Happiness, transparency, & the Internet.

Last week Gale Straub featured my artwork on She Explores’ Instagram (thanks, Gale!) and several people reached out to ask how I live this life — running my own business on the road — so “successfully”.

Ironically, on that day and that whole week, I was in the midst of an intense struggle with money, art, and my personal life. June brought a lull in business. Being in constant motion made it difficult to prioritize creativity. And traveling alone led to a soul-consuming loneliness.

I never want to dwell on negative emotions, both for the sanity of myself as well as others who might be reading, but I also want to share what’s real. I’ve been in the same position of seeing others building out beautiful vans, living on the road, making coffee in forests, experiencing new landscapes, and it all looked so.. unbelievably idyllic.

I would think, If I can just get there, then I’ll be happy, live on my own terms, and everything will be great.

The threat of unhappiness did not dissipate when I moved into the van, it merely shape-shifted. I have quickly learned that where ever you live, whatever job you may have, whoever you are spending time with or without, new reasons to stress will always surface.

Any life looks lovely when only the mountaintop moments are shared. And hey, we all love to talk about the good times, right? But I’m writing today to tell you that my life is not just as it appears. 

Instagram, blogs, Snapchat — everything — is not an accurate depiction of a whole life. It is just a sliver of reality. This isn't good or bad, it's just the way it is!

For me, for every glamorous moment that is shared, there are at least 10x unglamorous ones.

Like this one.

Colorado National Monument

Colorado National Monument


Yeah, I got to paint at sunrise on top of the Colorado National Monument, and it was freaking spectacular. But what you didn’t see is… the night before I made a can of Chef Boyardee in a parking lot of a climbing gym under fluorescent lights, where I’d sleep. I laid sweating in bed until I fell asleep and wouldn’t open the windows because I was scared of possible intruders. I slept with a taser next to me. I’d been feeling lonely all day, sitting in the van with my head buried in my phone because I was yearning for any type of connection. I was dealing with feeling directionless, penniless, and creatively bankrupt. I’d been checking email all day waiting for some new client or interest in my artwork, and absolutely nothing happened.

All of those things happened, AND THEN I woke up at sunrise to paint on top of a mountain.

In the spirit of transparency, here are a few more less-than-perfect realizations I’ve come to after being on the road for two months by myself.

  • It isn’t anything like you think it will be.
  • There will be a lot of pavement (duh).
  • There will be a lot of driving (duh).
  • Traveling alone might not be as easy as you think.
  • Every high and low will be exaggerated.
  • You will be sitting. A lot.
  • It can feel like you’re always rushing. Slow down and let it be.
  • You will get tired of not being able to stand in your home.
  • You will care about what people think. And then you won’t.
  • Your routines and rituals were emerge naturally. Don’t force it.
  • Forgive yourself for every offset screw, momentary loss of temper, and less than perfect anything — which will be everything.

I could go on, but I hope this gives you a sense of the real #vanlife I’m experiencing. If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments below or write amanda@amandasandlin.com.

Through it all, I am so thankful. This is truly an experience of a lifetime, and I am grateful for the support that helps make it a reality — all the folks who hire me, purchase my art, and share even one encouraging word (or emoji :o)). 

PS - I believe that if you are truly feeling called to live on the road, move abroad, move across town, or whatever, you should try it if you can. Go, go, go!