Van Life Basics | Everything You MUST Know

Van life has really been going viral on the web recently. With it’s rapid increase in popularity, many enthusiasts question this lifestyle and wonder what exactly it is. To put it simply, van life is an alternative lifestyle adopted by many nomads looking to live a basic lifestyle, while being able to travel the world with freedom and ease. Although, there’s way more to it than what meets the eye.

Today we will be covering everything you need to know about van life…

Terminology & Vocabulary

While making your way throughout the community, it’s helpful to familiarize yourself with some of the following words and phrases:

photo by @rusticbones
Vandwelling – used to describe the lifestyle of living in a converted vehicle. Mainly used for vans as the word suggests. Although, the term can apply to a wide variety of converted vehicles.

Vandweller(s) – used to describe a lifestyle of someone who lives part-time or full-time in a wide variety of converted vehicles including vans, RV’s, busses, trucks, etc..

Part-time vandwellers – living on the road on weekends & holidays only, while also keeping your current place of residence.

Full-time vandwellers – permanently living your life on the road, and not returning home.

Nomad(s) – describes a person roaming from place to place frequently with no fixed residence.

Wanderlust – a strong desire or impulse to wander or travel and explore the world.

Vagabond – a person who travels often with no settled home.

Conversion – the act of transforming a normal vehicle into a livable home on wheels.

“Home is where you park it” – a very popular saying within the community.

Hippie – someone who has rejected conventional (normal) ways of living.

Home on wheels – describes the home of a vandweller.

The History

Living in your home on wheels has been around since the 1960’s. It was popularized by hippies who started living out of their vehicles. Although it is often looked down upon, this type of lifestyle is slowly making its way to becoming a norm. Recently, this old practice has been making a huge comeback via millennials.


Van life has been blowing up on social media lately. Especially on Instagram, where you can search #vanlife and be exposed to over 3 million posts (at the time of writing this blog). This number is only expected to grow at a rapid rate.

Many vanlifers have been documenting their entire journeys on Instagram, making the platform the most popular social network for vanlifers. While YouTube & Facebook may slowly start to catch up, Instagram is definitely where to find the most inspiration.

With its growing popularity a lot of vandwellers have been given, or even taken (in most cases) the opportunity of being sponsored or interviewed by huge brands and businesses.

This nomadic lifestyle is no longer cluttered with the old stereotypes, as they are slowly being dissolved.

Lifestyle of a Van Lifer

The lifestyle of a van lifer varies greatly from a regular person. As a van lifer, you go to sleep at night not knowing what the next day has waiting for you.  In this section we will explore what the lifestyle of a van lifer consists of.
photo by @old.jeppi


The freedom van life has to offer is one many people could only dream of. It gives you the ability to take control and live a life as your own boss, doing the things you love most without having to deal with a demanding career, paying outrageous bills and constantly feeling under pressure.

You are able to fulfill your dreams and desires while traveling the world, stress-free, with convenience and ease.

Living the Dream

You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough – Mae West

The van life gives you the capability of being able to do what you want, when you want, and how you want. You no longer need to go through the headache of worrying about daily stressful routines. As a vandweller the only barrier to aspiration is your imagination.

Van life will consistently inspire you to continue living your dream. You will be motivated by:

  • being able to travel the world.
  • feeling new excitement each day without the same old, boring routine.
  • doing what you love.
  • setting your own schedule.
  • being your own boss.
  • building a lifestyle that aligns with your desires.
  • experiencing the best views.
  • living a flexible lifestyle.
  • doing it for yourself, and not someone else.
  • depending on yourself to make the best choices for you.

photo by @repoweredram
Most importantly, the van life lets you take control of your life and live it to the fullest.


With a simplistic lifestyle you can eliminate many of your biggest problems, especially many financial concerns. The less you own, the less you need to account for.

Collect moments not things – April Peerless

Studies show that a minimalist lifestyle can lower blood pressure, reduce risks of diseases, migraines and headaches and overall improve your health. Often, the simple lifestyle is not just beautiful, it’s necessary. Many van lifers say it was hard to get rid of everything at first. However, in the end it was definitely worth it to adopt of life of less stuff.

photo by @nicwildandfree
Some of the many benefits of living in simplicity include:

  • better health
  • more wealth
  • less commitments, obligations and stress, and
  • massive freedom.

For van lifers, living simply means:

  • not enjoying many of the luxuries that others do.
  • avoiding unnecessary purchases.
  • being resourceful.
  • being creative – making things work out, even when it seems like they can’t.
  • living in a home with limited space.
  • living a life with less things.
  • eating basic foods.

photo by @summerofseventyfive

Financial Freedom

In most cases, this is what a traditional lifestyle looks like:

  1. Go to school.
  2. Amass thousands of dollars in debt.
  3. Spend years working jobs that you dislike, while also giving up your freedom.
  4. Wait anxiously until you can finally retire.
  5. Live frugally as an elder retiree.

We all need to question our lifestyle and ask ourselves if it aligns with our goals and desires. Because if it doesn’t, what’s the point?

You weren’t born just to pay bills and die – unknown

I’m sure many of us can agree that this is not the way we want to continue living.

Living the van life allows you to be financially free in some of the following ways:

  • ridding yourself of many bills
  • escaping your boring 9-5 job
  • working from where you like
  • loving what you do
  • working on your own schedule
  • contributing to a savings account

photo by @vanlifetravelogue
Money is a necessity. Although, it’s important to keep in mind that money does not make you rich. The definition of rich varies for everyone depending on personal desires. This sort of mind set is practiced and preached by many van lifers.

