Vanlife is freedom
When you live in a van, you are free to go anywhere. The choices are limitless. Though spontaneity is one of the biggest draws to the vagabond lifestyle, this unlimited ability to “choose your own adventure” comes at a price.
Welcome to the world of decision fatigue
Decision fatigue is the psychological concept that the quality of our decisions deteriorates over time throughout the day. We only have the mental capacity to make a finite number of decisions each day before our judgment lapses. Afer this, we experience “analysis paralysis,” and our self-control goes out the window. It’s estimated that we make over 35,000 decisions each day, every decision. Deciding whether to put salt on your food or which way to walk down the street deteriorates your energy.
Vanlife is unique because there are so many extra decisions to make on a daily basis: Where should I go? Where should I get gas? What should I do today? Where should I park for the night? A regular vanlife day can leave you feeling exhausted, even if you haven’t exerted much physical energy.
How to Cope with Van Life & Its Decisions
Thankfully, there are ways to combat decision fatigue so you can stay sane and energetic on the road! People like Barack Obama, Mark Zuckerberg, Tim Ferriss, and biohacker Dave Asprey recognize the negative impacts of decision fatigue. When you are looking at how to cope with van life and its trials, you can learn something from their behaviors.
Here are five ways to help combat decision fatigue while living on the road and cope with van life.
Put less important decisions on autopilot to stop mental strain
Since every decision causes fatigue, it’s best to put the less important decisions on autopilot. Two great examples of this are wardrobe choices and meal plans. Mark Zuckerburg and Barack Obama wear the same basic outfit each day so they can focus their energy on more important decisions. Eating the same thing or having a list of a few go-to meals can also help. Did you know we make over 200 food decisions per day? Personally, I eat the same thing for breakfast and have a shortlist of simple meals I circulate for lunch and dinner. It sounds so simple but it makes a huge difference determining how to cope with van life.
Make your most important decisions in the morning
Decision-making energy peaks in the morning, so spend your morning making the most important decisions of the day. This might be your driving route, your outdoor hobbies, or where you want to camp for the night. Whatever it is for you, try to knock this out early in the morning.
Create patterns and systems for daily chores and activities
If you’re traveling with a partner, you may notice that you naturally do this. One person is the more frequent driver, while the other is the navigator. One person cooks and the other cleans. Get into this routine on your own as well, when you cook, make a consistent decision whether or not to clean up your dishes right away. When your gas tank drops down to a certain level, make the decision to always refill at a specific point. Consistency in this inconsistent lifestyle can help you put your mental energy towards focusing on the fun stuff, rather than things like whether or not to make the bed. Having an organization system in place will help avoid an explosion of “stuff” in your 60 square feet.
Limit your distracting stimulation to manage life on the road
This is a difficult one! My biggest trail is spending a lot of time on social media. The issue here is that every time you look at a post, you make a decision: To like or not to like? To comment or not to comment? This takes so much mental energy! My best advice for this is to set a timer when you go on social media. I use an app called Focus Keeper for both my work tasks and social media posting. This way you won’t wake up in a daze hours later with your face glued to your screen.
Another great way to be more mindful is, of course, meditation. I highly recommend checking out HeadSpace for an affordable meditation app with a super soothing British narrator!
Go with your gut to make choices
Don’t spend too much time making any one decision. If you’re agonizing over which town to visit or which hike to go on, go with your first instinct and keep moving forward. Studies have shown that we don’t become better decision-makers when we overanalyze. We just become more tired and less sure of ourselves. Just got with your gut and make a move!
Mental Health and Long-Term Travel
While combating decision fatigue is key, it’s not everything. Long term travel and solo female travel, in general, can be tough. Trust be told, life can be tough!
I’ve gotten into remote therapy and it’s sincerely changed my life. I don’t want to be anyone’s toxic friend or negative Nancy. I love to work with a therapist because I can put it all out there without having to censor anything. And I’m not ashamed to say that I text my therapist daily! She gives me a fair-minded, highly educated take on my issues.
Thinking about getting a therapist? Talk to mine!.
How Do You Cope with Van Life?
How do you cope with van life? Share your tricks in the comments and let’s help each other stay sane!
One of the wisest, most concise grouping of words that I’ve seen in a long time. Thanks
Thank you so much!
Dude, in 8th months on the road, I was already starting to feel that. Didn’t know how to put it. This article was perfect. Great tips! Thanks!
So glad it was helpful!! This has been the biggest mental strain on me for sure but planning ahead and simplifying life helps a lot!