Lifestyle, News, Tech, Tips

#VanLife, Work-From-Anywhere, and ADHD: The tales of a Digital Nomad


This month marks the happy two-year anniversary of our Customer Service Manager – Mariah! 🎉

Mariah is infinitely valuable to us for countless reasons, including her work ethic, her down-to-earth honesty, her warm personality, and the valuable skill set she brings to the company. In addition to all of these wonderful things, we think our readers would be interested to know that Mariah is a member of the ever-growing #VanLife movement!

#VanLife is a lifestyle that is becoming increasingly popular with Millennials and Generation Z – living in your car!

You might be thinking that this isn’t much of a “lifestyle”; maybe you know someone who lived in their car during a time when they were down on their luck. Or maybe you recall the Hippie Movement when free people would park their VW’s and have a chill time with their friends.

We assure you, living out of your van is not just for ease and convenience. It can be a lot of work.

On the reverse side of this coin, there is also a stigma against the young people who choose this nomadic lifestyle. Some skeptics posit that these “kids” come from wealth and luxury. In reality, many people chose #VanLife because they can use recycled and second-hand materials to access a life of freedom and travel that would otherwise be out-of-reach on their budget.

Take a look at some popular photos and videos of how others have converted their vans into homes!

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A post shared by Courtnie & Nate (@courtandnate)

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A post shared by Courtnie & Nate (@courtandnate)

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A post shared by Sydney Ferbrache | Van Life (@divineontheroad)

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A post shared by Quin Gable (@quingable)

What is #VanLife like, really?

#VanLife usually starts with renovating your vehicle to suit all of your needs. This means creating not only a place to sleep, but also a place to cook, work, and possibly take care of your pets too! Van-lifers might want to invest in some sort of water/waste system as well. You will need a place to hook up your van in order to use these systems, but it’s better than relying on buckets, bushes, and 24/7 public restrooms.

On the other hand, one of #VanLife’s biggest appeals is no longer needing to pay rent and utilities in unaffordable, overpriced, and often unsafe apartments and homes.

Mariah shares with us that one of her favorite parts of vanlife is no longer paying rent. She first found her way into what she calls the Digital Nomad lifestyle when she couldn’t find affordable housing in the places she wanted to live. In addition, she wanted the freedom to travel without being tied-down by a lease. With the van she originally bought for only 2K, Mariah has been able to travel all around North America without losing a penny on wasted rent or resources. Because she works remotely, she does not need to take any time off to travel and she has been able to pay off outstanding debt.

“I love the freedom,” she tells us, “I can go where I want, when I want, and experience life from a different lens. I’ve been able to see so many new perspectives since I started living in my van.”

House-dwellers always have access to water, electricity, a shower, and bathrooms (except of course when power goes out or there is some kind of emergency), but living out of your van requires a new awareness of public resources. Mariah appreciates the societal history that used to have these commodities available for their communities: “We all used to share resources, cook together, eat together, build together, and now we all live in houses separated from our neighbors.”

Is it hard to live out of your van?

Rather than feeling isolated, Mariah claims that nomadic loneliness is a common misconception about her lifestyle. She says, “Being apart of the #VanLife movement has brought me so many more connections than I ever did living in a house, and I’ve never felt more surrounded by community… I have never been surrounded by more of a community in my life.”

Thanks to the uniqueness of her lifestyle, Mariah is constantly meeting people from all over the country and even the whole world! She asserts that it is surprisingly easy to be surrounded by company if you want to be, yet the privacy of living in a small van is convenient and welcoming.

She does warn potential #VanLifers that challenges can be different for everyone. While she has had a wonderful experience, others might not. For example, someone who’s vehicle needs consistent repairs could find themselves desperately searching for places to stay the night while their home is in the shop. If that happens, they might lose some of the freedom and mobility that draws people to the lifestyle. Additionally, the cost of repairs can really add up!

Mariah also jokes that a personal challenge for her is cooking and washing dishes! “But I don’t like cooking even when I am in a house,” she playfully adds.

Is it safe to live out of your van?

As with every situation, wisdom is always required. #VanLife means finding safe places to park for a little while. Mariah shares that most of her fears involve being in a city alone or with new people, rather than when she is out exploring more natural areas. “Some things I do to keep myself safe include: keeping a form of protection on me as well as a keychain alarm, always letting people know where and when I’m about to go on an adventure alone, sharing my location with loved ones, and having my dog with me to scare off potential threats. I am always vigilant and careful with what information I choose to share with strangers.”

