Connection and intimacy is a very important part of life, whether you choose to van life or to live in a traditional housing structure, like a home or an apartment. Dating in vanlife however is a bit different. First of all, unlike most people, I am not tied down to a specific city or state. In order to maximize my chances of success, which is to have a happy long term relationship and find a partner I can build a life with, I only targeted cities I would consider as a home base. Secondly, a single girl living in a van conjures up some interesting fantasies in the male population, which makes for some interesting opening lines. Last but certainly not least, all singles who are seeking to find the right person goes through the challenge of finding real connection in a busy digital world. So is it possible to find real love in vanlife? Is it possible to find stable meaningful connections with people when you are living an lifestyle that is considered unstable?
One of my first dates on the road was in Palmer, Alaska. Driving up from Texas, I felt a deep connection to the state, a combination of being fascinated by the idea of living in the last frontier and the romantic notion of living off gird with a man who could live off the land excited me. After setting up my profile location on Hinge to Palmer, which I decided would be a good starting point, since I was planning to be there for a couple of weeks for the State Fair of Alaska, my vanlife dating experience began.
Most of my matches were intrigued by the idea of a single girl living traveling in a van. Of course, it is safe to assume my profile would only peak the interest of the more adventurous, free spirited types. If a guy was looking for a local girl with a traditional 9 to 5 job, he would have left swiped me. There was all kinds of messages. There were the: “That so cool you are traveling in a van!” and “Take me with you!”. Some of the guys who reached out were former vanlifers or had traveled in a very similar fashion. Quite a few guys were fascinated with the vanlife lifestyle and wanted to hangout to hear about my adventures.
Of course, there were messages from guys who wanted to live out their teenage fantasy of shacking up in a van “down by the river”. I even had few guys reached out to me offering their home for me to stay with them, thinking that I needed a hero to save me from vanlife. One even said, “If we work out, I have plenty of room for you and your pets in the house.” One of the strangest request was from a guy who after sending me an unsolicited dick pic, asked if I would be open to meeting him and his friend, which I immediately detected as the beginnings of a threesome van fantasy. Weird. After careful selection process, I decided to meet a few of the guys I matched with.
The first guy was an early 30’s something professional who just recently moved back Anchorage, Alaska after living in the lower 48 for a few years for work. The Lover 48, for those of you who aren’t familiar with Alaskan lingo, refers to all the other states out side of Alaska and Hawaii. We decided to meet at the State Fair of Alaska in Palmer and spend the day exploring the fair activities. Dressed in what can only be described as hipster chic, “Tom” was dressed head to toe in black: Skinny jeans and punk band t-shirt. He was a far cry from my typical type. With a friendly smile and striking blue eyes, we both were eager to see what the fair has to offer. As far as dates goes, this one is definitely one of the most interesting dates, complete with my very first ax throwing session, which is quite a satisfying and fun experience. After sharing a plate of fried halibut, we went to see the famous giant vegetables, grown in midnight sun. During April 22 to August 20, the Alaskan sun doesn’t really set, making it possible to grow 130-pound cabbage and pumpkins the size of a miniature loveseat. The date ended when I had to go back to work. Although I had a great time, we both realized we were not relationship compatible, so it was back to the digital dating jungle for me.
Date number two in Alaska was a guy in his early 40’s, who worked in the real estate business. Stable and seemingly mature, he was nice, but not quite my type. Wanting to keep an open mind, I decided to meet him for a quick coffee. As Carry Bradshaw once said, ”He was like the flesh and blood version of a DKNY dress; you know it’s not your style but you try it on anyway.” During our date, everything was fine except for one thing: I was mildly distracted by the high pitched sound of his voice. While some people may call this shallow, I quickly realized early in my dating life this truth: If there is something about a guy that is a bit annoying in the beginning, it will certainly always get worse. To make things worse, he admitted he was only interested in me because I was “kinda cute, “ which I took as a backhanded compliment. It was the final nail on the coffin. After a short coffee date, we parted ways amicably, and thus ended date number 2.
As I dated my way across North America, I’ve met many nice guys who had great careers and a great sense of humor. One of my most memorable dates involved driving together for 2 and a half hours to go catch roller coasters. Recently, another guy offered to show me around Seattle, showing me the local wine scene and tourist attractions. While he was great company and a wonderful tour guide, he had just gotten out of a relationship. Nevertheless, it was a fun first date.
One of the most interesting and slightly odd first dates was when a guy offered to have me come by to do my laundry at his house. In all fairness, he was about to start his vanlife adventures after selling his house in Seattle and wanted to pay it forward. We actually hung out a few times trading favorite travel spots and drinking good wine. Another time, I met up with another vanlifer outside the parking lot of a Costco. I had been shopping and was planning to leave town later that night, and decided to meet up. “Jake” was a full time carpenter and had been living vanlife in Seattle for a year. He pulled up right next to me in the back of the Costco parking lot in his Ford 350 Transit. I said “Hi! Nice to meet you. Do you want some eggs? I have way too much and it won’t fit in the van.” The things you say on a first date in van… (head shake). We had a fun time checking out each other’s rig. As I stepped in to his rig, I was hit with the biggest case of van envy. Custom white cabinetry, ample space, and a diesel heater made me almost drool with envy. My pets and I had been in 30 degree weather, and the idea of having on demand heat was like close to heaven. He gave me some great tips and we parted way as friends.
After going on many great first dates in vanlife, I’ve discovered this truth: There are a lot of great guys out there. What it boils down to is finding the right fit for you. Living and traveling in a van attracts a certain type of guy, usually current vanlifers, past vanlifers, or people who are interested in an alternative lifestyle. Ultimately, it boils down to whether or not the two of you have enough things in common: lifestyle choices, personal values and if there is a spark. And boys, you will not be getting lucky in the van down by the river.
“Maybe some women aren’t meant to be tamed. Maybe they just need to run free till they find someone just as wild to run with them.”