30 Realities of Vanlife And What You Can REALLY Expect From Life on The Road
We all know the dream. You sell all your belongings, hit the road in a van (or bus, or RV, or car, or anything else that can get you from Point A to Point B), and live a life of freedom and adventure. No more bills, no more weekday obligations – just you, your van, and the open road.
This romanticized version of vanlife has been popularized by social media recently, with everyone from travel bloggers to Instagram celebrities sharing photos and stories of their idyllic mobile lifestyles.
And while there’s no doubt that vanlife can be an incredibly rewarding experience, it’s important to remember that it’s not all rainbows and butterflies. T
here’s an unglamorous reality of vanlife – especially if you’re not prepared for it.
Is Vanlife For Me?
So, is van life really for you? If you’re thinking about hitting the road in a van, here are a few things to consider:
- Are you prepared to live in a small space?
- Are you comfortable with constant change and uncertainty?
- Can you handle being isolated from friends and family for long periods?
- Are you prepared to deal with the challenges of vanlife (mechanical issues, parking, weather, etc.)?
If you answered “yes” to all of these questions, then van life might just be for you. Of course, there’s no right or wrong answer – it’s ultimately up to you to decide whether or not van life is right for you.
We want to dive a bit further into this glamorized vanlife thing and discuss some of the realities you’ll encounter while living on the road.
Here are some of the things you should know about vanlife before you hit the road:
1. Finding Free Parking Is Harder Than You May Think
Finding free parking, aka stealth camping, is harder than you think. Just because you have a van doesn’t mean you can park anywhere.
In fact, most cities have laws against overnight parking that specifically target RVs and vans. That means you’ll probably have to research (or get lucky) to find places where you can park for free.
If you need to stay in the city for a night, we recommend using an app called Ioverlander to help you find safe places to sleep.
Wild camping or boondocking can be even more challenging because many areas are protected by law or private property owners who don’t want people trespassing on their land.
From what we’ve seen, it’s easier to find boondocking spots on the West coast of the US than on the East coast. This is because there are more public and BLM lands in western states.
2. The Vanlife Lifestyle Can Be A lot of Hard Work
Living in a van is hard work; this is because vans are not designed for living in, and they’re not as comfortable or spacious as people may think.
There are several things people forget to be thankful for when they live in a more traditional home, such as running water, electricity, and a toilet that flushes.
If you live in a van, you are always searching for water fill-up and dump stations, places to sleep overnight, and plug-ins to power your van when you don’t have enough battery or solar energy.
You have to be mindful of your water and electricity usage because if you’re not careful, you can easily run out of both. This can make for some very long and uncomfortable days (or nights).
3. Things Will Break and Need a Lot of Problem Solving and Fixing
Just as living in a home, things will not always go your way. You’ll have to fix broken things, which can be difficult if you’re not mechanically or electrically inclined.
Even if you are good at fixing things, it can be hard to do so when you’re living in a van because you don’t have all the necessary tools and supplies. This means that you’ll either have to buy them or find a way to improvise. Be prepared to deal with vehicle issues such as brakes, flat tires, and engine problems.
You should also know how to do simple things like change a tire and jump-start a battery. You’ll definitely need these skills if you want to live in a van.
4. You’ll Need To Be Prepared To Fix And Trouble Shoot Things Inside the Van Too
Don’t think everything will go as planned just because you bought a new van and plan on hitting the road. Be prepared to do some handyman work, like fixing leaky vents or fans letting in water.
You should also be ready to take care of small woodworking projects, such as repairing cabinets or cabinet doors that don’t stay shut while driving.
5. The Cost Of Living In A Van Can Be Expensive If You Don’t Watch Out
Living in a van can be pretty pricey if you’re staying at campgrounds, continuously on the move, going out for dinner, paying for fuel, and dealing with maintenance costs.
Some people enter into vanlife thinking it’s a cheap alternative to traditional living, but that’s not always the case. You need to be mindful of your spending and ensure you’re not overdoing it; otherwise, you could find yourself financially in a tight spot.
6. You’ll Have to Learn How to Drive and Park a Large Vehicle In Small Parking Places
If you’re used to driving a smaller car, vanlife will definitely be a big adjustment. Not only will you have to get used to the size of your van, but you’ll also have to learn how to drive and park it in tight spaces.
This can be a challenge, especially if you’re not used to driving a larger vehicle.