One crazy story she tells is from a few months back. “I was in White Salmon WA at a dispersed camping spot which happened to be a dead end, but the area was so quiet I didn’t care too much. I hadn’t seen a single soul for three days, and on day three I decided to cut my hair. I started filming a video as a joke for an instagram reel with the caption: ‘If you walked up and saw a girl in the middle of the forest cutting her hair, what would you do?'”

And then the joke actually happened…

Suddenly and unexpectedly, a car pulls up and parks right next to her. Four figures step out and gather their large mountain bikes.

As it turns out, Mariah was camped right in front of a secret mountain biking trail. These four women had come to enjoy a little adventure of their own. They were just as shocked to see a girl with half-cut hair as she was to see four women with mountain bikes at her isolated campsite!

“I was super embarrassed and awkward, especially because my dogs started going crazy. I had to run over and grab them with my overalls falling down and half of my hair chopped off.”

Is #VanLife worth all the buzz it’s been making online?

“Absolutely!” Mariah exclaims. She loves living out of her van and has no plans to go back to stationary living anytime soon. “When it comes to my lifestyle, I’m not a big planner. I like to go with the flow and be open to new opportunities and experiences as they come.”

Although nomadic life is not for everyone, Mariah encourages anyone to try it. She recommends this lifestyle to “anyone and everyone who’s willing to change their life and give up some of the luxuries of everyday life – to anyone who is ready to respect and take care of every place they visit and be responsible for preserving our lovely planet.”

Are you interested in learning more about the nomadic lifestyle? A few of Mariah’s favorite #VanLife influencers on Instagram include @CourtandNate @DivineonTheRoad and @QuinGable.


How do van-lifers financially support themselves?

Most of the people Mariah has met in her journeys work either part- or full-time. There are three primary ways that the nomadic lifestyle and steady employment can be compatible:

  1. Their work sends them on frequent journeys which can be reached by driving in their conversion.
  2. Their work schedule provides ample breaks wherein they are temporarily untethered to the workplace.
  3. They work remotely. (This is where “Digital” meets “Nomad”!)

For Mariah, the third option is the perfect fit for herself and her lifestyle!

Working Remotely with Smpl

One year prior to moving into her van, Mariah began her first full-time fully remote job in IT Support here at smpl. She was finishing an online Bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Technology, and she took her time finding the right position that met her search criteria: fully remote, full-time entry-level, and in the IT field. She found her metaphorical home with smpl. Since then, her excellent work has promoted her to Support Manager!

“I love my job!” She cheers. If she were to ever look for a new job, she says, “Ideally, I’d keep all the same factors which include, 100% remote capability, benefits, positive work environment, flexibility, transparency with my lifestyle, and a boss who not only tolerates me working from my van but 100% supports and encourages me.”

Empowered with job security, Mariah decided it was finally time to transition from work-from-home to work-from-anywhere. She converted a used van and began her journey across the continent with #VanLife. She is currently enjoying the warm beaches in the Baja Peninsula (while the rest of the US and Canada has been enduring cold fronts and winter storms, even as we move closer to Spring). And her work continues to be immaculate.

Can neurodivergent people with ADHD thrive with work-from-anywhere?

Mariah loves working in the controlled environment of her van-home yet with the wide open world just outside her window.

“I think that remote work positively impacts my work ethic and overall performance. Getting to choose the environment I work in is wonderful for a neurodivergent person like me… I have ADHD and find it much easier to work in private settings where it’s quiet, as opposed to an office that may be noisy and distracting.”

Speaking of limiting distractions, Mariah is happy to be able to take care of her dogs during the day rather than worrying about them while she’s gone at work.

“Remote work allows me to focus in a private environment,” she shares, “It also provides me a great work-life balance where my breaks actually do feel like breaks, versus when in the past I’ve been stuck in an office and can’t really relax my mind during my lunch.”

The freedom to travel stimulates Mariah’s ADHD brain with novel places, people, cultures, foods, and sights. By naturally stimulating her mind and carefully following professional medical advice, Mariah flourishes in her nomadic lifestyle. With this stimulation while off-the-clock, Mariah’s brain is recharged and ready to focus on her work once she enters her controlled, curated work-space in her van. “Overall I am much happier and excited with life, which in turn helps my mental wellbeing in all aspects.”

