All over the internet, Van Life has been portrayed as an amazing way to escape your daily existence. Pictures of beautiful people parking their van near a beach so they can wake at dawn and go surfing truly does look like a dreamy way to live, especially if you’re still young and without a lot of responsibility. As the saying goes, “you only live once”, and some see a cross-country road trip as a way to live your life to the fullest. Some people also consider van life to be a good way to save money, since it means that they no longer need to pay rent on an apartment or a mortgage on a house. However, far too many people jump into buying a van and beginning this new lifestyle without fully considering the consequences of what might happen while living on the road. Here at Home Addict, we’re bringing you 40 very good reasons not to do Van Life.
40. Options For Showering Are Few and Far Between
Before 2020, most van lifers paid for a gym membership so that they could use the showers and bathrooms in the morning. By picking a popular chain brand, they could still travel to various locations around the country. However, even when gyms are reopening, all of them are still banning the use of the showers and pools. There are many RV parks and campgrounds that will still allow you to use the public showers. However, this means you are forced to pay the nightly fee to stay at that location. It becomes more expensive to take a shower compared to methods people used before.
There are some die-hard van lifers like Max Bids who is completely renovating a brand new van to include a shower and interior plumbing. The obvious downside to this is that a new van build can cost tens of thousands of dollars, which is more than what most young people can afford. Going forward, newcomers will most likely see building a van with its own bathroom and shower as a must-have, rather than a luxury.
Digital nomads typically travel the world with the knowledge that they could eventually find free Wi-Fi at local cafes and restaurants. There were thousands of young people who could access a free workspace for the cheap price of buying a coffee. However, with indoor dining for several hours being taken out of the picture, this severely cuts down on options for working on the road. While it’s still possible to access outdoor cafes, accessibility is entirely left up to weather conditions. Once it rains, snows, or the temperatures drop, it’s no longer realistic to work outside. Even when restaurants and cafes open for 25% to 50% capacity, they typically give you a time limit for how long you’re allowed to stay there. The longer you camp in a precious cafe seat, the fewer customers they are allowed to serve, and the less money the business makes.
If you want to travel in a van and work at the same time, one of the only viable options is to have a Wi-Fi hotspot tethered to your phone. This makes it possible to work from just about anywhere, and that includes the park or beach. However, you will eventually run out of battery, and it means that your work day is cut by several hours. Working inside of a van is incredibly uncomfortable, and it’s not sustainable long-term. Renting a hotel room or AirBnB would be one of the only other options, but that sort of defeats the purpose of van life, doesn’t it?
When you live in an apartment or house, you’re probably used to leaving dishes in the sink and keeping laundry in a basket. But when you live in a van, it’s impossible for you to be lazy about leaving your belongings around. When you drive, things slide everywhere. At the very least, this makes a lot of noise, and can be annoying. But it can also mean having a laptop or other expensive object falling and getting destroyed. This is why van lifers need to put away their belongings immediately as soon as they use them, to the point where it is now ingrained as a habit.
Even if you have built-in storage in the van, that doesn’t always solve the issue. Many new van lifers come across the issue of their cabinet doors flying open on bumpy roads. Everyone has to tie things together with bungee cords or ropes before they leave. It truly makes you realize how much you took “normal” living for granted. Some people don’t see this as a negative thing, because it forces them to be more clean. But on days when you’re exhausted and just want to take a break, it can be a huge annoyance to deal with.
There is an old saying that if you want to test the strength of your relationship, go on a road trip. This is also true of van life. If one partner is very enthusiastic about the idea of living in the van and the other isn’t, it can quickly become a deal-breaker. Even when two people go into a van life road trip believing that they are on the same page, it could potentially be a sign that they are only together for a certain chapter of their young life.
In 2020, plenty of relationships were challenged to face issues that they might have pushed under the rug before. Van Lifers are no different. However, when you live in close proximity to one another for a long time, your issues become very clear. The financial burden of caring for the van on top of everything else can also take a toll on your relationship. Before investing in buying a van with your partner, look for people who are willing to rent out their van for the weekend. This way, you can preview what van life would be like, and know if it’s actually worth the risk.
