There are certain daily routines that contribute to a healthy body. To adapt these aspects to a mobile lifestyle requires a certain degree of unconventional creativity.
Keeping up appearances
There’s a certain stigma and prejudice most people have about those who live a mobile lifestyle (aka “the dirty hippie”). The best way to combat this is to maintain the level of hygiene that most normal citizens practice. Besides showering and brushing your teeth, this means getting consistent haircuts, shaving regularly, and wearing clean clothes. You’ll have a much easier time living around people if they’re not suspicious of your atypical appearance. It’s common sense.
General van tidiness
The easiest way to keep yourself healthy and sane living in a van is to keep the inside of your vehicle clean and uncluttered. Keeping your living confined to such a small space means that all the mess, all the germs, all the dirt that typically accumulates within an entire apartment or house is now in the 6’ x 10’ box you call home. To combat this I make it a top priority to keep my home clean and tidy.
Everyday, usually after cooking, I’ll habitually wipe down my countertop and lightly sweep my floor with a hand broom. Once a week, I’ll have a “chore day”. This is the day I wash my clothes and sheets at the laundromat, buy my groceries and clean most of the surfaces with disinfecting spray—including the inside of my fridge. And finally, once every month or two I’ll empty everything from my van and deeply clean all the cracks and corners of my storage area and kitchen cabinets. This is also the time that I decide if there’s anything I can do without and get rid of.
You’d be surprised how much random dirt and junk can collect on a small floor area. A daily one minute brush job can make a big difference.
One of the most common questions about living in a van is “Where do you shower?” My answer is not as exciting as it could be. 90% of the time I shower at the gym. If you’re in an area for an extended amount of time, you could get a gym membership at one of the many chain gyms around the US. In smaller communities with less people, there are usually only one or two locally owned and operated gyms. Taking a shower here means biting the bullet and paying for a day pass that are typically $5-$10/day.
Getting further from established cities and closer to popular nature destinations, you may find yourself washing off at a campground shower facility. I’ve also heard good things about the various solar showers on the market. However, when you’re far from any remnant of human society, do what our ancestors did and find a river or a lake and wash off there. The last resort (and least environmentally conscious) option for those living in a van is the use of baby wipes. Lots and lots of baby wipes. I haven’t had to stoop to that level quite yet.
Finally, if you go through a town where you have a friend (or a friend of a friend) be shameless in asking them to take a shower at their place. Could be the difference between you smelling like a normal upstanding citizen and one of those orcs from Middle Earth.
These are the showers you'll have to get used to using. Not exactly spa quality, but it does the job.
Don't forget your flip flops.
Number one and number two
I’m surprised by the amount of times this gets asked. The answer is obvious. For both peeing and pooping, you’ll be taking advantage of the endless supply of public bathrooms. Make it a habit to go #2 at one of these public restrooms before retiring to the van for the night. Otherwise, you may be making an emergency trip to some 24 hour joint in the middle of the night to use their restroom.
However, we have all woken up in the middle of the night having to go pee. You wouldn’t want to drive all the way to a place just to use their bathroom to go pee. So what do you do then? Answer: The pee bottle. It’s the dirty little secret of any van dweller. For me, I use an opaque laundry detergent bottle. It’s discreet, has a wide mouth for minimum mess, a handle for holding, and liquid-tight lid. Every once in a while I’ll pour some bleach into it and swish it around to get rid of the unwanted odors and germs. Keep it clean people.
You know what this is… Hint: it’s not actually laundry detergent.
Brushing your teeth
Since I almost always have my backpack or jacket with me when I’m away from the van, I’ll usually have a toothbrush and toothpaste on me wherever I go. Again, I’ll take advantage of public restrooms in the morning and evening to brush my teeth. Try to find a single person restroom that has a locking door, so you can brush your teeth in peace without any strange looks from other bathroom patrons.
If you don’t have access to a public restroom, just use a cup of water to wash you mouth out and toothbrush off.
Early morning teeth brushing with the obligatory crazy bed head.
Living in a van can get claustrophobic and lonely at times which can lead to depression and other mental health problems. Make an active effort to spend as little time during the day inside the van. Instead, go outside, work on something meaningful, explore new places, talk to new people and meet up with friends. This will ensure your mind stays happy and healthy.
one of the number of hikes I find myself on. Helps clear the mind and stay focused.
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