How to Live in Your Car
So, you’ve decided to awaken your inner Dean Moriarty, get your Jack Kerouac on, fire up the car and head out On the Road for some freewheeling freeway freedom. Arguably the best-remembered novel of the Beat Generation, Kerouac’s ode to life lived in constant transit in search of transcendence has resonated with readers for generations.
Even if you’ve never heard of it, if you’re reading this looking to get ready for your own long-term cross-country adventure (and let’s hope that’s why, and it’s not due to a more tragic living situation crisis) you’re basically looking to live the Dean Morality dream.
Still, Dean is a complicated character with a messy life, and for as much as you’re looking for automotive adventure, complications and messes are two things you probably want to avoid.
With this guide to how to live in your car, you’ll be able to take to the road and experience the All-American road trip with the best preparation.
Organization Is Key
A key aspect of the Beat Generation writers’ styles was the way they were able to create a seemingly freewheeling jazz-like style and carefully control the syntax, adjectives, and flow of each sentence. On its own, chaos is just chaos. Organized chaos, on the other hand, can be beautiful.
And “organized chaos” is the perfect way to describe your car or truck’s interior when living on the road. Let’s be honest – unless you’re a neat freak, chances are you don’t keep your car interior pristine as-is. You let different things mingle together in the glove compartment, forget or don’t care about a thing or two on the floor, and so it goes.
That said, if you’re going to live in your car, you can’t let that mess pile up. Take the time to keep things organized. A car is a small space, so you can’t bring too much along with you anyway. As long as you manage things consistently, things likely won’t get out of hand.
It’s only when you neglect to clean up or organize things for days at a time that your car becomes a mess, at which point it can start to become hard to find things, or even move around.
Have Wipes on Hand
When we said Dean lives a messy life, we weren’t kidding, nor were we excluding the literalness of that statement. His shirts are often filthy, he’s often quite sweaty, and he’s covered in mud by the end.
As much as you might want to live life freely on the open road, you probably want to avoid such an unsanitary state of affairs – and so will anyone who is traveling with you. Even for the most rugged road warrior, when it comes to learning how to live out of your car, at least a modicum of cleanliness goes a long way.
You’ll want to throw in some hand wipes. They’re portable, easy to use, and can help you clean your hands quickly, thus helping cut down on the amount of mess in your car.
Invest in a Cooler
Part of the enduring appeal of being on the road is that it serves as an effective travelogue of 1950s America.
It should go without saying, therefore, that coolers are another key investment you’ll want to make. If you’re from California, Arizona, Texas, Florida, or another classic hot weather state, you know what it’s like to try to drive when it’s triple digits outside and your car feels like an oven.
There’s only so much you can do about that, but with a cooler, you can ensure that you have a supply of cool water, which can help keep you hydrated and refreshed during those long hot drives.
Moreover, coolers are game-changers insofar as they allow for food storage. With a cooler, you can keep food for far longer than you might otherwise be able to do so, improving your culinary situation while you’re living in your car.
This also feeds back into that organizational beat from before. Keeping foodstuffs fresh and organized in a car cooler beats just about any other way to store them in your automobile.
Forests Are Your Friend When Living in Your Car
For as much as On the Road is about life behind the wheel, it also touches a great deal on the natural world that surrounds us on our journey, with forests being a beautiful exemplar thereof.
There are many more practical reasons to seek out forests while living in your car, however. For one thing, when you’re living out of your car, it can make for cramped sleeping arrangements, especially if you’re driving along with more than one person in the way the characters in On the Road often do.
It’s hard to beat sleeping beneath the stars, and sleeping in the forest will give you and your family lots of room to make camp.
Solve Hygiene Issues
Forests also offer a natural place to “do your business.”
We’ve already mentioned that Dean Moriarty isn’t the cleanest of characters. The longer the novel goes on, the more odiferous and filthy he becomes.
That model of car-living stinks, to say the least, and yet hygiene is one of the trickiest problems to solve when it comes to the question of how to live in your car. You can’t install a bath, shower, sink, or anything which might otherwise fit in a larger RV. Space is more restricted, as are your hygiene options.
Hand wipes and the occasional forest lake aside, your best friend here may be preparedness and hygiene management. If you’re living out of your car, it’s generally understood that you’re living a bit more of a rugged lifestyle. As with your car’s organization, just don’t neglect your hygiene get too much.
Bring Easy-to-Make Food
Given the fact that they crisscross the country many times, it should come as no surprise that the characters in On the Road are frequently hungry, with pie being a recurring favorite food.
Whatever your favorite food may be, the fact remains that life on the road living out of your car is hard work, and you’re bound to feel hungry in the course of your travels.
That said, you can’t just pull into town for dinner every time you feel a little hungry, not if you want the full ruggedly independent All-American road trip experience.
That’s why it’s important to find foods which are easy to make and bring with you. Ideally, these foods should be hardy (dairy products are out, they’ll spoil within a few hot hours in your car) and various. Even if you think you can live on bread alone, it probably won’t be very pleasant, and anyway, it’ll do your body no favors nutrition-wise, so throw in a fruit or two and some protein.
Batteries and Blankets
On the Road is quite episodic, and the characters experience severe heat in one chapter, severe cold the next, have a full tank of gas at one moment, and are running low again a few pages later.
Whether or not that makes for a compelling read, in practice, that complicates your life in your car. When it comes to figuring out how to live in your car, packing a few extra essentials never hurts and can be a big help. For example, it never hurts to have a blanket on hand to combat the cold or help you sleep, and having extra car batteries can prove a lifesaver as well.
Prepare for life On the Road the right way with this guide to living in your car.