Living in a 97 sq ft home on wheels is bound to test your relationship. An exciting challenge that’s proven to be one of the toughest yet rewarding tests. Vanlife as a couple has brought our relationship to new heights and shown us what maintaining a healthy relationship is all about.
People ask us a lot about how we spend all of our time together without wanting to run each other over with the van. The truth is, while living in a tiny van gets funky sometimes, we wouldn’t have it any other way.
You know what they say: moving in with your partner can either make or break your relationship.
Relationships on the road are not immune to those challenges, and they can become harder because of the daily struggles that come along with living in a van.
Could a vanlife couple with a healthy relationship really be possible?
Don’t let the fear of the unknown stop you and your partner from living out your dreams in a healthy relationship. The hard work and dedication are worth every bit of uncertainty and discomfort.
Now, I can only speak from my own experience, but living this lifestyle just wouldn’t be complete without my other half. In fact, about one month after we hit the road full time, we eloped on our favorite mountain in Colorado.
This just set the tone for what was coming next: an adventure of a lifetime with my Husband. It’s almost a whole year later, and that still sounds so weird to say!
We’re coming up on about 10 months of being a full-time vanlife couple and have learned so much about ourselves and our relationship throughout this experience. Here are our top 9 tips for keeping your relationship healthy and exciting while living in a van.
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1. Communication is key to any healthy relationship
Having good communication is essential for any relationship and is our number one tip for vanlife couples or couples on the road. Listening to your partner, not only hearing them but understanding what they are trying to say is super important.
If you feel like you’re stuck in the mud, let your partner help you change your perspective and mood.
Don’t expect your partner to read your mind, they aren’t ever going to be able to. If something is bothering you, it’s your job to speak up about it and let them know what’s up.
There just isn’t enough time for guessing games, you can’t expect them to just know how you are feeling. Don’t get angry if your partner doesn’t catch on to the reason behind your silent treatment.
Open communication helps you build a stronger connection with your partner. When you work through conflicts and mishaps that are bound to happen on the road. Here are a few ways to open up the conversation:
- Check-in with your partner often- ask how their day is going.
- Ask them if anything is bothering them today.
- Schedule a time to talk about things that are going right on your journey and things you want to change.
2. Compromising is critical
Let’s face it, even though you may be soul mates you’re not going to agree on everything all the time. Agree to disagree, and come to a compromise you’re both cool with.
When it comes to choosing and building your dream van, you’re going to have a lot of choices for the layout, materials used, and designs you choose. Remember that this is going to be a very close space you’re sharing, so you both want to enjoy every aspect of your home.
If it’s something that you both can’t agree on and a compromise isn’t going to happen, a nice fair game of rock paper scissors is always best.
3. Remember to take time for yourself
The thought of living in close quarters and spending 24/7 with another human being might scare some people away from van life with a partner, but it was actually what drew us to this lifestyle even more.
When you live in a van together, it’s inevitable that you’re going to spend most of, if not all of your time together. Even though we are physically together all day every day, we still take time for ourselves.
Sometimes I’ll take a little snooze or enjoy some hammock time while Matt goes for a bike ride. It’s also a great way to sneak in a little personal me time.
4. Call each other out on the funk
This one’s my personal favorite, so much so that it’s even in my vows.
Matt and I agreed a while ago that it is our job to help the other get out of their funk. We reserve the right to call each other out if we notice that the other is acting particularly funky.
We are all human beings and you’re bound to get in a bad mood for no particular reason every now and then.
Energy is real, and when you live in a van, you can definitely feel the energy that surrounds you.
Having negative energy that is just taking up space and time is very dangerous, so you must get rid of it as soon as possible, here’s how:
- Tell your partner they seem like they’re in a funk (if they haven’t already admitted to it).
- Talk about why they’re in a funk- let it all out
- Get through it together
- Sage your space – get all of the negative energy out of your sacred space
5. Remember why you’re doing vanlife together
Knowing your WHY is an imperative part of being a vanlife couple. It’s what will keep you grounded throughout your journey. Think of it as your north star, your way out of the woods (metaphorically speaking), and back home – to the actual woods.
