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Van Life Blog 3 | Time Alone When Living in a Small Space

Written by Emma Constantine | 28th June 2021

Getting time alone in the van isn’t actually as hard as you might think. We are often doing separate things while in the van and Chinaka cleverly placed a separate desk area where I sew and teach. He can sit on the bed, or set the other table out while I’m at my desk. Even though we are in the same space, we are in different zones and this provides enough separation for when we are either working or want to be undisturbed.

We have to communicate well about it too though. When Chinaka says something like “I’m having my own time now” then I know he doesn’t want to be disturbed and I must respect that. For him, watching a movie with his headphones is how he likes to get time to himself. That’s pretty easy to achieve in a van.

Whilst he’s doing that, I might be sitting at my desk at the other end of the van, sewing or working, depending on what time it is, or maybe sitting in bed with him reading my book.

Time outside is how I like to recharge and reflect. I am more of a keen walker than Chinaka so this is also an easy way for me to get time by myself. We are often parked near some kind of nature so I don’t have to plan much to go for a walk and find some beautiful nature to look at. I’ve recently started running again too, so this is also a way for me to enjoy being alone. The regular change of scenery stimulates and excites me. Being able to go on a different walk or run with different views is really something I love about this lifestyle.

Some domestic activities can also be used as ways to “be alone” even if in the same space. Because of my working hours, sometimes I cook our dinner in the daytime ahead of time, so that it is ready for us when I finish work at 7:30pm. I do this mindfully and try to notice the enjoyment of doing a task by myself. Even though Chinaka is in the same space, I choose to be aware of the fact that I’m tasking on my own, notice it, enjoy it and cherish it.

Similarly, when doing the grocery shop, if I’m in need of alone time, I use this errand as a way to choose to enjoy being on my own. I don’t rush it, I choose to notice and enjoy the fact that I can make a decision about what to buy without consulting Chinaka! When shopping together, we sometimes have silly little arguments in the shop. Doing it on my own avoids this conflict and can become an enjoyable activity.

Of course we still have conflict and I certainly have times when I feel cooped up and in need of some more space. When that happens, I just step outside, walk a little to get some air, just like you might walk out of the room in a house to get some space away from the conflict. For us, walking out of the room means going outside, which has the extra benefit of providing fresh air and a new perspective. Going outside for even a couple of minutes helps to put my little life into perspective and immediately I’m grateful for the freedom and provisions I have.

If going outside is not an option because of weather or other reasons, then a last resort is going to sit in the cab area. There’s a wall and door leading to the front seats of the van, which blocks it off from the living space. Both of us have used this space to cool down after some conflict as well.

We are only nearly 2 months into living this lifestyle at the moment; it has been a steep learning curve of how to operate in the small space and it’s not been easy at all. I’ve read another van-lifer describe it as having high highs but low lows. I definitely relate to that and I’d say it’s pretty accurate! I’m hopeful that as time goes on, we will get even better at having effective time alone as well as wholesome times together.

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