Has quarantine made you rethink your day-to-day routine? Tempted to take a one-way trip to who-knows-where? Living out of your van isn’t what it used to be, and influencers across the cybersphere are jumping on the (literal) bandwagon.
For those who are thinking about taking the dive themselves, there are a variety of ways to embark on the road trip of your dreams. Whether you’re thinking about converting your existing vehicle, buying a new one, or taking the rideshare route – there is a clear path to van living that’s right for your goals.
Read on to learn more about the van life essentials you need to hit the road and become a highway nomad.
Is Van Living Safe?
One of the biggest concerns people have with the van living structure is giving up the safety and security of a brick-and-mortar home. Forgoing those walls also means opening up your new home to everything the world has to throw at you. But there are some key measures any van vagabond can take to prevent the unwanted from happening.
If your dream is to hit the open road and drive until the pavement stops, your primary concerns become survival and preparation based. Having a clear idea of the environment you plan to spend your time in will have a heavy hand in determining your level of comfort and success in any location.
Are you aware of the wildlife in the nearby areas, and do you have the proper equipment to safely store your food and waste? Is your vehicle equipped for the routes you’ll be crossing? Before you get a start on your van life adventure, it’s important to review questions like these in detail.
While those in the country have to worry more about wild animals, people are the primary threat in more densely populated areas. Having a well-lit place to park is key for those who want to live in a bigger city. Fortunately, many retailers and cities around the country have agreed to allow people to park their vehicles for extended overnight periods.
In general, common sense and adequate research go a long way for those who want to turn their vehicle into their main domicile. Be aware of the surroundings you plan to find yourself in, and ensure that you’re using your head when it comes to:
- Securing and hiding valuables
- Locking doors and entryways
- Repelling animals
- Following local and regional laws and regulations
Doing a bit of research before embarking on your journey will help to keep you safe during the entire experience, day and night.
Why Should You Consider Van Life in 2021?
The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way a lot of us view our “homes,” and this has sparked a new wave of free-thinking explorers who want to see more of their country, state, or local area.
Van living is the ultimate solution for those looking to socially distance effectively, without sacrificing adventure and a regular change of scenery. By downsizing your lifestyle to fit in a standard passenger van, you’re able to go on all roads your commute car could take you – without the looming fear of Monday in the near distance.
If you’ve been economically impacted by the financial downturn the pandemic caused, you might be looking for a way to reduce your expenses significantly and put more energy into your savings plan. Additionally, unemployment and reduced work hours have driven much of those in impacted industries to take a hiatus and make use of the time off.
Typical downsizing might involve cramming your life into a tiny studio apartment, but without the ability to blow off steam at the downstairs bar thanks to the ongoing pandemic. Van living encompasses the same need for a reduced amount of space, without tethering you to one physical location.
What if you could get rid of rent and instead put that money toward gas and a plethora of new experiences instead? Whether your new home is a cargo van or a converted school bus, your money will go much further when you remove a static rent or mortgage payment from your budget.
Can Anyone Live in a Van?
It might seem like the only people who are van living successfully have money to fall back on, as well as the social media trend of faking the lifestyle. But, if you’re willing to forgo hardwood paneling, you can transition into this routine for just a few hundred dollars.
If your goal is to downsize and get rid of your responsibility to pay a fee simply for a place to live, this lifestyle might be the plan for you. Consider the benefits of trading your living costs for fewer pieces of furniture and a more shelf-stable diet.
If you do not currently have a home but you do have a vehicle, consider selling your car or truck for something more spacious. A used van with less than 100,000 miles could cost you anywhere from $10,000 and up. But, looking in your local seller marketplaces can reduce your start-up cost to less than $2,000.
How you save for your next step varies greatly on your current lifestyle and obligations. Cutting expenses everywhere you can could be a great place to start and can help you ease into your new minimalist way of life.
Common ways to save for your new “home” might include:
- Stopping eating out, and adopt your “new diet”
- Moving out of your home/apartment and couch surf to save on rent
- Joining a rideshare service with your new or old vehicle to save for living modifications
No matter how you choose to save up, a small amount of discipline can give you the head start you need to change your life.
Van Life Checklist
What van living essentials do you need to ensure that your van is equipped for daily life? From generator-powered minifridges to bare-bones build outs, there’s something for everyone among the van living community.
Deciding on your lifestyle is the first step to take for every van lifer or aspiring vehicular nomad. If you want to stick to a shoestring budget, your living space is sure to reflect that. Whereas people who want to recreate their home lifestyle as accurately as possible may need to be more creative with how they arrange everything from their bedroll to the containers used to store food and toiletries.
Build your van living to-do list by preparing with the tips below.
What to Bring
Storage space is precious when your method of transportation is also where you lay your head at night. Understanding how you plan to spend your hours throughout the day will help you determine how much space you will need.
Building additional cabinet and tabletop space can be as simple as downloading instructions from the internet and purchasing some plywood. Or, you can seek the help of a professional to build a fully functional van household.
If you plan on cooking often, ensure that you have a safe place to store fuel. If you’re looking to use your space predominantly for sleeping, build a platform to maximize every square foot. Based on your itinerary, ensure that you have enough storage space for all of the seasons you’ll need to dress for.
Those are just a few examples of how you might determine the exact amount of space you and your family will need.
Kitchen and Bathroom Tips
There are two primary types of on-wheels domiciles when it comes to water-connected rooms: those that include a sink and toilet, and those that do not. This largely depends on the driver’s individual choices, and the level of maintenance you’re willing to endure on a daily basis.
In short, including any sort of water hookups will require much more maintenance and preparation than planning around this aspect of your routine.
In lieu of building a sink and/or toilet feet away from where you sleep and eat, most van lifers prefer to handle this business externally. Campsites, rest areas, and even private residences often provide places to shower, use the restroom, and wash dishes among other tasks. Laundry may also be included and can be a welcome alternative to basin washing with bottled water.
Always be sure to have all of the toiletries and supplies you need on hand, however, as this is rarely provided by the same facilities.
Just like maximizing the square footage of a bachelor apartment, using every inch of your available wall, floor, and even ceiling space will help you to build a functional home on four wheels.
In general, vertical stacking is the way to go when it comes to storing resilient items like:
- Dry goods
- Cleaning/beauty products
- Utensils and sturdy dishes
More fragile items can easily occupy any spaces under fixtures such as your bed platform, table, or shelving.
The secret to staying sane when you do not have a single inch to spare is ensuring that every item you own has its own place in your home. This will prevent clutter and loss of valuable items.
Handy Gadgets and Extras
You might want to take an aimless trip without any guidance or planning, but there are a variety of affordable tech solutions on the market that can make your journey exponentially easier. GPS-tracking devices, power converters, drink heaters, USB-powered mini appliances, and chargeable banks are just a few examples of things that can simplify your life by leaps and bounds.
A coffee grinder the size of your mug? Battery-powered carbon monoxide detectors? Solar-powered charging panels? You might not know what you didn’t know you needed until you see this comprehensive list of popular van life gadgets that nomads loved in 2020.
Living out of a van might not be as glamorous as Instagram makes it seem, but you can build an exciting and simplify life with little capital using this trendy lifestyle as a model.