7. You Have to Be Comfortable With a Lot of Change
If there’s one constant thing in vanlife, it’s change. You’ll likely move around frequently, whether you’re chasing better weather, looking for new adventures, or simply dealing with the fact that most campgrounds have a maximum stay limit.
This can be tough if you’re someone who craves stability, but it can also be exciting if you’re the type of person who loves adventure and spontaneity.
8. Campervan Conversions Aren’t As Easy As Youtubers And Social Media Make Them Out To Be
Sure doing a DIY campervan conversion might look easy when you’re watching someone else do it on Youtube.
But in reality, it’s a lot more complicated (and expensive) than most people realize. You’ll need to be comfortable with using power tools, troubleshooting problems, and – if things really go south – making repairs on the side of the road.
9. Toilet Issues Can Happen-Not Having A Toilet Is a Pain in The $SS If You Ask Me
Opting to forgo a toilet in your campervan may seem like a good space saver but I’d highly recommend reconsidering this.
When we were only living part-time in our van, a toilet didn’t seem to be as big of an issue; however, as we became full-timers, we quickly swapped out our cassette toilet for a composting toilet. The composting toilet is so nice. No smells, easy to dump, and gives you peace of mind when you’re stealth camping in the city.
10. Your Water Pipes Can Freeze In Cold Weather
If you’re planning to spend a lot of time in the cold, and you haven’t insulated your water pipes or routed them inside your van’s living quarters, there’s a high possibility they’ll freeze and leave you with a huge problem to deal with.
To make sure our water pipes didn’t freeze, we ran heat in the van whenever we weren’t driving around on our road trip excursions.
11. Sad But True Parking Lots May Become Your Best Friend
or Your Worst Enemy
You may have noticed a theme by now, but one of the biggest challenges of vanlife is finding places to park and sleep for free. Unless you’re comfortable with spending money on camping fees or paid parking spots, you’ll need to get creative.
One option is to find quiet residential streets to stealth park on overnight, another option is boondocking or you can opt for a Harvest Host Membership.
12. Vanlife Realty Your Eating Habits May Change
Cooking in a van has its pros and cons. On the one hand, it’s great to be able to save money by cooking your own meals while you’re out exploring.
On the other hand, it can be challenging to cook healthy meals when you don’t have a lot of space or a proper kitchen. Depending on your size of fridge and freezer space your eating habits may be influenced by what foods you can keep chilled or frozen.
13. It’s Not All Suns out Guns Out-Temperatures Can Fluctuate Drastically
If you’re planning to spend time as a van life ski bum in the mountains during the winter and the south during the summer you need to be ready for some massive temperature changes.
Be sure you have extra blankets, sweaters, and a heating source to keep you warm during the colder months. In the summer months, it can be difficult to keep the temperature of your van cool, so at the least, make sure you have a fan or windows to ventilate.
14. Vanlife Realty Heating Systems Can Fail
As I mentioned above, it’s not always beautiful backdrops and singing birds when you live in a van. In the colder months, your heating system can and will fail you. You might wake up in the middle of the night freezing, or driving in the cold with no heat.
This is just one thing you must be prepared for when you live in a van. Always make sure you have extra blankets, and invest in a good sleeping bag.
15. Some Days Are Downright Boring
Some days are downright boring. This is usually the case when you’re stuck in a routine or doing the same things over and over again. It can be hard to get excited about anything, let alone your everyday life.
There’s nothing wrong with being bored sometimes – it’s just one of those things that happen in life. But if you feel this way regularly, it might be time to take a step back and reassess what’s really important to you.
After all, there are plenty of options besides staying cloistered inside your van!
16. Cold or Rainy Weather And Precipitation Can Suck When You’re Stuck In Your Vehicle
Being stuck in your van can be pretty miserable when dealing with bad weather. If you don’t have a good way to insulate your van, it can get cold quickly (especially at night).
And if it’s raining, you’ll have to deal with the moisture and condensation, which can make your living space feel damp and cramped.
Personally, I love the sound of raindrops on the roof of our van. However, day after day, it can get old quickly, especially if you can’t step outside for a breath of fresh air.
17. Your Space is Limited… Obviously (Don’t Tell Me You Didn’t Know This)
Depending on your chosen van and how you build it out, your living space can range from a cozy campervan to a cramped campervan.
