“Van Life is a sub-culture of nomadic individuals who are embracing minimalism on a journey to reassess what is truly important for a happy and balanced life.”
As more people fall in love with the idea of freedom, minimalism and moving away from traditional 9-5 living, van life is becoming more popular than ever. You can barely move for all the #vanlife Instagram accounts out there and we’ve certainly met a huge number of van lifers during our time on the road.
But while it all seems like a nice idea, the reality is that it’s not for everyone – and that’s OK! For us, the philosophy behind van life is choosing to down size, cut costs, ditch the 9-5 and find balance and happiness in our lives (hence why I shared that great quote at the beginning).
But this is not to say that this is the right way to find your zen. In fact, living your best life could be the total opposite to living in a van. It’s about finding what works for you.
And we often get one of two reactions when we tell people about our lifestyle, one being ‘I could never live in a van’, but more commonly we get people saying ‘I’d love to do it full time, but I’m just not sure if I could’.
So if you’re considering van life full time or you’re just looking for a change in your life, below are eight questions you need to ask yourself before committing to life in a van.
1. Are you a home bird?
They say home is where the heart is, and if this is how you feel then perhaps van life isn’t for you. It’s perfectly natural to miss home, but some people have much stronger ties to their homes than others. If you know for a fact that a two week holiday is too much for you to handle, then it’s best to look for another way to find your simplicity and freedom.
2. Do you have any dependants?
This one is super important. If you’ve got children, pets or any other dependants then this can really affect how you do (or don’t do) van life. It’s not impossible to travel with children or animals – there are enough people out there doing it already. But it does come with extra responsibilities.
Animals can’t be left alone for too long in the van and this can limit the places you can go. Similarly, if you choose to travel with kids you’ll have to consider their wellbeing and schooling. So before you commit to anything you’ll have to think logistically about those who are dependent on you.
3. Do you feel the need to plan everything?
If you are one of those people (and it’s fine if you are) that needs to plan every aspect of their day, then this lifestyle could be difficult for you. Van life requires a lot of spontaneity and you never know what could happen. Things don’t always go to plan on the road and sometimes your day can be completely changed around, so you have to be able to go with the flow.
4. Can you downsize your life?
Even the biggest vans only have so much room and storage space, so you have to be prepared to downsize your life. If you’re not prepared to limit your belongings to one vans worth you might struggle, and if you feel particularly claustrophobic or restless in a small space then van life probably isn’t ideal for you. Because even a large motorhome is a far cry from a flat or house.
5. Can you unplug?
Of course you can add leisure batteries and plugs to your van, but there may be times when you have to unplug and switch off. If you’ve stopped for a few days you don’t want your battery to drain, or if you find yourself in the middle of nowhere (like we did in a national park in the Scottish Highlands), then you might have no phone signal either. So if you need your TV or you’re glued to your phone then you might find you struggle.
6. Do you have a means of making money on the move?
If you’ve got a decent amount of money in the bank or you’re planning on selling your home in order to make the change, then you might be OK for money. But if you’re starting with nothing (or like us with just a small amount in your savings) then you need to be able to make money on the move. There are a number of ways you can do this, but you have to be prepared to pick up work when you can and you might not always have the most glamorous roles. Decide if you have a means of making money or consider how you’re going to get a good sum of cash behind you before you leave.
7. Are you OK with wearing the same clothes a lot?
Your wardrobe will already be fairly small as you need to be able to fit all your clothes in your van, but you also need to be prepared to re-wear each items several times (within reason of course). You won’t always have access to a washing machine and if you’re on your own it can take some time to build an entire wash-load worth of clothes. The reality is you’ll probably find the same clothes make their way to the top of the pile and become your firm favourites, so if you need a big and varied wardrobe it’s probably best to stick to a house.
8. Do you like the outdoors?
If you don’t like the great outdoors and spending lots of time with nature, then van life is not going to be your idea of great living. Of course you have the van, but you essentially live outdoors. You’ll spend most of your time outside, especially if your van is small and basic. You also need to be OK with everything that nature brings like bad weather and dirt. If you can’t handle mother nature then van life probably won’t make you happy.
So is van life for you?
If you’re looking for the next exciting step in your life, before you give up your job and swap your house for a van, ask yourself these eight questions to help you decide if it’s the right decision for you.