About two weeks into vanlife we met a couple sitting by the fire we just made on the beach in Tofino. Watching the waves they asked us if our way of life made us feel more back to our roots. “Is a fire just a fire or does it hold more meaning to you now?”
I didn’t know how to answer this. What did he mean? It’s a fire. We make it to roast marshmellows and to increase the atmosphere while sitting on the beach. More than a year later and I wish I could go back and re answer this question.
Fire to me back then was a mere means to get warm. But after a year of living with almost everything in our life requiring a sort of “work” my generation isn’t used to I see it completely differently.
Doing dishes doesn’t simply involved loading your dishes into the dishwasher and pushing start. I remember living life before putting dishes in the sink thinking opening the dishwasher and finding a place for it was more effort than I needed to put in.
Our tiny home requires constant order. It is very easy to get this place messy so it is best to do dishes right after you use them. With no dishwasher this chore now requires me to walk to the river and fill a bucket with 4 liters of water. Dividing the water among the day we set forth to do dishes placing a towel on the ground so the sun can dry them.
As the water we use ends up in the earth we all live from, we spend a bit more to buy fully biodegradable soap. With multi functions, we use this soap for everything from dishes to laundry to a body wash (it is magic).
Our 4 liters of water is used to clean almost every dish in our house, as well as all our laundry for the week. A typical dishwasher uses about 23 liters of water and a washing machine a whopping 50 (and that’s the new energy efficient ones). This doesn’t account for all the energy used to run them.
Something else changed though, this no longer seems like a chore that is not worth our time. Learning how to work together, Myles cooks and I do dishes and he puts them away. I wash laundry and he hangs the line and the clothes. We got into our respective routines quite quickly. A step back in time, we even use matches to start our propane stove instead of a simple lighter.
It doesn’t feel like a chore anymore, instead just a part of our life. With so much time, we aren’t too rushed to do the things we need to do. We have the time to experiment with meals, we have the time to shop at different grocery stores to find all the products we need.
It took us almost a year to figure out, but we have officially slowed down all the way back to the 20th century. If I were asked the same question I was a year ago, my answer would be drastically different. Fire is a way of warmth. It is something that is more than the sum of the parts. It is still a method of warmth and is used to roast marshmellows, but there is something more, a feeling that comes along with it.