Jen YihComment

Van Life - Road Trip 101

Jen YihComment
Van Life - Road Trip 101

14 US States

2,500 Miles

10 Days

Have you ever been on a road trip for longer than a week with one of your best friends? 

A road trip is interesting. 

As the trip approaches, it’s easy to have all these preconceived ideas of how it’s going to be. That anticipation of having ultimate freedom as soon as you sit down behind the wheel, like a 16-year-old with their license to ride. It’s just you, your friend, minor responsibilities, and only spontaneous adventures waiting ahead.

As I write to you 10 days and 2,500 miles into our cross-country road trip, we’ve had plenty of trials and tribulations. These challenges we’ve experienced had nothing to do with logistics or mechanics, but more so, a state-of-mind. It took us a week to shed that mental and emotional layer that truly prohibits someone from feeling free and open to experiences. As the late night drives, talks, and walks became more frequent, there was a pivot. A mental allowance and freedom that hit us, we’re here, this is it. Let go. And that’s where the real fun began. 

Have you ever really thought about why someone might live in a van, tiny home, or small space? There’s the practical reasons like saving money or environmental issues, as well as trendy reasons like embracing the “minimalist lifestyle” or whatever they are calling it these days. But the real reason is, life is complex. It’s even more complex for people that throw themselves into new ventures, places, and experiences. It is overwhelming and overstimulating for anyone, no matter who you are. When you live in a van and find yourself waking up in a new place every single day not sure of what tomorrow will bring, there’s something that allows you to simplify everything so that there’s more space physically, mentally, emotionally to reflect, to live, and to enjoy what is right in front of you. 

This morning, it’s a small beach break along the Atlantic Ocean. Tomorrow? Who knows. 

It’s easy to look at someones social media, read their bios, and study their photographs to make a judgment call. “Adventure film photographer”, “athlete”, “explorer and writer” with a beautiful photographic curation of happy, exciting, adventurous, daring, or risky photos. But behind these self-proclaimed titles and identities, it is just a person like anyone else with fears and worries. Everyone has gloomy days and epic days. When you choose to live in the extremes, and I don’t mean an extreme lifestyle necessarily, but a life with extreme highs, there’s going to be extreme lows. It’s natural, normal, and not to be overlooked - it is life. 

We set out on this road trip with a mission to uncover hidden gems, local people, and places but you could say we’ve realized only 10 days in what it is all about. Our underlying mission is to prove what it means to be happy and, more importantly, what it means to feel free. We know that even in a complex world, those feelings exist, even if it is just for a moment. 


1. Take care of your shit. I'm talking about life shit, like taxes, bills, relationships, ex's, and anything weighing you down financially and emotionally (for some reason, the two get lumped together). 

2. Patience is lurking, focus on the solution. You're living out of a van, a small space. Your patience is required in every moment, from getting to and from each destination, traffic, flat tires, dragging in sand to your home or mud from your dirty shoes. Expect crumbs and delays...

3. On-the-go mentality. You love travel, remember? You've taken your home mobile, a home on wheels! It's a dream come true...right? Yes. You have the ability to wake up on the beach, in the woods, or sometimes the Wal-Mart parking lot. This is a game changer, you have to enable your mind to take you anywhere... Seriously think about what you're after and where you want to wake up in the morning. 

4. Judgement. Once again, you live in a van. Expect others not to approve, to not understand, or ask a lot of questions. Sometimes its difficult to find a shower or a laundromant, things can get a little funkadelic - and that's okay. You're not homeless, just houseless - take the good with the bad and realize it doesn't f*cking matter what people think of your newfound houselessness. You woke up on a beach this morning, remember? 


“Traveling kind of reminds me of dating. Finding a place that resonates with my soul ignites a similar emotion in me as falling in love. With each person I date, as with each place I visit, I learn a little more about myself. What I like, what I don’t like, the qualities I can’t live with and the qualities I can’t live without. A good partner also challenges me to grow, and there is no denying that traveling can be uncomfortable - it often challenges my preconceived beliefs of the world and shows me how life isn’t so black and white - there is a hell of a lot of gray space in the middle and when I can understand those intricacies and appreciate those dualities, life feels a lot more fulfilling.” 


  • Random Sunflower Field, Nebraska/Wyoming Border

  • Black Island, Maine

  • Haley’s Convenient Store, Keystone, South Dakota

  • Niagra Falls, New York

  • Wells Beach, Maine