“As a highly sensitive person who wanted her family to be happy, I used to constantly search for ways to please them. But living in a van is something that I wanted for myself.”
For the last couple of years, I’ve essentially been living as a hermit — which is perfect for my highly sensitive nature.
My husband (Florian) and I built an off-grid home in France… in the back of a van. My electricity comes from solar panels on the roof, and I even have a small camping toilet and solar shower crammed in, too. That’s only about 55-square-feet of living space for two fully grown humans and a 60-pound rescue dog (Pirate) we took in after someone found him abandoned on the side of the road.
(Don’t worry, my fellow sensitive animal lovers, he spends the whole day hiking in the mountains with us, so he is more than happy to curl up and sleep in the evenings!)
My husband and I can go for weeks without seeing other people. We park up in the mountains or isolated rocky beaches of France, and enjoy wild swimming in the alpine lakes or just sitting for hours around a crackling campfire.
We only really come back to civilization to pick up more groceries every week or two, or to occasionally spend time with our most treasured friends and family.
Here are some of the reasons that the hermit life works so well for me as a highly sensitive person.
Why the Hermit’s Life Is the Best Life for Me as an HSP
1. Plenty of alone time, something HSPs value to help quell overstimulation
I spent most of my life believing I was an extrovert and thinking that I loved going to big social events. Even when I ended up crying in the bathroom with a horrible emotional hangover, I just put it down to mental health issues.
Then I discovered the HSP trait, and I realized that I’d been forcing myself to be someone I wasn’t for my whole life. It was like a eureka moment. Of course I didn’t like having techno music blasted down my ears in a nightclub with 6000 people!
So although I do love people, I’ve finally realized how much I love being on my own. I can process life at my own pace, without taking on the burden of other people’s emotions and dramas (especially since we HSPs pick up on every emotion others are feeling, which can quickly drain us!).
Yes, I still have special people in my life whom I love deeply and take time to visit, but I’ve stopped surrounding myself with people for the sake of “popularity” or “normality.” It’s such a relief for my frazzled nervous system and I don’t get overwhelmed nearly as often as I used to.
2. A lot of time in nature, from greenery to animals
We highly sensitive souls feel deeply connected to nature and wild animals.
Instead of living in my house and feeling depressed about environmental issues, I now live in harmony with nature every single day. I drink my cup of (decaf!) coffee with eagles flying overhead, and in the evening, I watch bats whizz around our campfire.
I am so astounded by the beauty of the natural world, and I am also glad to be using far less power and water than I did when I lived in a house. Plus, I haven’t bought new clothes for years, and it feels nice to let mother nature breathe a bit easier!
3. Quality time with others… and yourself
I mentioned that I don’t spend much time with people, but I do spend every day with my husband and rescue dog. I love being able to hang out with my best friends all the time, and I am so grateful my husband and I aren’t both commuting to full-time jobs and grabbing just a few hours together in the evening.
Of course, I need my personal space sometimes, so we do send each other on an occasional walk so we can chill out alone! (Not including Pirate; he isn’t allowed to walk himself!)
4. An escape from city noise, which can easily cause overstimulation in HSPs
I can step out of my van door, close my eyes, and hear nothing but birds singing in the trees and insects whirring in the grass. Can you imagine?
I am super sensitive to noise, and I find the hustle and bustle of traffic overwhelming. Even the beeping checkouts at the supermarket make me cringe, and I used to constantly jump when car doors slammed outside.
Living far away from the clamor of industrialization has helped me calm down and has reduced my threat radar, too.
5. You can finally honor your true self
At some point, I think everyone struggles to live the life they dream of. There’s just so much social pressure to do things like everybody else instead of listening to your instincts and doing what you truly want.
As a highly sensitive person who wanted her family to be happy — we HSPs tend to put others’ needs before our own — I used to constantly search for ways to please them. But living in a van is something that I wanted for myself.
Initially, it was hard for people to understand this, but I’m so glad I listened to my heart and honored my authentic needs. So much anxiety and dread that I used to feel just melted away because my body was no longer trying to tell me to get out of a life that didn’t make sense to me.
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6. You can work for yourself (which means no more mean bosses!)
People are always asking me how I make money on the road.
So if you’re wondering, too, I’m a freelance writer and journalist. This means I can choose how much work to take on and do it in my own time from the comfort of my own home. (Well, my own van, but my husband built me a nice little office corner!)
I had tried various jobs in the past, but they never worked out. I found the conventional office environment extremely stressful — you can probably relate! — and eventually felt so overwhelmed and burned out that I walked away… for good. I thought I was doomed to be a serial quitter, but I just needed to find my path.
As a freelance writer, I am now earning a salary that meets all my needs while still creating a life that works for me. Plus, no mean colleagues or scary bosses to deal with; being self-employed, I am my own boss!
7. You can choose those you share your life with
Sensitive people are deeply empathetic and caring. That is a beautiful trait that we can be proud of. But it also means we can sometimes put up with toxic relationships because we are always willing to see the best in people and overlook the bad.
I spent years letting people walk all over me. (I’m no saint either; I’ve made plenty of mistakes!)
But now that I live far from other people, so many “friends” have naturally faded into the background. The people I still see and speak to on the phone are those that I really trust. They are the ones who have been there for me as much as I have been there for them.
I also meet fellow hermits on the road sometimes and connect with more people that want to live a kind and simple life. I have so much more self-confidence and energy now that I don’t make time for toxic friendships.
Of course, I do miss some things about my old life. It’s been tough being so far from my family during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially because we live in different countries. I can’t wait to give my sister and parents an enormous hug. But for now, at least I can honestly say I am happy and healthy. I couldn’t have said that back when I lived a conventional lifestyle! And I wish the same for you!
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