SUV life or van life, the new way of living for many people. The idea of being nomadic, enjoying the sunrises, all the picturesque Pinterest worthy views that flood our social media. Sounds enticing right? For me, one IG image of a van build out paired with a sunset had me SOLD. For two weeks my free time has been spent on Pinterest build outs, YouTube conversion videos, and A LOT of IG stalking for tips/tricks.
After much research and Amazon ordering, I had my eyes set on Asheville, NC. As someone who doesn't camp it was a good start point. I went on AirBnB and found Franny's Farm as it had showers + a kitchen. (As a first timer I was NOT ready to fully go off the grid). PS- despite the comedy of what Pinterest doesn't show in SUV life, Franny's is AMAZING and worth the trip.
Let me first point out the glamour seen on these build outs are possible, but let me show you the reality of my setup with it being my first time. I had a 3" memory foam mattress topper which is legitimately comfy. My weighted blanket, hanging string lights that I tried using binder clips to hold up, a portable fan #Summer, the Jackery charger, a cooler for food, clothes, oh and of course a pillow. As you can see there is nothing aesthetically pleasing here lol. & I tried for 30 minutes to create a gram worthy shot...it didn't happen.
So what is it really like as a first timer? Let me also point out a pretty obvious point, but something I tried to overlook...if you get your windows tinted HOLD OFF on a trip. Despite knowing I wouldn't be able to roll down my windows I figured I'd try it since I had the fan, and evenings cool down. Now that we cleared that fun fact of the day here's the truth as a first timer.
It is REALLY crammed. Organization really needs to be the priority over the cuteness of the layout. It's cool to do it for the gram, but if you're a sardine it won't matter how cute it is.
You will forget something that could have made another situation easier. EX: extra bag for wet towels or sweaty clothes after a shower/day of hiking.
Having a roof rack, cargo box, or other space to put shoes to not get dirt all inside would be beneficial.
A flashlight is your friend, as when the sun is gone you're truly in the dark.
Bugs, yeah those are a thing. & yes one or two little friends very well will get in your car.
Bed wise you need to decide do you want storage under or the ability to sit up fully? Having both probably isn't happening.
Leaving your hatchback open even with the light off can alter your battery.
Going to the bathroom will be a game of getting out of your car without hitting a million things, finding shoes, and a race against the clock to not pee your pants.
PS if you're showering having your hair dry before is smart so you don't get mold or anything on your stuff. OH and you want a pillow topper that has ventilation for that reason.
Now despite all that, here's what Pinterest also doesn't tell you. It is totally an experience you will never forget. It will test your comfort, trust, strength, and even if for a night be worth it. TBH I was about to turn around due to being uncomfortable. The whole reason I wanted to go was going to be the reason I hopped back in my car to say EFF THIS.
From the views, people I met, solitude, and sheer peace the learning curve had more pros. I had every reason not to go on this trip, let's be honest the window tinting is what should have been the hard no. & while you can prepare to be ready, you won't be ready. In fact, I will say doing less planning or research could be helpful so you're not overloaded with how to make it work.
This whole journey on wanting to live out of my SUV to later get a van is a chapter of me creating more enjoyment from minimalism. Of seeing how much more I gain with less. It might have been hot, but the coziness didn't feel like I wasn't home. In fact, having just my little bed set up, books, and the sun roof pulled back to see the stars was breathtaking. I gained conversations/connections with people I didn't know I needed to meet, made little fur friends, found out what a tick looks like first hand lol, and know with going back to the drawing board this is just the beginning on exploration.
Lastly, Pinterest won't tell you how even in chaos beauty can be created. Where I go next I am not sure. I just know it'll be a few days so I can have more air floor.
A wandering soul.