What Six Months of Unexpected Traveling has Taught Me

How my accidental descent into becoming a vanlifer has transformed my life through various lessons.

Abby Peeler
3 min readApr 14, 2024
Photo by Jana Leu on Unsplash

Six months ago, I was trapped in my small hometown in Kansas. Now, I’m living rent free in my new (to me, but technically vintage) van in the desert. As a 22 year old, I am learning how crazy life’s changes really can be firsthand.

Before acquiring my van, I couldn’t imagine myself actually being a vanlifer. Not because I didn’t want to but because I didn’t want to explain to my family why I would want to do that. I knew they would be confused and likely would look down upon my choices. For too long, I was living my life for other people.

However, when a planned move to Colorado went awry, my partner and I made the decision to travel around with our saved money instead of last minute rent a property we weren’t sold on. We had decided that we would either make traveling work or come back home.

We went from a couple weeks of AirBnB hopping and traveling in our Jeep Compass to trading vehicles with my sister, who previously unbeknownst to us had a 90s Chevy G20 van.

Since beginning our journey in the van, we have learned many lessons.

Photo by Franciele Cunha on Unsplash

Be Flexible with Your Plans

Van life will humble you often. One of the ways it does this is delaying your plans, often with broken parts or needing to change camping locations. These delays, no matter how unpredictable they are, are often handled by being flexible with your original plans.

While broken parts are a bummer, getting stuck in a spot actually forces you to slow down and form a new plan.

Being flexible means knowing and accepting that your plans could change at a moment’s notice. For a control freak like me, it’s easier said than done, but I’m learning.

Photo by Holly Mandarich on Unsplash

Live In the Moment

Traveling long-term can leave you lacking gratitude for the ability to travel as you do it. Often, it’s not until you’re forced to stop where you realize how lucky you were to have gotten those experiences.

It has taught me to live in the moment. As I get older, the quote of never being in the exact same moment twice rings more and more true. I find myself paying more attention to the little details of the world around me in the now rather than worrying about the possibilities of the future.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Expect the Unexpected

The number one rule of traveling is to be prepared for the unexpected to happen.

The best way to prevent accidents is by having precautionary measures already in place before it can occur. For me, that looks like doing proper research into wildlife in the area, being diligent about fire precautions, and even having a backup place to stay in case of emergency.

Having these precautions can not only assist in the case of an accident, but also, they give the peace of mind of knowing that one is prepared if something does occur.

Photo by anja. on Unsplash

At 22, traveling has taught me so much more than academics ever did. I am consistently being challenged to improve myself while being pushed out of my comfort zone. Leaving my hometown has allowed me to see and appreciate so much more of the world and it’s people.



Abby Peeler

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