How to live in a van: Everything you need to know
If you follow van life on social media, you’ve probably seen some breathtaking views or a cool van build that made you reconsider your current lifestyle for a second. After all, why not give it a shot yourself? But where to even begin?
Although van life may seem daunting when you’re just getting started, for many it was the leap of faith that changed their life. With the right mindset, vanlife is a fantastic way to see the world, reduce your expenses, and reconnect with yourself and your surroundings. But there are some important things to consider before you choose to go down this road.
What is van life?
Van life is a lifestyle that prioritizes freedom, self-sufficiency, minimalism, and exploration above all else. Although van dwelling is often associated with young influencers traveling all over the world, making a living off of taking glamorous pictures, it’s actually so much more than that.
In reality, this lifestyle can be whatever you make it. You can be a full-time vanlifer and travel to different continents, never staying in the same place twice. Or you might prefer to be a weekend vandweller and take a trip to a local national park every now and then to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. The core principles remain the same: you’re completely free to do what you want, where you want, and it’s completely up to you what adventure you’ll face today.
Most importantly, choosing van life lets you dedicate more time to doing the things that make you happy. The minimalistic lifestyle helps you focus more on yourself and your surroundings. Spending more time doing your hobbies, seeing new places, and reassessing what is truly meaningful to you are just some of the major benefits of this nomadic way of life.
Why live in a van?
There are many reasons why people choose van life. Some do this part-time, on the weekends and holidays, to relax and reunite with nature. Others fully commit to the van dwelling lifestyle, changing jobs to work remotely and selling off their belongings. No matter how you go about it, living in a van is exciting and rewarding if you’re well prepared for it.
At the end of the day, you need to be in the right mindset. If you feel ready for a minimalistic lifestyle filled with sudden changes and adventures, and ready to let yourself relax and see where the road leads you, then setting off on a vanlife journey will be one of the best decisions of your life.
Here are the main reasons why you would like to try out van life:
1. Every day is a new adventure
Living a nomadic lifestyle means that every day has the possibility of something unexpected happening. This uncertainty can be frightening, but also exciting. On any given day, you never know exactly what you’ll do, who you’ll meet, or what might happen, and many choose vanlife specifically for this thrill.
2. Challenge yourself and grow
Unlike how it may seem on social media, van life is not all easy living. When you’re constantly traveling, you are bound to run into unexpected situations, and some may cause discomfort. Not to mention that you’re very likely to spend more time alone with yourself than you would when living in a city - although some people choose van life for this very reason.
Living on the road, you’ll learn many skills and gain invaluable knowledge and experience. From engine repairs to social skills, vanlife lets you grow in ways you may have thought impossible. While traveling, you’ll also meet many different people, possibly from completely different cultures. A lot of travelers choose van life to meet new people and get out of their social “comfort zone”.
3. Freedom and Flexibility
Possibly the biggest reason for choosing van life is the complete freedom of movement. Not being tied down by a lease or a mortgage, to have everything you need anywhere you go, and the freedom to go wherever you want. With such freedom, you can really move to that place on the beach or in the mountains that you’re dreaming about.
You may want to visit every National Park in the United States. Or maybe you have friends and family scattered throughout the country. Van life can enable you to spend more quality time with them, all while saving on transportation and housing expenses.
Additionally, you can always change your route, as nothing is tying you down. Perhaps somewhere midway you’d like to make a detour to a city you’d like to visit. Or if you want to escape somewhere warmer for the winter, you can just get in the van and head south. When you’re a vanlifer, it’s all in your hands.
4. Spend more time on your hobbies
Whether it’s hiking, skiing, rock climbing, surfing, biking, music, or really anything else, van life may let you spend more time doing what you’re passionate about. Thanks to the freedom and flexibility that comes with van life, you can really dedicate more time to what is meaningful to you, but keep in mind that it doesn’t mean you’ll have unlimited free time.
You will need to spend time restocking freshwater, setting up and breaking down camp, getting from place to place. But one thing that takes much less time is work. If you’re a full-time van lifer, you might have the opportunity to work remotely, which is quickly gaining popularity. Or maybe you’d prefer to save up for half a year, and travel the remaining time.
In summary, the unparalleled freedom and flexibility that comes with vanlife give you absolute control over how you use your time.
5. Join a worldwide community of van lifers
Van life has been exponentially growing in popularity in recent years. There are lots of interesting people who choose the off-grid lifestyle, and vanlifers tend to be like-minded. When you meet somebody who lived for the last 6 months in a van, you’re going to instantly understand each other in ways others don’t.
The internet and social media made it significantly easier to connect with other van dwellers worldwide. You can stay in contact with people you met during your travels, and stay in touch even if you’re halfway around the globe.
And there’s really nothing like a bunch of travelers coming together. There are amazing events where you can meet other vanlifers, and swap tips, tricks, and stories about your adventures around a bonfire.
6. Save Money
Van life lets you save on some major expenses of city life, such as utility payments, rent, and mortgage. The money you save on housing can allow you to save for retirement, get out of debt, invest in your business, or even pursue higher education.
Nonetheless, it’s not a miracle solution to spend no money at all. When living in a van, you need to budget carefully: keep in mind fuel expenses and definitely get both yourself and your vehicle fully insured. Expenses such as food, water, repairs, and van maintenance will definitely set you back. Just as you can live economically in a house, you can also spend a lot living in a van. Your choice of housing is only a part of your cost of living.
Is van life worth it?
To have a successful adventure, you need to be well prepared. Although van life has a ton of unique benefits, just like any lifestyle it has its challenges. You should be prepared for dealing with limited space, managing finances, maintaining your van, as well as looking for safe overnight parking. Making sure that it’s not too hot in the van in the summer or too cold in the winter is a challenge of its own.
If you’re wondering if van life is worth it with all the pros and cons considered, we suggest you give it a try. If you’re not sure about it, just rent out a van for the weekend, or even the whole week, and see how you like it. Think about what you would change, or add to the van, and imagine how you would like your off-grid home to look.
And if you’re thinking about how to start your van life adventure, there are a lot of great resources online which can help. You can interact with other van lifers on forums and social media. Or if you’re looking for something more specific, you can check out our blog, or reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.