At first glance, #vanlife seems to be the perfect, glamorous, and minimalist lifestyle anyone with a wanderlust bug (or urge to travel) could dream of. However, there’s way more to it than what meets the eye.
You see, many enthusiasts underestimate van life because of the pictures they see on Instagram. Doing so will lead to you jumping face first into a lifestyle you know nothing about!
This will ultimately leave you with a negative and regretful experience, which will cost you severely mentally, physically, and even financially.
So, we put together this guide (along with our contributors) as a means of helping you understand the exact steps you would be taking, if you do decide to pursue van life. This will give you a very clear birds-eye view (or overview) of what it’s like to life in a campervan so you can make your decisions accordingly.
Their are many things about living in a van that can cause a big challenges for some van life enthusiasts without proper planning and preparation. Reading our guide is a great start to understanding the lifestyles of these nomads, so when you’re ready to join the van life movement, you won’t have second thoughts.
Before getting started we want to make it clear that this entire guide was not written by us (ProjectVanlife). Instead we teamed up with OutboundLiving and 22 other van life nomads who contributed towards writing this guide for you.
As a reader this gives you a HUGE advantage, because now you get to consume a ton of valuable information which around 2 dozen experienced vanlifers helped put together. Be sure to check them out by clicking the button below:
Is Van Life For Me?
The fact that you’re here, means you’ve taken the initiative to begin researching about this topic and that you already have the ambition to live such a lifestyle.
However, sometimes our desires could be misleading as they are based upon incorrect, or incomplete information.
It’s very important for you to understand whether or not van life is for you, and failure to do so, will lead to regret.
Before you dive deep into living the van life, you should try it out first. There are a number of companies that you can rent a van from for a week or so. If you can’t afford a van, you can always use your current vehicle. If your current vehicle is very small, see if a friend or family member will let you borrow theirs.
Likewise, you can setup a tiny living space or even room in your hope to get a feel for what it's really like.
If you plan on starting your van life journey in the near future, you will also need to start practicing. By practicing, we mean slowly getting rid of things you don’t need. You may have to throw away some things you really like, but when the time comes to hit the road, you will know what’s truly a necessity.
The Cons Of Van Life
Space – The size of the van can make for constant reorganization of things, and a lot of bumping elbows.
Regularly finding water – This might be the number one thing people take for granted in their everyday lives that becomes a bit of a shock for van lifers. This not only makes quenching your thirst difficult, but cooking certain foods, cleaning your clothes and dishes, and taking showers become a bigger challenge.
Temperature changes – In the summer, as you know, a vehicle can get really hot and uncomfortable, and in the winter, a van can get really cold. Having a heater and AC will certainly help, but a van’s insulation is not like a house, which can cause temperatures to rise and fall much quicker.
Homesickness – This will come and go. You will certainly make some new friends along the way, but not seeing your closest friends and family on a regular basis can be a struggle for some.
Hygiene – If you absolutely can’t deal with public restrooms, van life might not be for you. If your van has a toilet, you’re golden (pun intended). But, if you don’t have a toilet, you will be getting very close with nature, porta-potties, and if you’re lucky, a well-maintained public restroom. Most vans also don’t have a shower, which makes it a bit more difficult to stay clean.
Reliability – If you need to bring your van to a mechanic because of a breakdown, you could be without a home for a couple days.
Stable income – If you work as a freelancer, income will not be much of an issue. The only difficulty in that is finding reliable WiFi on a regular basis. If you’re not a freelancer, finding stable work can certainly be challenging.
Insurance – Vehicle insurance can be challenging for a converted vehicle and getting an appraisal done.
Finding where to sleep – If you don’t sleep well at home, it will only be more difficult in a van. You will often be looking for a new place to sleep every night, which can get very stressful. Some places are illegal to sleep at night, so you may be woken up in the middle of the night by authorities.
Difficulty Driving – If you consider yourself a sub-par driver, a large van will take some time getting accustomed to.
The Impression – In some cities, RVs and vans are really not well seen. In some big cities such as LA, you may feel judged and unwanted since many poor-homeless people in those big cities buy RVs or vans to squat in neighborhoods.
The Pros Of Van Life
Freedom freedom freedom – You can go wherever you want, whenever you want, within reason of course.
Cost – It all depends on how you look at it. Compared to most cities, living in a van is going to be much more affordable, but with fewer options in terms of income, it can be more expensive.
Experience – New cultures, new relationships, new sights to see. Your adventures turn into amazing stories and unforgettable memories!
Less B.S. – Getting away from society can be very therapeutic.
Perspective – You learn to appreciate the little things, and begin to take less for granted.
Community – The van life community is a friendly, tight-knit group. It’s hard to find any other group of people that have so many amazing stories. You can bond with others who live the same reality as you and share a similar outlook on life.
Simplicity – Fewer things means less stress. Having only the things you truly need blocks out the noise and distraction in your life, providing greater meaning. This may sound silly, but it can really change the way you think about material things.