Its easy to see why The Vanlife Movement is blowing up. With over 604,000 tags on Instagram, #vanlife is taking social media by storm with each new van conversion. A carefully curated image of a steaming cup of coffee pictured at the base of a beautiful mountain range or the classic beach view out of the back of a vanagon awakens the wanderlust in everyone. But even just the thought of moving your entire life into 80 square feet is no simple task. So if you’re considering joining the new american dream we have put together a 5 step guide to make this epic transition feel a little more manageable. Because its not all hammock naps and sunset hikes my friend.
Before we get into the main guide here are a few quick tips to get you “van ready.”
- Get rid of half your possessions. Then get rid of the other half.
- Stop showering. Seriously. If it is impossible for you to go cold turkey start out by cutting down to twice a week, for one minute with only cold water.
- It is essential that you become familiar with public restrooms. Give up using your own clean bathroom and practice hunting down a public restroom or a nice shrub every time mother nature calls. Yes even in the middle of the night.
- Hand wash all of the dishes after a meal using only a half gallon of cold water and minimal soap. Better yet just cook all of your food in one pot and eat with your hands. Not for you? Peanut Butter and Jelly is also an option, nice and cheap too.
- Start poaching every electrical outlet and free wifi signal you come in contact with. Coffee shops, libraries, city parks, laundry mats, truck stops, pay by the hour motels, etc..
- Invite strangers to peek into your windows anytime they feel like it. The more comfortable you get with no privacy, the better chance of success as a nomad.
If you are still reading then congratulations, you have a big enough sense of humor to survive vanlife. Trust us you are going to have to hold onto that. These are all things that you are going to deal with on a daily basis if you decide to join the movement. The good news is the rewards of living life on the road far outweigh the struggles.
Now that we have weened out the wannabe rubber tramps the following tips are a little more serious and should be more helpful for those of you who are actually reading to gain some insight on what it takes to live in a van.
#1 YOU DO YOU
Its easy to get caught up in how other van lifers are living life on the road. You can spend hours scrolling Instagram and reading the never-ending list of nomad blogs, like this one, trying to score the secret formula. What style of van is best? How do you shower? Where do you park to sleep? There are a lot of common answers and tips for these questions, but we are here to tell you it is different for every Vanlifer! Most make money doing online business, others selling art and some by finding random jobs on Craigslist. You can shower in your van, at local gyms or in a wild raging waterfall you hiked 10 miles to. The point is that you shouldn’t get caught up in what everyone else is doing. You chose this alternative lifestyle for a reason and there is no common way of living it.
#2 Create a Map & Bucket List
Where is your new home on wheels going to take you? The open road is calling your name and even though it sounds thrilling to let it take you wherever the wind blows having at least a general direction can help you make important decisions in what type of van and buildout style fits your adventure the best. Are you drawn to visiting the National Parks? Following the winter swells south? Climbing all day and star gazing all night? Do some research and grab a map to plot out some destinations that your going to hit. Get psyched and build a bucket list of your top places to see and things to do. This will be your motivation when your build out is taking longer then planned, is over budget and just plain frustrating.
#3 Become Adaptable
If there is one thing we can preach over and over to you about this life is that no day is the same! Real life has us all comfortably programmed to a daily routine. Wake up, hit the snooze button 3 times, make coffee, go to work, yada yada yada. On the road your scene is constantly changing and if you are going to survive the ups and downs its important to learn to go with the flow. Little tasks that took zero brainpower before now require some fore thought. You’re constantly wondering where you can find an inconspicuous spot to park for the night or if you have enough water in the tank to wash the dishes. Learning to become patient and adaptable when things get a little rough is the only way to survive. You’ll get systems and routines down for certain things and others you’ll have to constantly work at but thats part of what makes it all worth while. Its important to remember that the difference between an ordeal and an adventure is attitude.
#4 Make it a Home
The most important step of the whole process, build out your van! We highly recommend building your own van as opposed to having someone else fit it out. It is time consuming and frustrating at times but the satisfaction and pride from building a van from a sardine can to your very own custom home is irreplaceable. With the limited amount of space in a van every inch counts and utilizing it for your specific lifestyle is something only you can do. While functionality is important your van should also reflect your style and personality. The goal is to always feel at home wherever you end up for the night. Little comforts can make all the difference in stressful van moments.
#5 Join the Community
The Vanlife community is growing exponentially and there are a lot of great resources that help with each step of the process. Many of the Vanlifers are happy to answer questions about their buildouts if you leave a comment on their Instagram or Blog. Shoutout to a few of our favorite instagrammers @lacopacavana @ourhomeonwheels and @freshoffthegrid. They were happy to offer up some nuggets of wisdom during our buildout and planning. There are some great online forums (sprinter-source.com and cheaprvliving.com) that discuss everything from outfitting your van with solar panels to choosing the van model that will work best for your needs. Don’t be scared to ask questions and be the new guy or gal. We are always looking to recruit more people for the Vanlife movement!
We love to answer questions about how we live and our adventure of building a custom camper van. Please leave a comment below or on our social media accounts and we would be stoked to answer any and all of your questions!