Living With A Lover In A Van

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“Oh no.”

Turmeric stains covered my hands and face and the powdered orange herb lay dispersed on the van’s countertop and floor. Oh no, what have I done? I had read turmeric was an anti-inflammatory and good for the skin, so I massaged it into my face, and spilled it in the van, our home. What the turmeric articles omitted, is its incredible staining ability, I thought. My head started spinning, as I realized Corey would be back from surfing momentarily, and may upsettingly find our van home newly bright orange.

Living in a van with my partner, lover and best friend Corey for almost three years, as we travel North America, is never dull. Turmeric stains, spilled drinks, piles of clothing and dirty dishes are the little things, the “don’t sweat the small stuff” things. However, when you live in a 60 square foot van with a lover, the small things are exponentially magnified.

In fact, the van seems to enlarge everything from messes to moods. And sometimes our differences seem vast, reminding us of the open spaces we crave, that sometimes we wish to disappear into.

Living in a van with a lover fast forwards a relationship, taking it to the next level. We are learning to dance with ourselves and each other, with life. Like living in a small space might suggest, we are constantly learning to let go of what is unnecessary, from physical stuff occupying our living space to limiting beliefs that pull us away from love and the present moment.

The following are our top 6 relationship lessons that we’ve learned living in a van. I believe we are all capable of being in loving, fulfilling, beautiful relationships, with a partner and ourselves. The capability for true love is already within us simply because we are human beings. We simply have to be willing to commit to our own journey, and let go.

Here are the top relationship lessons we’ve learned living in a van:

1. Love begins with self.

Self love embodies recognizing that you are unique and imperfectly perfect, a fabric in the tapestry of humanity, a wave in the ocean of life. The journey of self love is a process, one of years and even a lifetime. To love oneself means letting go of social conditioning and mental and emotional processes that lead to patterns of self rejection. There are infinite methods to self love, some of them including following your passions, consuming nourishing food and water, positive thinking, yoga, meditation, spending time with loving people who raise you up, connecting with nature, and helping others. When practicing self love, you open yourself up to the infinite Now, and become capable of limitlessly loving another human being.

2. Balance doing and being.

Modern society highly values doing, and thus many of us lead incredibly busy lives. From the moment we awake to when we enter sleep, we are checking off our to do lists, living in our heads. To be a human being involves reconnecting with the body, embracing the part of us that is still wild, as our ancestors did for thousands and thousands of years. Learning to do and be, is essential for our well being, self love and our relationships.

3. Personal space and time.

Dive into solitude and do what brings you joy, what energizes you. Even if you’re an extrovert, alone time can rejuvenate you and bring about clarity, creativity and happiness in the relationship. Susan Cain, in a popular Ted Talk, does a great job at sharing the importance of introvert qualities and time alone, of which we can all benefit from.

4. Give up right vs. wrong.

Conflict arises in our relationship when our personal “right” way of doing something is threatened, when what we believe to be our truth, is at risk. This attachment to a way of doing creates separation and isolation, so obviously apparent in a 60 square foot van. Dive into what you believe to be your truth, learn from it, and then surrender your attachment to truth and instead focus on the beauty in that moment. There’s always beauty. Know that the only person you can change is yourself. Let go. Be vulnerable.

5. Accept imperfections.

Loose the romanticized idea of the perfect relationship, the perfect life, and a big part of our cultural conditioning. We are all imperfectly perfect as human beings, here to learn, love and grow, and to help each other become better versions of ourselves. Accept your partner’s flaws, and stinks. The van is a very large dutch oven.

6. Focus on strengths.

We can choose to focus on whatever part of our partner we desire, and same with ourselves. What we focus on, grows.

What has the road taught you about relationships? Or if you’re not on the road, what has life taught you about love?

About Emily King
Emily has lived in a van with her partner and dog for the past three years, working and playing in 46 U.S. states, Canada and Mexico. An explorer and seeker of truth, love, freedom and beauty, Emily experiences the world through dance, yoga, writing, photography, filmmaking and surfing and observes life from the slow right lane as the miles pass by. Currently, she seeks to redefine what work means to her and balance doing and being. Follow life on the road at, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.

Expanded Consciousness is happy to have Emily as a contributing writer for our website!

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  • Jerry Jaramillo November 2, 2015  

    Aloha Emily ,Cory and Penny. It has been a great pleasure for my wife and to have spent some time with you guys. Big mahalo’s for letting us share in your awesome journey. We hope to be able to see you again on your travels . Aloha ke Akua.

  • Michael November 16, 2015  

    Wise words, I think they apply regardless of in what or where you live. I think your points are dead on in terms of healthy relationships. R.W.E. said ” We must be our own before we can be another’s.”

  • Amanda Strasser December 30, 2015  

    Thank you for your tips, and for making the videos you all have made, it’s helped my husband and I to begin our journey. Now that we’ve lived in our Airstream for a year, your Van Life series has reminded me of the spirit behind van life, and why I wanted to begin this journey.

    While watching you two, Mike and I see ourselves in you two, not in the same way, but different aspects, and it’s beautiful. I love seeing the real parts of you two, and what you do. He loves seeing how it works, he’s the Realist.

    You and Corey have been such an inspiration to us. Thank you!

    • Emily king December 31, 2015  

      Thank you for your comment, great vibes, checking out the videos and for saying YES to living in an Airstream! How is it going? Where are you traveling? Do you have an end date? Happy 2016!! <3

  • David July 13, 2016