Building a van from scratch is expensive and time-consuming, which is why many young people try to buy a pre-owned vehicle. No matter what option you choose, the van will eventually need some sort of repair. Like driving a car, vehicles will break down more the older they get. If the whole point of van life is going on long road trips, it only makes sense that the extra miles mean extra repairs. Depending on the brand of your van, it might take a very long time for your mechanic to get the appropriate parts to fix your vehicle.
If you’re forced to repair your van during a road trip, you can’t live in it while the mechanics work. This means renting an emergency hotel room or Airbnb. Anyone who is choosing this lifestyle as a way to save money will quickly realize that it doesn’t actually make things cheaper. This is why many hardcore Van Lifers learn how to fix things on their own, in order to save money. But even buying the tools necessary to fix something can be expensive. Overall, it’s never cheap or easy.
No matter where you go on vacation, it’s likely you’ll run into a two-week travel quarantine. Even in the United States, there are many locations that will not allow you to cross the state border without quarantining for 2 weeks. If you disobey this law, you face the possibility that you could be paying thousands of dollars in fines. If you were to actually obey the rules as you are supposed to, it would mean that you need to stay in your van for two weeks straight without leaving once you cross a state border. A two-week quarantine means it would become necessary to order grocery delivery, and do absolutely everything from the inside of your van without making human contact. This would make just about anyone go crazy.
For many people, this isn’t possible, especially if they don’t have running water and sewage. Even with built-in facilities, you still need to clean out the tanks of the van. Traveling in quarantine means that it’s necessary to pay for an Airbnb, hotel room, or stay with a friend. But obviously, this pretty much defeats the purpose of van life. The only realistic option would be to travel in a state like California, where it’s large enough to drive up and down the coast in the van.
There is a certain subculture of van life filled with people who want to start a YouTube channel so that they can monetize their road trips. For some, the motivation behind traveling in a van comes from the idea that they could make it into a business. While this might be fun for a few years, it’s not a sustainable lifestyle. At some point, you will become too old to continue traveling. Or, people could move on from enjoying your content. On top of that, the YouTube algorithm is very unforgiving for anyone who can’t keep up with posting content frequently.
The van life community that already exists on YouTube has shown how quickly someone’s career trajectory could go downhill overnight. Many creators who had revolved their entire career and identity around traveling in a van were now stuck in one place without any way to make money. Even so, there are still new creators who are choosing to start van life channels despite the pandemic. Obviously, there is nothing wrong with creative expression. But choosing to give up your job to be a van life blogger isn’t a wise decision in 2020.
In the past, people could send their kids off to school for 8 hours a day. This gave them the space to learn, play with friends, and more. But when lockdown began, millions of parents had to adjust to becoming homeschool teachers overnight. If you’re a parent who is a digital nomad, it’s virtually impossible to also homeschool kids while living in a van. From technical difficulties to weak WiFi, the number of issues you would come across is enough to drive any parent crazy, even when they live in a house or apartment. So trying to accomplish this in a van or RV is basically impossible.
If you really wanted to make parenting and van life work, it might make more sense to practice “unschooling”. This is the idea that children learn more by learning how to apply skills to real-life situations. These parents allow their kids to take the lead in things they want to learn about, and never force them to follow a schedule or curriculum. However, this might actually be a terrible idea. According to a former unschooling mother named Rachel Keppner, her kids grew up to be selfish teenagers who didn’t listen to authority. They also had little-to-no skills that would help them get a job someday.
32. Social Distancing Makes Meeting New People Nearly Impossible
Before 2020, one of the biggest appeals to doing van life was the fact that you could meet new people while traveling. If we were to believe van life vloggers, it was incredibly easy to park outside of a hostel or caravan park and meet loads of young 20-somethings eager to see the world. However, we now live in a world of 6 foot social distancing and face coverings. We can’t see friendly smiles, and fewer people are making eye contact.
