No, really, where do you go?
When we tell people about Wanda our van, we always stress that we feel safer traveling in her during the pandemic because we are totally self-contained.
Inevitably we are politely asked, “but where do you use the restroom?”
Please refer back to the words “totally self-contained”. Not only can we cook, eat, sleep, and lounge in Wanda, but we can (and do) use the restroom inside. Brace yourself for a little potty talk.
When we first looked at doing #vanlife and watched video after video of conversions, 75% of the people we followed did not have a restroom facility on board. They either used gas stations or fast-food restaurants as they traveled or they dug a hole in the ground when camping remotely. Okay, THAT is just gross. There are thousands of people getting “back to nature” and polluting it in the process. Not to mention the thought of sharing a hole with a coyote or mountain lion in the middle of the night—I don’t think so. I may have grown up on the farm but I’ve got standards!
Another 20% of those we followed had purchased portable toilets, many brands selling for more than a thousand dollars, and they would proudly proclaim the toilet still had the plastic wrapper because it was only there for an emergency. Hello? Pretty much EVERY time I need to go is feeling like an emergency these days!
That left about 5% of the population as sensible, frugal, and rational-thinking. We aspired to be in that group.
In case you don’t know us very well, we would rather spend hours trying to make something we could have ordered off the internet with a 10 minute search. We approached our van toilet the same way.
The first prototype (and there have been many) started with a blue Lowe’s bucket that said “Do It Right”. Ahh, the irony. Our plan was to compost using saw dust which we had an abundance of at that time. The secret, we learned with research, was to separate liquids from solids and you will eliminate the majority of the stank. So the liquids needed to be diverted in some way. Being students of our parents’ self-sufficient lives, we cut a plastic rat-poison bucket and used a heat gun to mold it into a urine diverter. This was then connected to a wooden lid attached to a plywood box that held it all together. We placed a real toilet seat on top. It was truly ‘throne’ size. We bolted it to the floor for safety reasons and used it on our first trip to Texas.
As we continued work on the van, amenities had to be shifted and downsized to fit properly. Today we have a small portable toilet with a urine diverter that slides out and tucks away nicely when not in use. We don’t have to enter gas stations that resemble crime scenes and we don’t have to dig a hole in red clay. We’ve learned to monitor liquid levels closely and then pour in a public toilet when the time is right. Solids go in the dumpster just like you would with your dog’s waste.
Converting and traveling in a van is all about phases. We learned a lot about toilets in the first couple trips. We also learned that those people who didn’t want their partner to see them sitting on it needed to get a life. Yes, we’ll grant each other a private moment if requested but after 30+ years together we kind of have each other figured out!