But no matter how big or small your van is, you’ll always have less space than you would in a traditional home.
This can be tough to adjust to at first, but with a little creativity (and some serious decluttering), you’ll be surprised at how much space you can make in a van.
Really think about the things important to you and the living space that accommodates those things.
Do you want to bring a bike or bigger recreation toys then having a van garage under your bed may be something you need to consider?
18. Leaving a Traditional House Can Be Harder Than It Appears
Leaving your home can be more difficult than you imagined, and that’s okay! Many people live in vans full-time and love it, and there are just as many people who try vanlife and decide it’s not for them.
The most important thing is to listen to your gut and do what feels right for you.
Living in a van is definitely not for everyone. It takes a certain person to enjoy (and be good at) the vanlife lifestyle.
If you’re thinking about giving it a try, make sure you do your research and go into it with your eyes wide open. And above all else, remember to enjoy the ride!
19. Pests Can Infest Your Van
Pests can infest your van, and they can be a nuisance. They include ants, spiders, roaches, rodents, and bats.
Pests can cause problems in your van by eating food or damaging property. Ants are attracted to sugar and may build nests in your kitchen or bathroom area.
Spiders may spin webs inside the van that you’ll have to eliminate. Rodents eat food stored in the van and might create holes in the floorboards that you’ll need to fix.
Roaches are small but capable of causing a lot of damage; they like to live near kitchens where they can find food.
Bats are nocturnal creatures that sometimes get into vans for shelter during storms; if there’s an opening at the top of the door, they might fly into the van during the day and take up space.
It’s important to keep an eye on pests when living in a van so you don’t have any big surprises later on down the road when it comes time to repair something or deal with a pest problem.”
Rodent and Critter Conflicts Prevention Techniques
When we were in Arizona, I noticed that many people were putting lighting beneath their vehicles.
At first, I thought it was a group of weirdos attempting to show off their flashy cars, but then I figured out they were using it to keep mice and other rodents from crawling up into their automobiles and chewing through important wiring.
20. Vanlife Realty Cabinet Doors May Fail While Driving
Carpentry skills matter when it comes to your cabinet doors. Be sure you have a good and secure way to keep your drawers from opening while you’re driving.
I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had things go flying around our van because a drawer wasn’t properly secured!
21. Backroads Can Be a Washboard Nightmare
We think the backroads are some of the most beautiful places in the world, but we know that not everyone feels the same way.
Backroads can be a challenge if you’re not comfortable exploring remote areas or driving on unpaved roads. We’ve gotten turned around a handful of times and we’ve definitely dealt with some brake and clearance issues on some of the backroads we’ve explored.
If you want to head out to BLM or public lands You’ll need to get comfortable with map-reading, backroad driving, and using your toolbox if you need to change a flat tire.
22. Van Safety Hazards Are a Real Thing To Be Prepared For
Living in a van comes with a whole host of safety hazards that you need to be aware of. From carbon monoxide poisoning to electrical fires, plenty of things can go wrong if you’re not careful.
Make sure you know how to properly ventilate your van, deal with common van maintenance issues, and stay safe in general.
23. You May End Up At A Walmart Parking Lot For A Restful Night Of Sleep
As much as you think to yourself, I will NEVER sleep in a Walmart parking lot; it MAY happen.
I’m not saying it will, but sometimes you just need a safe place to park for the night, and all the other options are full, too sketchy, or scary with meth heads walking around.
Just know that Walmart will most likely have your back if you find yourself in a bind. I’ve personally had a great experience with them and even met some other friendly vanlifers in the parking lot!
24. Vanlife Problems and Personal Safety Need To Be Addressed
You need to know how to keep yourself safe while living in a van. This means being aware of your surroundings, knowing how to defend yourself and your property, and having a plan for dealing with potentially dangerous situations.
1. Be Aware of Your Surroundings
One of the most important safety tips for vanlifers is always being aware of your surroundings. This means being aware of who and what is around you at all times.
If you’re in a city, be aware of the areas known to be unsafe and avoid them. If you’re in a rural area, be aware of potential hazards like wildlife and steep drop-offs.
2. Know How to Defend Yourself and Your Property
If you’re going to be living in your van, it’s important to know how to defend yourself and your property.
You’ll need to determine what level of protection you’re comfortable with from pepper spray to a baton, to phoning for police assistance, etc.
