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3 Things I Learned While Trying To Work Full-time On the Road In My Minivan Camper | Van Life

Updated: May 9

Last fall I made the decision to suspend my personal coaching practice in order to pursue my own art full-time. This year I doubled down on that decision, and closed down my practice indefinitely. I decided to follow my own advice--the advice I've witnessed work wonders for the lives of my clients, watching them achieve their goals with my guidance but never fully applying that same guidance to myself. 2023-2024 is the time I'm placing all the biggest career bets. I feel ready, and sometimes the uncertainty makes me nauseous. I guess that sounds about right, growth is necessarily uncomfortable, especially when you attempt to squash it into a minivan camper and take to the road with it.

My plan seemed so simple: I would travel extensively throughout the United States through October, then make a decision about what to do with my apartment when my lease was up (I wrote about my van life/apartment plans here). While traveling, I would run my photography business from my van, grow my skills as a filmmaker and shoot my first short documentary, and operate this just-for-fun puzzle gig on the side. The best laid plans...

Before I could even get to the road full-time, the just-for-fun passion project turned into a legitimate small business and is gaining steam (and funding and interest) by the day. The first wave of my puzzle shop, Venus in Pieces (trademark pending), will open for pre-order this summer, and the second wave will be available just in time for the holidays (and will turn your puzzling practice into a full-fledged luxury experience). I'm so excited by the enthusiasm with which this project has been met, and I can't wait to share more about my adventures in creating, owning, and operating a small business. While the backbones of the puzzle business grow stronger everyday, I have realized they also need me more everyday--live and in person and in one place. All this before we even get to the lessons from the road...

In my latest YouTube video, I talk about the challenges I've faced in attempting to work as a full-time artist from the minivan camper, and I share how I'm addressing those challenges. I won't rehash those in this journal entry. Instead I want to share three things I learned while trying to do my art from the road.

  1. My creativity needs room to breathe. Aside from the logistical issues of the minivan simply not having enough space for me to safely store all my gear, the camper also impairs my creative energy. It's just not enough space to live, play, and work in. If I use the van just as a camper van, it works great, but as a space to work (and so to create), it's small size, coupled by all my things in it, feel so crowded my own creative energy has no place to go. I know this about me, I need wide open spaces to feel my most creative. I need space to let all the energy of the world dissipate from my around me in order to feel me, my thoughts, my desires, my soul whispers and so my inspiration. I thought the minivan would work as a vehicle to take me to those wide open spaces, and it can, just not while I'm also living in it.

  2. Living in a van consumes a lot of energy, which means less energy available for creative work. The day-to-day of van life requires constant thinking about life basics like water and fuel and a safe place to park. Making a meal is a whole production, setup and cleanup alone take upwards of an hour, and don't get me started on the hunt for reliable internet. These are the tradeoffs that come with the freedom and the adventure of van life, and if I wasn't trying to work full-time as an artist, maybe they would be more manageable, but I am. And every extra decision I have to make in a day, every extra item I have to spend energy on draws from my (fragile) creative well. I find myself less inspired to create in the van and on my travel days. Now, this may just be because of the size of the minivan. I'd love to try out a full-size electric rig sometime, create a sort of art mobile on wheels, and see how I'd do with running water, a proper stove, a composting toilet, and plenty of space to store all my equipment. But for now, the minivan is best used as a means of travel and not as a 24/7 living/working vehicle home.

  3. When it comes to materializing my goals and my dreams, I still think too small. Why did I start out in a minivan anyway? Because it's what I had, and I told myself it would be easy and less expensive, and I believed I could make it work. But if I really thought about my needs, about what I've learned about my desire for comfort and my healing pursuit of pleasure, I would have visualized a different van. How am I still trying to fit inside a room that's too small? Despite all the trauma recovery work I've done, my default is still to deprive myself, to fall back on the bare bones of what I need to survive. I only do this with myself. How many times does one person have to learn the same lesson before it sticks? I guess I'll let you know.

The good news is I'm an expert at bending. I learn, and I grow, and that's what I'm doing here. Open hand, warm heart, I ask the universe for what I always ask for: show me the way.

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