11 Ways VanLife Changed Me Forever

There’s a reason the Beat Generation (and all the generations) took to the road to seek answers about themselves and world that didn’t make sense. The open road lends itself to freedom and perspective, as lifestyle experiments do to change and personal growth. Marry the two together with a van and a curving coastline, and it’s enough to change you forever.

On a mission to chase the sun, it was time for onward motion once the seasons began to turn in Melbourne. This left three options: buy a four-month unlimited Greyhound ticket, a plane ticket to our destination…or a van. It wasn’t the destination I desired as much as the journey to get there, and nothing said freedom and discovery like a prolonged road trip. I wanted the challenge of pushing boundaries, while maintaining the autonomy to dictate my day. The van was the only pliable option - so long as it had a pop-top, because high ceilings. I knew I could do it, without having any idea how much it was about to change me.

Moments down the Interstate heading North of Melbourne the van started swaying in motion. There we learned the first lesson of vanlife, driving down Highway 1 with the pop-top up.  I strong-armed the wheel up front while Carly did a quick climb and secure in the back. It wouldn’t be the first getaway-style securing of Roxanne, and far from the last lesson of the road.

What I didn’t know then is these lessons and discoveries were about to become a daily occurrence, I was about to be rocked to my core, and live a life that would change the way I view the world forever. 

1. i Learned the value of detachment

By removing myself from mainstream society, I had the ability to experiment with a different way of living that would never be considered acceptable had I stayed within the status quo.

As I shed layers, the things I held onto brought great value, everything else I did way with. I found a life low on tangibles created space to fill with more people and experiences. It’s a mental shift, detaching memories associated with objects, and holding on to just the memories instead. Getting rid of this physical baggage brought the mental clarity to focus more on my goals. Detaching from “things” and from society was the first step to making space to absorb these lessons.  It created room to be filled with things I really wanted more of: conversations, experiences and excitement.

2. i broke old systems

When you dismiss convention and live a life according to your own moral compass, you can point the arrow in the direction of your choosing. Breaking free of a pre-built existence created space to assess how I spent my time, and if it contributed towards my greater goals. By getting rid of old systems, I redefined my values and objectives, building new systems that supported them. These new systems contributed towards becoming more independent, efficient and capable every single day.

3. I gained perspective

By living outside of the norm, my perspective grew through new experiences and knowledge. I gained a deeper sense of how people live and my worldview shifted as the philosophies that defined them changed. I began questioning beliefs I once held true, in this I gained increased perspective on the world, making me connect deeper with people and my surroundings. 

4. i mastered the art of chameleonizing

How well and how quickly you adapt determines how much you succeed in any situation. This lifestyle revealed to me our immense human capacity to adapt quickly. I became skilled at chameleonizing myself, learning how to adapt to new environments at rapid speed, shedding old layers and gaining new ones that helped me fit in with my environment. It meant living like a local and working within my habitat, not outside it. 

5. I experienced personal freedom

Personal freedom is always the end goal, and truly experiencing it every day made me see why. Having the flexibility to control my days, work on things that brought value, and put myself in a place open to new opportunities contributed to large-scale growth and happiness. I feel in love with my renewed independence, I felt stronger, happier and healthier, living a life that allowed me to figure it all out, and have a really great time while doing it.


6. i learned the power of good habits

We are a direct result of our daily habits, so there’s great power in developing good ones. Like systems, I got rid of bad habits and formed new ones that pointed, arrow-like at my goals. I gained forward momentum, implementing new habits that contributed towards increased capability, health and productivity. Every action was habit with intention, through which routine grew. Suddenly rising with the sun and morning runs on the beach became a norm.   

7. I experienced rapid personal growth

By living outside of my comfort zone I experienced growth very quickly. This happened as I took note of everything, questioned old belief systems, re-defined my goals and values and challenged my own opinions. I became engaged with myself and with life on a deeper level. Every day brought new lessons and meaning, I was involved and excited. I couldn’t ignore the signs of my personal evolution as they began appearing everywhere.

8. I became Resourceful

Living “unplugged” makes you utilize the resources in your environment, which actually is a lot once you start looking. A “do with what you have” mentality made me find creative solutions to problems, realize bare necessities, and how little I actually need. Just like we have more freedom than we’re using, we have more resources than we’re using for survival on a basic level. The less tangibles I depended on for fulfillment the happier I felt. I learned how to survive in my environment, and thrived from thinking outside the box. 

9. i became overly optimistic

Successful people succeed because they don’t see an alternative. It’s a state of mind that leaves no room for failure, rooted in the strongest belief in the life you are living. I became overly optimistic, believing entirely in my personal potential and the goodness in humanity. When my instinct it spoke loud, but beyond that I lived in forward momentum, rolling through obstacles and always going onwards. I gave fear no attention, and danced with the newfound discoveries in life and myself.  

10. i started really participating

I quite literally “unplugged” to tune-in, and the long-term effects were tremendous.I pulled myself out of devices, out of my head and into the world I was living in. I started engaging and participating in a way I hadn’t since I was young. I regained these child-like eyes and a sense of awe and wonder. I became present. I opened up. Life became one mini-adventure after another, filled with meaning and conversations and excitement. I knew I was involved, really living a life worth living. My spark and zest for life came back; I was inspired, invigorated, I felt alive. 

11. i fell in love with the open road

The onward pull and potential of the open road transcended through me. By trading in comfort and convenience for a life filled with people and experiences, I lived the richest life – and value had nothing to do with money. I learned to believe in the journey, to never get stuck in a way of life my heart is not in. To crave change and a lifestyle that welcomes it. I found the options are endless, the path is yours to create…the road is eternal.