We don't live in a van, full discloser, but we asked some people who do as we prepared this post. We lived in a converted school bus for a few years while our dad planted pine trees in the southeast in the early 1980s. So we have a little street cred. But, honestly, every time we see a picture on Instagram of a sweet Volkswagon Westfalia, we get a little jealous.
With the rise of remote work, inflation driving the cost of living, and the price of real estate through the roof, thousands have resorted to van life. These days you can turn an old van into a tiny house with wheels without forgoing basic comforts of life - unless that's your jam. But, increasingly, people are trying to blend working remotely with adventure, access to nature, and a non-traditional way of living - welcome to van life.
For some, van life may be associated with living a spartan or nomadic lifestyle that requires continuous movement and a choice to live more simply and cut costs. But, on the other hand, many people spend tens of thousands of dollars retrofitting their van with the best wifi equipment and comfort upgrades to make the experience anything but spartan. So, no matter how you view van life, you do you.
This post covers the dos and don'ts associated with living a van lifestyle. Maybe 2022 is the year you try van life to achieve more freedom, adventure, minimalism, and use this lifestyle to connect with yourself. Or, perhaps you are more like us and want to learn how others who have made the jump are doing it—and live vicariously and enviously through others!
The Do's of Van Life
To help lead a comfortable van life, here are five things to do to make life in a van more conducive.
Keep it clean
No matter how you want to look at it, it is essential to keep your van clean at all times. Since your van is a minimal space, you have to undertake your indoor living in cramped quarters. Cleaning in real-time keeps things manageable. Also, make sure to clean your air vents and allow fresh air to get rid of any mold that could develop due to neglect.
We barely know how to change the oil in our car, so this is a little intimidating. However, maintenance must be frequent. Also, buying a manual for your vehicle and brushing up and simple tasks is a good idea. Often the vans people use are several decades old. Nobody sets out to experience van life from the parking lot of a Pep Boys while you are getting repairs done. Unfortunately, many van lifers tend to go about their daily activities and leave the maintenance of their van to when something breaks. Delaying maintance is not a good idea, as it keeps you off the road and can get expensive.
So before you up and drive off into the sunset, ensure you have gone through an essential checklist. For example, check your tires to see if they have adequate air pressure, regularly check your oil levels, and well as engine and air vents.
Enjoy The Experience
Whatever your reason for hopping on to van life, it all boils down to living on the road and enjoying every bit of the experience- carpe diem. Pick the right people to travel with and be intentional about where you go. As much as possible, try to avoid devices that would have you occupied inside your van.
Download Van Life Apps
To better improve your van life experience, download apps designed for van lifers to help ease the process. These apps also have several functionalities designed to help you navigate the road and pinpoint needed spots for repairs and camping. You can also meet up with other van lifers at select sites and build bonds along the way. Find a community and experience with others.
Let People Know Where You Are
One of the thrills of Van Life is that you can get into pretty remote places because you don't have anywhere to get back to. Also, unlike RVs, many vans are small enough to navigate backcountry roads or national forest lands. Like any backcountry experience, let people know where you are going in advance and when you plan to return, allow tracking apps on your phone for family members, and invest in a satellite communication device.
Don'ts of Van Life
When living a van life, avoid the following.
Rush into the process
Getting your van life setup takes investment, and you have to customize the experience that fits your lifestyle needs, or it won't work. Rent a van from Travel America or some local rental agency to see if you like it first. Many people who leap into van life find out they can't afford it; it is too isolating; it's hard to work for hours of the day on Zoom and share a small space with others. Try before you buy.
Littering: Leave no trace. Simple as that.
Illegal Camping: Ensure you camp on public lands or assigned locations. When in doubt, check in with local rangers or law enforcement. In a pinch, you can always park in a lighted Walmart parking lot. Unless otherwise marked, national forests and BLM Public land are available to set up camp.
Must-Do Activities While Embarking On Van Life
Fully experience America
America has so much to see and explore. Most of us will never experience a fraction of what this country offers- but van life can change that. You can wake up on the beach, start your weekend already on a mountain top, explore and experience small-town life, discover natural features off the beaten path, and catch up with friends around the country. There are many national and state parks and forests with trails, wildlife, and beauty.
Van life is about getting closer to nature. Hiking in the mountains, skiing, surfing, bird watching, paddling, fishing, and so much more. Enjoying these activities requires the right gear. An overlooked piece of equipment enabling you to enjoy this experience's richness would be Binoculars.
We would especially recommend the Standard Issue 8 x 25 Waterproof Binoculars. Not only is it affordable, but it is compact while providing a bright and wide field of view. It's also waterproof and fog proof for whatever weather conditions you might find yourself. Overall, these binoculars bring you closer to experiencing the richness of your environment.
Whether you are seeking an opportunity to rediscover yourself, take a new exciting adventure, or need a break from the constant hustle and bustle of modern life, there is no better time to explore and experience the world of van life.