Living in a van has attracted many people over the years especially when the culture was introduced to social media platforms like Instagram, #vanlife. Many have decided to give the van life a try, and those who have are now choosing to not look back on their old lives. If you are interested in alternative living which is the van life, I’m here to give you that little push you need to finally hop into that van and make it your home.
In this article, you will discover the many reasons why a lot of people are now preferring to live this kind of life. As you read along, you will also find all the things you’re going to need should you decide to finally transfer to a house on wheels!
Reasons To Live In A Van
Affordable & Economical
A lot of people have considered living in a van because on top of student loans and other payments, paying that monthly rent for such a small space just didn’t seem worth it. Living in a van can be very economical especially when you avoid all the unnecessary upgrades and luxury items. Sure, renovations could cost from $1500-$3000 but that mostly covers electrical, ventilation, insulation, and flooring. Some vans may cost more and some cost less as it all depends on how much work needs to be done professionally. You don’t need to worry though because this investment is going to pay off!
You won’t ever have to pay rent or mortgages because you will have full ownership of your home. With this, you will save more money and finally get ahead of your finances.
This reason is perhaps the most common among van-dwellers. The freedom one experiences when living in a van is just incomparable – it allows you to travel whenever and wherever you like, it does not require any utility or mortgage bills, and you won’t have to answer to anyone for living under their roof! It’s your van, it’s your rules.
It is undeniable that living in a van can be so liberating. Wanting to travel and move around constantly, and having new experiences every day – it’s all human nature! This is what attracts more people into considering living the van life. You are given the chance to roam around freely and call everywhere “home”.
A house on wheels is just as convenient as it sounds. Most van-dwellers prefer van life because the convenience it offers is very different than that of living in an actual house.
Less space means fewer chores! You got less surface area to wipe and less floor space to sweep. Although doing the laundry and the dishes might take longer when you live in a van, there are plenty of extensive household chores you won’t ever have to do like mowing the lawn, fixing busted pipes, vacuuming narrow corners, and many more. Plus, you get to clean up your mess in your own time without anyone badgering you to pick up your socks on the floor!
No Packing Needed
Packing is a common pet peeve especially for people who constantly travel. Whenever you’re needed somewhere right away, packing can be unnecessarily tiring because you’d have to consider weather conditions, special occasions, and even weight luggage.
If you live in a van, you will never have to worry about packing because your clothes will have already been packed. Wherever you need to be, you can always bring your closet with you!
Easy Outfit Change
Because you can always bring your wardrobe with you, living in a van is pretty convenient. When you feel a little overdressed or even underdressed, you can just go back to where you parked your van and easily change your outfit! This is also very helpful during wardrobe malfunctions and accidental spills.
Always Near Home
If you’ve gone out for drinks and may have drunk a little too much, don’t bother calling a friend or a cab to pick you up. You can just go home right away to where you parked your van! Of course, if you are planning to sleep overnight, you have to make sure you are parked legally before taking a step into that bar. (Never drive while intoxicated!)
Whether you just had an accidental spill of your coffee, you’re too drunk to drive, or when you need to travel somewhere for work, you will always be near home when you live in a van.
Living in a van is a great space for creativity and career opportunities. With today’s technology, working from home has been made possible. A study in 2005 shows that the number of people telecommuting to work has increased to 80% with 3.3 million Americans working from home.
In addition, Forbes suggests that 72% of millennials prefer jobs that lean more towards creativity and being their own bosses, which means that office jobs are no longer appealing. Living in a van is perfect for creatives as it allows them to work from anywhere they want. Although this kind of life is not exactly fit for those who work in offices, it can still be made possible especially when you have a more permanent parking area.
Some van-dwellers who work in offices make this work by parking at their friend’s property (with permission, of course!) and use their van to go to work. The van life is quite flexible in this way because you can still work at an office. Plus, you are always near home even when you’re at work.
The van life will introduce you to new perspectives and many cultures. Although living in a van is not exactly a long-term commitment for some, the experience can still be as incredible and prolific. The amount of time you’ll have to contemplate, reflect, and discover yourself and other things is something you cannot compare when you’re living in your regular home or apartment. Every spot you go to is one step towards personal growth.
