What Living in a Van Taught Me About My Relationship

This month my boyfriend and I flew across the country to San Francisco, rented a camper van and set out to explore the area for 10 days from Santa Cruz, Monterrey, Big Sur and Yosemite National Park. By camper van I don’t mean a camper. I mean a van… that you live in. It’s funny how friends of mine had such different reactions to the idea. Some were like “OMG I could never!”, the concept of the van or even camping for that long was incomprehensible. Other friends reacted completely opposite and thought it was such a fun, economical and cool idea. I’m glad I happen to be in the group whose up for an adventure. I grew up taking camping trips across the country with my family in our pop up camper, so when Stephen threw the idea out there I was in.


Now let’s get into the relationship part. Traveling is a great way to learn a lot about the person you’re dating- you’re both in an unfamiliar place and at some point are bound to be faced with unexpected situations. This brings out the good, the bad and all the in between sides of your partner, and I find it actually to be very helpful in seeing if the relationship is a strong one. What better way to test your relationship than living in a van, just the two of you, for 10 days. Not that I went into this testing ours! We had traveled many times before this in the US and out of the country. But the van aspect definitely added an extra quirky twist to this trip, and along the way some observations and thoughts crossed my mind.


The first night of our trip we were rearranging the inside of the van to make our bed after dark. The camper van is set up so the main seat bench and table reconfigure to make a surprisingly comfortable queen size bed. We had left Atlanta at 5:30am to catch our flight so needless to say after a long day of traveling we were exhausted. During the bed making process we were both outside and shut the doors… and were locked out. Somehow we locked the van with the keys… and our phones… inside.

We both just looked at each other for a second- damnit. We were in the woods with no keys, no phones and no way to get to any of our things. Immediately we both went into problem solving mode. I walked over to the campers next to us who were hanging out at their site, asked to borrow one of their phones, and began looking up the roadside assistance number I remember the camper van rental company mentioning. Stephen right away asked one of them for a tent stake to try to basically break into the van. Less than 5 minutes later I hear “we’re in!”. Somehow they managed to get into the van with the tent stake and save the night.

What was important to me about this was neither of us blamed the other, was mad or upset… by nature we both immediately thought of the best ways to fix the problem, stress-free. #Highfive for problem solving.



Everyone has their own way of going about their day and everyday tasks. The first day we stopped at the grocery store to stock up before going to our first campsite. After loading up the cart we got to the van to unload the bags. Seems like a completely normal thing, what could go wrong right? Well… we had an issue. Stephen wanted to completely unload and organize all the groceries where they belonged in the van, right there in the parking lot. His very efficient stance on the situation was “why do things twice, let’s put it all where it goes the first time”.  My view was “why spend any more time in the grocery store parking lot than we have to? Let’s throw the bags in, get to the campsite and take our time organizing there”. There was a small, *calm* disagreement that afternoon in the parking lot of the SaveWay in Aptos, California.

Was one of us right? No… we simply just go about certain things differently. It doesn’t make sense trying to argue who is right and who is wrong when in the end it doesn’t even matter. We compromised, put away the cold things in the fridge, and organized the rest later at the campsite.


If you’re spending 10 days straight together there are times you are bound to annoy the other person. We had the most amazing time and are extremely compatible, but our trip wasn’t without its moments on both sides. I remember Stephen trying to park the van on this very particular angle I wanted so it would be the most ideal setup with one of our campsites. Since the backside of the van opens up with the whole cooking area its important it’s placed so it flows with the site layout (at least to me that stuff is important!). I know I can be very picky, so there was a lot of moving the van this way, then that way, and then back this way. I could tell I was getting on his nerves, but he really remained patient with me and we got it set up perfect. I was happy with our space, and he was happy it was over so he could build a fire and relax with a beer.



Another time he wanted to stop and take pictures at this well known surf spot in Santa Cruz called Steamer Lane. That day is was extra chilly and windy, and I didn’t have a warm jacket on. I wasn’t in the mood to walk up and down cliff’s edge taking pictures of waves and surfers, and more waves and surfers… and waiting for the next set of waves hoping a surfer would catch an epic one. But I sucked it up, put on a happy face and paced along the water’s edge with him as he snapped away. He was excited about it, it made him happy, so I remained patient until he was ready to go.

Being patient with the other person is extremely important to a happy relationship. You won’t always want to do the same things, and you will get frustrated with each other at times. Don’t let those emotions boil over and ruin the moment.

No relationship is flawless. There will always be things you don’t agree and everything won’t always be picture perfect- even if you do end up with some pretty perfect pictures. I would do our whole 10 days in a van all over again anytime, Stephen jokes with me that it was just a warm up for a MUCH longer trip in the future. We will see if that ever comes to fruition, but I am confident we will be able to tackle whatever comes our way.

Have you ever experienced similar situations while traveling with your partner? Share your stories in the comments below!






14 thoughts on “What Living in a Van Taught Me About My Relationship

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