Finally, you are deciding to move into a van and start a wonderful life on wheels. Great! But it is best to research before plunging into a large decision. Living the van life is an unbelievable experience that changes lives. You’re not going to show up as the same person, no matter what. For van dwellers, life means to travel half the world, see wonderful places, work remotely and start realizing that you don’t need half of the things which you have, to live in comfort.
It is exciting to believe, but you can also feel overwhelming to start a mobile life and make this journey possible. There’s so much to learn and figure out like what kind of vehicle to own or hire or where you’re going to park and sleep in the night.
Of course, the switch from brick to full-time van dwelling will come with a few surprises. So, to toast for your upcoming journey, I am sharing the top 14 things you must know before living the van life!
1. It might not be as glamorous as you think.
I am very sure you follow a couple of or many van dwellers on Instagram or YouTube or other social media and got inspired to start your own van life. Have you ever wonder about the stories behind those videos or photos? The actual thing is that life in the van is not as smooth as it looks. You need to figure out so many things such as where to poop, where to bath, how to cook, where to park, what will be the maintenance issues, and much more. But don’t get scared, it is very exciting and you call it freedom. Just keep in mind that the van life experience isn’t the same for everyone.
All the decisions you make will shape your trip and your van life experience. Some people come back from a camper and say it was the best time of their life. Others can’t wait to come home. If you are new to camper life and dreaming of living the van life for full time, it is better to take a short weekend trip with your van and identify which are the things you need and which are not. This way you can make some practical decisions. Remember best experiences always come with some tough times. So be ready for some thrilling life-changing experiences.
2. Is living the van life legal?
You might wonder whether it is legal to do this before you begin to live in a camper. Throughout your journey, you may have problems, especially in towns, although there is no law prohibiting people from living and sleeping in their van. Every other city is subject to its own rules and regulations for van residents. Therefore, people try not to stay for more than one night or two in the same spot. Incidents occur in which residents have been kicked from parking areas in Walmart, stopped and searched by cops, and ordered many times to move. Note; maybe not everyone wants to have a large camper in the car park or the neighborhood.
Parking in National Parks is usually not permitted overnight if you plan to travel the US. The National Forests and BLM lands, on the other hand, are excellent for camping vans. You can always take the help of people who are already living in their vehicle. Technology comes in handy here; you can use an application for finding a camp spot just sign up in the iOverlander app for this purpose and many more. It is the most favorite and recommended app by current dwellers with amazing features. All camping spots listed in this app are added and approved by other travelers, and the reviews, prices, and comments are always up to date.
3. What do you do for a living? Income source.
This is the most crucial point to think about before you start thinking about opting for van life over your routine life. See, there are two types of people. One, people who have a 9 to 5 job while, others who earn remotely. So if you are already earning while sitting anywhere, it will be easy for you to decide for such life. But if you have to work in an office to make a living, I am sure that the decision to move into a van might not give you a pleasant experience. This doesn’t necessarily mean that there isn’t any hope, I am not telling you to quit your daily job but while doing it, you can find alternatives to earn money. This will take a while to create an income source; the easiest way to start is by doing some freelancing work. And if you want a steady income, you can change your job to one which gives you enough flexibility to work remotely.
4. Reliable Wi-Fi and networks.
Cellular Internet Data Plan, in my opinion, is the best method to keep connected when living the van life or RV. 90% of the time, that’s what almost all vanlifers do. If you have a smartphone (and who doesn’t these days? ), you likely take the Internet for granted; and it’s much more beneficial when you’re living on the road! A decent cellular data package is essential if you want to work from the road and your income is based on being online.
Free WiFi in coffee shops is fantastic, but the cost of coffee and treats
soon adds up! So it’s not entirely free. When we’re trying to work, it’s easy
to loose focus. Libraries are a wonderful spot to access free
WiFi because the connection is usually fast and quiet. Free WiFi is
available in several grocery stores, petrol stations, restaurants, Walmarts,
and other locations, although it has poor speed in comparison to
coffee shops and libraries.