Living in a van is guaranteed to be packed with life lessons. These lessons are not something you learn randomly. They are unique, practical, and mostly life-changing. When you live in a van, you will be forced to learn the basics of construction, solar power, design, and even vehicle mechanics. These technical skills are imperative when living in a van. Should you decide to leave the van life after a couple of years, the skills you have learned by then will still be useful!
I don’t want to spoil you with all the great life lessons you are yet to learn but let me tell you that you’ll learn almost all of them through the people and wonderful friends you’re going to meet throughout your journey, and most importantly, you’ll learn them by yourself as well – when you’re alone, probably with a beautiful sunset view.
Inspiration and Motivation
The freedom and life lessons you’re going to acquire will, no doubt, inspire you and motivate you to become better and more passionate in everything that you do. Self-motivation is a very important aspect of a person’s life – without it, we don’t have the drive to do anything.
The van life encourages us to live and explore life and the world, and with everything that you have yet to experience, you will soon find yourself so much kinder to everyone around you, to the earth, and to yourself.
Depth of New Experiences
The unpredictability of living in a van is what makes it exciting. Although spontaneity may not be everyone’s cup of tea, one cannot deny that new experiences definitely make life more fun and meaningful.
You get to discover lakes or pools, you get to see the sunrise and sunset, you get to meet interesting people, and you get to adapt and learn from mistakes. The depth of new experiences helps you learn more about the world we live in and the people that live in it in a way that can’t just be learned in your normal, regular home. This is something that only a vandweller has the chance of experiencing.
Focusing On The Self
Living in a van will give you a lot of alone time. It’s not easy getting some alone time these days. The world just got busier and busier, and sometimes, it feels like you’ve forgotten how to spend time with yourself. You forgot how to think for yourself, you forgot how to just listen to the rain without ever thinking of work, and you forgot how to just enjoy a single moment.
If you’ve been wanting some alone time, the van life gives you exactly that. It does not, however, promote loneliness. Rather, it helps you become more independent and more self-secure. Living in a van allows you to know and improve yourself in unexpected ways.
Many vandwellers say that living in a van has boosted their mental health. In life, there are times when we cannot seem to avoid the toxicity of the people we let in our lives and society in general. If you live in a van, even with a friend or with your partner, your mood and emotions will most definitely improve.
One’s environment is a big contributing factor in one’s health and well-being. Some people are stuck in a place they despise which makes them less productive and unhappy. Some also feel like they’re trapped in their own home or apartment with people who are not good for them, making them unmotivated and uninspired. When you live in a van, you will never have to worry about being stuck at a dead-end because you can have a change of environment anytime you want.
Another thing that improves mental health is fewer anxiety stressors. You wouldn’t expect this but even clutter can affect concentration and cause anxiety. According to a psychology study, minimalism is good for your mental health as it fosters calmness and relaxation. So if there’s anything that’s going to force you to live a simple life, that would be living in a van. Not only will it help you declutter all the unnecessary things in your life, but it will also help you learn to love everything that you have now.
Closer to Nature
Because you get to travel anytime and anywhere, you’re most likely to be closer to nature. Public campgrounds and national and forest parks, where it’s legal to park overnight, are always close to nature.
Living in a van will make you appreciate and value your surroundings more. This is why all vandwellers share the same love for the earth. Not just by hugging trees and taking pictures but by doing everything they can to help protect the environment. When you live in a van, you’ll learn to stop taking things for granted, and nature will be one of them. It’ll make you realize your responsibilities as a person living on this beautiful planet.
Living this kind of adventure, you are bound to meet so many wonderful and interesting people. Almost all the life lessons you’re going to learn will be from them! You’ll be introduced to different cultures, you’ll share new experiences with them, and you’ll hear their different exciting stories.
Taking interest in these people’s lives will make your journey more fulfilling and meaningful. Even though some prefer being alone, it’s never a bad idea to share a few beers or brews with someone around a campfire. When the connection is too real, sometimes, a lot of these friendships even last a lifetime. Who knows, you might find yourself a best friend or even a soul mate!
Things You’ll Need To Live In A Van
Should you decide to finally live in a van, here are the basic things you’ll need to start your adventure!
Solar panels are always a great investment if you’re planning to live in a van. They power all the necessary things we have – our cellphones, our laptops, and most importantly, our lighting. They also power other appliances like the fridge. If you want to be self-sufficient, make sure that your solar panels are always powered by the sunlight every chance you get so you can utilize its energy efficiently whenever you need to.