Sure, it could still be possible to meet new people at national parks and campgrounds, especially if everyone is an extrovert. However, this comes with the risk of not knowing how seriously this new person is taking precautions to keep themselves virus-free. Fewer people are willing to invite strangers over for drinks in their van. In the future, that might change. But with the current state of things, it’s much easier and safer to stick with people you already know.
Over the past year, a lot of people started to buy workout equipment online so that they could create a home gym in their garage or basement. It became so popular that some companies even had a backlog of orders that took months for machines to arrive. Obviously, people can’t create a home gym in their van.
Some might argue that the nature of van life doesn’t need a gym. Most people who travel in a van enjoy hiking, biking, and other outdoor activities. So you’re still getting plenty of fresh air and exercise. While this might be great in the spring and summer, it’s often not something that will last through the winter months.
Before 2020, a lot of van lifers were practitioners of minimalism. They tried to say that it’s not necessary to stockpile, because it’s always possible to buy anything you need at a grocery store. However, recent events have shown us that it isn’t the case. With panic buying all around the globe, it left many people without essential goods.
In the beginning of lockdown, many localities did not allow people to travel, and there were curfews in most stores. Millions of people stayed inside for weeks on end. If you live in a van, this would be virtually impossible to stay there and survive on a week’s worth of food. There isn’t enough room for you to stockpile food and toilet paper. Because of this, living in a van might only be good for short vacations, rather than a long-term lifestyle.
Now that millions of people are staying home from work and social events, criminals who usually burglarized houses are looking for other options. All across the United States, there is a huge spike in vehicle break-ins. This is particularly common at parks, because there are no security cameras out in nature. Car owners who go on hikes also typically leave their vehicles parked for at least an hour, and runners take very few of their valuables with them.
For Van Lifers, a vehicle break-in would be more devastating than most. If you live in the van full time, your most valuable belongings are left in the van when you go hiking. Thieves could potentially steal items that were necessary for you to earn your living, like your laptop and cell phone. Even with insurance, this can take away time from earning an income, and it can be a traumatic thing to get through. If you do decide to pursue Van Life, please bring your valuables with you in a backpack at all times, even if you’re in a traditionally “safe” area.
When most people think of living in a van, they imagine this care-free life where you drive to a location, lay back, and enjoy the sounds of the beach outside your door. In reality, there is so much more to worry about. We already mentioned the fact that car break-ins are on the rise, but there are also a lot of other potential crimes that you could become a victim of.
Then, there is the possibility that your van might break down. This knowledge is always going to be in the back of your mind, and it can put you on edge. Driving is also exhausting, and it can leave you with a lot of tension in your body. Even when it’s time for you to park, relax, and go to sleep, it can still be hard to shut off the worried part of your mind. In reality, it’s actually a lot easier to relax on vacation when transportation and safety are taken out of the equation completely.
There are plenty of people who are continuing to pursue van life, despite all of the difficulties in recent events. Some people have the mindset that if they can’t work anyway, they might as well take advantage of traveling the country. However, the odds that you’ll find a lot of other people who are equally as comfortable with the risk is severely limited. So you might be completely alone during this journey.
Being alone can be a good thing, sometimes. In fact, I’m a huge fan of solo road trips. This gives you time to think and reflect on life without any outside input. However, if you live like this full time, it can make your mental health decline. Being in isolation for too long can lead to depression, even if you had a spacious house to live in. So being alone in a van for months at a time would be far worse.
The idea of living in a van evokes a sense of freedom on the road. While some people might feel free in the beginning, they quickly begin to realize that this lifestyle requires you to ask people for help more than you would living in an apartment or house. From asking directions to calling AAA for a breakdown, you’re always at the mercy of something that could go wrong. On one hand, this can be a healthy exercise in reaching out to your fellow human being for help. But it also increases your sense of vulnerability.
During lockdown, many van lifers had to ask friends and relatives if they could park their home in the driveway. In most cases, they’re relying on the kindness and generosity of the people who they love. However, this setup typically can’t last forever. For some people, it doesn’t bother them to ask for help. But for anyone who has a strong sense of pride and independence, they will eventually feel awful to always be asking for help.