WeBoost Drive Reach RV (470354) Cell Phone Signal Booster Kit
5. Living in a camper means less space.
Imagine, until yesterday you were living in your spacious apartment where you had your attached bath and toilet, separate room for your storage, office, and guests, cooking on your 15 feet long platform, and fetching your beer from the refrigerator which has a double door facility. And today you woke up in a tiny van where your bed is attached to a 2 to 4 feet L-shaped kitchen cum dining table platform.
Yes, you will feel this huge difference. However, on the flip side, you would not need to perform a plethora of chores to maintain your little home. Maintaining the large floor area rugs, no staircase cleaning, maintaining a garage or garden, or worrying about filling and looking after a variety of furniture and fixtures that were kept to make the house full. Moreover, you can cook while looking at the beautiful mountains. Have some amazing bath in the naked nature. It would make you feel that all your fantasies of living the van life are coming true. Don’t worry there will be plenty of room for your loved ones. Yes, you can live with your pets.
6. Your one-time expense and monthly budget to spend.
Although in general, living in a van is pretty cheap but to get started, it can be costly at first. Now, this depends on you, how you want to spend time in your van or camper? But firstly, you need to decide your budget available for some of the fixed costs. This includes the cost of a vehicle, conversion cost, electricals, van water supply, and everything which needs to be installed once. On top of this, you also need to consider your monthly expenses such as fuel for the van, fuel for generator(if you are thinking to have one), maintenance cost, electricity charging costs, parking fees, food, and all those kinds which come in your daily journey.
It is very much recommended to buy a camper or trailer in comparison to hiring it if you are considering living the van life full time. Try to install the best quality products; this will reduce the maintenance cost in long run. This gonna be costly but it is one time so try to spend logically and make it good quality tiny nest on wheels. You need to consider a lot of savings as you will be working remotely which might be a problem if you don’t get a job for some time. Savings are very important.
Many people want to travel for a month or two and also many times people want to put some test on such travel kind of life before making an actual decision. If you belong to any such group, you should consider hiring a sprinter. This will cost you less comparatively.
7. Choose your vehicle which suits your lifestyle.
Do not buy a vehicle-based on-trend. It is very important to identify your needs and what kind of lifestyle you want to live. There are some vehicles that you see repetitively either on Instagram or on YouTube. These social media fantasies may influence your decision to own a motor so avoid the trap.
There are two kinds of on-wheel living vehicles available in the market, one is a camper or van and another is a kind of customized trailer which don’t have a driver seat. And there are two ways to live your life on wheels, spacious life with high facilities and another is live tiny.
Let’s talk about tiny living. In such a lifestyle, people only own those things which are basic to live life at its base. No extra things, no extra maintenance, great!. They are low on space and may not have any toilet and shower installed. It’s pretty much like a driver area, a small kitchen platform with few appliances, and a bed to sleep with a little storage area that’s it.
On the other hand, it’s all about space and facilities. This is the reason for people to choose an old school bus and convert it into a very pretty, spacious, and fully equipped living home on wheels. It has an attached loo and bath facility. Many of them also own a refrigerator, washing machine, and oven.
So it depends on you how you want to spend your life while living the van life. Just don’t forget your budget.
8. If no inbuilt shower or toilet, where to find the facility?
Where do you use the bathroom while living in a van?”, is a very self-conscious question to answer. Not having a bathroom in the van is one of the hardest things throughout any journey. In public restrooms, some people are always a little nervous, but when you live in a van, you’re compelled to get over it pretty quickly. A lot of people would rather use the restroom whenever they could – at campgrounds, coffee shops, and grocery stores; at Walmarts and petrol stations; and even in the woods – while others would rather purchase a portable toilet which is the best solution for living the van life the way you want. For instance, why waste time in Walmart for 20 minutes even if you can complete your business in 5? Especially if you live with your family.
Some of the most recommended portable toilets by Vanlifers.
