Guest Guide Series

Van Life: What People Don’t Talk About

Have you ever dreamt of leaving behind your life as you know it and moving into a van full-time? Jake and Gianna of Our Van Quest have done just that, and they’re here to share their insights and tips on how to make life on the road a little easier. 

 

This post is about to be as real as it gets! We are here to tell you the truth so that you can make informed decisions before jumping into this lifestyle. Van Life is rewarding but it is not always easy. It’s actually a lot of work. It’s easy to sugar coat the lifestyle when all you see is beautiful pictures on social media. It’s easy to swoon over the lifestyle without totally understanding what it takes to live it.  Beautiful scenery and the freedom to go anywhere are the rewards for the hard work it takes. Just like when you live in a house, there are things you have to do to maintain your residence, there are “chores” you will need to do living van life. You also have to understand the creature comforts you had in a house will either disappear or change all together. Think of yourself as a modern-day pioneer on the hunt for the resources you need to survive.

 

Water:
It no longer flows endlessly when you turn the faucet on or take a shower. Depending on the size of your freshwater tank, how often you shower and wash dishes, you may find yourself needing to fill up your tank every two days or so.  It’s not always easy to find clean potable water either, many times you have to hunt for it. If you’re in remote locations, it may be that much more difficult to find. People always think you can just fill up at campgrounds, but there are many times throughout your travels that you may not find a campground and/or they won’t allow you fill up unless you’re staying with them. You will find yourself driving around looking for water spigots many times asking businesses and gas stations if it’s cool you fill up. Yet sometimes they’ll charge you or ask you to buy something and sometimes they’ll just flat out tell you no.  That’s when you really have to get creative. We recommend you get this little tool to have in your back pocket if times are rough and you’re struggling to find water. This tool allows you to access water from spigots without a tap handle (most commonly seen on municipal buildings). Always ask first before filling up! Your water usage is also a huge adjustment to get used to coming from a house. The wasteful luxury of letting the water run to brush your teeth, wash dishes or shower goes away. The water goes on and off submarine style throughout the whole process which means you may be chilly when you’re showering and soaping up between rinsing. It’s just a different way of living now!

 

 

Finding where to park at night:
If you’ve read our post about finding safe sleeping to sleep, awesome! However, sometimes it’s not always easy. Sometimes the Walmart’s don’t allow overnight sleeping, sometimes you’re in areas where there are no Harvest Host locations, or BLM land and sometimes the local laws just do not allow vehicle dwelling. Often times roads are slanted forcing you to sleep on an angle, there are noisy roads or just locations you don’t feel safe in. That’s when the hunt is on. Different than a house where you can rest at night in your bedroom, when you live van life, every single night you’re out looking for a spot to safely park and sleep. It could be exhausting to have to do this every night, but it’s the price you pay to live this lifestyle. You can’t expect the same creature comforts on the road as you had in a house- it’s a much different way of living that you’ll need to accept and roll with.

 

 

No Sunshine:
Depending on how your rig is set up for power, there will be days that there is no sun to charge your solar panels and batteries. You have to get used to keeping an eye on your battery banks and incoming solar amps so you can stay on top of your batteries. Meaning, if your batteries get too low, you’ll have to find somewhere to plug into shore power, use a generator or drive your vehicle a bit to charge your batteries (if you have an alternator battery charger set up which we DEFINITELY recommend!). If you have a refrigerator plugged in, it slowly drains power all day and all night long, so if you don’t have solar power, you have to ensure there’s enough juice in those batteries to keep your fridge running. This is now a part of your daily maintenance of your tiny home on wheels. No more luxury of flipping on a light switch and not worrying, you either need a TON of solar and battery or you have to start getting used to making up for the lack of sunshine.

 

 

Shopping + Eating:
The way you shop and eat on the road changes quite a bit. Your refrigerator (if you have one) is significantly smaller than a house refrigerator which means your food storage is minimal. You will have to shop every couple of days to ensure you’re stocked up with good quality foods. Your food choices are key because in order to power yourself with the energy and nutrients you need to sustain this adventurous lifestyle, you need to make healthy food choices. It’s not easy (or affordable) to eat out for every meal, so being able to make your own meals is absolutely crucial. Keep in mind, the more you cook, the more dishes you have which means the more water you use so it all coincides!

 

 

No Mailbox:
When you live van life, you have no mailbox attached to your van which means you no longer have the ability to walk outside and grab your mail that conveniently gets delivered daily by a mail man. You should consider setting up electronic payments for all of your important monthly commitments (bills, insurance, etc.). If you need to get a package on the road (which you will), you have to really plan ahead and guestimate your delivery times with where you will be. It’s nice to use an Amazon locker to get your Amazon packages but if you’re not using Amazon, you’ll have to call ahead to a post office in the area you will be in and see if  they will accept general mail or use this service called Kinek. It’s a service that uses other postal companies and allows you to receive packages from many different locations. It’s free and you just pay when you receive a package. Total van life hack!

 

We hope we didn’t completely discourage you from living this lifestyle, it really is awesome! But we just want you to understand that it’s not all rainbows and butterfly’s social media portrays it to be. It takes a lot of work, commitment and UNDERSTANDING that things will be different. As we’ve said before, it’s the sacrifices you make to live this life of freedom and adventure. If you’re adaptable and ready for it, you totally got this!

 

 

Visit Our Van Quest for more resources to help you get out on the road! 

Outside Van’s Guest Guide Series features members of the community who share their knowledge to enrich others. If you’d like to learn more about this series, visit the Guest Guide Application.