Emotional Needs for Van Life and Motorhome Living

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According to the Human Givens Institute (1) – where Hobo Gav was trained in psychotherapy – we are all born with emotional needs, and it’s when these go unmet that our stress levels rise and we start to suffer an array of psychological problems.

We’re talking about things like the need to feel safe and secure, the need to have connections to others, and the need to belong.

Let’s be honest, it is not always easy to meet emotional needs when living in a motorhome, RV, or campervan. There will always be bumps in the road, wrong turns and dead ends in life!

So, if you feel you’re suffering in any way or that your mental health could be better, this page will introduce you to a simple way to assess your emotional wellbeing and help identify the source of your concerns.

Let’s look closer at these needs and what you can do to bring some emotional balance to your van life and motorhome living…

meeting your emotional needs in balance
The ancient art of stone balancing beside the River Nevis, Scotland

Meeting basic human needs

We are all aware of our basic human needs; the need for food and water, warmth, clothing, shelter, and sleep. All van-lifers need to ensure these basic needs are met, though some of these can be difficult to achieve at times…

Keeping warm in your RV over winter can be expensive if you’re using things like a diesel heater or a generator to power an electric heater. On cold winter nights we’ve resorted to wearing more layers of clothing instead.

And if you are a full-time van dweller, it’s not always easy to sleep if you’re having to wild camp, what with the possibility of having to move on to somewhere else. Indeed, wild camping has been made much more difficult since the pandemic.

But it’s not just these basic needs that we need to meet. Unlike a plant or flower that just needs the right conditions to flourish and grow, humans are born with added complexity – emotional needs.

Unmet emotional needs = raised stress levels

Meeting emotional needs in balance can be a real challenge, especially if you’re living life on the road as a full-time van-lifer or traveller.

Of course, it is sometimes inevitable that these needs go unmet, whether you’re living a traditional bricks and mortar life or living in a house on wheels. We are all faced with difficult situations at times throughout life.

But this is the thing…

Unmet emotional needs are one of the main reasons for raised stress levels and if high stress continues you are more vulnerable to a whole host of emotional and psychological problems such as…

  • Anger and anxiety (the primitive fight or flight reactions)
  • Worry and depression
  • Fears, phobias and panic attacks (how many of us are now more frightened to travel since the pandemic?)
  • Sleep problems
  • Low confidence and self-esteem
  • Addiction problems
  • Loss of meaning and purpose in life
  • Loss of connection to others leading to feelings of loneliness and isolation

In a moment we’ll look at an emotional needs audit to assess how your needs are currently being met. But just before we do, let’s look at some possible reasons that emotional needs might not be met in your life…

The 3 main reasons that prevent you getting your emotional needs met

So, just before you download the emotional needs audit let’s look at the three main reasons emotional needs might be going unmet in your life…

#1: You are living and/or working in a ‘toxic’ environment

If you live full time in your van it’s not always easy to find a place to stay that feels safe and secure. Even worse, there are some ‘toxic’ people out there who seem intent on causing trouble!

Just take a look at some of the responses to our wild camping questionnaire to see what we mean!

And if you’re a digital nomad, working to make money on the road is not always easy. This can be a constant source of worry.

So, right environment is crucial if we are to flourish and achieve good mental health and wellbeing. We all know how much better we feel when we find a really nice campsite or the perfect wild camping spot such as this one we found in Scotland…

VW autotrail motorhome wild camping in scotland. A safe place helps meets the emotional need for security

#2: Your innate guidance system is not working properly or you are misusing it

Perhaps there is ‘unfinished business’ from your past that keeps coming back to haunt you? Maybe negative conditioning keeping you stuck? The thing is that we can all be victims of our histories, all too easily sucked back in to old emotional patterns. Gav sees this all the time in his hypnotherapy practice.

Or perhaps you are mis-using your imagination (one of your most powerful resources when used correctly). The thing is, mis-using the imagination (such as worrying or ruminating) could eventually lead to depression.

#3: You are suffering from psychological damage e.g. trauma, abuse.

The hippie style communes of the 1960s and 70s were full of people looking for utopia, many of whom already had mental health problems before they dropped out of ‘normal’ society.

Unfortunately paradise remained elusive and many people’s wellbeing suffered in such communities. (Hobo Gav’s friend and colleague, based in Halle in what was the old East Germany, researched this as part of his doctorate in medical sociology).

In effect, untreated psychological damage will keep you stuck, functioning on a basic rudimentary level, nowhere near your full potential. The emotional brain runs the show, keeping you either hyped up (looking for danger) or dissociated (as a means to escape reality).

None of the above makes for a great van life experience! But the good news is that nature has been clever…

If your environment is suitable enough and you are not suffering psychological damage or misusing your resources there’s every chance you can meet your emotional needs because van life, itself, offers you the chance to learn many new skills and develop your resources to meet these emotional needs.

It’s almost as if your van and your adventures become your teacher lighting the way ahead…

VW campervan in the woods at Minsmere Nature Reserve, Suffolk

Assessing your emotional needs

Download your van life emotional needs audit to see how well your needs are being met. This will help identify the potential causes of any mental health issues.

Remember, needs that are not met satisfactorily will often be the cause of raised stress levels, undermining your mental, emotional and even spiritual wellbeing. It will certainly interfere with your enjoyment of van life!

We won’t ask for your email address: just click the link and the pdf should open immediately. (And depending on which app you use to open the pdf, you should be able to mark your scores on your screen).

If your emotional needs are unmet check out this hypnosis download and start feeling better fast!


(1) For more information about the Human Givens Institute and its approach to achieving good emotional and mental health please visit the website.

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