Tips for enjoying vanlife living with your partner.
Traveling with a partner can be stressful. However, traveling together is also an amazing opportunity to bring you and your significant other even closer. Rather than letting problems fester, you’re forced to work through them and, in doing so, grow as individuals and as a couple. Plus, sharing the experience of a lifetime with someone you love is something you will never forget.
To ensure your van life experience together is more bonding than bickering, we’re providing eight tips for living with your special someone in a van. To sweeten the deal, you’ll hear from real couples of van life about the habits that have set them up for success. For everything you need to know about van life as a couple, read on.
- TAKE SPACE
“Space is at a premium in a small van, so make sure to give it to each other! We have set personal times where we give each other the space to be by ourselves. It’s so important when living together in a van.” -Chad and Paul (@chadandpaul)
Just because you’ve chosen to embark on an incredible adventure with your partner, it doesn’t mean you have to spend every waking hour together. In fact, taking space for yourself will allow you to recenter and return to your partner feeling refreshed.
You can go out on an errand while your partner enjoys having the van to themselves. Or, hang out at a coffee shop while your significant other goes on a hike. Make use of the space outside the van to create different zones. One partner can work inside while the other sets up an outdoor office. When the workday is done, one person can be in the van while the other relaxes in a hammock outside. These simple tricks will help you avoid overdosing on each other’s company and appreciate it instead.
“Be able to give each other space even if you share one room, by doing different things like reading.” -Baru and Kathi (@advanture_wives)
- HAVE FUN TOGETHER
Spending tons of time together means you can fall into patterns that aren’t the best for your relationship. So, in addition to spending enough time apart, make sure that the time you do spend together includes plenty of quality time. Plan special date nights so you get to see each other outside of your comfy van clothes and usual routines. Make time to be your best and most bubbly selves together.
Van life also lends itself to experiencing new things together, which can be incredibly bonding. If you’ve been in a bit of a rut, make an effort to do something completely new together, whether it’s exploring a museum or signing up for a surfing class.
- DIVIDE RESPONSIBILITIES
“There’s definitely a transitional period after moving into a van. We’ve come to learn that it’s imperative to set boundaries, expectations, and roles. Once we established these things, life in the van flows effortlessly.” -Sunny and Luna (@sunnylunaliving)
To reduce friction, make sure you are both giving to the relationship in a way that feels equal. This doesn’t mean you have to divide all of the tasks directly in half. One person may prefer cooking, while the other doesn’t mind cleaning up. You might be surprised to find that the task you most dread doesn’t bother your partner and vice versa.
However you choose to split tasks, be generous with your partner by doing things that will make their lives easier. Talk frankly about how you plan to divide tasks in a way that makes sense to you both, and stick to those guidelines. This will stop any resentments in their tracks.
Keeping your van clean will also minimize stress. Check out our “8 Tips for Camper Van Storage and Organization” to make your life a little easier.
“Tidy up. Do your part every day and a little extra. A cluttered van results in a cluttered mind. Consistent tidying habits help you and your partner settle in and enjoy life.” -Matt and Missy (@circadian_van)
- COMMUNICATE OPENLY
“We measure our arguments by their frequency and intensity. As long as they are not super intense and happening too often, small disagreements are expected in a van. There’s so much interaction and nowhere to hide. When you’re in an argument, always look yourself in the mirror first. Sometimes we need time or space from each other and that’s completely OK. If we’re disagreeing on something, we both try to pause, breathe, and ask ‘how can I better listen to my partner?’ and ‘how can I communicate my point of view better?’” -Matt and Missy (@circadian_van)
Although good communication should be in the toolkit of any couple, it is even more important for van-dwelling sweethearts. The proximity means you will need to learn to communicate about issues before they turn into fights. If something is bothering you, try to bring it up before you get too upset and use “I” statements to express yourself. If your partner broaches an issue with you, make an effort not to get defensive. Remember that you are both strengthening the relationship by communicating maturely. This type of interaction may feel awkward at first if you’re used to a bit more drama, but you will quickly see how much more effective it is at resolving and moving past issues.
As part of this healthy communication, don’t shy away from the subject of money. Finances can be one of the most contentious subjects for both cohabitating and traveling couples—and van life couples are both! Set an approximate daily budget in advance and decide whether you will pay for things separately or have a joint bank account.
“When issues come up, address them as soon as you’re able to in a calm and collaborative way. When things fester in such a small place, vibes can turn negative very quickly. So if you’re able, don’t just sweep things under the rug—talk them out—otherwise, things can escalate much more quickly in a smaller space.” -Chad and Paul (@chadandpaul)
5. COMPROMISE IS KEY
There may be times when you want to go on an epic multi-day hike while your partner would rather get a dose of city living. When you can’t do activities separately, compromise is necessary. Make room for your partner’s favorite hobbies and destinations, and you can ask for the same treatment.
Also, even if an activity isn’t “your thing,” you might end up enjoying it more than you anticipated. Keep the balance generally equal so both partners can be fulfilled while also being challenged by activities outside of their comfort zones.
- BE SOCIAL
In stationary life, cohabitating couples can spend time apart from each other while socializing with family and friends to refresh, gain new perspectives, and feel balanced. This can be harder in van life if you are always moving and far from family and friends.
However, you can still plan regular calls or FaceTime hangouts with people from back home. Also, you can visit family and friends all over the country, which has the added perk of allowing you to check out new places with a knowledgeable local. Lastly, make new friends on your trips by socializing with other campers and travelers.
There are several ways for van lifers to connect online and plan meet-ups, including The VanLife App and many Facebook groups. Whether you and your partner are socializing together in a group or each doing your own thing with different friends, adding more people to the mix is a recipe for a successful dynamic.
- WORK ON YOURSELF
If you’re not feeling great, you’ll be more likely to snap at your partner and overthink small things. That’s all the more reason to take good care of yourself first. Make sure you’re setting aside time for healthy self-care activities—whether it’s exercising, meditating, getting outside, journaling, or really anything that makes you feel your best. Also, being productive and feeling like you are working towards something can give you a sense of fulfillment and confidence that benefits both you and your relationship.
A note for mental health: try not to compare your relationship to other van life couples on social media. Couples generally share the highlight reels and rarely post about the hard times. Remember that every couple faces challenges, even if their issues are not immediately apparent to you. Overall, if you and your partner take good care of yourselves and work independently on becoming the best versions of yourselves, your relationship is much more likely to succeed.
- TEAM PLAYERS
“Remember- you’re on the same team! Your partner isn’t in your way, and vice versa. The van is a shared space, so live in it with that understanding.” -Chad and Paul (@chadandpaul)
You chose this wild adventure with your partner, so remember that you are in it together. When traveling, you will often be in unfamiliar situations where you can serve as each other’s rock and source of comfort.
Even when you fight, remember that you will both be happier if you can avoid drama and work on solving issues together rather than acting in opposition to each other. As part of the same team, it is also important to encourage your partner in their goals, hopes, and dreams. This mutual support will strengthen your bond.
“We give each other grace, refrain from using blaming or defensive language, and practice working as a team. We’ve been engaged throughout the duration of van life and it has brought us closer together compared to when we were living apartment life.” -Sunny and Luna (@sunnylunaliving)
Life on the road is even sweeter when you get to share it with someone you love. While some issues are bound to arise, meet these challenges head-on and recognize that they are opportunities to learn and grow.
Are you currently enjoying Vanlife living with your partner? What are the hardest and best parts of the lifestyle? Let us know in the comments. Looking for the perfect camper van to serve as a traveling home for two? Visit Rec Van today.