9. How you built it – interior and exterior
10. Is it safe to live on wheels out there? And Vehicle safety
Living the van life is simple yet not easy and can be scary. Imagine you are alone or with your partner in the wild out there at night and suddenly your vehicle breaks down. The coin has two sides. There are always bad people and wild animals. You need to be fairly equipped with some basic armor like a good knife or a baseball bet. In any unwanted condition Survival Kit is most important to be equipped with. The possibility of such a threat is low but can happen. Travel in a group is recommended if you are in a remote place or an unserviceable area. It’s heard. Always use social media or the ioverlander app to confirm and get all the related information. Don’t get shy to ask for help.
Every vehicle must have extra wheels, mechanical equipment related to your van, a fire extinguisher, and all those things which make your van low maintenance. A first aid kit for you and your vehicle is very important.
11. Van Life Insurance is a must .
Getting yourself insured is a must. It is more important if you are traveling with your home. Travel Medical Insurance facilitates a global network of trusted, qualified doctors and hospitals. This van life travel insurance covers all the costs of doctors, hospitals, and emergency medical evaluation.
Having said that, your converted van must also be insured. These insurances are generally differentiated between professional conversion and self conversion. The truth is, it is easier to get insurance for the professionally converted van. This means conversion should be taken care of by a professional company having the same primary business and that has a well-established business with a web presence. You can also get self-converted vans insurance but comparatively, it is a bit trickier due to the uncertainty of the work’s quality and the decreased clarity of the insurable value. Note: some insurance companies provide roadside assistance.
12. The right gas tank.
Cooking an evening meal and having your gas run out in the middle of it, is a nightmare. Every time you see those tiny blue flames disappear into the bowels of your stove, you’ll be filled with dread. Purchase a refillable LPG tank that you can fill up at a gas station. In the long term, it may cost a little more, but it will be a lot simpler and easier. Also, various countries sell different adapters for the pump ends, so be prepared and bring the correct ones with you. Remember you need separate regulators for every gas can. And each country has its own rules for gas bottles from your first purchase and to refill them. So, you must have such information before making a purchase. It is recommended that you should have an electric stove as well as a gas stove so you can use one as a substitute and make your dream of living the van life hassle-free.
13. Be Prepared For breakdowns, it happens.
Especially with old and very vintage campers, breakdowns are inevitable but things also can go wrong with the new ones. You may need to make your beautiful and sweaty journey to the garage all by yourself that too in a different country. Just want to say that you must prepare for such unwanted experiences.
So there are a lot of things that you can get prepare for. Firstly, you should invest in some very good quality products for your camper and in addition to this, if your budget permits, you must buy brand new vehicles to reduce the unexpected damage, helpful in the long run. Secondly, you must have good insurance coverage for any kind of major breakdown. Some insurance companies such as RAC a British firm provides a comprehensive travel package (may cost you a little more) which covers hotel costs if anything happens to the van, onward travel, and free repairs up to some handsome amount. They also take care of everything for you while you sitting in your hotel room watching a TV if the hotel has one.
14. Winters can be tough.
When you’re living the van life throughout the winter, having a reliable heating source is essential. It makes no difference whether you use a diesel heater or a wood stove in your mobile home. Just be sure you have that much fuel and supplies to keep you warm when the weather drops below freezing. If we compare wood burners or diesel heaters, nothing can beat instant heating by turning on a switch. Make sure you make the best decision when it comes to campervan insulation, a key to survive the winters. Many people make mistakes by not doing floor insulation, remember you are not a fire guy from fantastic four.
Camping Blanket – Puffy, Packable, Lightweight and Warm
Before taking a decision or even thinking about all the above technical stuff, you must know exactly with whom you will be sharing your dream? If you are going to travel alone, no worries go and have solo fun. But if you are traveling with your partner as a couple plus a dog or two plus your kid or kids, you need to consider all the needs, likes and dislikes for every plus you add on the wheels. You need to convert your naked van in a way that your travel goes smooth and with all the love to share. Living the van life is a fun life, it gets more excited when you share it with your loved ones.