Some of you might be wondering: what is so appealing about living in a van? While others might be thinking about making the leap to vanlife and just need some gentle encouragement.
Nyma and I are here to tell you our favorite things about vanlife. You can decide for yourself whether we’re crazy or living to the fullest.
1. Every day is an adventure
When you’re living life on the road, your days are subject to a great deal of variation. You might choose to travel a couple hundred miles one day and stay put the next. You might sleep in a parking lot in town one night and on a forest service road the next. Want to go for a hike first thing in the morning? No problem! You can park at the trailhead and jump out of bed and start hiking. It’s really awesome to have so much flexibility. Every day is different.
The downside, of course, is when things don’t go your way. Your vehicle might break down or a ranger comes by during the night and tells you you can’t sleep there. It helps to know the rules, but sometimes you have to risk it. Hiccups are natural in every adventure – that’s what keeps things interesting!
2. Your office is always changing
While most people are stuck inside for eight hours a day doing their work, us vandwellers can choose where we want to spend those hours. That doesn’t mean we can skip out on work – but we can work in coffee shops, libraries, even out on the road. Our surroundings are always changing! Of course, there are several factors that come into play – finding WiFi or cell reception if you’re using a hotspot – but those obstacles are generally pretty easy to navigate. Turns out WiFi is a very common resource in the 21st Century.
Some of my favorite offices have been in my van on a lakeshore, the patio of a coffee shop in Sedona beside a towering red rock feature, and at the frickin’ Grand Canyon (slow-signal, but a dream come true!)
3. Vanlife helps you meet new people
When you enter the world of vanlife, you are essentially adopting a new community. There is actually a large community of vandwellers you may never meet or even be aware of until you get a van for yourself. Then you’ll start seeing them everywhere. It’s not an exclusive club either – once you have the van, you’re in. I’ve met a ton of beautiful souls simply because we have a van in common. There are always good stories to share, too.
I could never understand why my old roommate (a longtime vandweller) would always point out other vans on the road. Until I got a van for myself. Now I see them everywhere! I can’t help myself. I’m always looking for solar panels, roof fans, any sign that someone has converted it, and then I’m curious about the build. Most people are proud of their builds and want to show them off, so it’s a win-win. To prove my point, there’s a whole subreddit devoted solely to vandwellers talking about shop.
4. Teaches you to be frugal
Not everyone does life on the road the same way, but I prefer to do it on a budget. Aside from necessities like fuel and food, it’s easy to avoid spending much money. There’s also not really room to accumulate a lot of possessions in a van…
Sure, you can live extravagantly if you want – eat out every night, go to concerts or bars in every city you visit, and get massages regularly. Or you can choose to cook all your own meals, poke away at a six-pack of delicious microbrews from your solar fridge, and, you know, self-massage instead. It all comes down to your preferences, budget, and self-control.
That said, not every day on the road is perfect and sometimes you totally deserve to treat yourself! Anyone else have a soft spot for Snickers?
5. Learn new skills
For anyone who loves a hands-on approach or likes to get their hands dirty, vanlife is a perfect marriage. Not only do you have the freedom to construct the interior any way you wish, but the vans themselves seem to have a never-ending list of repairs that need to be done!
Okay, that part is a little tongue-in-cheek (I’m speaking from my own experience of buying an old van that needed a lot of engine repairs). While the issues aren’t always welcome, I can’t deny it’s been a great learning experience. Before I got the van, I knew next to nothing about mechanics. Now I am more confident poking around the engine and fixing it when something’s not working right.
If you choose the vanlife, you’ll learn so many skills you might not otherwise have a chance to.
6. Vanlife means no rent
Aside from my desire to explore, one of the biggest factors for choosing vanlife is the alluring price of rent: free! Sure, depending on the rig you choose, you might have some overhead you’ve got to pay off, but to me that is a helluva lot better than coughing up a large portion of your paycheck every month for rent.
With the housing market as it is now, most millennials can’t afford a house, so they’re stuck paying rent and are not able to save money to eventually buy a house. It’s a vicious cycle I found myself in, and vanlife is how I chose to break the loop. Now I have more money to save and spend how I wish!
7. New running trails
Those who know me might say I have a certain fondness for running. Some might go so far as to say I have an addiction. I won’t deny it either, though I would say running’s got to be the healthiest addiction I can think of. There’s something so satisfying about utilizing your whole body and energy, the calm focus, the endorphins, and the measurable improvements that running provides. I could go on and on…
Thanks to vanlife, Nyma and I get to explore new trails all the time. And trails are our absolute favorite! Nyma gets to go off-leash and I have beautiful nature around me, as well as soft ground for my feet. Any day we hit the trail is a great day.
8. More time for fetch
This is Nyma’s addition to the list. Her favorite part of living in the van is how much we get to play fetch. We usually start every day with a walk, but lunches and spending most of our time outside guarantees many quality hours of fetch. And I mean hours. She insists! Stick, frisbee, ball – she doesn’t care. She’ll fetch ’em all.
Border collies have loads of energy, so even after we finish a five- or six-mile run, she’s still game for fetch. I call it an addiction, she calls it a lifestyle. Who am I to argue with that?
Fellow vandwellers, is there anything we missed? Tell us your favorite things about vanlife in the comments below!