Van Dwelling has become heavily romanticised through #vanlife on Instagram. This hashtag depicts a dreamy lifestyle, where every day is an awesome adventure, and your horizon is ever-changing. Living in a van is like that sometimes, but the reality is that life can’t be perfect all the time.
I’ve lived in my van for almost three years, and I’m here to prove that it’s not all beach park ups and gorgeous sunsets. Here are ten things that you’re going to have to get used to if you want to live in a van!
Featured Image Credit : @gabriellenelson_
1. Appreciate The Outdoors, No Matter The Weather
When you start van dwelling, your entire house is suddenly smaller than most peoples bathroom. While it can be a beautiful and functional space, tailored to your exact needs, there is no getting around the fact that a camper van is tiny. But, with the great outdoors as your playground, you’ll find a camper is more than enough space.
The pull to stay inside your camper when the weather is bad can be strong; there’s nothing wrong with watching a film or binging your favourite Netflix series. However, after a couple of rainy days spent inside, you’ll soon feel the need to stretch your legs and get out. It can be harder to appreciate the outdoors when the weather isn’t great, but when you live in a van, it’s essential to be able to get outside no matter the weather.
I would recommend investing in some proper outdoor gear, even if you’re not planning for bad weather. If you’ve got a good waterproof coat, going for a hike in the rain can be an energising experience and moods will start to lift. After all, there’s only so long you can spend inside.
2. Go With The Flow
Life often isn’t simple, and the same goes for vanlife. Things crop up that you weren’t expecting and plans can change. When you’re van dwelling, this can feel more extreme as you have no ‘home base’ to go back to as you’re always on the move. Living in a van can force you to step out of your comfort zone, and it’s good to learn to go with the flow.
You might find your camping or boondocking spot is full, or that the road you were planning on taking is closed. It can be easy to get frustrated when things go wrong on your trip, but often you’ll find somewhere even better. Van dwelling can be a lot of quick problem solving and choose plan B, but that’s still just as fun.
3. The Meaning Of Clean
Before I moved into a van, I used to shower every single day, sometimes twice. I love a good shower and find it relaxing, but when you don’t have one, it just isn’t a priority. When I’m on the road, I only shower once or twice a week, and even then it’s outside or just a good old sink wash.
If someone had told me that before living in a van, I would have thought it was disgusting but being clean has taken on a new meaning. Now, a dip in a lake or the ocean is as good as a bath, and baby wipes are no longer reserved for music festivals.
4. Remote Or Seasonal Working
Unless you have saved up a lot of money before moving into a van, you’re going to need to find a new way to work. Unfortunately, life can’t always be hiking and surfing. Finding a remote job that you can do online from your camper is a great way to earn money on the road. However, this new way of working can be an adjustment.
If getting a remote job isn’t for you, then you could try your hand at seasonal work. This could be working on a campsite, at a ski school, or on a farm. Working for half the year and travelling for the rest is an excellent way to manage your finances when van dwelling and allows you to keep the journey going for longer.
5. Limited Water Usage
Turning the tap on and grabbing a glass of water is an action that so many people take for granted. When you’re van dwelling, you really start to appreciate how important water is, as there isn’t an endless supply.
Running out of water when you’re on the road is super annoying, it means taking time out of your adventure to find a water tap to fill up again. Because of this, you’ll learn to limit your water usage. When I visit family now, it feels absurd to fill the entire sink to wash up!
6. Ugly Car Parks
Ugly car parks are a part of vanlife that no one really talks about, but they are just as common as a sea view. When you travel full time, some park up spots are more beautiful than others, and that’s ok!
There is nothing wrong with a boring car park, whether it’s a supermarket, motorway pull off or camper van service point, they all serve a purpose. Sometimes I even crave a car park. Across Europe, motorhome service points with free water and dumping facilities are ugly but useful, and they’re also safe places, where you’re likely to meet other vanlifers and won’t get moved on.
When you’re van dwelling, spending the night in strange places that would have once felt weird becomes normal. That’s just how is it when the road is your home!
7. Making New Friends
One of the best parts of vanlife is the people you meet along the way. There’s nothing better than spending the night with new friends and making a new connection. I’ve met people on the road that I now text almost every day!
Making friends on the road is something you have to get used to as it can feel a bit awkward to strike up a conversation with your van neighbours. Sometimes, they might not want to chat but more often than not, stepping out of your comfort zone and introducing yourself pays off.
8. Less Privacy
If you’re travelling with a partner, then you will have to get used to having a lot less privacy than you would in a house. Most camper vans are just one open-plan space, so there’s no door to shut when you want some quiet time. Being together 24/7 is something you will get used to, as is using the toilet in front of each other!
If you need your alone time, then this is something that you have to make an effort to achieve. Have a conversation with your partner and make sure you’re giving each other enough space. Maybe schedule in time to do a solo hike each week, or invest in a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones!
9. Minimalistic Cooking Style
Cooking on the road means you have to get used to a smaller kitchen. Most vans only have a two-ring burner and a small fridge. When you’re van dwelling, there isn’t space for complicated, fancy meals and you’ll learn to cook with less equipment.
A smaller kitchen doesn’t mean you can’t eat well, but one or two pot meals will become your best friend. Not only are they easier to cook, but they also use less water to wash up, saving your limited water supply!
Brand new vans are expensive, and many people who want to live on the road don’t want to spend a ridiculous amount of money to do so. A second-hand van is a good way to keep costs down, but they do come with problems.
A breakdown at some point on your road trip shouldn’t come as a huge shock, especially if you have an older van. While breakdowns aren’t ideal and can be stressful, they don’t have to be the end of the world. Make sure you have breakdown cover before you set off and find a good translating app so you can talk to the local mechanic and you’re good to go!
These ten obstacles aren’t a reason not to embark on your own van dwelling journey, as the pros definitely outweigh the cons. Some parts of vanlife may take some getting used to but living and travelling in a van is an adventure, and every adventure has its quirks. Travelling the world, and being able to take your home with you is a fantastic experience if you get the opportunity to do so then go for it. The rest you can work out later!