There are a lot of scary things about making the switch to van life: buying a van, converting a van (if you choose to), downsizing all of your clothes and belongings, and just figuring out which direction to drive in.
But for a lot of people, the most daunting question is
"how am I going to financially support this lifestyle?"
We know this is probably the most commonly asked question among aspiring van lifers. We get a few emails and messages a week asking how we sustain this traveling lifestyle we’ve made for ourselves and for a good reason…it’s something we wondered when we first started living this way.
So here it is: the answer to the holy grail of van life questions. I’m going to tell you how we personally make money on the road and financially support this lifestyle.
When we first hit the road, we had no idea how we would make money. People would ask us how we planned on sustaining this lifestyle and all we could say was, “we’ll figure it out.”
You should have seen the skepticism on their faces. But we knew that we are two smart, clever, creative, hardworking people, and in the end, we actually DID figure it out.
Having said that, you must be truly motivated to live this lifestyle because you’ll only get rewarded for the effort you put into it, and it will most likely take some time. In some ways you have to think like an entrepreneur because the end goal is creating a location independent income for yourself…and the main word here is CREATE.
There are many ways you can generate income to sustain your travels but finding the ways that work best for you is the challenging part.
How We Make Money
"we do a whole bunch of crap."
Every time we are asked this question I feel as though the person asking is looking for a straightforward answer, hopefully something they can replicate. But for us, the only way to answer this question with a single response would be to say…
Here’s a list of ways that we currently make money to sustain our life on the road:
The week before we hit the road, I (Tay) came across a job posting for an online writing tutor. I went through the application process and was ultimately hired.
My job was to accept and review college students’ papers, and I really did like it at first. I love writing and editing, but I was putting in hours and hours of work each day and was paid very little.
Plus, the students were a bunch of jerks that didn’t hesitate to complain to administration when they didn’t like the way I critiqued their writing. So I decided to end that job.
I applied for another remote job while broken down in South Dakota, being told we needed a new transmission. This is also where the “we’ll figure it out” thing came to bite us in the ass, because we sure as hell couldn’t afford it.
Mostly from panic, I hit the job boards and came across a job description that looked as though it was written just for me: a remote, part-time marketing position. Luckily, the company’s founder felt the same, and after a long interview process, I got the job and still hold that position today.
Migrant or seasonal work is one of the most straightforward ways to make money on the road. Trust us, it’s not always easy finding these gigs, but if you put your time and effort into asking local people in the town you’re in, or looking at seasonal jobs online, you’ll likely find leads.
For us, it took us a while to find seasonal work. Our bank accounts were slowly draining and we found ourselves with some mechanical issues that were going to be expensive to fix.
While at a outdoor and van life festival called OutFound Series we met a ton of wonderful, like minded people who were also living on the road. We ended up meeting someone whom we became good friends with, and he asked if we wanted a week of seasonal work.
We jumped on the opportunity and immediately drove 10 hours to where the work was.
When we first started building out our van, we started an Instagram account and began documenting our process. We had no intention of gaining a following and had no idea how big van life was until we were fully immersed in it.
Instagram certainly was not a part of our “we’ll figure it out” plan, but people were interested in our build. Then they were interested in our adventures on the road when the conversion was finished. We were stoked to say the least!
With more followers came the attention of brands who utilize social influencers. Ever since the very first sponsored post we made, we’ve always made sure that we only endorse products and companies that we personally use and support.
If a brand isn’t in line with our values or isn’t relevant in our life, we don’t work with them. We generally work with 1 out of 10 brands that reach out to us. Every partnership and sponsorship is well thought out on both ends. We make sure there is a clear fit with each of our values and missions.
Let me say this though, do not think that living the van life will get you thousands of followers and you’ll be able to support yourself with money from sponsored posts.
It is extremely rare to be able to make a living from sponsored posts. For us, sponsored posts are sporadic. If a company reaches out and we see a fit, we partner with them. If that doesn’t happen, we don’t typically seek out partnerships ourselves.
Social media is just another supplementary way we make money on the road.
So these are the ways that we financially sustain our life on the road. But that doesn’t mean that it will be that same for you. It’s all about knowing what works best for your lifestyle, being open to new opportunities and working hard.