As with any good thing, there are a few concerns. The first thing any person (not just someone who is neurodivergent) should ask themselves when considering a major job or life change is whether or not they possess the self-discipline to fulfill the responsibilities required for this shift.

Research shows that the human brain trains itself with expectations depending on their environment. When a person walks into their workplace, their mind primes itself to work. But when that same person crawls into their bed, the thyroid releases hormones that prepare the body for sleep. Working and sleeping in the same place can confuse these involuntary systems, causing the person to be drowsy at work and wide awake at night.

“For me and the role I’m in,” says Mariah, “It’s not hard to switch into ‘work mode’… I think it’s easier because I’m not really wishing I was somewhere else. I’m working from where I want to be.”

Mariah warns: “Sometimes there can be less stability and additional variables that come with working outside an office [such as] poor wifi connection, unpredictable distractions… But that’s not to say offices don’t have similar unexpected negative possibilities.” Power outages can happen anywhere, any corporation can lose their wifi connection, employees are more likely to get sick and call out, and of course, the Pandemic shut down all offices and put a sudden halt to many businesses until people were able to switch over to remote set-ups.

Mariah stays connected with her team via slack, calls, and meetings that keep everyone accountable and on track. She also upgraded her internet to Starlink, so that she can stay connected everywhere she goes.

Related: Business communication technology to keep your teams connected without fail


What are some success strategies for van-lifers with ADHD?

People with ADHD typically need routine to stay on track. At the same time, people with ADHD get bored with routine.

Mariah has never had a very solid routine, so switching to nomadic life has not disrupted her self-regulation too greatly. “I find the constant change very exciting and I thrive in chaos. The constant movement would probably make some people uncomfortable, but with that being said, there are so many different ways people live van life.”

Many people keep strict routines while others embrace complete freedom. Building a routine and good habits is a honed skill regardless of how or where you live.

Mariah shares of her personal experience very recently: “I’ve been boon-docked on a beach for the past few weeks and it actually has helped me create a better routine since I have less distractions. I have to cook more and do more routine things than when I lived in a house. So overall, it’s unique to each individual.”

Stereotypically, people with ADHD are prone to make impulsive decisions. The choice to move into a van requires more prep and consideration than jumping on an airplane for a weekend away. However, once you’ve safely prepared yourself and your van, Mariah tells that “van-life impulsive decisions can take you to places you never dreamed of! I bought a ticket to a van life community event one week before and drove across three state lines to get there without knowing anyone. It was one of the best weekends of my life.”

In many other times and places in Mariah’s life, she has felt judged for her last-minute decisions, but she does not feel that way in the #VanLife community. “I think there are a lot of neurodivergent people in this community and you get to be exactly who you are.”

Having a comfy, cozy environment before work allows work-from-home employees to make sure they are well-rested before starting their work. Mariah utilizes this, as well as stretch breaks and keeping healthy snacks on-hand, to thrive throughout the workday.

Related: Make It Easier! Work Remotely in a way that Works for You

Should employers be encouraged to hire #VanLife remote employees?

Definitely! Mariah thinks that working from anywhere is extremely beneficial. “Every employee is so different, and we can’t expect everyone to thrive in the same environments… Healthy communication between the employer and team is vital to establish what the best environment is for each individual.”

As mentioned before, Mariah greatly values the way that her boss at smpl actively shows his support for her lifestyle. “I think it’s important to have a healthy relationship where the employer or manager actually cares about how the employee is doing, both with the professional and personal sides of life. This leads to more honesty about what is best and if something isn’t working it creates a space to make necessary changes.”

Related: 5-Step Guide to Ensuring a Remote Workforce Feels Connected and Valued

Why should you consider joining the #VanLife movement?

Living out of your van can be hard work, but it also opens up a whole world of new experiences, community, and personal growth. With a fully remote job, #VanLife adventurers can thrive in environments custom-made for their needs. #VanLife can also be beneficial for neurodivergent people because the novel travel opportunities generate new stimuli for the mind and ground a person back to nature.

“Something I would tell someone with ADHD considering van life,” Mariah suggests, “would be to not compare your journey with anyone else’s. You may do things differently, and it may take a little longer to figure out, but you can do it!”

If you are ready to leave the confines of an office and traditional home-living, we encourage you to give the Digital Nomadic life a try! Great adventures are waiting to be experienced!



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