We have all dreamed of that cross-country RV road trip. Or maybe if you’re like me, you have dreamed of one day purchasing a VW Vanagon and converting to a minimalist lifestyle to live in it. Well, if you are looking for that post, maybe I can write about it in five years time. However, the majority of us don’t have the funds to splurge on that kind of lifestyle move quite yet, so we have to make do with what we do have. This one is about traveling and how to live in your car. Having everything you own in a normal, four-door sedan CAR.
That is what I did for approximately 28 days in May of 2015. I traveled from my home state (Kansas) to the west – 7,300 miles round trip, with every one of my belongings with me in my 1998 Nissan Altima. A lot of people questioned if I could do it. Could I fit all my necessities in there? Would I be able to sleep in a car that wasn’t even the length of my body on the interior (I’m 6’3”)? Could I find somewhere to park it and set up car-camp every night? Truthfully, I was asking myself these same questions before leaving, but I had to give all the doubters a reason to believe. I told them I was sure of it.
The purpose of doing this was to save money. I wanted to travel the way I preferred, which was frugal. Hotel fees absolutely kill a travel budget on a diet. It was an experiment, and I ended up falling in love with it.
How to live in your car
The first thing you need to do is pack your “home” (car). It was my first time doing this, so naturally, I over-packed. The truth is, you can get away with the bare minimum on the road. It’s hard to believe when you’re packing for yourself, but the less you bring, the more satisfied, relaxed, and comfortable you will be. I can’t stress that enough after I brought entirely too much with me.
Then, you are going to have to give your new temporary home a layout. It’s better to stay organized throughout your whole journey, and that starts well before you ever leave. I had my car packed a week before I set out (mainly because I was anxious). Try to organize it with as many things in your trunk as possible. Avoiding clutter in your “bedroom/living room/kitchen” (the cab of your car) is the ultimate goal. Eventually, you will realize what you want to have up front with you at all times.
Next, you are going to want to make bed arrangements. Most people don’t think it is possible to sleep comfortably in a car, but I disagree. I found the perfect arrangement in my Nissan Altima. I made it was one of the most comfortable beds I have ever slept on. For me, I decided to recline my passenger seat as far back as it would go. However, other people with different car models may be able to find a more comfortable arrangement to fit them. I once read about a lady living out of a Toyota Prius. I now know that you can figure out a bed arrangement for just about any model of car in existence.
Pro Tip: Find numerous travel-sized pillows and line your seat with them to even out the surface of your new bed. It may even help to invest in a camping mat.
Pro Tip 2: Extend the length of (and level out) your bed by placing a storage container on the passenger seat floorboard and stack pillows to the level of your reclined seat at your head.
Your bed will be the most important aspect of determining if you can live in your car while traveling because travel without proper rest is next to impossible.
And that’s basically it on the set-up. Read my next article “The Guidelines to Car-Camping” for a guide on actually living in your car after you’ve hit the road.