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For good, and not-so-good, living in a van can do a number on your routines.

Destroying your routines can be a great thing. Breaking up your patterns and habits can rewire your brain and create new neural pathways. Overcoming challenges, discovering new places, meeting people, and dealing with the constant variables of life on the road—like where you’ll sleep for the night or the realization that you are dangerously close to running out of dark chocolate—creates an opportunity to learn (or be forced) to be flexible.

Learning to roll with the punches, to embrace uncertainty, and to exercise my somewhat flabby spontaneity muscles are just a few of the reasons that I do this. To get way outside my comfort zone, leaning out over the edge, is the best way I know to tune-up my ability to be resilient and to strengthen my coping skills. But, one of the bigger surprises for me is that my good habits, the routines I worked so hard to develop, evaporated day one on the road.

I’ve spent months, and sometimes years, developing routines that support my mental, physical, spiritual, and creative well-being.

Take my morning routine: I get up, empty the dog (as my friend in the UK, Andrew, says), brew a cup of coffee—and then I journal, read, meditate, do a daily tarot card reading, and finally, most days, I do 10-15 minutes of yoga. But, upon waking after my first full day and night in the van, my healthy habits had disappeared. Where did they go? Did I forget to pack them, leaving them at home to wilt like the houseplants?

Honestly, I don’t know what happened to my good habits. All my routines were thrown off when I was on the road. I’d wake with the sun—this is not something I do when at home—and go to bed right after sundown. My mornings still involved emptying the dog and making coffee, but I only drew the tarot twice and meditated once. Journaling? Sporadic, at best. Yoga? Nope!

My theory as to why this happens is the fact that everything is so new.

Waking in a different place every day or every few days, rising earlier than usual and then the daily challenges of finding water, food, and a place to park at night. Everything takes much longer when you are living out of a van.

But, the upside of your routines being challenged or destroyed is that it also holds true for bad habits. Spend too much time binging on Master of None? Not when you don’t have an Internet connection you won’t! Find yourself unconsciously snacking throughout the day? Again, not likely when your food storage is minimal, and you’ve made a meal plan (however loosely) to ensure you have everything you need to fuel your body for several days away from civilization.

So what’s a van traveler who wants to maintain healthy habits to do? Despite the fact that I blew my routines, here’s what I’m going to try next time I head out:

  • Schedule it! If emptying the dog and making coffee are non-negotiables, meditation, yoga, or anything else you want to do can be, too.
  • Set a reminder. Yes, use the dreaded phone alarm—set it to go off every day at the same time for the duration of your trip. Nothing like the sound of a croaking frog or revving motorcycle to prompt you to do the thing.
  • Be kind. If you miss a day, oh well. There’s always tomorrow. If you’re anything like me, you’ll feel your best when you do the things that support your wellness, but missing a day or two isn’t worth beating yourself up about.

Got tips for staying healthy on the road? Want to see more on this topic? Drop me a line: hello (at) averagewhitevan (dot) com