Why is Van Life so Popular?

Why is Van Life so Popular?

8 min read

For some, the thought of going without a proper shower for days is borderline insane, but others embrace it for what it means: freedom, spontaneity, and travel. A life away from everything that binds the modern person.

A house. An office. A specific location.

Van life is popular because the lifestyle allows individuals to strip away everything that ties them to a specific location. It also adds an element of spontaneity that is particularly pleasant when traveling to new places and meeting new people. It can also be more cost-efficient.

 

Is van life worth it?

Many van dwellers will tell you that van life is the end all be all. People who have never lived it will tell you that they’d never do it over their dead body.

The truth is — it depends on the individual.

Yes, it can be worth it, but it depends on what you’re looking for and what you value. If the idea of not having a fixed place to live sends shivers down your spine, then van life may not be for you.

But who knows, maybe you’ll try it out and love it.

Rent a camper van and try it out for a weekend, only then will you be able to fully assess whether it’s truly worth it for you.

 

Why should you live in a van?

There’s a lot of reasons to live in a van, so if you’re on the fence about just packing up your bags and going, I wouldn’t rule it out just yet. Here’s what living in a van will expose you to:

 

1. Freedom

Living in a van signifies freedom in so many respects of the word. Freedom from:

  • a fixed homestead
  • the confines of an office
  • stuff

And so many other things.

 

Freedom from a fixed homestead

If you didn’t have a home to go back to, but you had all the resources you needed to travel the country, would you?

A lot of people would.

Not having a fixed homestead opens the possibility of impromptu travel. You don’t have to hire a house sitter. You don’t have to worry about your grass overgrowing while you’re away.

And since everything you own and love fits in a van, you can probably take a lot of it with you when traveling abroad. Okay, maybe not your bed… but you can take your phone, laptop, and clothes to name a few.

 

Freedom from an office

The great thing about van life is that you can leave your office behind if that’s what you really want. Many people have internet-based jobs where they work freelance, doing marketing, graphic design, and film for companies. Others do commissions on websites like Fiverr or Upwork.

There are more remote jobs now than ever (thank you, coronavirus).

As long as you’ve got WiFi, you’ve got options.

But, living on the road doesn’t mean that you suddenly have to work on a laptop all day, hopping from one cafe to the next. Of course, you can do that if you really want, but it’s not completely necessary.

Some van lifers embrace seasonal employment. They work at ski resorts or with park services. Others work odd jobs until they save enough to travel and then go around the country for months on end.

Hell, you don’t even have to leave your current job. If it’s internet-based and you can do it from any computer, just ask your boss if you could trial run a remote working situation.

Emphasize how much time you save without a commute and highlight how that’ll make you happier and more productive. It’s all about how you approach it.

Show them this article if you want.

You’ve got options.

 

Freedom from stuff

What’s stopping you from picking up everything you own and going to that country you’ve always wanted to go to? At least in part, probably the fact that you can’t pick up everything that you own.

Let’s say that you want to move to Switzerland, or Thailand if you already live there.

Can you carry everything that you own in 2 or 3 suitcases?

For most people — no.

We’re sentimental beings. I get that. We get attached to stuff and we love to accumulate it. But there’s a reason that minimalism is trending. The widespread popularity of The Minimalists and the Konmari Method can attest to that.

We simply have too much of it.

And van life is an excuse to get rid of it all. To only keep what you love most and need.

Not that many things can fit in a van, but it’s more than enough to live a fulfilling life. You’ll spend less time thinking about stuff. Cleaning it. Accumulating it. Worrying about whether it’ll get stolen or whether you’ll lose it all.

You’ll know exactly what you own and stuff will stop owning you. There is beauty and peace in that.
Think of how monks are truly happy without owning much to their name.

You can be that monk.

 

2. Spontaneity

Some people thrive on the spontaneity of van life. They love traveling to new places every so often and meeting new people everywhere they go.

To them, walking up in new locations every few days is highly enticing and pushes them to be better versions of themselves.

I’m going to be honest, I do love routine, but I can acknowledge that doing the same things every day can stifle your growth.

 

3. Save money

Other van dwellers decide to go on the road for financial reasons. Housing is getting more expensive. So much so, that the average age of first-time homebuyers is going up and many millennials are opting to live with their parents.

Living in a van is a great way to save money, but let’s face it — if you were bad with money before, you’ll probably be bad with it living in a van.

Watch some Youtube videos on how to manage your finances and another on how to keep costs low while living in a van. You’ll be buying a house in no time (if that’s what you want to do).

 

4. Stronger relationships

Sometimes the beauty of van life is that you can experience it with someone you love. Your friend, sister, partner.

If you can live comfortably with someone in a van, that relationship is built to last. In a house, when you fight someone, you can storm off to your room. In a van, where are you supposed to go? Outside? What if it’s raining? What if it’s snowing?

Living in a van is the test of time.

