Lifestyle

The Highs And Lows Of Van Life

There are both pros and cons to living in a van full-time. This lifestyle is certainly not for everyone.

There is no denying that van life is one of the most fruitful and inspiring lifestyles anyone could experience. The world is yours to explore and find stunning places, you’re never locked down in any one spot, and you meet some wonderful people along the way. Not only that, but you’re living in something that you spent so much time and effort building and making your own!

The best part about van life

With van life, you have a ton of control over your own life. You can decide what type of work you want to do and create your own work schedule rather than following something given to you. Working on your own time can be far less stressful than following a 9 to 5 job since you can decide when you want to put in hours and when you need to take some time off.

It’s also helpful that van life is far less costly than living in a house or apartment, so you don’t necessarily have to work full-time (unless you want to!). You can also work anywhere that you want, whether it be the mountains, the desert, or by the ocean, so you can have a beautiful view and fresh air to keep stress levels down! Not only that, but if you get tired of your scenery, you can pack up and drive anywhere you want to go.

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Van life offers both freedom and adventure – All photos by author

Traveling and spending time in nature is undoubtedly the best part of van life, and living in your van means that you have a home wherever you go – and you can go ANYWHERE. Everything is only a drive away, and you can come back to your home base at the end of every day, even when you’re in a totally unfamiliar area.

This can be very comforting for people who might otherwise have difficulty traveling and constantly changing their personal spaces. When you travel in a van, you have all of your personal belongings with you at all times, and you still have your own bed to crawl into at the end of every night.

The downsides

With van life having so many highs, there also come a few lows. This lifestyle can be extremely grueling at some moments and can seriously test your patience and resilience. 

If you’re traveling with a partner, spending so much time in such close quarters with someone can start to get on your nerves. It’s important to recognize when you are in need of alone time and plan out how to get as much of this space as you need.

Maybe you have an hour every morning to be on your own, or you like to go for a sunset walk by yourself. Perhaps one of you sits inside and the other outside as you both work for the day! It is completely normal and healthy to have alone time to give yourself the space you need and let yourself recharge.

Not only that, but issues with the van itself can become exceedingly frustrating. Most Vanlifers are traveling in older or used vans, or other vehicles such as school buses, which means maintenance is a nearly constant worry.

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Van life means dealing with mechanical problems

You’re always getting oil changes, checking your tires, and listening closely to how your engine sounds. When something does go wrong and your van needs to be fixed, it can be an unbelievably stressful experience. Your van is your home and everything you need is inside of it, so being forced to separate from it can feel overwhelming.

You might have to unwillingly rent a room somewhere for a night or longer, and it’s never exciting to have to drop a few hundred dollars in one day. Regardless, this is a main part of van life that everyone has to deal with at some point in their trip – and likely much more than once.

Particularly with COVID-19, finding showers and places to sleep has been a little more difficult. Many public showers are closed due to the pandemic, leading Vanlifers to use quick solar showers, buckets, and even wipes to clean themselves. While many Vanlifers can go longer than a typical person without a shower, it can be frustrating to have to drive for hours to try and find a proper shower.

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Many Vanlifers utilize gym memberships just to use the showers.

Many campgrounds have also been closed, so some areas might only have a parking lot to sleep for the night. Parking lots are always a good backup, but they can be loud, bright, and even dangerous in some areas, so it might be a little difficult to get a good night’s sleep. Bonus points if you have all of these issues occurring at the same time!

No matter how many stressful events happen during the van life experience, it only aids in your personal growth. That’s what this lifestyle is all about – resilience. Figuring out how to pack up and move on, no matter how bad things might get. Even if you’re going a week without a shower, you’re on your third mechanical breakdown, and you have to crash in a Walmart parking lot, there is nothing more rewarding than having the opportunity to travel and see the world in any way that you want to.

Everyone goes into van life anticipating these challenges, which make them more valuable to overcome. Vanlifers can get through anything, and we all learn some incredible life lessons along the way.


For more van life tips, check out this video from Firefly & I:

See also: 5 Lessons We Learned From Our First Week On The Road