When things don’t go your way and you get overwhelmed by the realities of this lifestyle, keep this in mind. Knowing WHY you are doing it is more important than HOW you’re going to pull this next move off.
Every day isn’t going to be perfect and that’s totally ok! This can be an easy thing to forget sometimes being a vanlife couple, especially on days when:
- Your whole van is feeling like a total mess.
- You haven’t had the sun to charge your solar panel in days.
- The toilet is overflowing and there’s no where to dump it.
It’s easy to want to throw in the towel and give up on your dream. The van will get messy every few hours, and that’s just the way it is – especially with a dog. There are a ton of pros and cons to living in a van with a dog but we’ll save that blog for another day.
You know the sun will come out again, hopefully tomorrow (if not, it’s helpful to have a ready to go power charger handy for cloudy days).
When the stress of everything becomes too overwhelming and you want to scream or cry, look in your partner’s eyes and smile. You know that you’re actually living out your dreams, which not all people actually do!
6. Work together through the hard parts
Being a vanlife couple means there’s a whole lot of unpredictable work to do.
If you’ve converted your own van, then you already know about hard work. However, living in a tiny space in an ever-changing setting takes everything to the next level. You and your partner are a team and should divide the work in a reasonable fashion.
It’s not fair for one person to always be the one cleaning up dog poop at the park, while the other one gets to just throw the ball with the chuck-it.
If you’re both able and comfortable driving your van, you should take turns. This is a great way to share the work because when one person is driving, the other can get some actual work done. For example, much of the blog about what lead us to remote work and vanlife was written while sitting in the passenger side of the van while Matt drove cross country.
Now that we always have a good cell signal with our WeBoost cell booster, it’s nice for each of us to be able to get some work done while the other drives.
7. Document your journey and take a lot of pictures
Van life is a journey – one that you should document for sure!
Make sure to take a lot of pictures so that you can capture these moments! It’s a lie to say that I don’t currently have over 18,000 photos on my phone. Wow, that reminds me that I really need to backup my iCloud.
It’s so much fun to look back at our van conversion process and see how much our van changed throughout our journey. We love having these amazing memories preserve to share with friends and family.
We’re in the market for a new camera after our Canon went through the washer. Fortunately, we’ve been able to capture our amazing moments through our iPhones. Having a handy, compact little iPhone tripod is a great way to take those family photos for our adventure book.
8. Exercise together
Staying active is super important, especially when you’re on the road. Endorphins are needed to keep the spirits lifted, and what better way than to honor your body than to exercise in nature.
Find something that you both like to do- and make it a thing to look forward to – bike riding and hiking are our favorite ways to exercise together, and of course some yoga and getting in a good stretch.
Having a kettlebell, some resistance bands, and a couple of yoga mats are great ways to get a full-body workout anywhere, without a ton of equipment.
9. Go on dates
Keeping the romance alive on the road is super important! Even though you’ll be spending most of, if not all of your time together, it’s very important to make time especially for each other, with each other.
Since you’re always on the go, having an impromptu date in a brand new place here and there will keep the romance alive. The best part about vanlife couple dates? So many things you can do that are low cost or free!
- Dress up and have a picnic
- Watch the sunset with a bottle of wine
- Go on a hike or a nature walk
- Walk around town on a scavenger hunt
- Go to a drive-in movie
Vanlife with your partner is one epic experience
Vanlife has taught us so many great things, it’s an amazing journey that has led us to grow and learn so much from each other. We are a team and have each other’s back through all the ups and downs.
The reality is there will always be challenges in a healthy relationship, but as long as there’s love, happiness, and good communication your relationship should thrive. Through living in a van together, we’ve become better friends, partners and soulmates for each other.
What would be your favorite part about living van life with your partner? Would you foresee any challenges along the way? Let us know in the comments!