Hippie Logistics Part II


how to live in a van without becoming a hippie

I know how to live in a van… does that make me a hippie. Do hippies wear contacts?

If you don’t know me, then I should preface this post by telling you that I am not a bum hippie. Although I’ve tried hippie van living, I do not consider myself one of them. Bum hippies are societal leeches whose use “peace-and-love-stick-it-to-the-man” ideologies to gain benefits of living near “the man” (handouts) without the burden of actually contributing to society. I’ve met plenty of bum hippies who will loudly and proudly tell me about life in a tree house or squatting in an ‘uninhabited’ building while blowing their monthly food-stamps allotment in a gourmet steak food orgy followed by purchasing lots of drugs and hanging out in the woods. I propose that we change the nomenclature for this behavior from “hippie” to “jerk.”

living in a van shows you the beauty of nature

Living in a van makes it easy to see places like this.

My friends say since I’m living in a hippie van, I’m probably a hippie,  But I think they really mean passionate unconventionalist. While I’ve proven myself capable of a range of employment, from a professional nine-to-five schtick to a shift-working-heavy-equipment-operating-blue-collar gig, none are quite where my appetite lies. Right now my ‘appetite’ is living in a van in New Zealand where a mountain hike, coastal rainforest, or dazzling beach are never more than a two-hour car trip in any direction. Many “normal” people who consider me a “normal” person are shocked and amazed that you don’t have to be a complete psycho to be  living in a hippie van. I posted our answers to frequently asked questions on how to live in a van when we first started on this adventure. However, van life changed notably when our daily activities stopped including trading our time for money (jobs!). So, here’s the revised edition:

How to Live in a Van FAQ’s

Where do you shower?

Well, living in a van…we don’t. Okay… not true. But, living in a van is much like RV living or living on a sailboat crossing the high seas (a dream I hope to pursue within the next year or so). I don’t ever feel “yucky” until day three. At this point there are several options:

a) putting baby powder or dry shampooin my hair is magic!
b) if at a hut, heat up some water for a ‘hobo shower
c) pay the admission fee to an aquatic center
d) stay the night at an RV park/campground
e) check into a hostel

hobo shower during my hippie van living days

Hobo/bucket shower on the porch of the Ahuriri base hut during my hippie van living days.

Where do you go to the bathroom?

Throughout the day, there are rest areas if we’re driving and bathrooms at the places of business/tourism we patronize. Before we go to bed at night, we make sure we know the location of the bathroom we’ll visit for morning ablutions.

Where do you get your food? (posed to me by a New York lawyer)

This one hasn’t changed much. You’d never know the person next to you in the pasta aisle is a hippie living in a van!  Our meal-making has decreased now that precious daylight hours – great for hiking, seeing the sights, and enjoying the country – are so hard to come by. We still make meals, especially when we’re backpacking. If it’s too cold/dark/late to do stir fry/lentil stew/tacos/etc. on our two cookstoves, we stick with no-cook standbys – meat and crackers, beans and corn chips, tuna and crackers, etc.

An organized kitchen/food storage area is a must when living in a van

How to live in a van this small? Simple, be organized as possible!


How do you wash your clothes?

We don’t. No… kidding, again! As before, laundromats are our go-to-source. Once we ended up between trailheads in desperate need of clean hiking duds. The only sign of civilization was a one-horse-town. I approached the local inn/restaurant/bar owner, who let me use the business’ washer/dryer. It turned into an awesome night!

Where do you sleep?

Lots of places! I am mother-nature’s child and love backpacking. We are on a trip about 30% of the time, and nearly every trail in New Zealand has a hut complete with bunks. We also try to break up our backpacking and sightseeing with wwoofing. It’s a great way to really experience the culture, and it’s an awesome change of pace. When wwoofing, we sleep in the bed the ‘farm’ provides. Less than 10% of the time, we’re staying in an RV campground or at a hostel. Otherwise, we find a quiet spot to park in residential areas (we’ve discovered sketchy things happen at night in industrial places). We arrive after dark, spend a few minutes observing the comings and goings of the neighborhood, sleep until just before sunrise (6:45-ish), and clear out. Out of respect for residents, we never stay in the same place twice. If we’re on the road, we’ll park near a rest area or at a trailhead.

Van life exposes you to harsh weather conditions like this freezing weather.

Van life can expose you to harsh conditions. In one of our most recent overnight spots (trailhead), the INSIDE of the windows froze over that night!

  • Where do you “live?”

    This isn’t an FAQ anymore, as we are traveling almost every day. Van life involves living on the road! Perhaps it might seem like constant change would get old. Really, though, we are just switching between three different modes – hiking, sightseeing, wwoofing. When one mode gets tiresome, we switch to another!

Night view while living in a hippie van

Typical view from my pillow at night while living in a hippie van

So, what’s different now? The major change with hippie van living is probably that we don’t bother with tidiness. I used to keep everything on top of the bed neatly organized and harass Pat to do the same. Now I just have general areas for most things. When we crawl under the covers at night, we’re usually also wiggling our way under a pile of stuff. It challenges my standards of appropriate adult behavior, but it takes an extra twenty steps out of our day!

Layering clothes is required when living in a van

1: Skin tight tank top, 2: Long-sleeve poly pro, 3: Patagonia fleece, 4: Water-resistant shell. Layering is a must when living in a van.

It’s also much colder now. Because waiting hours for my body to warm up enough to sleep at bedtime is torture, I’ve learned that the best van life protocol involves getting dressed in excessive layers every day. And, we continue to try to tread lightly – recognizing that if everyone was living like we are now, resources like parking and bathrooms would be maxed out. I am thankful for all the lessons and opportunities living in a van brings! ♣

Did you miss Hippie Logistics Part I? 



1 comment

  • August 24, 2011 at 3:06 am

    I love the “Do hippies wear contacts” caption! Thanks for the visit yesterday, Jema. It was truly great to see you!

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