Laundry is never fun, no matter where you live. However, it’s easy to take for granted how simple it is to put your laundry in a machine at home and be able to walk away for an hour to do something else. Even if laundromats are nothing new, it’s still a different ballpark when you’re keeping your laundry in a van.
First and foremost, dirty laundry needs to go somewhere. This could potentially clutter the van, start to smell, or worse. Many people resort to re-wearing the same clothes multiple days in a row so that they only need to do laundry once a week. Obviously, this can lead to you becoming pretty smelly. Next time you see a dreamy van life photo, imagine how much they might actually stink.
If you’re single, trying to date when you live in a van is difficult, to say the least. Someone asked on Reddit, “I suspect van life kills dating”. However, responders had plenty of positive things to say about it back in 2018. They claim that it actually weeds out women who are too materialistic, and leaves them with cool, down-to-earth chicks. Many of these men describe it as successfully “dating around”- as in- hookups on Tinder. But the dating world completely changed in 2020. People are far less likely to go for casual hookups, because it comes with so many inherent risks.
Most people you meet on dating apps will want to talk for at least two weeks first before meeting in real life. They want to take it slow, which doesn’t match up for people who are traveling from place to place in a van. Someone who is free spirited and wanting to hit the road doesn’t seem to be someone who’s willing to be committed. If you can find someone who is equally as adventurous as you to go living in a van before you leave, that’s perfect. But good luck trying to find “the one” if you can’t stick around long enough to get to know them.
Nearly everyone has experienced being so sick, you can’t get out of bed. Or, you might be up all night running to the bathroom to release your bowels. Now, imagine that scenario in a van. You’re all alone, and there is no bathroom in sight. Or, if you live with a partner in the van, it basically guarantees that both of you will get sick.
On top of the difficulty of taking care of yourself, living in a van might trigger pre-existing illnesses to get worse. Driving long distances can be stressful, and stopping at multiple locations often exposes you to more germs and viruses. This is a hobby that is truly reserved for people who are young, healthy, and confident that they can care for themselves.
One of the biggest downsides to driving a van is the fact that they are very slow. Merging onto a highway can be a nightmare, because the van’s pickup isn’t fast enough to match oncoming traffic. You can also expect a lot of people to want to pass you on a road. Sometimes, this can be frustrating, and even frightening. Aggressive drivers often get angry at slow vehicles, and will potentially try to take out their frustrations on you.
If you’re on a budget, the odds that your van will be slow is significantly higher. Some of the newer more expensive sprinter vans are known to have better speed. But if you buy one of those, expect to spend tens of thousands of dollars more than the average vehicle.
21. It’s Actually Cheaper (And Possibly Safer) to Fly
Due to recent events, the price of plane tickets have gone down significantly. Now, you can travel almost anywhere in the United States for under $100. For example, I just checked Sky Scanner and found a flight from Philadelphia to Orlando for just $23 round trip. I could be in Orlando in one hour instead of two to three days of driving. Considering how much a van guzzles gas, you can’t even fill up a tank for $23. On top of that, the cost of going to a campground to use facilities can cost around $50 per night. Once you calculate the cost of buying the van, repairs, gas, time, and parking fees, you’ll quickly realize that flying is actually cheaper, even when you stay in a hotel and get rides from Uber.
Some might argue that driving is safer than flying right now. However, you still need to get out of the van and interact with other humans to fill up the gas tank, use the bathroom, and get food. Most airlines are taking precautions very seriously. It’s still a very stressful experience, but at least that stress will only last a few hours, instead of a few days. Don’t automatically assume driving a van is the cheaper option. Always calculate your expenses ahead of time, and make the decision on your own.
When you live in a tiny space, there is no opportunity for you to escape things that smell bad. In a house, you can close a garbage can lid or a bathroom door and walk away without ever thinking too much about the bad smell. Unfortunately, van life comes with a lot of bad smells that you normally don’t experience all in one space. You have your trash, wet towels, dirty laundry, and possibly a toilet all in a tiny enclosed space. Even in those fancy vans with a door that closes on their composting toilet, owners admit that it makes the entire van smell like “number two” for several afters after doing the deed.
