One thing I’ve learned living #vanlife is that I can go a long time without showering. My longest shower-free stint has been eight days, and I’m not gonna lie, I felt totally fine. But then I flew into Austin and the second the humid air hit me and I started sweating, I needed a shower ASAP. That’s the thing with me and infrequent showers, I feel pretty okay for an extended period of time, until suddenly something happens to tip the scales in the direction of “gross” and then I need a shower IMMEDIATELY. Once I hit that point, showering is literally the only thing I can think about and it becomes absolutely all consuming.I was in San Francisco and it had been seven days since my last shower. I was caravanning with a group of van friends. We showed our van homes at the Tiny House Festival in San Jose, explored wine country in Napa, and spent a day experiencing the insanity of San Francisco Pride. Our last night as a caravan, I decided to do something I hadn’t done in my entire three months of full-time solo vanlife:
I went on Bumble.
I re-downloaded the app, added a bunch of van girl pics, and then linked my Instagram. I swiped a few guys, matched a few, enjoyed the brief “high” of the digital feedback loop, and then went to bed.
In the morning, I saw a match who looked fun and funny. I messaged him, “Hi Sam.” He messaged back immediately– apparently he had found me on Instagram the night before and messaged me, but I hadn’t seen it.
It was at this point that I spilled coffee on my leg and the non-gross to gross scale was tipped in the gross direction, and I had only one mission in life: SHOWER IMMEDIATELY.
Going to the downtown San Francisco Planet Fitness was nearly impossible. I couldn’t fit in the garage, there was no parking, and everyone on the road hated me. I decided to drive to the Planet Fitness 45 minutes out of town, just to escape the madness. I finally got there, but it was gross. Like old band-aids on the floor gross. I just couldn’t shower there. But I HAD to shower. So I made a decision: I would leave San Francisco immediately and never come back. I’d drive to the suburbs far far away where the parking was plentiful and the gyms were clean.
It was at that moment that Sam messaged me: “How long are you in town for?”
“I’m gonna leave now,” I declared.
I parked near his place in Nob Hill but I got cold feet. I hadn’t been dating at all and was still traumatized by my terrible vanlife breakup a few months back. I texted him again: can you send me a video of yourself saying hi? I had already looked at his social media and Linkedin and work website and could tell that he wasn’t a serial killer. He sent me a nice awkward video ,”Hi Lisa!” and so I went to his place.
He was incredibly sweet, offering me the shower immediately, “Take your time, relax, no pressure to hang out afterwards if you’re not feeling up to it, just make yourself comfortable and enjoy.” Sam had learned about this lifestyle from the van life New Yorker article and he was fascinated to learn more (like pretty much every guy I had met on the road at the point). His calming energy was palpable.
Sam paid $1,500/month for a bedroom in a 3-bedroom apartment with no living room and a teeny tiny bathroom. To me, it was the lap of luxury. Once in the shower, I could hear a magical musical instrument playing in the distance. These peaceful ‘dings’ and ‘dongs’ played hypnotically for my entire glorious 45-minute shower. I feel in love with this sound.
When I got out of the bathroom, I saw that Sam was the one playing the music on a tiny drum called the happy drum. The second I really looked at him, I had an overwhelming urge to kiss him. It wasn’t sexual desire exactly, it was more like an energetic pull.
He showed me the roof of his building, he showed me to the garden on the first floor. We walked through the garden, smelling every flower and tasting every fresh berry. Sam turned around and I kissed him. We kissed for two minutes and then he took my hand and led me to the San Francisco streets. We sat in a corner booth at a Chinese restaurant and drank sake staring into each other’s eyes. He looked at me intensely, “You get it.” I felt like he was right: I felt like I got “it.” Though we had only spoken maybe 100 words to each other, we walked hand-in-hand with the ease of a couple who’s been together for years.I stayed with Sam for three weeks. Freebird found a parking spot right on the street in front of Sam’s apartment, where she only got one ticket the entire time.We dated, we danced, we took weekend trips in the van, we went to friend’s birthday dinners together, I met his entire family, we talked about our future together.
He started researching camper vans.
At the suggestion of an Instagram follower, I went to a tarot card reader in the Haight-Ashbury district. I asked her about Sam. “You can trust him,” she said. “Listen to him.”
Sam had a trip planned to Peru: a 10-day ayhuasca jungle retreat. He hinted at inviting me, but I didn’t feel like it was right for me to go. The day he left we had this exchange:
And that was the first and last time I ever Bumbled for a shower.