You and your significant other have decided you want to give vanlife a try as a couple, whether it be on the weekends, full time, or somewhere in between. 

You’re going to visit all of the places on your bucket list with your favorite person. Best addition? You get to bring your home with you.  It’s the ideal way to travel, right?  You’re not wrong.  Traveling in a van as a couple is a fantastic experience. It is a style of travel that allows you to see a lot of places in a relatively inexpensive way.

They say that vanlife will make or break a couple.  The truth is, you’re seeing the best 25% of the experience on social media, a curated version of real-life (guilty).  I’m here to tell you that no matter how perfect your favorite vanlife couples appear on social media, they have dealt with their fair share of fights, frustration, and doubt.  Despite it all, it is an amazing lifestyle. Those that make it through the early stages of normalizing “vanlife” would do it again in a heartbeat.

Aside from the daily negotiations of whose turn it is to wash the dishes or sweep the floor, there are some common challenges that a couple new to vanlife will most likely experience. 

You will be in each other’s way.  Most people are used to a certain amount of personal space and aren’t really aware of how much physical space they require.  That doesn’t matter when you live in a 2,000 square foot house and work in a cubicle that you have all to yourself.  Even if you already live with your significant other, you’re not standing right next to each other when you cook, clean, or change your socks.  It’s hard to share less than 80 square feet with another person all of the time. 

Generally speaking, only one person can do something at a time.  Be aware of what your partner is working on and try to avoid standing around in their zone.  At the same time, if your partner isn’t aware when they’re in your way, don’t assume they will notice without you saying something.  Communication is really important in any relationship, no matter your lifestyle, so just let them know that you need them to move. 

If you don’t know how to square dance yet, you will once you live in a van!

Keep clutter to a minimum.  Such a small space can feel even smaller really fast when every surface is covered with stuff.  Make sure you both know where things ‘live’ and try to put it back in the same spot when you’re done using it.  Keeping your tiny home tidy will reduce friction and arguments about where something is and who ‘lost’ it.  The bright side is that when something has been misplaced, there’s only so many places you can look for it before you decide it’s officially lost!  A tidy van will keep you sane, trust me!

Make time for yourself. 

If you need alone time, you need to prioritize that. It’s not likely that you can just wait for your partner to go to the gym or lunch with friends.  You and your partner may decompress in different ways, and with so little space, it’s likely that you’ll need to find a place away from the van to do your thing.  Communicate to your partner that you need time to go do something on your own and make it a regular habit.  Grab your book or fishing pole and head outside.  Spending more time outside is why you wanted to live in a van anyway, right?

Things will go wrong. 

Try not to take temporary frustrations with this lifestyle out on your partner.  There will be times when you can’t find a campsite. There will be times when you’re hungry and need to eat dinner. To top it off, the last thing you may want to do is to keep driving.  Either the navigator will read the map wrong or the driver will zone out and miss a turn. Both of these will likely add time to your journey.  There are going to be moments when you crave comfort.  You just want to take a hot shower and watch a movie on a big comfy couch. 

It’s easier said than done but remember this. How you react to when things don’t go as planned will determine how you spend your time. It will decide whether you begin bickering about what went wrong versus moving past it and enjoying the journey.  Regardless of what frustrations you encounter on the road, you and your partner are on the same team as a couple, figuring it out together.  It’s you guys against the world! 

Be prepared to be closer to your partner in every way. 

You will probably talk about poop, body odor and many other topics that are otherwise deemed socially uncouth.  Your partner will have the worst farts when it’s pouring rain or the mosquitoes are swarming and they can’t go outside.   That’s the real vanlife, and it goes with the territory.  At the same time, you will bring your dreams to life with your favorite person by your side.  You’ll have an epic adventure together, all in your cozy home on wheels.  Despite the inevitable challenge of living in such a small space with someone, experiencing the most amazing things with the person you love is always worth it.