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Van Life 101: The Ultimate Guide to Living on the Road

Since the pandemic, more people have taken to living on the road. In fact, more than half of van lifers live in their vans full-time.

Full-time van living is not for everyone, but if you enjoy a lot of freedom, you may find fulfillment in this lifestyle. Living on the road can save you a lot of money, depending on how you do things. However, you must prepare a lot before you can set out on your epic adventure, from buying or converting a van to planning your itinerary.

Does #vanlife sound good to you? Then keep reading because this is your ultimate guide to living on the road.

What Is Van Life?

Van life is the term used to describe a community of people who choose to live on the road in a vehicle such as a camper van. These camper vans are regular vehicles converted to include several home comforts. While many who choose this lifestyle go it solo, most travel with at least one other person.

Many associates this lifestyle with the hippies of the 1960s, and they wouldn’t be wrong. Living in a home on wheels was popularized by hippies and is recently making a comeback. Typically, people living in a van work remote jobs that you can do anywhere with an internet connection.

Many van lifers choose to convert their own vehicle, but some prefer outsourcing this to companies specializing in van conversions. You can also purchase a Class B RV, but buying this type of vehicle will be more expensive. Converting your van is a better choice if you’re on a budget.

Living on the Road

Living on the road comes with its own challenges. Depending on your personality, some of these challenges may be deal breakers. On the other hand, if sustainability is a way of life for you, you might not consider some of these as obstacles.

When you live in a van, weather becomes a significant factor in your day. This can be tricky in colder seasons where heating the van is more challenging than if you were living in a house. Furthermore, because living in a camper van means being confined to a smaller-than-average place, you will spend a lot of that time outdoors, so knowing what the weather is doing is essential.

When living on the road, much planning and organizing must be done constantly. As such, having a personality that enjoys these tasks is vital if you want van life success.

Let’s Talk About the Van

You can use several vehicle types when you live on the road. For example, you can use the following:

  • RV
  • SUV
  • Mercedes Sprinter
  • Ford Econoline
  • A School Bus

The vehicle you choose will largely depend on your budget. Let’s look at each individually.

Buying an RV

If you have the money, you can choose the more straightforward route of buying a vehicle already equipped for life on the road, such as an RV. This way, you can begin your epic adventure once you take possession of the keys.

However, one drawback to setting out in an RV is you typically need an electricity and water supply for full functionality. This means you’re restricted in where you can park.

SUV With Tent

While only a few van lifers choose this type of vehicle for their lifestyle, it comes with a few benefits. For example, no further modifications or purchases are needed if you already own the car. They’re also often 4WD, so you can camp in areas other vehicles would struggle to reach.

The disadvantage of this accommodation vehicle is that there is little to no space to create an interior living area. Additionally, because you’re in a tent, you’re more at the mercy of the weather than any other van life vehicle type.

Mercedes Sprinter

If you’re doing full-time van living, consider something like the Mercedes Sprinter. This van is great for converting into a camper van and is comfortably spacious enough for two people. They’re ideal if you like all modern amenities in your van life; however, this may make the van more expensive to maintain.

One primary drawback to this type of vehicle is that it’s not suited for city driving due to its size. You’ll also be limited in where you can park, so this van is best used if your itinerary includes primarily natural terrain, such as driving through national forests. Another drawback is this vehicle’s price tag, so only those with extensive budgets might consider this van.

Ford Econoline

Like the Mercedes Sprinter, this van type has a more affordable price tag. The Ford Econoline may be one of the most popular vans chosen for full-time van living.

While it’s smaller than the Mercedes and an RV, it’s spacious enough for basic amenities for a maximum of two people. And maybe a dog. However, the smaller size also makes it perfect for city traveling, and can easily fit in a standard parking bay.

A School Bus

While this vehicle may be challenging to find, it’s a great option if you have a small family living on the road with you. Because of their size, buses can comfortably fit a family of four, especially if you have young kids.

Unfortunately, a school bus won’t be light on gas, so you may spend more than you’d like on fuel. It’s also too large for most city areas so you are limited in where you can travel in one of these. Although, you may prefer this type of vehicle because you want a separate living space, kitchen, office, and sleeping area.

Van Life Essentials

You want to incorporate as many amenities as possible when creating a tiny home on wheels. This will make life on the road much easier for you. Let’s take a look at some of the things you can try incorporating.

