Van Life

Why & How I Prepared to Live Minimally

{Just FYI: If you’re reading this for HOW I prepared to live in a van full-time from living a 2 bedroom apartment before, then scroll down past the WHY part that is written first.}


yes that is the van I’m going to be living in!!



In my previous blog, I announced that I’m going to live in a van (click here to read it), and all the specifics (where, when, and why I’m doing it as far as the fact that it’s been a life dream of mine and I love to travel).  This blog post will focus more on why minimal living is appealing to me as far as things vs. experiences… and not so much why #vanlife is a dream of mine, since I wrote that in a previous blog.

In in this day and age, it seems everyone is competing to have more, own more, and be bigger and better than the neighbor next door.  People wait in ridiculous lines overnight for the latest smartphone model (I’m guilty of doing that in my past), for the next video game that is coming out, or pay hundreds of dollars for a single item of clothing that you only wear a few times (I’ve never understood that).  Adults compare their cars, their homes, their bank accounts, their clothing, and whatever assets they’re interested in to those around them. Kids complain when their friends have an iPad or new toy that they don’t have themselves. We are so influenced by the habits of other people, that we buy things we don’t need.

But WHY? To impress others? – that should NEVER be a reason. To feel good/proud of yourself for being able to buy it? – That will only be a temporary satisfaction. To fill a void in your life? Again, temporary fix.  Because these things actually mean something to us internally? Highly doubtful. Tangibles can be associated with certain memories and times in our lives, but I don’t think the items themselves provide much sentimental value. I don’t think the items instill “I’m going to remember this for the rest of my life” type of thoughts.  You’re most likely just trying to keep up with society’s ever-changing technology or what everyone else is doing.  This is an ongoing cycle……  Only for everyone to eventually become satiated with these items, put them on the back burner as they age , replace it with the next hyped item that came out, and then completely forget about the previous item that they were once so excited about!! 

I myself have been kind of guilty of this until recent years and it just blows my mind… I cannot remember all of the phones I’ve ever had or  all the clothes and shoes I’ve ever owned… But I sure can remember places I’ve been, landscapes I’ve seen, and emotions I’ve felt during my experiences.. both positive and negative.  And as time passes, I’ll have no idea what phone model I used to take the photos of those places, or the shirt that I was wearing when I was doing it, but I will always remember the experience itself. This is why THINGS don’t matter to me.  At the end of the day, things are just that, things.  I know that’s such a cliche fucking topic “at the end of your life you won’t remember the things you had… blah blah blah”, but it’s ridiculously true. Instead of just hearing the phrase and reading this, actually think about it and apply it in your personal life.  Things can be replaced and remodeled.  Memories cannot.  Experiences cannot.  Sure memories can fade, and new ones can be added that are more clear than past ones… but they never go away.  They are with you for life.  Good or bad, they are yours until you die.  Unlike tangible items… and this is why MOMENTS matter to me instead.


With all that being said, unlike the majority of the human race, I have been preparing to do the opposite.  To own less. To live smaller. To get rid of so much “stuff”.  And instead, preparing to see more, do more, and live more.  I’ve gotten a lot of questions about how I’m preparing to do so… So, the rest of this post will show how I’ve been preparing to move from living in a 2 bedroom 2 bathroom apartment to just a little van (abroad at that).

If you want to scroll down, here’s the order:  Clothes, furniture/belongings, Storage Unit, Bank/Money, Phone, VISAs, Pets, what I’m bringing.

Clothes: Honestly the most time-consuming part for me.  Although I rarely buy new clothes as previously stated, I also rarely got rid of any over the years.  So, I had years and years worth of clothing in my closet, dressers, and other places.  I ended up giving away/donating about 50% of my clothing to a children/women’s shelter called Place of Hope. At first it was hard to choose what to get rid of, but when the process was over it felt sooo good to get rid of so much stuff! (I never even wore it anyway!). I highly recommend doing this regardless of who you are or where you are at in life. Cleanse yourself of things you never use and donate them to people who will use them.  Anyway, then about 35% of my clothes I packed tightly into 3 plastic storage bins.. and the remaining 15% packed into my suitcase to bring with me!! My closet pictured below.


Furniture/Belongings: Sold some of my items in places like the OfferUp app, Facebook marketplace, and to known friends. (my vacuum made me the most sad to part with, I fucking loved my swivel-head Shark vacuum haha.. but really, I loved it.).  I also donated some stuff. I threw away a LOT of old stuff. I put minimal amount of stuff into storage bins. And blessed that a family member had space to store one of my nicer bedroom sets in their spare bedroom as well as a few other things.  I obviously cannot fit any furniture or large items in my car, so if it doesn’t fit, bye bye things!!  Not going to lie, in the beginning it came with a bit of “Am I really doing this?!” apprehensive-type thoughts… but then those thoughts were quickly replaced with excitement for life and what’s ahead.. reminding myself why I’m doing it to begin with!

