How did we get here? 'AINA VAN LIFE in Hawaii
Yes, we lived in a van.
Not a fancy camper van of your nature adventure dreams, but more of a soccer mom style van. A Toyota Sienna to be exact. We liked how her classic silver styling blended in with 40% of every parking lot, better to keep it discreet.
How did we get here?? Why did we ever wish this for ourselves?
In April of 2019 we began the mission, the mission of selling the bed, the chairs, the blender, the french press. The few things that filled our "tiny home." A simple old Hawaiian 1 bedroom, that had been safe space in our first year of growth together.
It was that intense itch and irritation that was brewing between us. The kind keeps you up at night. The feeling that we had to make a change. We needed to grow into the minimalism we envisioned for ourselves. We spent the year prior building and dreaming and planning our entity, 'AINA life. Still working full time we wanted our income to go to our vision, not the fat rent check at the end of the month.
Do you know the feeling of survival mode? We were ready for that, and for all the life lessons that would come our way. If we were going to make 'AINA life true, we needed to be in this mindset. I think it has propelled us forward. It has also sent us in spouts of insanity, but that is just part of the deal.
Franco being from Venezuela, was use to living out of a backpack, and traveling for almost 7 years straight. The long and unpredictable process that comes in waiting for marriage papers and interviews to process, just so you can move on with our life was also putting him in mood. A feeling of being stuck when it's just not in your DNA to be in one place.
So Franco found the van, two vans actually, but one ended up in the junk yard before we got it home. He took the seats out, tinted the windows, painted the outside(that I have since ruined with my parking garage driving skills), built a platform bed where we could store our clothes and shoes underneath, we got a cooler, and some cushions to sleep on and within a month of shedding everything else we were on our way.
How long did we last? One year. Covid hit, and our normal routine was no longer possible. We now have a tiny studio, keeping it minimalist with no extra furniture. We throughly enjoy having our own bathroom again and having a kitchen to cook our favorite meals at any given hour. We know we could do it again if we want to, and we feel good that we accomplished what we needed to by living in the van and we yet we are still married:)
Here's a list of tips and learnings from our process:
1. You always need less.
I'm glad I didn't invest in all the tiny tools and cookware because it just isn't necessary in our tiny space. That one candle and box of incense I saved, well I haven't used it and I really don't need so many utensils.
4. Where to sleep
Sleeping in town with bright lights and passing cars will not allow for quality of sleep. It is worth the drive to head out of town towards the breezy trade winds and star filled skies.
5. Keep it clean
You have to have your shit together. Literally. Everything has its place. Dirty clothes belong in one bag, shoes go in an airtight container, use rugs and towels on the ground that can be removed and washed, no dirty or sweaty things in the back half of the van, avoid dusty roads, but also utilize that fresh air with the windows down.
One can make or break you! Never leave you windows down in down even though it is so tempting. Keep the van snacks to a minimum:)
7. Tinted windows
Just hire someone to do it for you.. hahaaa! We tried and it's no easy. You already feel a bit exposed and no one needs to see your life when they pull up next to you.
Showering outside is one of my new fav pass times... especially at night under the stars. We are really fortunate to live in Hawaii with the beautiful beach parks all around the island.
9. Join a gym
We joined a nice gym, and that really makes all the difference. You will need a place to go inside once in awhile and a hot shower every few days makes you feel more human.
10. You will end up driving a lot
You go to work, you drop off your spouse, you go work out, then to shower, then to eat, then to do work on the computer, then to the print shop, then the laundromat ect... it is the unfortunate truth that without a home base you are always on the go. This can be frustrating and also feel time consuming in the ability to get anything done. It does however help you define your time and keep things interesting.
11. Rent a kitchen
12. How do you get your free time? Do you fight?
Hell yes. We are in a tiny space and with one vehicle it makes it hard to have our alone time. We know it is a sacrifice and we are willing work through the challenges and keep our focus on how far we have come. Our work schedule is split some of the time which allows us to have a few hours of free time. Sometimes I take a nap, go to yoga, or just get my favorite unpackaged bake good with some reading. Whatever it is to create my own space.
I think this lifestyle will be something that will continue for us different phases of life. We would even love to take the van off island and explore something new! The idea of doing it more out of enjoyment and not necessity is really something to look forward to.
If you are thinking about this for yourself, if you have questions/concerns on if it is right for you, or just want to talk about it further we would be happy to share any and all of our experiences with you and help in any way we can! Direct message us on instagram @ainalife or email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Forever striving to live leaving #justfootprints