6 Things I Learned From Living In A Van With My Boyfriend For 3 Months

Photo: Courtesy of the author / Joshua Michael Johnson
photo of van life with hilly mountains in background

There’s a theory that if you travel with the guy you’re dating, it’s an easy way to figure out if you’re compatible or not.

My boyfriend, Josh, and I took that to the next level because not only did we travel together, but we lived and traveled together at the same time. Oh, and our home? It was a van.

Yes, I spent three months living in a van and traveling with my boyfriend.

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Josh and I planned on traveling around New Zealand for three months, and the best way to see both of the country’s islands is from the road. Traveling around by van is an actual thing in New Zealand, and massive amounts of visitors are transforming into road warriors on the New Zealand highways.

Each throwing in a good chunk of cash, Josh and I bought "EZG209" (the license plate number that eventually became our van’s pet name), which came complete with a bed in the back and cooking supplies.

The van was our home. 

We slept side-by-side at night and rode side-by-side during the day.

We took frequent pit stops for my small bladder, switched off filling the gas tank, got lost, parked on random streets to take naps, and constantly tried to figure out where the weird smells were coming from.

We got into fights over the van being disorganized and little arguments over the music choices. We took turns cooking and I was in charge of feeding Josh snacks while he drove.

Overall, we made a pretty good team. There's a lot to worry about when you live in a van, so teamwork is essential.

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Throughout all of our bad, awesome and exciting experiences living the van life, it changed our relationship for the better and transformed our love!

Here are 6 things I learned from living in a van with my boyfriend for three months: 

1. We became very comfortable with our bodily functions.

There isn’t hiding any from bodily functions when you live that close together. The van filled up with smells, burps, and body odor from lack of showering. (We still snuggled anyway.)

2. We figured out each other's strengths.

I did most of the food shopping and cooking while Josh did the driving and figured out what repairs we needed when the van inevitably broke down.

We split up the task of finding interesting places to visit, and I kept up with organizing the van while Josh determined the best travel routes.

3. We learned how to relax together.

There was a ton of downtime while living in a van. You can only entertain each other for so long and, eventually, we both craved quiet and alone time.

We took to reading books, listening to podcasts, and coloring to get a mental break from one another.

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4. We realized we are safe with one another.

When you’re far away from home, it feels great to have someone with you that you know and trust.

The teamwork we had to put in while living in the van deepened our connection to each other. We realized we could rely on each other, help each other deal with problems, and get through this adventure together.

We each equaled safety for each other, and the feeling was nice.

5. We dealt with one another's quirks.

I had a habit of waking Josh up to walk me to the bathroom at night when I was scared. He had a habit of taking too long to do things, which drove my impatient self nuts. I kept finding and bringing stray cats into the van and he kept leaving perishable food to rot in the cooler.

We both did annoying things, but we dealt with them.

6. We inspired one another.

Sometimes, van life can get you down — the smells, the same meals over and over again, the weariness the road brings. However, we were able to inspire each other the entire way.

When I had my bad days, Josh was there to make my life easier and keep me going. When he had his bad days, I was there to talk him through them.

All photos: Author

Van life is a life I wouldn’t want to live all the time, but while it lasted, it was a great test for both of us. 

And we passed.

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Shannon Ullman is an editor and writer with wanderlust who has traveled for the last 11 years. Her website has more information.