Storage Unit: I am using my car as my storage unit.  It is paid off so it will save me the monthly payment of a unit (although smaller and not air conditioned.. money is my priority at this point). If you have a friend or family member that is willing to allow you to keep your car at their place in a safe spot (thankfully I do), this is a great way to save money and also have a car to use if/when you come back home!


Side note: Obviously a car still needs insurance on it.  If you aren’t going to be driving the car, you can contact your insurance company and make it an inactive car for a significantly less insurance payment.  I opted to skip this for now and prepay it for the next 6 months (so I still don’t have to worry about any payments for awhile and it can still be used if needed). But if my travels continue for a significant amount of time, I will choose to make it inactive in the future.. but just an FYI to help with your budget if you have an inactive vehicle.

Bank/Money: I finally opened a credit card that has NO FOREIGN TRANSACTION FEES! I don’t know what took me so long to do this. If you travel often, it is a MUST.   Every purchase at a gas station, restaurant, shop, excursion, anything, has a foreign fee added to it when you’re abroad.  Most people seem to recommend Chase Sapphire for the best travel rewards/no international fees. But I bank with Bank of America so I got a travel rewards VISA card with them.  There is no annual fee, and there are no foreign fees anywhere in the world.  This is most important to me, because those fees add up quickly! If you want a global debit card instead of a credit card, Charles Schwab seems to be one of the only banks with a international debit card option.


no international/foreign fees, and no annual fee


Phone/Communication: I don’t have any amazing advice here.  I know you can get sim cards for other countries or buy an international plan.  I tried an international plan twice before and my phone still didn’t work properly abroad as intended so I am not a fan of them. I have a Skyroam portable global wifi device that I’ve used on my previous travels that has always worked perfectly with multiple devices at once, even in the car.   So between the that portable wifi and possibly using Dave’s phone as a local hotspot for my phone service, that is what I’m going to use for now.  If you have something amazing you recommend for global communication, please feel free to message me with it!!


The portable wifi I use for now.. uses local signals all over the world for service

VISA/Customs: As an American, I don’t need a special VISA for any of the countries I plan on going to in Europe and the UK.. but you never know where the road or unplanned life will take you!  So just in case, I did get 2 acceptable VISA size photos printed of me at CVS that I will be bringing with me in addition to my passport. This only took a few minutes of my time, so better to be safe than sorry.

The only concern I have is clearing customs on a one-way ticket.  I’ve read so many others’ blogs and experiences and researched websites, and they all are so conflicting.  Some people have never had a problem, and others had to have proof of when they were leaving and had to buy a flight out of the country on the spot.  So worst comes to worst, I will just buy the cheapest flight out (which is like $20) and not use it.  (Also, I can write a different post about the types and lengths of VISA allowances in the EU, UK, and surrounding countries).

Pets: MY PARENTS SAVED MY LIFE HERE. Literally. They are providing a roof and loving home for my 2 kitties that I’ve had for the past 10 years.  Spoiling them and loving them as I would.  And I can visit them, face time them (you bet I will), and have them back whenever I like. My pets are like my children. So thankful for my parents in this part of life is an understatement.  Maybe they will be future van life kitties one day? We’ll see. But for now, they are in good hands!!


Other/What I’m Bringing:  Downsizing my life so much is a challenge to begin with..  But doing it abroad makes it even more challenging.  If I were moving into a van here in the US, I would be able to use things I already own (like pillows, sheets, cups, pots and pans, storage cubes, etc.)  But these things will not fit into my suitcase and I have a weight limit on my checked bags.  So I am bringing as much as I can as far as clothes, shoes, toiletries, and electronics… but that’s it.  And I still am bringing too much clothes I’m sure. Hopefully I don’t have to get rid of anything once there if it doesn’t fit. Pictured below is the only bags I’m bringing with me.


the only belongings I’m bringing with me.. from an apartment to just these bags

There was so much organizing, reorganizing, moving, selling, planning, packing, repacking to reorganize, so many to-do lists and preparations and research and mental work going into this transition.  I still can’t believe this is happening. I say “WHAT!” in an excited manner out loud to myself that this is actually going to be my life!

If you have any other questions for me OR constructive input for me, feel free to email me anytime!

And of course, don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @KellyNicole Travel to follow along with our journey and travels.

Happy Travels!


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