If you believe Instagram, #vanlife—the act of hitting the road in a van—is all spectacular views, immaculately modified vans, and ultimate freedom. But, finds Shoshi Parks, it’s also peeing in buckets, bad hummus, and being awoken by rowdy teenagers at 2am.

I wouldn’t say I was suckered into vanlife. I knew that living in a 50-square-foot Town and Country minivan for six months would have its challenges. But the rewards—waking up to incredible vistas, spending my day hiking instead of behind a desk, traveling North America in quiet contemplation of the beauty of the west—would be worth it. The #vanlife Instagram photos proved it.

And those photos were right. It really was the adventure of a lifetime. But it was also half a year of grime, loneliness and frustration. The joy of adventure has a way of going AWOL when it’s 2 A.M. in Hood River, Oregon, and teenagers—blasting hip-hop and throwing bottles at each other—decide to pour in to the Walmart parking lot you’ve chosen to bed down in.