Around 140,000 Americans live in their RVs and vans full-time, which shows that the #vanlife lifestyle has swept the nation by storm.
Mentally and physically preparing yourself helps you lean into the new lifestyle and get the most out of living in a van. But if you only focus on the positive highlights you see on social media, you’ll find it harder to adjust.
Hit the nail on the head? No worries, we’ve got you covered. Here are nine things to know before you live in a van.
1. Find Your Dream Van
We’re spoiled by the different types of vans on the market. For instance, you could either invest in the best types of RVs or buy a used van to build yourself.
Although you may not live in the van forever, you want a size that can accommodate your travel buddies. To be safe, buy from a dealership because they have fair camper van prices and, unlike private sellers, won’t try to scam you.
You should also consider where you’re parking. Will you be going off-road? Would you prefer a discreet low-top or a roomier high-top?
During your search, set a realistic budget and remember that you must pay for insurance on top, so be prepared for this.
2. Design the Ultimate Floor Plan
Because you’re living in a van, your goal is to maximize space.
If you’re planning to build, decide whether you want a fixed or folding bed. You should also brainstorm kitchen ideas and, if you have the luxury of a bathroom space, decide where that will go. Then, mark the areas on the floor and start the insulation process.
3. Figure Out an Income Stream
How will you make money on the road?
With 26% of Americans working remotely, it means many van lifers can work from their laptops, whether it’s working as a virtual assistant or a freelance graphic designer.
But if that isn’t an option, look out for seasonal work across the country. The beauty is that this comes in many forms, such as helping on a farm or serving in a bustling tourist restaurant. This means you can save over the summer and have the winter to explore or continuously move with the work.
4. Be Prepared for Break Downs
Like with living in a house, you must be prepared to maintain your van. As you’ll be clocking hundreds of miles, you may need new components to keep your home chugging along. Although it’s less glamorous, always save a chunk of your salary for when disaster strikes.
Even if your van seems fine, schedule regular inspections so that a mechanic can spot issues that could develop into further problems.
5. Search for the Top Sleeping Spots
Regardless of your camper options, spend time searching for an ideal sleeping spot. This is essential if you have a larger RV or van because it could disgruntle locals.
Luckily, there are many incredible apps that will steer you in the right direction. At the very least, download iOverlander, Park 4 Night, and Camp and RV AllStays so you always find somewhere to rest.
6. Know Where to Shower
One of the biggest concerns about van life is staying clean on the road. Many full-time van lifers have a built-in shower and compostable toilet so that they can be stealthy. Don’t worry if you don’t have space, you can either invest in a hanging solar shower or a pop-up shower tent you can take outdoors.
And when you want to feel comfortable, search for a gym or recreation center where you can enjoy a hot shower, which is a lifesaver in the colder months.
7. Be Prepared to Travel With Your Partner
When you’re in a confined space with your partner, tensions can rise, especially if you’re both working remotely. The key is to give yourselves both space on a daily basis, whether it’s reading a book or going for a stroll alone. This will give you time to decompress and create healthy boundaries with your loved one.
On the flip side, solo van lifers often complain about being lonely on the road. If you feel this, join van life groups on social media and ask whether anyone is staying nearby. You’d be surprised at how many van lifers arrange meet-ups to expand their network and meet similar folk.
8. Always Be Flexible
As you can imagine, living on the road is spontaneous and impossible to plan for.
A great tip is to lean into your new life and say “yes” when van lifers invite you to dinner or want to make plans. This is the ultimate way to learn more about the lifestyle and see what it has to offer. At the same time, regularly check in with yourself and whether you still feel positive about van life.
If constantly traveling is overwhelming, find a nearby campsite where you can unwind or stay with a friend in their home as a break.
9. Have a Plan B
Setting off is always exciting, but be prepared for bumps in the road. A common issue is when budding van lifers move into their new home during summer, where they spend more time outside and it’s easier to meet people.
But when winter hits, it can feel isolating because you must stay inside and there are fewer van lifers around. If you’re somewhere with harsh winters, move to warmer climes or invest in a diesel heater to keep you warm. With shorter days, go for walks so that you feel mentally and physically healthy
Live in a Van and Start Your Adventure
Now you’re ready to live in a van, it’s time to hit the road.
Take the time to find your dream vehicle and make sure you’re buying from a reputable seller. New van lifers should also figure out how to earn while on the road and constantly check in to ensure you’re still enjoying this type of lifestyle. Happy travels!
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