If you’re not comfortable using weapons, there are still plenty of other ways to defend yourself and your van, such as keeping the doors locked, using a security system, and being aware of your surroundings.
3. Have a Plan for Dealing with Potentially Dangerous Situations
No matter how prepared you are, there’s always a chance that you’ll find yourself in a dangerous situation.
That’s why it’s important to have a plan for dealing with potentially dangerous situations.
This means knowing how to contact emergency services, how to get out of your van quickly and safely, and how to defend yourself if necessary.
25. Vanlife Is More Expensive Than You Might Think
Vanlife is more expensive than you might think. While living in a van can be cheaper than other options, it’s not free. You’ll need to account for food, gas, and repairs expenses.
These costs will add up over time if you’re not careful.
26. Vanlife Realty Every Day is Not Perfect
The van life myth is the idea that living in a van is always perfect and fun. In reality, it can be difficult and sometimes unpleasant.
Living in a van can be great, but it’s not always easy. It can be difficult to find a place to sleep for the evening, maintain your vehicle, and deal with the weather conditions.
Sometimes things go wrong (like getting lost or broken down), which can make life frustrating.
Despite the challenges, many people choose to live in vans because they love the freedom and independence it provides.
But remember that every day doesn’t have to be perfect – there are plenty of days when living on the road isn’t so great!
27. Showering Can Be More Difficult That You Imagined But Not Impossible
There is a common misconception that living in a van means never showering. In reality, most vanlifers are actually pretty clean.
However, because showering can be such a pain if you don’t have one in your van, many people do go longer than they would like without one.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it just takes some getting used to. Some vanlifers choose to get memberships at gyms open 24 hours, and they use these facilities to shower.
Or believe it or not or some vanlifers have even found some amazing showering facilities at some truck stops.
Don’t Miss: A Vanlifers Guide To Finding Public Showers
28. False Vanlife Realty- Van Life Means Unemployed Life
There is a popular myth that living in a van means unemployed life. This is not the case. In fact, vanlife can be very fruitful and rewarding if you do it right.
Vanlife offers freedom, independence, and flexibility, which many highly value. Plus, there are plenty of opportunities for work and income when you live nomadically.
The key to success in vanlife is planning ahead and having the right mindset. You need to be prepared for some challenges (like weather), but overall it’s an incredibly fulfilling way to live.”
29. Your Hobbies In Vanlife May Look Different Than You Imagined
Depending on the build of your van and your garage space, your hobbies may look different than you originally imagined.
For example, if you’re used to mountain or dirt biking, you’ll need to plan where to store your bikes and how to keep them secure while driving.
The same goes for kayaking, surfing, and other gear-heavy hobbies. You may have to get creative with how you engage in your hobbies while living in a van, but that’s all part of the adventure!
30. Finding Internet On The Road Can Be a Challenge
When you rely on the internet to get work done it can be tough to find a good connection on the road. Be prepared for times when you’ll be working in coffee shops or other public places.
ProTip: We have been using Starlink for a couple of months now and absolutely love it. It’s allowed us to work in remote areas where we would otherwise have no service.
Takeaways About Nomadism and Hashtag Van Life
I hope that you’ve learned a bit about what it’s like to live the van life from this post. It’s not always easy, but it’s worth it for its freedom and flexibility.
If you’re considering giving vanlife a try, I encourage you to do some research and plan ahead so you can be prepared for the challenges that come with it.
- Nomadic living can be a great way to see the world and experience new cultures.
- It can be tough to adjust to, but there are many ways to make the transition easier.
- There are some challenges that come with nomadic living, but there are also many rewards, and the life experiences are priceless.
Vanlife Community Can Be Found Everywhere If You Look
Yes, of course, you can be lonely or bored while living in a van; however, with the increase in popularity of full-time van life, more and more people are hitting the road, which means more and more people to connect with.
If you find yourself feeling isolated, there are several ways to connect with others on the road. You can google or hashtag search vanlife festivals or gatherings and find many events happening around the country (and even the world) that you can attend.
If festivals aren’t really your scene, there are also a ton of Facebook groups, subreddits, and vanlife resources on websites where you can find like-minded individuals to connect with virtually.
And if you’re still struggling to connect, there are many great books about the vanlife community that can provide some great insights.
What Are Your Thoughts On Vanlife Realty?
If you have any comments thoughts or things you think should be included we’d love to hear your ideas!