Are you on the run from emotional gunk?

Slow. This is my new strategy – it’s something of a necessity. My whole body aches. Woke up with a pain in my left hip the other morning, forcing me to limp through the day. My body is screaming at me: slow down. I scream back: how?

The weekend was a whirlwind of insane activity as I transferred my life from rented two-bed apartment to small van. It wasn’t an easy move. I asked to stay a month longer in the rental – a weak bid to delay the inevitability of van-life.

I got the van nine months ago, am well past my due-date, and still not ready to move in. The owners had already rented out the apartment because I was so adamant about leaving. Moving is no longer a choice.

By Saturday afternoon I’m so exhausted going up and down the three flights of stairs leading to the apartment I get a nosebleed. Don’t even notice it till I wipe my face with the back of my hand and see red.

When I look in the mirror, my chin is streaked with blood. I also have a gash on my forehead from where I bumped it in the van. My list of injuries is growing. Right now, van-life feels stupid, reckless even.


Slow. I’m forced to take a break, sit for an hour, eat, rest. This is the last thing I want. Whenever I stop, questions flood my mind. Most of them have to do with food, as in how will my strict diet gel with van-life?

One of the most challenging activities for anyone with IBS is travelling. The uncertainty of it makes food choices difficult, spiking hunger at awkward moments, spurring rash decisions that stir flare-ups, and additional stress.

I’ve learned the hard way to prep food in advance. So far, I have a list of fail-proof snacks to tide me over: hazelnuts, dark chocolate, bananas, and rice pudding. As part of my prep, I make a large pot of chicken curry, and put two containers in the van’s fridge.

The van has a gas stove but it’s not what you’d call sturdy. I know of a take-out that does home-cooked chicken and chips for back up, and when I’m ready to cook a la van, a butcher’s for free-range meat. I’ve done some reci to minimize food problems but don’t feel prepared.  

I’m wondering how I’m going to maintain my workouts? Regular exercise is how I manage my IBS and my anxiety so it’s a non-negotiable – did I mention IBS and anxiety go hand-in-hand? I pack my kettle-bells under the passenger seat and am surprised by how well they fit.


The van is compact, which means you have to be too. Yet everything I pack finds its nook and fits in smoothly. By Saturday evening, my food is in the fridge, pots, plates, supplements and protein shakes in the cupboards above and below the sink, and clothes in the wardrobe.

I squeeze two boxes of cosmetics into the shelf above the stove. I pile books into the remaining cupboard space. I pack a box of admin (bills, stationary, work files) under the dining seat. I arrange cushions and ornaments and feel organized, compact, at home. I also feel lost.

I christened the van when I got her: Betty. Because her furniture and fittings are a mix of autumn-colored Formica and corduroy, it’s like stepping into the 1970s every time I get inside. To me, Betty sounds like the name of a dotty mother. Am I chasing a second childhood?

The closer I get to living outdoors, the more I wonder if I’m on the run? And am more aware of what I’m leaving behind: familiar comforts and dated grudges. It hits me hard. How is a neurotic twat like me with food phobias and OCD tendencies going to shift from indoor to outdoor life?

Every item I pack lays claim to decades of “emotional gunk,” a phrase I picked up from Erick Godsey on an Aubrey Marcus podcast. It means the personal shit each of us carries that weakens the immune system over time.


Nostalgia is not the way forward. A storm rolls in on Saturday evening. I take this as an omen. Betty has a leak in the roof, so I cover her with tarp when it rains and waited till summer to move in to avoid wet weather.

Wouldn’t you know, my first night, it rains. I go for my back-up take-out, get chips and eat them sitting on the grass in the rain. And sleep badly, waking tired and hungry and feeling trapped. And unprepared. And torn. Bits of me scattered.

Boxes of my books and clothes and in storage, in my old house, in the van. I’ve compacted my stuff but what about my life? Slow. There’s nowhere to go but forward. I make coffee and have pre-packed boiled eggs for breakfast, deciding I’ll let my gut guide me.

Later, I stick the key in the ignition and pray Betty will start. She does. We’re off. Because I’ve lived near the beach for years, I know where to park up, and spend Sunday night in a sandy nook next to the woods. Just over the dunes is the ocean.

As soon as I feel that cool sea breeze on my skin, my body relaxes. This is what all the fuss was for, this bare nature, this rare peace. Waves, birdsong, owl hoots, and frogs croaking are the soundtrack of my second night in Betty. The night sky cradles me. I’ve no idea what’s ahead but I sleep like a baby.


Hit that Follow Button if you want to witness my journey into nature to make peace with my anxieties and overcome the challenges of travelling with IBS.


There’s nothing like a deadline to get things done. What deadline can you put in place? How can you make it a non-negotiable?


If you’d like advise on an IBS eating tailored to your preferences, get in touch, email wildwomanaw@gmail.com

Published by The Healthy Hashhead

Challenging attitudes to cannabis, nutrition and fitness with conscious questions.

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