Pros and Cons of Van Life
Picture this: you’re cruising down the open road, your trusty van as your constant companion, with the world as your playground. Ah, van life—it’s an experience that’s as exhilarating as it is liberating!
I’ve long been captivated by the idea of traveling in the cozy cocoon of my own home-on-wheels—comfortable in familiar surroundings, yet constantly venturing into uncharted territory. After seeing it depicted in TV shows and movies, my excitement grew and finally, I took the leap. Despite the bumps along the way, my van-tastic journey has been nothing short of life-altering.
If you’re toying with the idea of van living but can’t quite shake those nagging doubts, I’ve got you covered. Read on for the inside scoop on my personal experience and a handy list of pros and cons to help you make up your mind.
Let’s rev up those engines and explore the road less traveled.
What Is Van Life?
Let’s start with a brief definition of van life: what is it exactly?
For me, it was traveling around and enjoying the outdoors. What living in a van meant to me was being able to pull the van right next to a lake for a swim, or a mountain to go hiking or climbing and do these activities without leaving the coziness of my own space.
However, van life is a lifestyle, and it becomes what you make of it. Some people choose van life to cut back on their rental and utility expenses, whereas some are just bound to prefer it over homelessness. For some, on the other hand, van life is a simpler and more minimalistic way of life in which you need to show less effort to get by. And others, like me, are in it for the experience and the opportunity to travel.
Depending on their primary purpose, van lifers can travel around in their vans or live stably in a van park.
Pros of Van Life
Van life has many economic, pleasing, and liberating advantages. Find some of the most significant of these perks below:
Cutting Back on the Expenses
Van life has a lower cost of living. When you live in a van, you won’t have any monthly expenses like rent, electricity, water, or other utilities. If your purpose is saving money rather than traveling, living in a stationary van will help you cut back considerably because you won’t be spending money on gas, either. If you keep an eye out for free parking spaces, you’ll be saving even more.
Having the Freedom To Travel
Van life allows you to travel wherever, whenever, and however you like. When your home has wheels, you don’t need another means of transport, a convenient hotel or Airbnb. Just put your finger on the map to specify a destination and take the trip there in the comfort of your own home.
If you like a place, you can stay there longer without having to pay additional costs for accommodation. Moreover, as you take a trip to a destination, you can take any road that you find interesting because you don’t follow a compulsory route and you’re not in a hurry.
Being at Home Wherever You Go
When you live in a van, you’re surrounded by your stuff as you travel. Hence, you have everything you may need while traveling at hand. You don’t have to worry about frequently packing and unpacking as you change locations, either.
Plus, you won’t feel homesick because you’re already in your own space! It’s great to have such comfort as you travel.
Getting Away From the Noise and Chaos of the City
You always have the chance for an escape when you live in a traveling home. Van life allows you to get away from the tumult of urban life and catch your breath somewhere tranquil. Shutting down social media while you’re in nature will also help you get back to city life all spruced up and relaxed.
Living in a Pet-friendly Environment
Van life is the perfect option for those who live with pets. When you live in a van, you don’t need anyone to look after your cat or dog while you’re away, traveling. Plus, they’ll enjoy the freedom of being outdoors all the time.
Adopting a More Minimalist Lifestyle
The limited space in a van allows you to take only the most necessary stuff with you. After getting rid of all your excess stuff, you’ll see how recreative it is to live with only the belongings you actually need.
When you adjust your stuff to fit in a van, you’ll be free from the burden of the lumber around you. Living a more minimalist life will reduce your levels of stress and anxiety.
Getting To Customize Your Van
Customizing your van and designing its interior are fun activities. Creating a space for yourself gives you a great sense of fulfillment.
You can add any system, amenity, and feature you like to your van. You can prefer an
elegant modern look or a rustic cabin design. It’s all about mixing and matching the colors and shapes to your liking.
Making New Friends
There are many people that share the same views and lifestyle as you. You’ll meet fellow travelers and van lifers along the way on the road and hiking trails, in parks, and at campgrounds. You’ll become a part of the van life network.