You no longer need to be an entrepreneur or trust fund baby to live the life you desire.


Living the van life is very startling, exciting and unpredictable. You wake up every day with a different view beyond your front door. You don’t know what challenges or adventures await you the following morning. Every day is different, and that’s what makes it intriguingly exciting.

To learn more about van lifers you can check out our story library, where nomads share their journey to a life on the road.

While living the van life you will experience the following things:

  • unexpected and thrilling situations
  • an unpredictable routine
  • life changing events
  • nature, up close and personal
  • being part of an extremely passionate and loving community
  • adventures
  • excitement
  • simplicity
  • challenges


Nothing worth having comes easy

The daily challenges of living van life are often the things we take for granted in our normal life. While living the van life, the challenges you face will define the overall outcome of your experience on the road.
photo by @just.keep.exploring
Challenges of living the van life include:

  • parking
  • dealing with the law and police
  • trying not to bother people
  • camping in stealth
  • not attracting too much attention
  • limited space
  • staying organized
  • monitoring safety concerns (car accidents, health, privacy, etc…)
  • maintaining your vehicle
  • managing finances

Van life is not as glamorous as you think it is. To find out more checkout ‘Van Life Behind The Scenes, What NO ONE Is Telling You

Is Van Life for Me?

The fact that you’re taking the time to read this blog definitely means you have the ambition. The next question you need to ask yourself is: what’s stopping you? Maybe it’s multiple things like money, family, budget, fear, etc…

photo by @sofieagger_
Here are some tips to take note of when considering the van life. These will help you better understand your situation and if moving forward with van life is the right choice for you.

Following these 4 tips will allow you to clearly answer the question, ‘Is van life for me?’

  1. Find out what’s stopping you and optimize for solutions. The best way to come up with answers is to start by taking notes of all the obstacles in your way. Then, simply look for solutions for each of those problems. Keep in mind this won’t be done in one day (in most cases) but over time you will find reasonable solutions.
  2. Do your research! After all, this is a very serious decision that could affect your whole life. Looking at pictures on Instagram is definitely not getting you anywhere. Start looking for valuable resources, many of which are offered for FREE right here on our website. Start here: Blogs, Forum, Stories of other Van lifers, etc…
  3. Come see what the van life is really like. When you go to buy or rent a house, the first thing you do is go look at it. You’re going to need to do something similar for van life as well. Come see what this lifestyle is really like. Maybe you could even consider renting a campervan for the weekend (this can be done on our marketplace). If renting a vehicle is out of your budget, try a road trip for the weekend and see if it’s something you can do long term.
  4. Start connecting with the community. Ask questions and get in touch with real van lifers who are already doing this. The best way to learn is from someone who has experience. The perfect place to do this is by reading stories of van lifers, visiting our Forum or joining our Facebook group.

Alternative Vehicles to Live in

Although van life is most popular, you can find nomads living in all sorts of vehicles nowadays. Choosing the right vehicle based on your lifestyle and situation is a huge topic and will be completely covered in a future blog. For now, here are some of the different vehicles nomads live in:

  • vans,
  • RVs,
  • cars,
  • busses,
  • trucks,
  • military vehicles and
  • any other vehicle relatively big enough to live in.

photo by @burkgnar

Commonly Asked Questions

If you have any questions that are not answered below, feel free to ask on our community forum

How do you make money living the van life?

There are lot of different ways: seasonal jobs, part-time jobs, online businesses, working your current job on the road. The best thing to do is try and pursue a career job that you love and can support your lifestyle.

If you are having trouble deciding, post a topic on our forum about your situation and the community will try their best to help you out and make suggestions

How do you convert a vehicle into a livable home on wheels?

This is a huge topic, and will be completely covered in detail in a future blog post

For now you can ask any specific questions you have on our forum

Here are some things to consider before starting out your build:

  • Plan
  • Design/Layout
  • Insulation
  • Flooring
  • Ceiling & walls
  • Furniture
  • Electrical and solar
  • Plumbing and water

How do keep up with hygiene while living on the road?


  • To have a gym membership. Many gyms are available country wide, so this won’t interfere with travels
  • Having a shower built into your home on wheels. This could be done portably outside, or inside the vehicle.
  • Bathing in bodies of water (rivers, lakes, etc…)

Using the toilet

  • Gym memberships
  • Built in washrooms
  • Public washrooms
  • Portable toilets

How much does it cost to convert a vehicle into a livable home?

This varies tremendously depending on your budget, preferences, and lifestyle. It’s like asking how much it will cost to renovate a house. The best thing to do if your tight on money, is to plan out every aspect of your build including the pricing of all the materials. This will help you come up with a reasonable budget.


Advantages of Van Life

  • freedom in almost all aspects
  • simplicity
  • less stress on yourself
  • appreciation – not taking things for granted
  • cost effectiveness
  • control over your life
  • being your own boss
  • traveling the world
  • taking your home everywhere with you
  • continuous inspiration
  • living a different routine every day


  • limited space
  • legal issues
  • getting started (cost, planning, build, hard work, etc…)
  • feeling lonely at times (in some cases)
  • taking risks

Don’t forget to share this blog post on your favorite social platform ❤


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