There’s a lot of hashtag hype going around at the moment regarding #VanLife. I’m not even sure I feel comfortable using that term, considering how it has started to gain momentum within the mainstream, surprise surprise, in a rather deceptive direction.
It’s interesting because when I moved in to a van it was not popular, it definitely didn’t have a hashtag and was not sold to me as being a glamping option; not as a weekend package nor a way of life. Might I add, when I first came across the hashtag hype a couple of years later, it was #homeiswhereyouparkit popularised by the legend, Foster Huntingdon. That was when living in a van wasn’t cool. Now look what’s happened.

Upon first draft, I entitled this post ‘Shitting in a bag is not glamorous’, because that statement is true if you’ve ever been fortunate enough to experience the process.

Quitting your well paid job to travel continents in your confined, pinewood, rolling conversion, which is barely big enough to spread your supermarket fecal-capturing device, accompanied by your lover who you describe with something flimsy like ‘bohemian’, is not Van Life. It’s a glorified sabbatical with a romantic, edited-by-head-office-twist and I can only wish my dingy, electricity-free existence was half as sexy. Or as shallow.

Read on as I debunk the romance of being one above homeless. Again.

Part 3 has been three years in the making. I clicked Publish on part two in November 2012, vowing that someday (far sooner than 2016) I would write part three, perhaps four and five (they’re coming).

One of the most valuable pieces of writing advice I have ever come across, states ‘Only write when you have something to say,’ an ethos that goes against every single piece of filler bullshit that you’re likely to come across in your daily, digitally-civil life; the antithesis of content marketing. To that end, it’s probably the reason why part three of this four-wheeled rant has taken me so long to put together; I’ve spent the last three years accumulating material to form something worth saying. Something that isn’t filler bullshit but based on lots of personal mistakes, probably going against everything you’ve been taught, think you know, or even care to admit on some level. And definitely nothing like the perception #VanLife.

So before you continue, perhaps you might want to ask yourself if you really want to avoid catching news about the world’s problems and instead use your time to read about taking a shit in a bag?

The Mothership has a toilet. It’s a cassette loo; when the world falls out of your arse, it’s captured, into what essentially looks like a fecal-collecting toolbox. You can then remove said box and empty it where you please. Preferably down a drain, upwind of any kind of dwellings. Or if you’re feeling angry at the world, emptying it over someone’s bonnet or on their porch is a guaranteed (temporary) win.

Cassette Toilet

However, about two years ago I stopped using the cassette, for a few reasons. It doesn’t take a genius to guess that in a small space, smell travels fast and can linger anywhere for up to 2 hours. Well, upon purchasing my van one of the first mistakes I made, clearly before my nomadic genius had been developed, was taking a shit in the van’s toilet on a stonking hot day. Igniting an incense stick immediately after impact will mask some of the carnage but somehow almost makes it worse. Like that ‘fresh air spray’ you can get at establishments where the cleaners have all said ‘Fuck this! You deal with it! I’m not cleaning your toilets anymore!’ and upon inhaling, you just know death was not far behind you. Also, emptying the cassette produced such an urge to vomit and drop it that I realised I was endangering not only my nasal passages permanently, but my shoes, trousers and any other living creature around me if it split upon hitting the ground. I have no doubt it could cause an environmental health hazard, very similar to a septic tank splitting.

So, being the clean, prestine, well-behaved citizen that I am, and after two years of seated wondering whether this would be the very turd that caused drastic levels of overflow, I instead opted to shit in a bag. (This was before the 5p charge came in to UK supermarkets for plastic carrier bags, I might add. It was all well and good shitting in a freebie and discarding the evidence back in a supermarket bin, but paying for a vessel to excrete in somehow feels worse. Almost European.)

But why a bag? The whole process is far more spatious, for a start. It’s also over much quicker; the deep squat does indeed improve bowel flow for those of you who were too timid to try. Quick drop = less smell in the cab. As does being able to tie the bag off and leave it outside the van, all without having to look at it. Go to sleep, come to terms with how disgusting you are as a human and dispose of it properly in the morning. Or, if you’re lucky and as I found once, dispose of someone else’s shit in a bag that they so kindly left under your van for you to find upon waking. Cheers mate. Had to be a bloke, it weighed a ton.

All these glitsy edits and Instagram photos I see are fucking hilarious because they refuse to address the realities and brutalities of living in a box and I’m quite certain that is by design of the camera holder. Especially when you’re living in that box with another. At some point, one of you will have to drop a carcass and the other one is either going to have to watch, listen, smell or vacate. But let’s not touch on that and instead zoom in on the warm glow of the fairy lights and the direction of the grain on the cladded walls. Mmmmm, organic.

She's gotta go somewhere

I wish the country I chose to #boxdwell received sunshine. It would be nice if the air wasn’t so damp that various items of my wardrobe inevitably become acnefied with mould spores, and the vehicle of choice started first time, didn’t have a rotting chasis nor looked like a wheeled meth-lab in everyone else’s eyes. But the reality is, I never got as far as working for the man for a decade before deciding ‘Fuck it, I quit, time to spunk my savings on #VanLife’. I didn’t even make it to University (and still struggle to empathise with 90% of those that do).

First thing I get asked by every hot female in relation to The Mothership?
‘Does it have a toilet?’
The only thing to get left out of #VanLife media?
The realities of the toilet.
And I understand why, of course I do. But until you understand the darker side of homelessness 2.0, you’re experiencing an edited version. Or, there’s a good chance I’ve just been doing it all wrong.

So remember, the next time you watch a video about living in a van or see a photo that makes you want to try it because of how awesome it looks, don’t. Because before you know it, you’ll be shitting Goliaths in plastic bags and slingshotting them out the door like David, ruining everything you thought you knew about yourself and your moral boundaries.


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Harry Cloudfoot is a writer and explorer of movement and mind. You can check his social media if you want but you'd be better off going and doing something, instead.
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  1. Bloody hilarious mate, haven’t laughed so much in ages…poo jokes allways do it! Love the realism you bring with your no-bullshit policy…very refreshing, unlike the inside of your mothership post deposit 😉

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