These smells force you to open the windows for ventilation. In the freezing cold winter, or the scorching hot summer, having the windows open might not be possible, or it could potentially make the issue worse. This is also not an option if it’s raining or snowing. And if you choose to have a dog, there are always a lot of stinky issues that come from having a canine companion. Those tiny tree air fresheners aren’t going to take away the stench of van life, so you can say “goodbye” to your living spaces that smell like candles from Bath and Body Works.
When you live in a van, there is no such thing as a mud room or an entryway. Everyone loves the photographs of people pulling up to a mountain to ski right out of their van door, but no one thinks about the fact that your snowy boots and clothes are going to come off inside of that confined space. Your entire living space is the entryway, and there is nowhere else to go. This means that muddy shoes, sandy feet, hair, and anything else is constantly being dumped on your one small floor. Bare feet or socks will get soaking wet if you don’t clean it up immediately. If you are bringing a dog with you, this means you can expect to add shedding fur and “accidents” to the list of things to clean up.
Some people shrug their shoulders when they hear this, because they think that in a smaller space, it might be easier to clean up compared to a house. But people who live in a van are constantly cleaning up after themselves, because there is often no other way to live. For example, you can’t leave dirty dishes in the sink, because when you drive, your objects have to be secured and locked into cabinets. Objects can’t be left out, because they will break during transit. And if you’re camping somewhere, and you let things go for a few days, the mess can quickly pile up to the point where you look like you’re a hoarder. You won’t have the option of leaving the work off until later. And if you do, you will find yourself surrounded by a huge mess.
Unless you can afford to pay for a van in the ballpark of $60,000, you won’t have your own bathroom or shower. Most people shrug it off, saying that they can go into a Starbucks to brush their teeth, or use their gym membership for showering. But think about all of those late-night moments where you have to go to the bathroom. And for women, we have certain times of the month where it’s crucial to have access to running water and sanitary conditions. Not to mention the fact that during the coronavirus pandemic, gyms and restaurants all shut down. In a time of crisis, there is nowhere for you to use the facilities at all.
Sometimes, people choose to install a composting toilet in their van, since they don’t have access to a sewage system. The only problem with that is that it smells very bad every time someone uses it. Grey water tanks from under the sink also begin to smell awful after a few days. You’ll also be responsible for disposing the waste whenever you possibly can, which is not fun at all.
When you’re bored with your daily life, the idea of traveling can seem really alluring. This fantasy of living life on the road can be perpetuated by travel bloggers who make everything look amazing. Believe it or not, it’s possible to experience travel burnout. As human beings, we need to rest and settle down after a while. Think about the fact that at one time, humans were a hunter-gatherer society before they realized life was a lot easier when they settled down.
Driving, walking, and navigating new states and countries can be physically exhausting. It can take several hours to get the smallest tasks done like washing clothes or grocery shopping, simply because you don’t have an opportunity to get into a consistent routine where you’re familiar with your surroundings. Survival becomes a chore, and it takes away all of your energy from working or doing other productive things in your life. Many van lifers eventually get burned out, and choose to take a break for several months. Or, they can only keep up with the lifestyle for a year before going back to their normal lives. The van life sounds more exhausting than anything.
For years, sleeping in a camper van was reserved for summer vacations, due to the fact that you would be too cold at night. Even if your van has heat and air conditioning, you can’t leave your vehicle running all night long, because you would run out of gas. (Plus, it’s just plain bad for the environment.) And even if you have a battery-powered fan, you are still going to experience a lot of discomfort when it comes to temperature.
