How do you balance travel, work, school, and still allow yourself time to explore, adventure and sleep? It is a great question, because I constantly find myself curled up in the back of the van having a semi-breakdown wondering how am I going to do it all. Since moving into my van full-time six months ago and driving over 25,000 miles around the country, I have realized that the main piece to the puzzle is passion.
First and foremost, my passion for adventure and exploration. I thrive on new experiences: visiting new places, exploring a new trail, finding the best local brewery in every town I visit, and driving down that random dirt road looking for home. I also have a passion for connection, and I am grateful to work a job that is all about connecting with communities and like-minded people. Living my life with passion allows me to enter my day with a powerful energy that fuels me way beyond those countless amounts of coffee (although coffee is a big player in my life, don't worry).
With the baseline of passion I find a way to balance the rest. This usually includes a lot of planning and managing my time effectively. In the evening I ask myself certain questions to plan for the next day. How far away am I from the nearest coffee shop? Where do I need to be next? Where am I going to sleep next? When do I need to start work so I can get out on a hike/run/paddle before the sun goes down? Where do I want to go explore? It is rare that I don’t have a whole day planned to the minute when I am on the move and balancing work, school, and travel.
Another big piece to the puzzle includes answering the question, "how am I going to work?" I try to steer clear of city time, which makes it a bit more challenging to find effective Wi-Fi and places to post up and work. I sometimes find myself a great little coffee shop, but other times I find myself in a small town on a side street with the van doors open and tethering off my hotspot.
When posting up someplace to work, I always need to think about my sweet dog Rhodie. The van has ventilation and is cozy for him, but I know he doesn't want to stay in there all day! So, I try to find outside work spaces such as a park, a brewery patio, or a dirt road that has cell phone service. The common problem here is charging my devices, but luckily we live in a world where there's technology to solve almost anything. With my Goal Zero Yeti 400 battery by my side, charging my computer and phone while Rhodie's out on a search for squirrels, we find a peaceful place to work through that seemingly endless to-do list.
With all of this said, let’s just say that it is common that those minute-by-minute scheduled days don’t always come together as planned. I constantly find myself working later than expected or not being able to find reliable service and driving further than expected to find a work space or signal. Work and school come first for me and that usually puts the adventures on the backburner on those days that plans don't fall into place. It is challenging, and I often have the thought that I could leave this life in the dust and live an easier life back in the city...but that wouldn’t be a life that I am passionate about, and that passion (plus the morning views out of my van window) makes the challenges so worth it!
So, my answer to how do I balance it all? I approach each day with passion and make sure the things that are on my to-do list bring me joy. To balance it, I plan accordingly and make sure I have the resources I need to be successful. Sometimes that means finding a coffee shop, sometimes it's relying on my Goal Zero power setup or finding a brewery patio, and sometimes that resource is a trail into the backcountry to go explore with Rhodie.
As long as my passion stays strong, the balancing act that is Van Life will always be worth it to me.