What Van Life Taught One Couple About The Importance Of Nature & Disconnection
It's safe to say a lot of us have dreamed of packing up our lives and hitting the road for a while. Well, Edden Ram (@eddenram) and his partner actually did it. After building a top-of-the-line van to sell, they decided to take it for a test drive across America to live the simple life for a few weeks. Along the way, they picked up some valuable lessons on the importance of disconnecting and living with a light footprint.
When did you move into your van? What first inspired the move?
We moved into the van in May 2023, directly after completing the building process. We had a few more things to finish up, but we wanted to test everything on the road before completing the build. We always wanted to try out van life since we both work freelance and love traveling, so it seemed like a perfect fit for us.
What has van life taught you about your values and what's most important to you?
Spending time in nature is so important. In busy day-to-day life, it's super easy to forget that disconnecting is as important as the time we spend connected to work, friends, social media, etc. When you are in the van, you really settle into living in tune with nature.
Another aspect of living in a van is that you don't have that much space to collect materialistic things that you do in a house. It was so much easier to say no to buying things we don't really need because we simply didn't have the space for them.
Is there anything you miss about living in a more traditional home? And is there anything you thought you'd miss but really don't?
I would say we missed having a big kitchen. We definitely had a sweet setup in our van for cooking, but it's not nearly the same as a kitchen in a home. We are vegan and we cook a lot since there are fewer vegan options to grab on the go. The whole process of cooking in the van takes a bit more time, and you can make less food at once than in a home kitchen.
We thought we would miss taking showers more! But between the shower in our van, freshwater streams, and a gym membership, we were totally fine on that front.
How has living on the road changed your relationship to the outdoors and the natural world?
When nature becomes your actual home, every impact you leave feels different. The amount of waste we produced, the fuel we burned, and the trash we saw on the ground—these all directly affected the space we lived in on the day-to-day. It's easy to be disconnected when living in a home in a city, but on the road, that connection is direct and much more prevalent.
We were also out and about more, seeing more nature than we ever would living in a home, which made us appreciate the outdoors even more.
Do you have any tips for those looking to make the most out of a tight space?
Balancing functionality and design should be your top priority. You want to make your space as functional as possible first, and then find a way to make it as beautiful as possible. In the end, it's your home, so you want to feel in love with your space while it also serves all your needs, and you don't need to constantly be dealing with "chores" to keep it up. Make everything as practical as possible—but pretty!—would be our advice.
What's the best compliment you've ever received on your space?
Honestly, we've received endless comments saying that this is the most beautiful van conversion they've ever seen. That is the biggest compliment we could ever ask for, and humbles us deeply that we were able to make something like this ourselves.
What does the word "home" mean to you?
That's easy! Home where we feel we can be fully ourselves, feel safe, and do the daily rituals and routines that make us who we are. Usually, all we need for that is each other's presence. But the van has also become a home in that sense.
Recreate the look
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Emma Loewe is the Sustainability and Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.
Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 mbg articles on topics from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared on Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle, and Forbes. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.