Since you have similar interests, worldviews, and hobbies with these people, these encounters may be just the beginnings of great, lifelong friendships.
Learning New Skills
You’ll gain troubleshooting and repair skills while living in a van. You’ll get more practical as you live with less stuff and fewer opportunities. Moreover, if you build your own van or do renovations after buying one, you’ll learn carpentry, electrical work, plumbing, and many more.
Van Life Is Environment-friendly
You automatically consume less when you live in a van, which in itself, is sustainable and environment-friendly. You can use a fuel-efficient van if you want to reduce the carbon emission you release into the atmosphere.
When you live in a van, you use less water and produce less waste, which is good for the environment.
To have the freedom of living and traveling on your own schedule gives you a chance for self-discovery and allows you to constantly explore the outside world just the way you want to.
All these perks of van life add value to your life and provide you with new sets of skills. You’ll be a different and better version of yourself when you go back to your settled life in the city.
Cons of Van Life
Van life has its downsides and challenges, as do every other lifestyle. In my opinion, the experience itself definitely overrides the challenges. However, it’s still better to know what to expect and be prepared rather than to be utterly surprised and feel helpless in case of an inconvenience.
The cons of van life are as follows:
Having Little Space
Living in a small place can be constricting and challenging at times. However, you can always step outside to catch a break.
There’s little room to store your stuff, as well. Therefore you need to pick only the necessary stuff as you move into a van. The more stuff you bring, the less room you have, which causes living in a van to be overwhelming for you at times.
Having such a compact space can also have an impact on the furniture you use. For example, due to the lack of space, you get a bed that’s not as comfortable as the one you had back home.
Since there’s limited room and apparatus in a van, simple house tasks may become harder than they were in a regular home. It’s nothing that you can’t get used to in a little time.
For instance, dishwashing is a very simple task when you do it in a regular kitchen that has a wide countertop and an adequately big sink. In a van, however, you get a much smaller space and less water to complete the same task. The best way to deal with this is to master the “van kitchen”, cooking simple meals that require very few utensils.
Experiencing Breakdowns or Accidents
Unexpected breakdowns or accidents can be bothersome and expensive. Learning to do repairs will come in handy in case you experience such an event at a location where you can’t easily get help.
Adapting to the Toilet and Shower Situation in the Van
A composting toilet or a shower system in a van can take some getting used to. Both are appliances that require high maintenance: it takes effort and time to fill and dump the tanks. The process of adaptation to the cleaning and hygiene conditions in a van can be challenging.
If you don’t have a shower system installed in the van, you can get a gym membership if you live in a stationary van or use common showers if you’re on the move. Always remember to wear your flip-flops, though!
Experiencing Parking Problems
You can’t park anywhere you like, and sometimes finding a spot can be a problem. Parking in some places may be unwanted or even illegal.
Unfortunately, not many cities are van life-friendly, meaning if you get caught sleeping in your van at an inconvenient spot, you may have to pay a penalty.
Having To Choose Among Limited Job Opportunities
Although living in a van is relatively less costly, you’ll still need a job to pay for your living. Being constantly on the move limits job opportunities to seasonal jobs or online positions. Therefore, finding a job may be a bit of a challenge at first.
Lack of Privacy
Unless you’ve parked in nature, you’re usually in public places when you live in a van. Constant socializing beyond your control or sticking out like a sore thumb in the middle of a parking lot can be tiresome at times.
You may get unexpected visitors knocking on your door anytime or feel like you don’t have any privacy. If you’re not stationary, parking in nature might be a good idea to get away from the crowds of the parking lots.
In my experience, these were the main pros and cons of van life. I believe the van life is a life-changing experience that everyone who set their minds to it should try.
After learning to adapt to its conditions, its advantages surpass its difficulties for sure.
The bottom line is that when you live in a van, you experience and explore new things every day. The van life is never-ending excitement in the comfort of your own home.