Portable Power Bank
Portable power banks also serve the same purpose as solar panels. However, they do not power bigger appliances. These power banks are especially useful to our tech gadgets. With these power banks fully charged, you will no longer need to plug your gadgets in your van. Simply connect your phone or your tablet to this power bank and you’ll have a fully charged gadget in the morning.
Cigarette Lighter Charger
This charger is great for emergencies. When your power bank is drained, you can use this cigarette lighter charger to power up not one but two cell phones simultaneously while you’re driving.
Safety and Security
A fire extinguisher is a must-have. God forbid a time comes when you’re going to need one, having a fire extinguisher with you will not only be van-saving but life-saving as well. Make sure you place it somewhere accessible, where it’s easy to grab in a time of emergency, and reliable, where it won’t bother and be bothered by a trigger.
First Aid Kit
Your first aid kit will consist of the usual things but since living in a van will push you to be closer to nature, you’re going to have to add a thing or two that will cater to your new lifestyle. Being close to nature means to experience its essence wholly – the good and the bad. The latter will include mosquito bites (and other insect bites) and poisonous leaves or plants.
This is why a vandweller’s first aid kit is an enhanced first aid kit, complete with hydrocortisone cream, calamine lotion, corticosteroid cream, and antihistamines.
Having complete basic tools is very important as a vandweller. As mentioned before in the section of Life Lessons, you’re going to have to learn the basics of construction which is why having your own set of tools is mandatory. A lot of times you’re going to need to fix even the smallest of things in your van (loose hinges and screws), and without your screwdriver, you are just screwed.
Emergency Roadside Kit
Vehicle breakdowns happen a lot to vandwellers. Having your own emergency roadside kit can save you from being stuck should you find yourself lost in a remote location. With this, you can perform minor repairs that could be enough so you can run to the nearest mechanic.
This kit includes jumper cables, tow straps, tire repair materials, an air compressor, seatbelt cutter, and more.
These lights are needed for three (3) reasons: safety, security, and functionality. Statistics show that the 3rd leading cause of death in the US is accidental injuries. With these security lights installed in your van, you will be prevented from tripping over objects that might cause you injuries especially at night.
These lights serve also as a deterrent for theft and trespassing and are most useful when they’re motion-sensors. Lastly, they also improve lighting for evening activities like roasting marshmallows by the fire, reading a book, telling stories with your friends, and many more.
Because vandwellers and RVers depend on the sun as their main source of light, you will be needing interior van lighting when it starts to get dark. These lamps could either be solar-powered or battery-powered, either way, they let you save your vehicle’s battery. Investing in these lamps will help your indoor evening activities much smoother like cooking and reading.
Camp lights are basically flashlights. They are, however, more sophisticated because they feature different styles and options. Some have dimmers that are perfect for setting the mood, and some are USB-rechargeable that could serve as a portable power bank.
Camp lights are particularly useful during emergencies. You don’t necessarily have to use them all the time unlike security lights and lamps, which is why they don’t always need to be charged or replaced with new batteries.
Gas or Electric Stove
One of the most essential things to have in your van, an electric or gas stove will make your van life easier. Just because you live in a van does not mean you should live like a caveman and cook your food with the fire you just started!
Many opt for small stoves but the size depends on how much space you have for your kitchen. When you have a gas stove, always make sure that your place is well-ventilated, and in case of emergency, ensure that your fire extinguisher is within reach.
Having a cooler in your van is a great investment. A lot of food and drinks don’t last when they aren’t stored at the right temperature, but with this storage, you can preserve your food from five to seven days, electricity-free.
On the other hand, an electric cool box can store food much longer and you won’t even need those gigantic ice blocks to maintain the temperature. It’s perfect for vegetables and fruits that easily rot, and of course, it’s great for keeping your beers cold!
Pots And Pans
Needless to say, you’re going to need some pots and pans when you cook. Not only will you use them for your stove, but you can also use them for outdoor activities, like camping or hiking, by the fire.
As a vandweller, you’re going to have to utilize every little space as much as you can. So if you’re going to buy kitchen utensils for your van, the best option is to choose those that are multi-purpose and foldable. This way, you can save money and space.
Pressure showers, like NEMO Helio LX Pressure Shower, can give you 5-7 minutes of steady water pressure, which is more than enough especially because you know that when you live in a van, you will learn that every drop of water should not be wasted. Worth 11 liters of water, the water in the bag will warm up over time so you’d be comfortable enough to take a shower any time of the day.