A Kitchen

Of course, a kitchen is one of the most important things to include in your camper van. This may overlap with another area of the house, but it should contain some essentials. Some kitchen essentials you can choose from are:

  • Sink: Remember, space is precious, so a small sink is ideal
  • Stovetop: A convection one is recommended as it heats faster
  • Fridge: Another essential if you don’t want your perishables to go off
  • Toaster Oven: A versatile appliance that has many culinary uses
  • Coffee Maker: This can be as fancy as your budget allows
  • Non-Slip Mats: Things shift while driving, and these will help prevent that from happening
  • Compost Bin: Do your part for the environment no matter your van life vehicle and use a compost bin
  • Collapsible Trash Can: Store out of the way when not in use
  • Collapsible Containers: Space is precious, so storage containers that can collapse are a great space-saver

A Bedroom and Living Room

Next, you want a dedicated place to sleep every night and sit, eat, or work. This means you must include a bedroom and living room in your camper van. Some essentials for these areas you want to consider are a good mattress and ample seating.

You spend at least 8 hours in bed every night, so ensure you get quality rest. Having enough place to sit allows you to entertain guests or have a spacious area to work at.

If you convert the van yourself, you can get incredibly creative with your interior design and layouts. For example, a raised bed or a removable hammock opens up more space for areas like a living room.

A Bathroom

Of course, unless you want to use gym memberships and public restrooms to shower and use the toilet, your home on wheels should include a bathroom. There are several toilet options you can choose from, but seasoned travelers recommend waterless toilets.

You also have several options when choosing a shower for your van life vehicle. The shower you choose will depend on your budget and the amount of space you have available. If you decide to install a shower, you must install a plumbing system into your van before it becomes operational.

However, if you sleep on campsites with ablution blocks, you may not need an installed shower. You can use the showers at the camp and carry a portable shower in case you stay somewhere more remote.

Other Essentials

Consider several other essentials when kitting out your home on wheels. Some of these may not fit your budget or lifestyle, but one of the best parts of van life is how customizable everything is. Let’s dive into some gadgets and things that you may want:

  • Solar Energy Kit: If you’re not connecting to electricity, you can generate your own by keeping a solar kit with you on the road
  • Batteries: To store the solar energy, you will also need several batteries
  • Power Inverter: This is required to convert solar energy into AC power
  • Wifi Range Extender: A range extender can help you get a better wifi signal when you need one
  • Socket Chargers and 12V Outlets: Ensure you have enough of these in your camper van so you can charge your electronics when you have electricity
  • Dimmable Lighting: As evening draws near, dimming the lights can help create a warm and comforting atmosphere
  • Air Conditioner or Fan: Depending on your budget, you need to choose a way to keep cool in the heat
  • Heater: A heater is especially essential if you’re traveling through colder climates such as Canada
  • Laundry Racks: You will need to hang your washing somewhere to dry
  • Small Vacuum: Keeping your small area clean and tidy is essential when living on the road

How to Know if Van Life Is for You

It has to be said, but van life is not for everyone. Some people can’t do without the comforts of home, like TVs and home gyms. Even if you’re into the lifestyle, there are several challenges you will face when living on the road. Your challenges may include the following:

Having Too Little Space

The smaller, more cramped living quarters seem pretty good when you’re starting. However, once you’ve been on the road for several weeks, you may find it claustrophobic. Spending time outdoors can help ease the feeling of being squashed inside.

Vehicle Breakdowns

When living in a house on wheels, there is always the chance your vehicle will break down. This can mean having a punctured tire or replacing your whole camshaft. Having money saved for this type of emergency is essential when living on the road.

No Shower

If your camper van isn’t kitted out with a shower, you will have the added challenge of finding somewhere to wash regularly. Staying over at campsites, using your gym membership for bathroom access, or using public restrooms are all ways you may have to adapt to.

Car Accidents

When you spend most of your time traveling on the road, you run a higher risk of being involved in a car accident. The accident may not be your fault, but it can affect you. Stay focused when driving, and taking regular breaks can help you stay sharp, which may help you avoid an accident.

Join the #vanlife Tribe and See America

Living on the road can be a rewarding and adventurous lifestyle. However, it is an undertaking that often needs a lot of planning. For many, this is all part of the #vanlife and can be enjoyable.

Deciding which van you will travel in is essential, as it determines what amenities you can include and what roads you can access along the way. Finally, living on the road can bring many challenges, but overcoming them can be rewarding.

Hopefully, this article has been entertaining and informative. If you want more to read, visit our Lifestyle, Travel, and World categories.