Lessons from my 31 days #vanlife

Looking at Mt Hood through the back door.

I went on this rather long solo trip to better understand myself and experience the vanlife. I would say the missions were accomplished. I would repeat this however many times I can afford, even for a more extended period. I watched sunrise and sunset almost every day. I was more honest with myself, and now I have a clearer idea of how I want my life to be.

It was easily the best month of my life.


Below are the tips and learnings from this trip. Sorted by categories (vanlife, people, hiking, outdoors, myself)

1. Vanlife:

My home for a month!

· On the first day, I thought driving 3.5 hours from SF to Yosemite was tough. Toward the later days of the trip, any distance within 4 hours of driving felt like a piece of a cake. I once drove 12 hours in a day just to get it over with the long distance driving.

· Driving after dusk was a good way to extend daytime and utilize the time because I couldn’t see anything after sunset anyway. However, it was also very stressful because there were no lights and it was pitch black most of the time. Not to mention deer and other wildlife were popping up from the roadside.

· A reliable power source is a must in this digital world because powered campsites are expensive. Always try to have extra batteries or portable battery for your phone, cameras, and power bank.

· Take a portable car jump starter with you. I had to call road assistance twice in one month.

· Sleeping bag did an amazing job keeping my body warm, but it couldn’t heat up the air inside the van. Thus, a heater is a must item.

· Do not expect great fuel efficiency for a campervan. I spent the most on gas.

My work station at night / View of the Grand Teton

2. Preventing unwelcomed guests (mice) into the van (ft. One of the worst moments of the whole trip):

Food storage area, burner, sink, and mini fridge.

· Always store your food in plastic containers so that sneaky mice cannot contaminate them when they are on board.

· A mouse creeped on me when I was sleeping. I had my arm out of the sleeping bag, and it went on to my arm and my head.

· The campervan company was super helpful regarding compensating and reimbursing the purchase to catch the mouse. The CMO tried calling several times, but I couldn’t take the call due to bad cellular service.

· The whole process of setting the mouse traps and applying peanut butter on to the trap wasn’t so pleasant, but I consider it as a lesson learned.

· Towards the end of the trip, I got lazy with properly storing the food, which resulted in another mouse climbing on the van and eating half of a banana. Fortunately, this one seemed to leave the van after filling itself up.

3. People:

· Hikers, climbers, and old couples are the sweetest.

· The wilder the trail is, the more friendly the people are.

· Finding climbing partners online is not sketchy at all! It’s an amazing way to make friends and learn about their lives. It was my first time hearing about Fishery biologist, and it sounded like the coolest job to travel the world.

· A lot of people I met during my travel were not appreciated of what they have and longing for something they couldn’t readily achieve. The grass is always greener on the other side.

4. Hiking:

On top of the Mt. Whitney, the highest peak of lower 48 states.

· The best time to visit national parks might be the last week of September. Lots of roads and hikes are closed in October.

· Always try to stop by visitor’s centers of national parks. It’s a perfect place to get the latest updates and road conditions from the rangers, plan hikes, get the insider tips. After visiting a few national parks, I figured researching online doesn’t help to make plans. Trail and road conditions change constantly.

· Try to minimize hiking when dark. Even with a headlamp, hiking down from half dome, I tripped over rocks, and I had the biggest injury on day two. It is in part due to not focus on trail and looking at the vista while hiking.

· Whenever you need to enjoy the vista, make sure you STOP walking and enjoy as long as you want. Take time.

Top of the Half Dome, Yosemite.

· If you don’t want your pee to be orange colored and die from thirst, always bring more than enough water with you. Even if that means bringing a heavier backpack.

· If you want to chill at the peak of the mountain, always bring an extra layer to keep you warm and block strong winds. Even if the peak doesn’t look high, the weather up there is unpredictable.

· Some of the roads and hikes have the literal names. For example, sunrise road, going to the sun road, and wall street, but some of the places weren’t quite literal. None of the inspiration points gave me inspirations!

· There were so many warnings for bear encounters, but friends living in the bear country did not seem to care. I should be more brave next time J

SOAKED in snow.

· When there’s too much snow on the trail, and you don’t have snow boots or Gore-Tex shoes, try to wrap your feet with plastic bags then wear your shoes.

· It turns out that wildlife also like to follow the trail instead of navigating through trees and bushes. Deer footprints led me to deer family in Grand Teton national park.

· Don’t plan two intense hikes on consecutive days.

· Don’t dare to underestimate some serious scrambling routes. Anything above class 4, learn how to use the rope and bring them unless you want to be stuck on the steep edge not being able to go up or down. Another scariest moment and I injured my left shoulder and right arm.

Sausage hand after hiking 9 hours above 4000m VS. Normal looking hands at the sea level

· Do take acclimatization seriously. You don’t want to be hampered by a headache and not be able to climb the peak. Take extra one to two days to stay high and acclimate before you hike high peaks. I saw fit people struggling to continue, and they consumed oxygen at 11000ft.

· When you find out you’re on the wrong trail, stop adventuring forward, and just go back to the trail where you’re coming from.

5. Camping, Outdoors:

· When finding a new camping site, doing it before dusk is the least stressful way and also be respectful of people who already found the spot and enjoying their quiet time.

· Campfires are not always romantic. It makes your clothes and van smell like fire until you wash them.

· Stargazing and finding constellations might be the most romantic thing to do after dusk. I want to learn more about astrophotography and constellations. Stargazing apps worked perfectly.

· Cereal bowl amount of water is more than enough for washing your face and brush your teeth.

· Don’t bother grinding the coffee every morning with your hand grinder. You’ll end up drinking less and less coffee, and it’s not good for you. Just get good coffee beans from a local roasters and have them ground for your method of brewing.

6. Myself:

My new hobby: flying drones and taking epic selfies!

· Experiencing early October snow storms, I learned to appreciate and celebrate Winter and snow. My next goal is to master backcountry skiing.

· I became a pro at talking to myself.

Spending eight days in desert helped me appreciate greens and forests.

· My favorite towns were Jackson and Bend.

· Hiker’s diet (an impromptu mixture of whatever was available in the cooler) worked for me. Thankfully, a fresh salad wasn’t on my mind for the entire trip.

· Lake reflections are my favorite view, especially those of alpine lakes.

· I prefer peak hikes rather than canyon or waterfall hikes.

I love climbing.

· Developed the love for climbing. I climbed at Yosemite, Tetons, Zion, and a few indoor rock climbing gyms in Bend, Helena, and San Francisco.

· Older adults kept telling me adventure as much as I can when I’m young.

· Minimalist.

8 national parks visited

3 shooting stars seen

7 showers taken

29 trails hiked

8 rock climbing routes climbed

8 friends met

1 lb. coffee bean brewed and consumed

2 campfires lit

3 times ankle sprained — 3 times lesson learned not to look elsewhere when hiking

6 materialistic purchases (2 patches, 1 beanie, 1 t-shirt, 1 convertible hiking pants, 1 pair of National Park themed socks)

3 books listened (Homodeus, Barbarian days, Finding my virginity)

6 company HQs visited (Facebook, Pinterest, Lyft, Pickybars, Nike, and Patagonia)

820 dollars spent on gas

350 dollars spent on food

14332 feet altitude difference between the highest and lowest points

For more photos and videos of this trip, please visit my instagram and YouTube.

Thanks!

Minji

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