Back to Work on the Road Again
Adjusting to working remotely as a van lifer. 
By: Jenny VanAtta, @wineobago

Wooden desk with laptop on it over Travato bed

A little over a year ago, I took the plunge. I quit my job, sold my loft and most of my possessions, and headed out in my 2018 Travato K for full-time van life. When I left my job in July of 2019, I originally planned to enjoy about six to eight months off. I needed a refresher after several years of consulting …. then, COVID hit. 

When I started looking for a job in February, and more earnestly in March, the whole world turned upside down. I rented a house for a month and was waiting out the pandemic while looking for work - and getting stressed and depressed in the meantime.

After a month of spinning my wheels (not my Travato wheels), I decided two things: (1) Being back in a house was not good for my soul and (2) neither was the futile job hunt.  After reviewing my finances, I decided I could comfortably take a full year off work. And after doing some research on where I could safely and legally travel, I set back out on the road.

Two Travatos sitting in field of flowers with colorful sunset above them

The Job Hunt as a Van Lifer

Back in March, I interviewed for a job with a consulting firm for a contract job. This was an appealing option because I could be my own boss, have some flexibility with hours and days off, and hopefully accommodate my nomadic life. However, the hiring ended up getting frozen due to the uncertainty of COVID. 

Fortunately, they decided to move forward with the position opening right when I decided in July that I was ready to get back to work. So, almost exactly a year to the date that I quit my last gig, I started this new role.

I am supporting an ERP deployment for a nationwide company as a system trainer. This should mean in a normal world that I would be traveling, but for now, we are working remotely for the rest of the year. And the even better news is that one of the other consultants also has an RV and uses it for travel, so the firm is already used to dealing with this and the special nuances that go along with this type of travel!

I’m very happy to have someone on the team to not only learn about practical things like invoicing and receipts associated with RVing, but who I can also talk to about campsites, internet on the road, and fun places to see near the client sites (for when work travel resumes).


Full-time, Sticks & Bricks, or Somewhere In Between?

Now that I knew I was going back to work, I needed to decide whether I wanted to continue the full-time van life, go back to traditional sticks and bricks, or something in between. The main factor for me is whether this lifestyle will still bring me joy while working.  Traveling for me is like air, I need it. But on the other hand, traveling with so many restrictions from cell signal, being stuck in a small space for so many hours a day working, and COVID concerns all bring down the fun factor in the van.

On the other hand, in all my travels in the van, I have not yet found any new place along the way that I’m ready to call home. And in the bigger picture, I have grand plans to move overseas for a while. It’s been in the back of my mind ever since I had the opportunity to do an internship in Liechtenstein back in grad school. So, if I want to work towards that goal, settling down in a house - whether its short-term or long-term - doesn’t really set me on that path.

Work-Friendly Van Mods

During lockdown, I was fortunate to be ‘quarenteamed’ with fellow GoLifers Noel and Chris. As an extra bonus, I also had access to the workshop and skills of Noel’s dad, Brad. We occupied our days with puzzles, van mods, and happy hours. 

Among many other mods, we tackled a 12-volt configuration allowing me to power my WeBoost as well as a mod to the standard desk that resides behind the Travato’s passenger seat. Both of these make my working situation more user-friendly.

 Wooden desk in Travato over driver side bed

Since starting my new job, I’ve also done an additional mod to add a second workstation in the bed area. This gives me a little more flexibility and allows me to adjust depending on various factors including the sun, breeze, and A/C usage. I also organized a charging area where I can put my laptop into a 12-volt outlet rather than running the inverter in my van. 

I still have some tweaks to make, including working on storage options. Finding a place where I can not only store but easily access two laptops, various notebooks, a mouse, charges, and multiple other desk accessories is a challenge in 108 square feet. If anyone has any ideas, please message me on Instagram!

Finding the Work-VanLife Balance

After a year of roaming free (except for during the seven weeks of lockdown), the biggest adjustment in going back to work has been in altering my strategy on where and how I’m camping. I went from chasing adventure to becoming a cell signal hunter and stability seeker. 

To help me stay within signal, I upgraded to a paid membership with Campendium so that I can now do searches for places with good cell signals.

Laptop sitting on picnic table at a park

I went from staying a day or maybe two max in any one place to looking for places where I can settle down for a whole week at a time. This is not only due to work, but also because it aligns with my concerns about COVID. I am not traveling as often, avoiding cities, being more mindful to do my shopping once a week rather than stopping frequently along my routes, cooking more in the van, and generally focusing on visiting nature sites like parks on my days off.

I’ve started making longer-term plans and am flying by the seat of my pants a little less. I am investigating a ‘Winter Home Base’ program run by Xscapers this year. This program is offering places for working nomads to find some stability and connect with fellow RVers with activities that are geared toward safety and following social distancing guidelines.

What it all boils down to is … I don’t think I am ready to give up the opportunity to have views like this as I wrap up my workday. Seems I’ll be back on the road again for a good while to come!

Bright colored sunset


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