Relying on shared bathrooms was my least favorite part of Van life

Relying on shared bathrooms was my least favorite part of Van life

The author stands in front of the campervan he has rented for two weeks.
Monica Humphries/Business Insider

  • I lived and traveled in a campervan without a bathroom for two weeks.
  • I’ve used gyms, RV resorts, gas stations, rest stops, and the great outdoors as my bathroom.
  • As someone who considers the bathroom life full-time, the bathroom situation is my biggest problem.

I pulled into a Shell gas station in my rental Ram ProMaster campervan.

After parking the car, I entered the market and went to the bathroom.

Inside was an indescribable stench. Toilet paper covered the toilet floor and urine covered the toilet seat. I used the bathroom as soon as possible.

After finding the empty soap dispenser, I went outside and remembered that I could use the sink in my van.

It was day 10 of my two-week minibus trip. Although I wasn’t tired of exploring the country by van, I was tired of public toilets.

The author in front of his van in Quartzite, Arizona.
Monica Humphries/Business Insider

I rented a van with no bathroom or shower

I’ve been drawn to van life for years. The lifestyle’s easy access to nature combined with a welcoming, adventurous community left me itching to ditch my stuff and hop in a van.

In addition to following van-life influencers on every platform from TikTok to YouTube, I’ve also interviewed dozens of van-lifers for my work.

Most of the time we discuss their van setup. If we discuss their construction, one thing will emerge – the bathroom situation.

Some people living in vans have composting toilets. Others skip the bathroom altogether. Rarely do I interview people who live in vans with showers.

Of course, each setup has pros and cons. Toilets and showers take up space, add weight to the van and are often expensive. So instead, many nomads rely on rest stops, gym bathrooms, gas stations, and the outdoors.

When it came to trying van life, of course I wanted the full experience. I found a van rental without a bathroom and set off.

A public toilet during the author’s van trip.
Monica Humphries/Business Insider

I’ve camped without a toilet, but doing it 24/7 is a different story

I’ve been camping and backpacking for more than three days, so I’m not new to relying on nature and gas stations for bathrooms.

But relying on public toilets for two weeks was harder than I expected.

The downpours, which used to be long, hot and exhausting, became difficult. I should look for a business like an RV resort, gym, or rest stop that offers showers. Then, I have to pay for the service, which is often limited to 15 or 20 minutes and usually costs around $10.

Also, the showers were not pleasant. I was more worried about hurting my foot or hitting a dirty wall than enjoying my hot water.

The author in a bathroom at a rest stop during a two-week trip in a campervan.
Monica Humphries/Business Insider

Baths faced similar challenges. Using a public bathroom never has the same privacy as my apartment. Public toilets were never very clean either.

Plus, I missed the convenience. I couldn’t go to the bathroom in the middle of the night or when I needed to. I often planned bathroom and shower breaks into my schedule.

By the end of the two weeks I was itching for privacy and a hot shower in my own apartment – I was shocked I missed it so much.

The author watches the sunset from his van.
Monica Humphries/Business Insider

My two weeks in the van were filled with spontaneous adventures, lively conversations, amazing nature and lasting memories. The positives far outweighed the negatives.

But the bathroom situation is still in the back of my mind as I continue to daydream about selling my stuff and buying a van.

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