Vantarian Tips: 1 Year of Van Life

Six months ago, I wrote some thoughts down about what I’d learned about cooking, and only since then have I recently finished maturing into a truly healthy eater. At the time, it was one year since I had moved out of a two-story townhouse (with a small yard, HOA fees, an HD television) and into sixty square feet of mobile housing.

Holy whale balls!

So on the road, people of every demographic pegged me with questions about van life – do you shower? How’s the gas mileage? Most importantly, do you eat well? While one old couple in New Orleans asked me about the heat, they could hardly keep my collie from climbing into their car and settling under the AC.

To give you some background story, I spent half that Van Year on the move, satisfying a drive to see the continent in its entirety: together with my dog, we rolled van twenty-four thousand miles to places like LA, up the Pacific Coast to Squamish, Mexico, Toronto, Ohio, Colorado, NYC, and an endless, endless number of small towns. I spent another 6 months after that in parking lots in Boulder, working at the Boulder Gear Exchange and instructing at The Spot Bouldering Gym.

Here’s three main things I learned about cooking while traveling on the road.

Foremost: Have an efficient kitchen.

For me, efficient means minimal effort, minimal time, and maximized use of space. I used GSI Outdoors equipment because they have lightweight, packable cooking ware. They began as a construction company in San Diego, and now sell in Canada’s Mountain Equipment Co-op, REI, and even across the pond. The gear I used is pictured above, and included the Minimalist and the Java Commuter. Their cooking pans also cook fast, clean quickly, and store easily. Every meal cooked in 15 minutes, was eaten in 10, and cleaned up in 5.

My only concern was a question brought to my attention by a devout vegan and healthitarian: what chemicals were in the non-stick pan? Was plastic a fair exchange for wood? But on the go, this wasn’t a concern. I was always on the move, healthier than ever, and happier than a pig in slop. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say I was like Fringe’s Folly on a successful Trader Joe’s dumpster dive.

Two: Don’t cook every meal.

Surprisingly little really needs to be cooked: eggs and meat. Anything I’m missing? Coffee, salad, nuts, dip, oatmeal, edible fruit, can all be raw or instant. Oatmeal? Boom, I didn’t need milk. Add water and let it sit a bit, German style. Epic tupperware is your best friend, and don’t forget to bring food with you all the time. Foldable, cleanable utensils make a world of difference when I’m eating quickly. Last, carry bell peppers and a bit of dark chocolate. These satisfy your hunger, are delicious, and peppers are very high on the ANDI nutrition ranking from Whole Foods. Refrigeration is a nice perk, and certainly long trips require food storage.

Three: When cooking, use wine

If you’re making a nice meal, go the whole 9 yards, don’t stop one bottle short of the good life. If the van is in an amiable climate, I recommend a reclosable box of White Zinfandel for cooking chicken (my fav) but there’s also sherry, champagne, and white wine, and other options to explore with other meats. This really kicks the level of sophistication up a notch, and is mandatory for wheel homes converted with nice wooden floors. 😉

Hope that helps with any future vanlifers buying (or still dreaming about) the mobile life!

If you have any questions or need some specific direction, vegan tips, lifestyle adjustments, etc, shoot me a message on Facebook.

Rock on! \m/