Pump showers, on the other hand, are more affordable. This is because they only keep the water running for about three minutes after a few hand pumps.
Portable Composting Toilet
A compost toilet is not exactly the most appealing van life essential but it still remains, however, essential. It is very practical to have one in your van because you’ll never know when nature calls! If it does, you will be ready with a portable, lightweight, and affordable toilet even at 3 in the morning.
Unless you are parked at a campground or somewhere near a public restroom, a portable compost toilet is a practical and useful thing to have in your van.
Living in a van means you don’t always get access to water any time you want. This is why you should never forget to pack wet wipes. It’s not all the time you are anywhere near a public shower and more often than you’d expect, the temperatures might just be unsuitable for an outdoor shower.
This van life essential is perhaps one that vandwellers really won’t fail to remember. They are the best backup solution for basically anything that involves rinsing or cleaning. Many wet wipes offer different options regarding material, quality, and sizes but they’re best when they’re a size large, toxin-free, biodegradable, and anti-bacterial. This way, they can be used for many purposes.
When you live in a van, most of your showers are going to be outdoors. You’ll probably be showering in the middle of a forest or even at a river or lake. When you do, it’s important to remember that your shower products should always be eco-friendly.
Using eco-friendly shower products does not mean that they’re good for the environment; it just means that they don’t harm the environment because they don’t include phosphates and any other toxic chemicals that cannot be easily broken down in the soil. However, when you are near a natural water source, always make sure that you are at least 200 feet away to avoid contaminating the water with your shower products.
The space on the back of your van will mostly be consumed by your bed, leaving all your other stuff homeless. Storage boxes are the solution to this problem. When you live in a van, you will learn that even the smallest space can be used for important things. With storage boxes, you can save a lot of space by storing your clothes, your pots and pans, and other things that could cause an unnecessary mess.
If you plan to have a lot of them, you can still save space by piling them together, considering, of course, that the boxes with fragile items are handled properly. You can also put them under your bed.
Roof racks serve the same purpose as storage boxes. However, they do save a lot more space because they’re placed on top of the vehicle and not inside. They’re usually used for storing seasonal gear, equipment, and other items like tools, camp chairs, snowboards, and many more.
These containers, albeit smaller than any of the aforementioned storage, are particularly useful for small items like leftover food, snacks, accessories, and chargers. There are plenty of things you can put inside plastic containers, you just have to be resourceful!
An organizing tip: put your stuff inside these containers first before storing them in boxes to maximize the use of space and avoid a chaotic jumble of wires.
Chairs And Table
Foldable chairs and tables are perfect for camping. You can set them up either inside or outside the van, and they create instant space for cooking, eating, playing board games, folding laundry, and just chilling.
Opt for lightweight and fold-out chairs and tables if you plan to have these in your van so you wouldn’t have to worry about carrying them a lot and wondering where to put them inside your van.
Unless you’re intentionally following the warm weather, having a buddy heater with you in your van is necessary. Trust me, you do not want to travel without this one by your side and suffer a long, cold night.
It can get pretty chilly especially at times when you’re parked at nature where there are lots of trees or when you’re near bodies of water. Although this portable heater can be your best friend during cold weather, it’s best not to leave it overnight because like gas stoves, they are powered by propane and should, therefore, be used with caution and proper ventilation.
Speaking of proper ventilation – what helps in keeping you alive while living in a van is having a ventilation fan. Nothing is better than breathing fresh and clean air in your own home.
Ventilation fans remove moisture and contaminated air from your van to circulate fresh air. Yes, opened windows and doors may do the job as well but for safety reasons, it’s not always a good idea to do this especially at night when you’re parked in the middle of nowhere with no campground neighbors.
As mentioned before, these are particularly helpful when you’re cooking inside the van or when you’re using your buddy heater.
Ever since #vanlife has gotten popular around social media especially on Instagram, a lot of people have been enticed with this lifestyle because of all the photos that show breathtaking sceneries and beautiful interior van designs.
While both are pretty good reasons for you to live in a van, what these photos on your screen won’t show you is the fulfilling adventure you’re going to experience: journeying towards personal growth, forming a relationship with nature, and making lifelong friendships.
The van life is simply not a hobby; it is a lifestyle that deserves to be lived only by the spirited and the fearless.