Nowadays more and more people are drawn to the benefits of van life. Van life means more than simply living in a vehicle. It reflects a cultural shift in thinking, trading materialism for minimalism, and things for experiences.
WHAT: Van Life
Imagine throwing your clothes, computer, surfboard, snowboard, guitar, dog, cat, kitchen sink, and every other belonging into a motor home. You raise a middle finger to the traditional suburban life/work structure, hit the gas, and whisk yourself off to the location of your choice on a whim. From thereon, home is where you park it. Instead of a noisy, smoggy cityscape, your real-life window painting is now the California coastline, the Scottish highlands, or the snow-capped peaks of the Rocky Mountains or French Alps. It’s impossible to put a value on it because it’s free.
Van Life: From Counterculture to Mainstream
There was a time when a permanent leisure travel schedule was the sole domain of the idle rich. There was also a time when full-time life on the road was considered a lifestyle for hippies, hobos, and slackers. But times change. The rise in global internet coverage has spawned a generation of high-tech hippies combining travel with remote work, trading a tie for a tank top, and choosing a lifestyle they enjoy in a place they love.
Where Will Van Life Take You?
While some choose a ski hut in the Rockies, or a beach shack overlooking the Baja surf, growing numbers are taking the term ‘location-independent,’ as literally as can be. Their location is anywhere and everywhere, and their homes are mobile Recreational Vehicles.
You wake up, rub your eyes, brew coffee, and wonder whether the order in which to tackle their schedule. Will it be breakfast, then surf, then work, or another way around? These are their decisions, day after day, made in an environment those still trapped in the culture you left behind spend their entire lives working towards a glimpse of when they retire.
The latest estimates indicate that in the US alone, there are over a million people who live full-time in their RVs with no permanent address. At first glance, it’s easy to assume that van life is reserved for retirees, the independently wealthy, or those who earn online – tech professionals, coders, content creators, I-phone app builders, writers, designers, and other digital nomads able to ply their trade from anywhere with wifi. However, the benefits of van life are being increasingly embraced by project managers, salespeople, engineers, and blue-collar construction workers, living in their motor homes and traveling from job to job.
The Best Vans for Van Life
If you have decided the benefits of van life are too much to resist, you’ll need a vehicle. RVs come in all shapes, sizes, and budgets, from the single-person tow caravan or the iconic VW camper to multi-bedroom mobile mansions, complete with bathtubs, satellite dishes, and home cinemas.
- Where will you be driving your van?
- Will you need 4×4?
- Do you plan on living in your van during winter?
- How much gear storage do you need?
- Are you handy with fixing things?
- What is your budget?
- Will you build it out yourself or hire someone to do it for you?
- Do you want a shower and/or a bathroom?
- Will you buy new or used
- Buying and converting into a camper? If so, should you DIY your van build or hire a company to do it for you?
- Should I get health and vehicle insurance? The answer is a definite yes.
Think About Your Budget
Obviously, your van life budget is a huge deciding factor in what you can purchase, fuel, and maintain. However, beyond what you can afford, it’s a question of what you’re bringing with you. Or, essentially, that which you absolutely can’t do without. If you’re bringing the entire family, which some do, then obviously you’ll need more space to sleep, eat, cook, wash, and kickback.
Prepare to Make Sacrifices
If it’s just you, your computer, your pet hamster, dried snacks, and your skis, then obviously you’ll need less space. But you’ll also have to get used to the idea of taking showers and bathroom breaks wherever you can find them. Even van lifers with large, expensive mobile homes will tell you that long, hot baths and showers become a thing of the past, and they quickly learn to shower with only a few liters of water.
And this isn’t the only convenience you may have to sacrifice. Many rural areas don’t receive cell service or wi-fi. For remote digital workers, this can be a problem.
All that You Can’t Leave Behind
Then there’s storage space, which can be in short supply in small to mid-sized RVs. Although van life might mean a spartan existence, many full-timers embrace the minimalist lifestyle, choosing experiences, happiness, and well-being over material possessions. Similarly, downsizing your wardrobe makes it easier when you eventually find somewhere to do laundry. That said, downsizing and deciding what to bring on the road can be a difficult choice. If you don’t already need it, wear it, or use it, then leave it behind.
The main benefit of van life is that you can travel anywhere with suitable roads and decent places to park and camp. A range of apps and internet forums exist to point you in the right direction.
- Imagine yourself cruising along at 40 kph, feeling like you have all the time in the world. Suddenly, a city slicker and other slaves to the system start blasting past you at a disrespectful 50 kph. Don’t be surprised if you get irritated.
- Take the time to learn to park properly. Use your mirrors and remember that this isn’t your old four-door saloon.
- Finally, remember your vehicle is your home. What if there’s an accident? What if your ride is ‘appropriated’ by some rural, redneck sheriff who thinks anyone with no fixed address is either a drug mule or beatnik liberal? If so, you’ll need a plan.
- Van life offers the ultimate in freedom, autonomy, and marching, or rather rolling to the beat of your own drum.
- Seeing the world at your own pace, moving according to seasons, or ski and surf reports, rather than in small, allotted increments of limited vacation time provides first-hand proof that Ralph Waldo Emerson was right when he famously said, “It’s not the destination. It’s the journey.”
- Along the way there’s no lawn to mow, house cleaning is quick, there are new friends around every corner, the scenery is majestic, and the activities menu is anything you wish it to be.