Vanlife

Edit: February 2021 – I wrote this post a while ago now. I’m currently not living in my van, and reading back, I feel like this article is a bit one-sided. It’s a fun lifestyle, but not without its drawbacks.

All this said, I think there is still some value in here and as ever with these classic articles, I reckon it’s worth reading just for the JPEGs.

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I’ve been living in and out of my van for well over a year now and I often say that it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It’s changed my life in ways I couldn’t have imagined, and I’d like to share with you some of the opportunities this lifestyle can bring to the table of life.

I’m going to touch on some of the dizzying highs and also a couple of the potential pitfalls, but ultimately I hope to give you enough reason to consider buying your own van and starting your own adventure, whether it happens to be across the mountains of Europe or the residential estates of Slough.

Why You Should Do It

A Freedom Like No Other

The most striking aspect to me is the freedom that comes with this lifestyle. If you own a house, you have very little option of where you’re going to put it! A van has a lot more scope: tarmac, grass, or even sand (if you’ve got a 4X4).

4x4-van-in-australia-with-numberplate-that-says-paddy
Dear reader, meet Paddy – the rugged 4X4 that took us 1000s of miles across Australia.

One of the biggest draws to this lifestyle for me is the amount of money it’s possible to save. Last time I was in rented accommodation I was painfully aware that I was throwing money away, and that a decent chunk of my earnings were going to a man I didn’t know very well, who just so happened to own the house that I was sleeping in.

Now that I’m rent-free, my biggest outgoings by far are fuel and food, and both of these combined are dwarfed by even the most reasonable rent price. Once you add in electricity, patio furniture, water bills, freezer food and broadband, the costs really begin to add up.

(I don’t know anyone with a freezer in their van, do you?)

Living a Slimmer Life

There’s very much a limit to the amount of stuff you can fit in a van, so you have to be very considerate about what you bring along with you. This doesn’t just apply to material items – for example, because electricity and internet are more precious commodities, you’re far less likely to end up binge watching Netflix or endlessly scrolling on Facebook. This means that you free up time to say, start a blog, or read some of those books you’ve never gotten around to.

Sleep

I’ve never had a better bedtime routine than the one I have when I’m staying in the van, because the space is smaller and distractions fewer. Equally, I’ve never had a more fulfilling morning-time routine – I find it easier to get up, stay up, and get all my morning things I want to do, done.

Closer to Nature

At the risk of sounding clichéd, there’s nothing quite like waking up in a nice cosy van, opening up the curtains and being surrounded by trees, birdsong and wildlife.

Even if your house has the nicest view in the world, that’s the only option you have available. In a van you can see whatever you want – mountains today, lakes tomorrow…

landscape-photo-of-eibsee-lake-in-germany
If mountains were poker hands, Germany would have a straight flush.
landscape-photo-of-lake-gradišče-in-slovenia
If lakes were lakes, Slovenia would have some seriously amazing lakes.

Alone Time

Another of my favourite things is stopping somewhere at night and knowing that I’m the only person around. Life is so busy and constantly full of people; I feel that time spent alone is undervalued nowadays.

Support Yourself

People living in vans is not new, but what is possible has changed dramatically in recent times. With the improvement in battery technology and the affordability of solar panels, you can now stay connected to the world via the internet. More and more people are making money with their laptops, which simply hasn’t been possible in the past.

There is definitely still a stigma associated with people living in their vans, but in this day and age it’s entirely possible to make a living and stay clean and healthy, all while living in a beautiful box on wheels. The van-living movement is gaining in popularity, and this is the perfect time to jump on board.

Opportunities to Grow

Almost every time you hear a van owner asked if anything has gone wrong for them, you’ll hear them laugh and say “so much has gone wrong!”. The next question people then tend to ask is whether it’s all worth it, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone respond with anything other than a resounding yes.

The hard times in life are where you really learn about yourself (and each other, if you’re not alone). You’re forced to learn the lessons that you wouldn’t otherwise, and you then take what you’ve learnt forward with you and can apply it to the rest of your life. Often the toughest times can end up being the most worthwhile.

Things To Watch Out For

Sociability

Something I personally have to be mindful of is shutting myself away when I’m staying in the van. I don’t need people around me all of the time, and I really do notice when I haven’t had enough time to myself. The issue is that sometimes I overdo it without realising and spend too much time alone.

I’m not sure how many people reading this will share this problem, but if you’re considering living in a mobile home, it’s worth cultivating an awareness of how much time you need to spend with other people and how much time you require to yourself.

Dependency

If your van is your house, it’s worth having a backup plan if it all goes wrong. I’ve been very lucky but I’ve heard stories of people breaking down and then ending up in a situation where they don’t have anywhere to stay.

If you happen to be traipsing across Europe it’s worth considering that you may have to move into a hostel on short notice, or even potentially a flight home in the worst case. Hopefully it never comes to that, but it’s worth being prepared.

#vanlife

Well there you have it. I hope that has given you a little glimpse into some of the ups and downs of van life/living/dwelling.

I’m sure it’s not the perfect life for everyone, but if something in this article resonates with you then this is a subject absolutely worth looking into.

It’s really not a lifestyle I ever thought I would pick up, but now I absolutely love it.

If you have any other questions for me about starting your own van venture, or maintaining your current one, stick them in the comments below and I’ll be happy to give them my best shot.

If you’re based in the UK and want to see some seriously premium home-made van conversions. I would highly recommend heading to Camp Quirky.


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4 responses to “Vanlife”

  1. Mr Michael McMacmickel avatar

    If blogs were blogs, BeingOnWheels would be a seriously great blog.
    Inspired me to melt down all my nice candlesticks into coins and put them in my van piggybank… Hope to see you on road someday soon!

    1. Craig avatar

      Mr McMacmickel, it’s been such a long time! I hope you see you on the tarmac in the very near future.

  2. Ross avatar
    Ross

    Gotta ask – toilet facilities?

    1. Craig avatar

      This is probably the most asked question in van-living-land! Personally, I find that you’re either staying in the middle of somewhere or the middle of nowhere.

      If you’re in the middle of somewhere, you can always find a toilet. Most supermarkets have them, restaurants, cafes, and so on.

      If you’re in the middle of nowhere, all you need is a trowel, some biodegradable toilet paper, and hand sanitiser.

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