scorched by a 450 degree piece of metal.

11. GPS

I don’t want to make us sound like hypocrites because we do utilize our GPS; however, we are weaning ourselves off of the technology slowly, but surely. We strive to reclaim our basic navigation skills, so we always use our handy Rand McNally road map whenever driving on highways; cities are a different story.

12. Those Shirts You Haven’t Worn in a Year

“We, the jury, find the defendant, Taylor, guilty of first degree clothes hoarding.” I used to find every excuse to hold onto every piece of clothing, but since living in the van, I’ve found that getting dressed isn’t a stressful experience anymore. I have about 15 shirts, 5 of which I actually wear consistently. In taking away hundreds of options, you’re left with simplicity and ease. I’m not saying your wardrobe should only consist of five shirts, but I’ve learned that minimalism can lead to a simpler, more enjoyable life.

This is all the space we have for clothes. 

This is all the space we have for clothes. 

It may not look like much, but it's more than enough for us.

It may not look like much, but it's more than enough for us.

13. All That Crap You’ve Been Hoarding Since Elementary School

Do you really think you’ll ever need those stuffed animals you loved so much when you were little? Or those books you’ve read but think maybe someday you’ll want to read again? When it comes down to it, it’s all just stuff. Stuff that takes up space, stuff that (realistically) you’ll never use or look at again, and stuff that requires more stuff to store it. We all have things that have special meaning or remind us of a particular, significant experience. It’s the meaning and memories that we should store and take with us throughout our existence, not the physical stuff. In my experience, I’ve found that less really can be more.

Alright, now it's your turn. What's one thing you feel you could live without? Leave a comment and let us know!

Curious as to how the heck we transformed an old airport shuttle van into our cozy traveling home? Check out our Conversion eBook! Even if you're not looking to convert a vehicle, this book offers an entertaining and insightful look at the behind-the-scenes conversion process.

Our 100+ page Conversion eBook consists of our entire conversion process, from purchasing a used van to custom building out the entire interior. The book is broken up into chapters, each of which highlight different parts of our conversion. This eBook outlines how we went about designing and building each part of our interior build, using hundreds of pictures to help you better visualize each step. We also share links to the exact products we used in the conversion process!