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‘It’s possible to be happy and be fulfilled with less’


Nathan Cotton and Courtnie Hamel are quarantining in their 60-square-foot van that they’ve called home for the past year and a half. (Photo: Instagram)

People everywhere are adjusting to life indoors in response to the shelter-at-home orders put in place because of the coronavirus pandemic. But not every home comes with the same things to consider during these difficult times, specifically for a couple from Huntington Beach, Calif., who live out of a 60-square-foot van and have found themselves without their usual resources for showering, doing laundry or even a place to park their mobile home.

Courtnie Hamel and Nathan Cotton, both 31, uprooted their lives in late 2018 after buying a cargo van in December and deciding to move into it from their two-bedroom apartment. “We spent the following 8 months living in an empty cargo van as we slowly made progress. We really had to downsize our belongings and have learned to live a more minimalist lifestyle,” the couple shares with Yahoo Life via email. “Living in a van has given us the opportunity to see more places without all the commitments that typically come with travel (i.e. hotels, rental cars, airfare).”

So far, the couple has split their time between traveling and stationing themselves in one city so that they can work and save up money. Hamel does so by teaching yoga classes and running a wellness blog while Cotton has spent much of the past year and a half building things for their van and running their joint website dedicated to van life resources.

Their latest move to head north from Orange County and stay-put in Hamel’s father’s driveway, however, wasn’t a decision they made on their own. In fact, it was the only choice they had in the midst of the pandemic.

“When we first heard about the coronavirus, we were unsure how it would impact us,” the couple explains. “When they started closing down gyms is when we decided to make a move because that’s usually where we would shower. We spent most days parked at the state beach parking lot, so when they closed that, we feared we wouldn’t have a secure place to park during the day.”

Being parked in a family member’s driveway allows Hamel and Cotton to access a shower and laundry machines. Still, they spend the majority of their time in the van, or just outside of it where they’ve been able to train their 7-month-old dog and get some space for exercise.

“Since Courtnie is a yoga teacher and all of her studios have shut down, she has been teaching on Instagram Live, which has been a great outlet to stay active and to express creativity,” they wrote. “Without a ton of quality options for take-out in the area, we have been cooking most of our meals in the van. Our kitchen is equipped with everything we need to cook a good meal.”

The couple admits to the small space being overwhelming at times, like when it comes to cleaning dishes. Still, that hasn’t kept the pair from documenting it all for their social media audience on Instagram and TikTok, in an effort to teach more people about their lifestyle. Recently, it’s even impacted their perspective on the quarantine.

“We want to show people that it’s possible to be happy and be fulfilled with less. We hope that our appreciation for the earth and the outdoors is translated,” they share. “We may not have much, but we get to live and spend more time outside and that’s enough for us. Courtnie has learned to spend more time living in the present moment instead of always wondering ‘what’s next?’ This time has also forced us to slow down and appreciate what we have in front of us.”

For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides. 

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