Being self-sufficient in your own home: ideas from Van Life for a global pandemic

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For the last two years, my partner Kelli and I have been living life on the road, travelling in a converted van. As a global pandemic forces people into self-isolation across the globe, what we have learned about self-reliance has become relevant to a lot more people.


The van making tracks in Paracus, Peru.

Here are our top tips from the road that can help you remain isolated for longer, whether you are exploring remote destinations in your van or practicing social distancing from your own home.

Take Up a New Fitness Routine


Kelli conquers the mountain.

Don’t fall into despair because your gym or organised sports team has shut down. One thing we realised pretty early on in our travels is that the need for gym memberships, protein powders, and weekly spin classes is greatly overstated by a hundred-billion-dollar fitness industry.

There are many ways you can keep fit from your own home. Calisthenics, yoga, pilates, dancing, I have even seen people rock climbing around their apartments to stay fit. And of course there are hundreds of apps, websites and youtube channels to get you started. What’s more, right now, there are many fitness instructors and trainers that are currently out of work that would love to lead you through a routine online.

The van viewed from high up in the red hills.

Take up a New Hobby

Stave off boredom by taking up a new hobby. Better yet, take up one of these hobbies that will keep you self-sufficient for longer;

  • Brew Your Own Beer

As pubs and restaurants across the world are forced to shut, one sobering thought has surely crossed everyone’s mind, ‘what if bottle-os are next on the chopping block?’ Besides keeping the boredom at bay, this hobby can make sure your beer supply is not in jeopardy.

  • Hang an Herb Garden

Not everyone has the space for a full-size garden, but everyone can at least make sure they are self-sufficient when it comes to flavour. A hanging herb garden can fit in the tiniest van, or studio apartment. It will brighten up your living space and elevate your cooking game.

  • Start a Blog, Podcast, or Vlog

Besides giving your creativity and energy an outlet, and developing a new skill, this is also an opportunity to make some money on the side.

Kelli watching the sea in Ecuador.

Look After Your Mind

Beginning a journal

Keeping a journal is such an easy and important exercise to help keep your mental wellbeing in check, especially in stressful times like these.

Ideas for journals include;

  • Monitoring your emotional state at the start and end of each day
  • Recording challenges each day such as practicing gratitude, controlling negative emotions or scheduling some time for meditation
  • Planning your day, including work time, exercise time, self-improvement time, and time to kick back and do something fun. This will help you stay productive without the external motivation of the office environment

Read More

Set a challenge to increase your reading. This will help avoid falling into a routine of watching to much television or engaging with too much negative media.

Learn a Language

While isolating, you will surely find yourself with the necessary time (just twenty minutes a day) it takes to learn a language. There are plenty of resources available online. One good place to start is the Duolingo language learning app which makes learning a language fun and simple.

Maintain Your Relationships


Eddie making a fire for camp in Colombia.

 Cut off from contact with most people in your life but contact with your significant other increased to 100%? Yep, that sounds like our every day, and both scenarios present challenges.

Without regular real-world contact with friends, extended family, colleagues, and day to day acquaintances, it can seem like your world has shrunk a little bit. Extra steps need to be taken to maintain your real-world relationships while you are practicing isolation. Luckily there are plenty of tools to stay connected. Set sometime aside each week to stay in touch with your friends and family.

Just hanging out.

Living together in a van means that Kelli and I are rarely more than a few metres apart. This can definitely put a strain on our relationship. Luckily there are a range of strategies you can adopt to reduce the pressure.

  • Schedule time apart
  • Journals – to help separate perceived grievances from your own issues.
  • Socialise with other people – don’t let your partner be your sole social outlet
  • Date night – When you spend all your time with someone setting aside time to date might seem redundant. Nothing could be further from the truth. Make sure your partner is more then a colleague by setting aside time to be a couple.
  • Beware co-dependency – Just because you spend almost all your time together, don’t slip into a pattern of relying on each other for all your emotional maintenance
  • Avoid getting hangry – Find yourself getting cranky with your partner? We’ve come to find that nine times out of ten, we are just hungry and a snack can help resolve the problems.