Why being vegan and doing van life go hand in hand for me
by Hannah Gebhart
Hey I’m Hannah
Hey there! My name is Hannah (@hansvanventures and YT Han’s Van Ventures), and I am a 20-year-old solo vanlifer who is also vegan! Living in my van and being vegan go hand in hand for me, but before I tell you why, here’s a backstory as to why I decided to go vegan, and why I decided to live in a van.
I became vegan almost 2 years ago after being an omnivore for most of my life. I grew up with such a love for animals, and I wanted to be a vet my whole childhood. That is until I got a job at a vet’s office and had to quit because putting animals down was too emotionally draining on me. Before becoming vegan, I was training to compete in Crossfit, which has a large stigma around being total “meat-heads”, and I was. I ate eggs every morning for breakfast and had chicken and turkey for lunch and dinner. EVERY DAY. I knew this wasn’t how I wanted to live, and when I started to learn about veganism, there was no going back. Transitioning to veganism was extremely easy for me, ESPECIALLY after watching all of the documentaries that are out there nowadays. Learning about the impacts that mass farming has on the earth was ALSO a huge game-changer for me, as I’m extremely active outside and love being in nature. Some of the best documentaries I recommend watching are Dominion, Cowspiracy, What the Health, Game Changers, and Forks Over Knives. They informed me about how going vegan affects the earth, it gave me insight on how animals are treated inside slaughter-houses (even if they are “grass-fed” and “pasture-raised”), how eating plant-based benefits your overall health, and so much more. I can never even imagine going back to eating meat and dairy after everything that I have learned and am continuing to learn. For me, cows and chickens are no different than my dog, whom I love more than anything. I feel all animals should be treated the same, as they essentially are. Growing up, society tells us that eating meat is “normal,” just as living in a house and going to college is the right thing to do… which brings me to my choice of living in a van.
The Start of Vanlife
I graduated high school 3 years ago, and, to be honest, I had no idea what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go. So I decided to postpone college and get life experience, which created a TON of backlash from family, friends, and teachers. One morning during my senior year, I was in my car, sitting in the parking lot before the first period, and spontaneously bought a trip to Europe for a month. And let me tell you, it was one of the most exciting trips I had ever been on, and I grew exponentially as a person. My trip was through EF Ultimate Break, where people from ages 18-28 years old fly to a destination and spend the duration of the trip living in hostels, spending 12 hour days on buses, exploring history-rich cities, and going out every night. This is when I caught my travel bug. I got home from Europe feeling like a different person. I knew what I wanted out of life, and that was to have amazing experiences and connect with people from all over. The simple way of traveling was addicting, and I just wanted to explore the outdoors. I got back to working full time, and one day I was on YouTube scrolling and saw people living in a van. Immediately I knew that that was how I wanted to live. It was a minimalist lifestyle, which appealed to me. Owning less things, having everything you need in a 60 sq ft area, and being out in nature. The environmental impact that it has on the earth is another reason I knew it was the right lifestyle for me. The water consumption you use is SO minute compared to living in a house; ie. you have to be conscious when washing dishes, there is no shower, so you have to use natural resources, and there is no toilet to flush 5 or more times a day. Living in a van is also completely off-grid, with all the electrical run by solar panels. Most vans also do not have an AC or heating system, which creates a huge carbon footprint when you are living in a house. So, I worked and I saved, until September of 2019 when I finally purchased my van.
Vanlife and Veganism
I am now traveling full time out of my van, named Sol (like the sun), and it is everything I have dreamed about and more. I know how I am living is so beneficial for the earth, and the carbon footprint I’m leaving behind is smaller than it would be living in a house and eating an omnivorous diet. It is also very good for our bodies. Being vegan in the van is simple.
My staples are oatmeal, rice, beans, hummus, PB&Js, and fresh fruits and veggies. I don’t have to worry about meat or milk or cheese ever going bad. The foods I eat are nutritious and straight from the earth. I can go to farmer’s markets and support local farms wherever I am traveling. When living in a small space, you get creative with meals that require doing less dishes and using less propane and water. Also, it is WAY cheaper than being an omnivore; beans are 99¢ a can, oats and rice are $1.00 a pound, fruits & veggies average $1.00 a serving, whereas meat can be around $4.99 a pound! Both being vegan and living out of a van make perfect sense to me because it is all about taking better care of the earth and enjoying the simpler things in life. As you might be able to tell, taking care of the earth and treating it with love is something I am extremely passionate about. Wherever I am camping, I make an effort to go on a walk and pick up trash that others leave behind. My goal is to leave every spot cleaner than when I first arrived. In the future, I plan on doing group clean-ups wherever I am traveling, creating a sense of community along the way. I hope to inspire others to live a minimalistic life that is good for the earth and for their body. It doesn’t have to be going completely vegan or living out of a van, but small changes make huge impacts in the grand scheme of life.