January 8, 2019
by Jenny Hohner
We spent the first week of the New Year at a rental condo in Heber City, Utah with our two sons and their girlfriends. We loved our time in the Wastash Mountains. Family members took advantage of the winter conditions and went snowboarding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, and snowmobiling. I also enjoyed the great indoors with unlimited hot showers, daily access to a washing machine and plenty of chefs in the kitchen.
When we first arrived, our son Josh helped us unload Wander, our home on wheels. While bringing in his umpteenth load he asked me, “Is this a van or a black hole?”
Josh couldn’t believe how much we had stuffed in the van, but neither can Joe and I. Our first week on the road, Joe was reluctant to open the back doors. Whenever he did, two or three bags would fall out. So during our third week on the road, while camping in Zion National Park, we emptied the entire van. It was a sunny November day that felt like summer. Deer wandered through the campground munching on bushes and tree branches while we looked at every single item we brought with us. We downsized — letting go of extra Yeti cups, two coffee thermoses, our back up sleeping bags, my yoga mat, Joe’s extra pair of slippers, most of our pots, duplicate cords, and any clothing we hadn’t used. At the next town we mailed two oversized boxes back to our Michigan residence. Joe could now open the rear without bags tumbling out. It was an accomplishment we called Van Life 2.0.
Yet it wasn’t enough. Van life has its own vernacular. Two words we wear out daily are “shuffle” and “switch.” Each night I make the bed by folding the bench seat flat. But we can’t crawl into our double sleeping bag until we do the “shuffle” — move all the stuff off the back half of the bed into the driver’s seat. Molly rides in the rear when we travel, but she shares her space with our camera bags, hiking backpacks, a computer bag and our puffy coats. The “shuffle” is a daily chore that is wearing us out mentally. And it creates a front seat stack that is as tippy as a Jenga game. It’s also a reminder that our living space is limited. Along with “switch” – our personal shorthand for changing places and the word we call out before moving around inside.
While at the condo, once again we looked at every item stashed in the van. My goal was to have empty space, breathing room, on my personal shelves, under the sink and in the pantry. Joe wanted to eliminate the shuffle. Two more oversized boxes of our belongings are on their way to Michigan. I sent home more clothing and my camera bag. I’m still not sure how we managed to fill the second box. I hope Van Life 3.0 will carry us through April, but that might just be wishful thinking.