Vanlife as a Dog: The Eternal Car Ride


I hear some dogs only go for car rides every once in a while. I hear some dogs only go for car rides to the vet. I also hear some dogs only get to sit in the passenger seat.

I live with Dad in a car ride, and we barely ever go to the vet (except for one time when I got bit by a spider). I get to sit in the driver’s seat way more than I sit in the passenger seat (our Babe usually sits in the passenger seat). I see the world through my nose, and going on so many car rides means that I’m well traveled. Some dogs only get to walk when they’re attached to their human on a leash, and they have to smell the same boring streets every day. But I’ve smelled so many places with my dad.




The Smell of Freedom

Did you know I have 225 million olfactory receptacles in my nose? If you’re a human reading this, you only have 50 million. I’m not saying dogs are better than humans, but I think it’s pretty obvious that we’re just more evolved in some ways. Humans are visual animals, but I’m a dog and I basically live through my nose. This means that every time I go for a car ride with Dad and the windows are rolled down, I get a psychedelic view of the world outside. Scents fly by and I can taste it all. I love our car ride the most when I’m on Dad’s lap and my head is outside the window, with my eyes closed and my ears flapping in the breeze. Usually, the air smells salty, but sometimes we take our car ride to the crisp mountain air or dry desert air. No matter where we go in our car ride, it always smells like freedom and friendship.

Wandering Off (#wanderlust)

When we get to where we’re going, Dad plops me on the ground and lets me explore. If it’s night time, he’ll take the light from his forehead and let me wear it around my neck so I can see where I’m going. I like to do perimeter checks to make sure Dad and Babe are safe at night. I also like to check out the scenery and sit in Dad’s lap by the fire. Sometimes I try to chase mice. Dad doesn’t like that though. And he doesn’t like me wandering too far, either. Which is weird, because sometimes he’ll wander really far up a mountain with a VERY long leash. Seems a little hypocritical, if you ask me. Each time he leaves, I try yelling at him to “Come back here right now!” and “Stay!” but his friends just tell me not to worry in their soothing baby voices, and that my Dad will come back soon. They’re right. He always comes back.

Sometimes Dad wakes up early in the morning and takes off with one of his really long leashes, a bunch of metal contraptions that jangle like dog tags, some food, and one of his human friends. Every time he leaves with that stuff, I know I’m gonna have some extra time to myself. I like to meditate in the driver’s seat, then eat some lunch, play around with my stuffed platypus, and take a few naps. Dad usually comes back after lunchtime, and he’s always really excited (I can tell because he starts talking really fast and says “climb” a lot). I think his climb is like my stuffed platypus. He must love that thing.

Living the Dream

Dad rescued me a couple years ago on Valentine’s Day so he wouldn’t be lonely anymore. We’ve been best friends ever since. Babe even started celebrating our anniversary with us. Other dogs ask me sometimes if living in a car ride takes away from its magic. And I say nope, living in one every day makes it even more magical. I’ve been living with Dad in a car ride for two years now, and I couldn’t be happier.


dog in van



This article was written by Lauren Horne of Dirtbag Beta. Dirtbag Beta is a collective of van dwelling rock climbers located in the Pacific southwest. They are comprised of Editor in Chief Justin Wallace, his beautiful girlfriend Lauren Horne, and his best friend/life partner William Nicewonger. Together, they dedicate their time to climbing, writing, and the preservation of our nation’s lands. Follow along at


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