What’s more, you’ll probably learn how to talk to strangers more. For the introverts out there, that’s a plus. Coming from an introvert.

 

Is van life dangerous?

I’d be lying if I told you that living in a van is 100% safe. It’s not, but nothing in life is. Take a look at it like this: anything could happen to your current home. It could get robbed. It could get flooded.

In a more dramatic sense, even a bean could kill you. You could choke on it and die.

Life happens. But honestly, I’d rather be living the life that gives me the most joy when it hits.

Don’t let fear get the best of you. That’ll put you on the fast track to living a sad life. You’re capable of more than you think. Of more than you’re currently doing. Of course, living in a van introduces new things to worry about, but it’s nothing that you’ve never learned before.

To be blunt: don’t do anything stupid.

Here are some stupid things that you shouldn’t do:

  • Don’t walk around at night
  • Don’t overshare about where you live (to strangers)
  • Don’t park in a bad neighborhood

It’s common sense. If you’ve got half a brain cell, trust me, you’ll be fine. Just promise me that you’ll take the necessary precautions to stay safe.

 

Is van life cheaper than renting?

Van life is often far cheaper than renting, but it can go both ways. It depends on the luxuries that you’re willing to sacrifice and the new ones that you’ll adopt while living in a van.

You can live on $1,000 per month comfortably, but some people can easily blow $5,000 in less time.

For example, you might be paying $60 for WiFi right now. In a van, this might not be necessary. You might prefer to set up a workstation in cafes as you travel the country. Almost every place has free WiFi now. Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, McDonald’s, you name it.

On the other hand, you may want a more reliable and consistent internet connection. In that case, you may upgrade to a more expensive phone plan to cover the cost of a hotspot for your laptop.

If someone tells you “living in a van costs this much”, be wary because it depends on the person.

I’ll give you another example. If you own a house, instead of living in it, you can rent it and live in your van. If you live a modest van lifestyle, you’ll actually probably walk away each month with more money in your bank account than before.

A new cost that comes up for many van dwellers is parking. Where do I park my vehicle?

The cost depends on where you prefer to take your vehicle. Most of the time, in the suburbs, you can get free parking without too much suspicion. Other times, for example, if you’re parking in a national park, you may have to pay an entrance or overnight fee.

You can even park at friend’s houses to save money, but please don’t overstep on anyone’s toes. A few days is fine, but 3 months is pushing it.

Besides, some people will feel weird about letting someone they love sleep in a car while they’ve got a giant couch or bed waiting for you inside.

For courtesy’s sake, if you park at a friend’s house, please offer to pay them in return. At least, buy them dinner.

 

Who is van life for?

People from all walks of life have embraced this culture because that’s what it is — a culture. A way of life.

Students fresh out of college have embraced living in a van. They may not be able to afford a house and they don’t own any furniture, so it’s perfect for them.

Older men who have owned in all — expensive cars, big houses, money — have turned to live in a van. They’re opting to downsize their lives in exchange for something much simpler with fewer possessions.

Do you think they would do this if there wasn’t some sort of appeal to it?

Naturally, it’s not a perfect lifestyle. If it were, I think more people would be doing it. But, it is different from what society has largely been telling us is important — wealth and status.

What makes it so unique is that lately, the media has been glorifying this life that even the average person can take on (with some planning).

 

Is van life a fad?

I’d be lying if I said that van life wasn’t a fad. But, it does have some merit.

If you’re reading this article, you’ve probably seen the countless Youtube videos of young men and women leaving all of their worldly possessions to pursue a life on the road.

It’s been popular for a few years now and it’s only gaining traction.

There’s been a massive change in what it means to live in your car.

Just a few decades ago, a van parked outside of your house signaled two things. Either you’ve got a creepy older man that’s about to take away your children in return for some candy or, two, you hired a construction worker, plumber, or electrician of some sort.

The second is more likely, but regardless, even before that, we had the hippies of the 1960s. They were widely known for doing mostly nothing all day — except spreading peace, love, and good vibes — and living in their cool cars. Oh, and…. taking mind-altering substances.

I wouldn’t have exactly wanted them parked in front of my house, but they seem pretty cool.

Thankfully, the connotation of living in your car is moving in a positive direction. Its idea is no longer only for bums that lose their jobs.

Almost anyone can pick up their life and live in a van right now, or at the very least in their car.

So yes, it’s a fad, but it probably isn’t going to go away any time soon. Especially now that advancements in technology have made it possible to work from the road.

 

Final thoughts

Thank you for reading, travelers and homesteaders alike!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this article. Would you believe that it’s my first one?

I’m going to be writing about small space lifestyles from now on. I’ve been interested in this for years, so it feels right that I’ve finally gotten up the courage to start this blog.

Please, share this if you learned something from it  I would appreciate it 5o times over!

 

Victoria Miller

I'm the founder of NTT. I live in Miami, Florida, and enjoy learning everything there is to know about tiny spaces.