“Love means that you accept #Vanlife with all the failures, stupidities, ugliness, and nonetheless, you see perfection in imperfection itself.”-Unknown
When it comes to #vanlife, social media does an incredible job of fantasizing what the movement is all about. Instagram showcases van lifers sharing their dreamy vans with picturesque scenery all around the world. These photos can sometimes give off the impression that their lives flood with pure adventure, including yoga by the ocean or endless campfires, with not a care in the world. However, this is not the whole picture when it comes to living the #vanlife. The life of a van life traveller is not always an easy one.
First of all, I’d like to share with you some information on what the #vanlife movement is all about. What is #vanlife?
“Vanlife is a rapidly growing lifestyle where people all over the world are converting vans into rolling homes to explore more, connect with nature and the people who live in small towns, and spend more time on their creative passions while lowering the cost of accommodations on longer road trips.” – The Meaning of VanLife Documentary
#Vanlife merely is an incredible movement that allows you to live a simpler life while having grand adventures. It isn’t always the perfect picture, so knowing some realities of the lifestyle might help put it in perspective for you. What are some of those truths? Let’s talk about it.
1. People Judge You
When it comes to living in your van, people in your life or who you meet aren’t the quickest to understand your choice. Family and friends may be the most judgmental as you explain your plan to sell your items and live in a van, down by the river (SNL anyone?). Most parents don’t imagine their kids growing up and living in a van to help save money or travel more. There will be supportive people, but secretly or openly, some people will judge you. The pictures on Instagram are beautiful, but no matter how much you try to convince people that you love your life, some people will never seem to understand fully.
2.Type of Van You Live In
On Instagram, there is an array of VW Buses and brand new Mercedes taking over those little squares on your feed. Everyone has their financial situation, and not everyone can afford to buy a $50,000 van. When it comes to the thought process, there are some who sell their houses, so that amount of money is insignificant compared to the mortgage they were paying. For others, it’s about pinching pennies and finding what they can afford. Whatever the case, it’s about the lifestyle, not the van you drive.
3. Continuous Mechanical Issues
No vehicle is perfect, and things do happen. When you live in your vehicle and drive it everywhere you go, the miles tend to rack up and so do the mechanical issues. When you have a newer vehicle, these problems tend to be fewer. However, when you drive an old beast like mine, which is a 1990, you are always watching out for those sneak attack mechanical problems. One day your van will be running like a champ, the next day you’ll have a dead battery. Mechanical issues are a reality for almost every van-lifer, and we can all relate. It’s our home, and when it happens it sucks.
4. Where You Poo
When it comes to doing your business, vanlife is not a life of convenience. There are different types of toilets that you can have in your van such as; a flush-able toilet, a travel toilet (flush-able without hookups), a composting toilet, a bucket, and a hole outside. At the beginning of my venture, I had the travel toilet. You go and dump it later where it’s okay to do so. It was too bulky and took up a lot of space, so it found itself in the dump. Now, we use a Luggable Loo seat attached to a bucket, and garbage bags for those nightly emergencies when we don’t want to leave the van. Everyone chooses their preference, however, sometimes the most convenient thing to do is find a public restroom. This isn’t the most glamorous part of the lifestyle.
5. You Have to Plan Every Shower
When it comes to showering, this is essential for every human to do; otherwise, you’d smell horrible. You may see pictures of people taking outdoor showers in their bathing suits in the back of the van near the beach; however, not all of us do that. I’d probably scare people passing by if I did that with our solar shower. However, with vanlife, you learn to appreciate any hot water shower you can get. Gym memberships are a common thing to have since you can exercise and take a convenient hot shower. A popular one is Planet Fitness which tends to have multiple locations around the United States. For those who don’t carry gym memberships, you always have to plan where you’re going to take your next shower. If we are not near our gym, public showers and campground showers tend to be the our best choice.
6. Making Money
When it comes to making money, most of the influencers make money from online work that they do. Most have several income streams and can travel while working and make a living. For some though, van life is working a full-time job or part-time job to keep up with bills. There are some who choose to work full-time for a certain amount of time, and then take an amount of time off to travel. Not everyone can make money online, so in-person jobs is usually the way to go for them.
7. Not all Vanlifers Travel
Vanlifers on Instagram seem like they travel to a new place frequently, sometimes it looks like they never have downtime. The truth is, not all vanlifers choose to spend their days filled with travel. The #vanlife movement is not only for travellers. There are some who wish to stay stationary and not travel at all. The beautiful thing about vanlife is that you can stay or go because you have a house on wheels.
8. You’re Always Cleaning Something
When you live in such a small space, it seems like you always have to clean something. I know what you are thinking, “Your space is small though, what is there to complain about?” Well, dirt is always tracking in no matter how hard you try to keep it out. For my van, not only you do have to sweep out the dust regularly, but kitty litter as well. You have to wash dishes every time you cook a meal since you don’t want dishes piling up in your small sink. Due to the limited space, keeping things clean promotes the overall functionality of the van.
9.You’re More Conscious of Your Footprint in the World
Vanlifers are good for the environment. In a sticks and bricks house, you live your life and most of the time don’t think about the resources that you are consuming. In a van, you are always conscious of what your footprint looks like in the world. You know almost exactly how much water, fuel, gas, and electricity you are using. A majority have solar power, and sustain natural energy this way. Vanlifers are environmentally conscious, more so than the average person living in a house.
10. Vanlife Can Get Lonely
For those who don’t live in their van with a mate or pet, vanlife can get lonely. There is a worldwide community filled with like-minded people, but some areas don’t have community meet-ups. In these vanlife meet-ups, everyone gets together to socialize and camp out in their rig. However, if you are a lone wolf, living in a van can make things get a little depressing. For everyone, it’s good to have company and socialize to keep your spirits up. Some don’t have this luxury, so relying on social media and the community online is important to get that human connection we need.
The main reason for this article was just to shed some light on the reality when it comes to Vanlife. One cannot always believe the beautiful life people portray on social media. Vanlife is a movement that runs deep in the veins of the people who choose it, and there is great diversity that comes with that. Every vanlifer is different and has a unique story that comes with their van. In fact, the van often gets a personal name and becomes part of the family. There are some who choose the lifestyle by choice and some who had to do it by force. It can be an alluring lifestyle, but it has it’s downsides. It can be depressing, and it can be a well-decided choice. It’s real life, on wheels.
For anyone who is considering the #vanlife, I would recommend it. Think about all of the aspects, and then choose what is best for you and your family. I do not regret my decision to join this movement. Please remember that the things I mentioned are not negatives when it comes to the Vanlife, they are only realities. There are so many more positive aspects that I can’t wait to share. It’s important to pursue what makes you happy, even if there are some sacrifices you have to do on the road to your dream.