Transitioning From Van Life Back to Tiny House Living

I've recently returned from an 8 month journey living and traveling in my converted Sprinter van in the southwest and am back in my tiny house! Although Tiny is mobile and built on a trailer, this has been my home base for 8 years.

I am so grateful to have made it full circle but historically transitions like this for me have been rocky, overwhelming and typically throw off daily routines for weeks until I get my feet back under me. In the past, my mental health suffered, I would neglect exercising, eat more processed foods, go to bed late and perpetuate my already existing exhaustion, not know how to work through my emotions, feel numb and sad that the adventure was over and generally feel unmotivated to much of anything.  

Other examples of "transitions" that this blog post can help with:

  • Graduating high school or college
  • Finishing up the school year as an educator
  • Coming home from vacation or wilderness expedition
  • Moving into a new home
  • Changing seasonal jobs
  • Overcoming an illness/cancer
  • Loosing a loved one
  • Coming home from the Peace Corps or overseas from military deployment
  • Coming out of a cold, long winter 

Over the years I've learned how to be proactive and course correct my transitions to bypass depression and unhealthy habits. That way it's all about maintaining stable emotions and a grounded and healthy mental and physical state. Let's get into a few of those things so you can do the same during your time of transition.


Celebrate & Relax

Enjoy yourself before committing to anything on your task list! Celebrate with a gathering of friends and family. Share stories, laugh, sit around a fire, listen to music and treat yourself to marveling at how far you've come. I'm starting with celebration because it is so commonly glazed over in our super high functioning and productive society. Stop and smell the roses. Relax. Take breath. Look around and acknowledge the experience you just had. The dishes and projects can wait. ;)


Journal How You Feel

During times of transitions, time can feel like it's speeding up and it's more important than ever that you stay tuned into your emotions. Write down how you feel. "I am sad this is ending." I am so happy for my next chapter." "I am overwhelmed with how much I have to get done."  When you can identify how you're feeling  in a whirlwind time you are less reactive when something goes wrong or changes. Don't wait to process your experience once you come home. Start a couple weeks before hand to feel grounded. Journal, schedule a session with your therapist, call a friend or create art. It's makes a world of a difference for your emotional and mental health.


Eat Simple with Few Ingredients

Focus on eating home cooked meals with minimal alcohol and processed foods. With so many things up in the air during a transition, giving your digestion less work allows you to stay mentally sharp and focused. Highlight whole grains, plant and animal based proteins, fruit, veggies, healthy fats and fresh herbs and spices. If this feels hard to do, meal prep 2-3 big meals and divide them up in the fridge and freezer so when you need a nourishing meal all you need to do is warm one up. My go-to prepped ingredients to keep on hand are cooked and chopped, seasoned chicken, white rice, lentils, avocado, lemon, spinach, arugula, steamed broccoli, cucumber, hummus, goat cheese, kimchi and for breakfast cold cereal with blueberries and apple.


Prioritize Sleep

It's normal to feel exhausted during times of transition. Don't push yourself or say you're lazy or unmotivated. It's time to rest! Your body has done a lot on many levels. Give it a chance to recharge. I love going to bed 30 minutes before I actually want to fall asleep just so I can lay in bed and enjoy the sensations of being cozy, warm and safe. This calms your nervous system, allows you to sleep through the night and wake up with natural energy.


Organize Personal & Work Schedules

Get the "big picture" view of your schedules and put the tiny details on hold. What are your top 2-3 priorities? Focus on one task at a time and set aside multi-tasking. Consider doing a "brain dump" and write down everything you need to do (to get it all on paper and out of your brain) and circle the top 3 items for the week. This will keep overwhelm and stress down as you continue to integrate back from your previous experience. 


Stick To Basic Exercises 

During transitional times, there are often a lot of new things going on beyond everyday life, so it's important to commit to basic forms of exercise. Think walking, body weight movements, riding your bike, stretching or dancing. Don't overload yourself with trying to be motivated about a new gym membership or workout routine you've never done before. Aim for something you can do for 20 minutes, from anywhere, and is achievable on daily basis. I love doing 100 reps of push-ups, squats, lunges, and sit-ups broken up in sets of 20. 


Connect with Nature

Bring your house plants back to life or buy a few if you don't have any. Take care and nurture something beyond yourself because it will make you feel connected and reminded of the simple things we need in life to thrive. Spend time outdoors, either being active hiking or starting a garden, but also siting outside during sunset and observing the changing light, birds, smell of the air, and clouds. I had the pleasure of jumping into a nearby creek, Lake Superior (yes, it was very cold!) and watching the northern lights dance above my tiny house and all of them brought me a deep sense of inner peace.

Remember to go easy on yourself as you integrate into your next chapter and enjoy the winding journey along the way.