Day 85: Taking Space Over Quitting Van Dog Life

Robert Gibb
My Van Year
Published in
2 min readMar 26, 2022


5/2 Update After trying two times to work, travel, and live from the van with Chester it’s not working unfortunately. I got the bugger with my mom so he will return to living with her until I have a steadier living situation. I’ve been forcing van dog life with Chester. Time to let it go.

Yesterday I wrote a post that I did not publish called Deciding on Van Living Without a Dog. I felt like this was the right decision when writing it. But after some rest and having less than a day away from Chester, I see this decision as all-or-nothing thinking. Either travel with Chester all the time or travel with Chester none of the time.

When I was experiencing intense anxiety in college, I saw a psychologist. The most useful analysis she provided was my tendency to resort to all-or-nothing thinking. Instead of finding a middle way, I would choose one extreme or the other. She taught me cognitive therapy techniques and recommended medication but she didn’t teach me how to take space. This is something I’m learning now.

Persisting over breaking is overrated. Last weekend I persisted when I had the opportunity to give Chester to my mom. She was visiting Raleigh at the same time I was near the area. I drove to meet her but decided not to hand off Chester. I was frustrated with him at the time and did not want to part with him in my current state. I felt like there was still some frustration I needed to move through. This was noble but unwise. Now I realize I just needed some space.

Now, here I am in Pittsburgh. I slowly made my way north over the past week, partly to return home for some doctor appointments, mostly to do what I should have done last week: take a break from Chester. Instead of heading back to the cold north, I could have done this through asking my van friend to watch him or finding a Rover. But I was confused and tired. Lessons learned.

Yesterday, I met my mom and her boyfriend halfway between Pittsburgh and their home three hours north to hand off Chester and take a break. Now I am sunk into my dad’s couch, enjoying central heat and all the conveniences that come with a traditional house. As it reaches below freezing temperatures, I will use this time to rest and make optimizations to the van that let Chester and I enjoy each other but also have our individual space. The first thing I’ll build is a removable dog bed area that goes over the passenger seat.

“I need some space from you, too.”