Getting Stuck In My Van In the Desert Changed My Life

Maybe there’s a bright side to my broken down van.

Abby Peeler
3 min readApr 13, 2024
Photo by Nicole Geri on Unsplash

Picture this: it’s Valentines Day, and my partner and I are DoorDashing to make an extra buck while vanlifing (big mistake in hindsight, but here we are). Suddenly, our van begins to have trouble shifting, and we reach the oh to common oh shit feeling vanlifers get when their home gets stalled. Now, it’s nearly May, and we’re only now buying the parts to fix up our van.

At the beginning of 2024, this would have broken my heart. Van life is full of ups and downs, but after starting off the year with a broken starter, the last thing we wanted was more broken parts to fix. With van life, having to make repairs is inevitable unfortunately. However, now I find myself much more optimistic and level-headed about our plans for van life.

Photo by hilary bird on Unsplash

To be honest, our van life plans before landing in the desert weren’t really even plans. For one, we had stumbled upon a van last minute in November, so from the start, we hadn’t been really planning for van life.

Naive and lost, we knew we wanted to travel. We had landed in a van, which helped us start to feel more at home; yet, we still were unsure on how we were going to make it last. How were we going to pay the bills? Feed ourselves? Fill the gas tank? What would we do when our money ran out? So, we DoorDashed for extra money, hoping we wouldn’t have to answer that question.

Ironically enough, DoorDashing turned out to be the reason why we had to answer that question sooner than later. Looking back, it’s almost comedic to think about how little we considered the wear and tear on our vintage van that DoorDashing would cause.

Photo by Atlas Green on Unsplash

Although the first week after the van breakdown was rough – consisting of having to relocate from the Walmart parking lot to a local RV park, finding a temporary job, and backtracking on our original plans for the year – the next months after have been the most rewarding of the year.

While my van might be stationary until our repair date, it still functions as our home. And it turns out, the little desert town we wanted to get out of, we already are missing.

My favorite part of traveling thus far has been the lessons it teaches along the way. This one? Sometimes the stops you never meant to take are the most important along the way.



Abby Peeler

traveler, writer, human being. this is where i write all my thoughts—the good, the bad, and the ugly.