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Three things that could happen to you when you live in a van full time.

When you live in a van full time, things are a little different than in a conventional house.  Cooking, Cleaning, and Hygiene are some of the biggest differences. Everyone has had some uncomfortable bathroom experience or another when traveling, and vanlife is no exception.  Especially when you live in a van full time without a bathroom.

If you’re curious how we manage vanlife without a bathroom (emergencies notwithstanding), check out our blog post Living in a Van Without a Bathroom.   In addition, we’ve shared a ton of great vanlife accessories that help us manage!

How to choose a van

Yogurt Container

I pooped in a yogurt container today.

Not one of those little, single-serve ones.  One of the bigger, 32 ounce ones. But the size doesn’t really matter, it happened.

When you live in a van full time, and don’t have a bathroom, there are times when you can’t make it to a public bathroom and the poop has to go somewhere.  These are our stories. The Poop Emergency Escapades.

What was I saying about a yogurt container?  Oh yeah…. It all started last night, when Greg decided he wanted something “tasty” for dinner…

Greg was starving and wanted to go out to eat since we didn’t have anything crave-worthy in the van.  So we had the usual circular discussion on what to eat.  It’s gotta be cheap, but good. Not too unhealthy, but still “tasty.”  We settled on Chick-fil-A. We love Chick-fil-A, but don’t eat there often because it tends to give us indigestion. Although it’s a healthier option, it’s still fast food.

With every great risk, there is great reward, right?


It was only a matter of time

Last night was fine for both of us, despite feeling a little gassy.  Then it hit Greg fast this morning and we drove to a public bathroom as soon as we could.  He made it, no issues.  I was feeling great and thought I got off easy. I dropped Greg off at work, and pulled the van into a spot near the beach to get some work done.

Then it hit me… I had to GO.  Like, RIGHT NOW. I quickly determined that I would not have time to drive down the road to the nearest public restroom, and looked around the van for another solution.  That’s when I see it. The empty yogurt container from Greg’s breakfast sitting near the trash can. Oh, this is happening, I think to myself. Slightly grossed out, and embarrassed that it’s come to this, I take care of business.  Up until that moment, neither of us has ever pooped in the van.  

I guess all records are meant to be broken.

live in a van full time

Direct-to-Bag, AKA: DTB

Since we live in a van full time and don’t have a bathroom, where we decide to sleep at night is heavily influenced by its proximity to a bathroom.  When traveling the west, there is ample public land, giving us plenty of places to dig a cat hole and enjoy a poo with a view. However, when we traveled in the Midwest this past fall, there is not as much public land.  Since we prefer not to pay for camping, we were forced to stay in WalMart parking lots for a period of several weeks.

At one point along the journey in Michigan, we decided to check out a winery.  We both love wine, and enjoy learning about the wineries and their story. We pulled into a relatively new winery, but it had a lot of history.  Cellar 1914 has been family owned for over 100 years. It’s a beautiful, 1,100 acre property that started as a 60 acre cherry farm and has been developed into an impressive fruit farm with cherries, pears, and 10 acres of grape vines.

Worth The Risk?

We started tasting wine and chatting with the guy behind the bar.  We learned he was one of the owners and his Grandfather established the farm in 1914.

Since we love the idea of farming, we had all sorts of questions to ask, and the conversation eventually came back to us.  We told him we live in our van and travel full time. In the end, he offered to let us sleep on the farm for the evening.  After thanking him for the offer, we went to the patio talk it over with a glass of wine.

Our logic was: We could either stay at this beautiful winery, enjoy a bottle of wine with a great view and some peace and quiet, or we could drive to the WalMart for another parking lot party.  There was a decision to make.  Were willing to risk not being near a bathroom in the case of a poop emergency in exchange for a peaceful evening?


Direct TO Bag

The evening was very nice.  There was a light rain followed by a rainbow.  It was quiet. And such a nice break from the concrete jungle.  We slept well.

That is, until about 6am when Greg had to poop immediately.  He got out of bed telling me “it’s here.” He started taking the window covers down and I got out of bed to help.  Within seconds, he realizes he’s not going to make it 6 minutes to the nearest gas station, which he already Googled.

He asked if we had a bag.  Thankfully, we’ve collected several dog poop bags for this exact emergency.  I grabbed one out of the side door and handed it to him. He ran out of the van and over to the barn that we’d parked behind.  There was literally no privacy. If anyone had walked around the corner of that barn, they would’ve seen Greg going Direct-to-Bag.  Thankfully, he finished up without interruption and came back to the van.

The DTB method was a first, and this will forever be one of our funniest memories from living in a van full time!

toilet in your van

The Highway

We traveled a lot in 2019, and spent a lot of time on highways.  Even though we prefer to take country road and enjoy the scenery, sometimes we end up on long stretches of highway in order to get somewhere more quickly.

In one particular instance, we were driving through a desolate stretch of Wyoming.  I can’t exactly recall where we were headed, but if you’ve driven through Wyoming, you understand how that can happen.  It can feel a bit like a black hole because it’s such wide, open country that looks the same for hours and hours. Don’t get me wrong, it’s beautiful, but you just zone out and drive.

For whatever reason, Greg’s stomach was suddenly upset, and he needed a bathroom ASAP.  There wasn’t a gas station for miles, and the only option was to pull over and dig a hole on the side of the highway.

There was only one problem…

Remember that part about it being wide open country?  Yeah, there’s not much cover out there.

Poo With A View

Greg grabbed our trenching shovel from it’s cubby in the van and walked with a purpose over to the closest, and biggest bush he could find.  It was like a tumbleweed, so basically no privacy at all. The only consolation is that cars are driving by at 80 miles per hour and probably won’t get that good of a look at you.  Greg dug a quick hole and took care of things as fast as possible. A few semi trucks and a handful of cars got a show that day!

We’ve had a few other close calls, but they’re not as funny and entertaining as these stories.  After over a year and a half of living full time in the van, we haven’t had as many close calls as I expected.  

There have been nights where we camped without a toilet nearby and we had to use our bucket toilet.  If you’re curious about living in van without a bathroom, check out our blog here that talks about our bucket toilet and how it works.  

What do you think, could you live in a van without a bathroom?  Share your travel emergency experiences with us in the comments below!