A YouTuber called Anna’s Analysis talked about her experience with Van Life. She explained that before she went on her trip, she planned out a map of average temperatures to be sure that she could drive across America with warm weather. However, there were still many nights where she had to sleep with several blankets, a coat, hat, and gloves just to keep warm. In the morning, the water in her sink would be nearly frozen, but it was necessary to use it to wash the dishes from breakfast before she drove to her next destination. Anna explained that when experiencing extreme temperatures, “You lose motivation to do anything that might make you more cold or more hot than you already are.”
Since vans aren’t hooked up to a septic or water system, that means that you won’t have running water. There are some vans that have a hand pump installed, which helps with washing hands and doing dishes in a tiny sink. Or, people fill up a large water jug with a spigot so that they have something that essentially does the same thing as a sink. This gets deposited into a grey water tank, which needs to be emptied in an appropriate location. However, there is no hot water in a van. These water jugs that are being kept in the van will often freeze overnight, or it will be chilly on a cold morning.
Most of the time, you won’t have the option to have a hot shower, unless you buy one of those outdoor solar bag showers. A lot of people choose to get a gym membership so that they can take a daily shower outside of their home. All campgrounds also have showers, but they’re shared with the community. This means that you never have a lot of privacy any time you want to bathe. Obviously, laundry has to be done at a laundromat or a friend’s house, so many van lifers go multiple days wearing the same clothes.
The van life can actually be scary, especially if you are a woman traveling alone, or a family with children. Most van lifers have experienced someone trying to break into their van. Even when you take as many precautions as you possibly can, it’s still likely to happen at least once. A couple who film their van life on YouTube, Eamon and Bec, went on a European road trip in 2019. While on a trip to Spain, they parked in front of a hotel. They left their cell phones, DSLR cameras, drones, and computers all charging in their van while they went for a quick swim. By the time they came back, all of their expensive equipment had been stolen. For the rest of the night, they struggled to find a police station that was open, and a working smartphone to help them navigate with a GPS. Even when they got new smart phones, they couldn’t download the necessary apps like Google Maps without confirming their Apple accounts.
There are countless other people who have shared their van and RV break-in stories on YouTube. Yes, you could have your house broken into, as well. However, it’s far more risky for someone to break into a house, especially when you live near your neighbors. And in a situation where your home is broken into, at least you are close to friends and family who are there to help you. It’s easy to call the police and file a report, and drive yourself to the bank, where most of your money is safely kept. When you have everything taken from you in the middle of nowhere, it could be truly devastating.
Unfortunately, there is still a negative stigma surrounding van life. Instead of imagining cute Instagram models, most police officers see someone living in a van as a homeless vagrant. Or, they believe it’s reserved to hipsters who smoke weed and drink magic mushroom tea. They will assume that you’re up to no good, even if you’re a peaceful hippie just trying to enjoy an innocent road trip. As a van-lifer, you become a target for the police, because they can get some huge bonus points for pulling over someone in possession of illegal substances.
Even if you’re very careful, a cop can pull you over for the smallest excuse. Plenty of people have accidentally parked in an illegal spot that they believed was safe, and now it means paying an expensive ticket. Or, even if they haven’t broken any laws, nervous neighbors can call the police if they felt suspicious of a mysterious van parked on their street. In the best case scenario, you could be asked to leave. Worst case scenario is paying hundreds of dollars, or even appearing in court.
When you are living in a house, you’re protected from all kinds of weather. If you have a car, you may have to put on a pair of boots or carry an umbrella, but it doesn’t stop you from enjoying your home. But once you live in a van, the weather can completely dictate what you do on any given day. Instead of having a place to walk and stretch your legs, one harsh storm could mean being stuck inside of a van without an easy option to escape.
Some people imagine having a wonderful nomadic freelancing life where they can work outside in nature. However, on the days when it rains, or it’s too sunny to see a computer screen, you might think twice about going out in the wilderness with your laptop. Van lifers are often working inside of their vehicle, because they don’t have any better option. And unless you spent tens of thousands of dollars on a luxury van conversion, this might mean sitting on your bed with a laptop every single day.
When you are driving thousands of miles at a time, getting a flat tire or running into a major mechanical issue is bound to happen. This is especially true if you could only afford a few thousand dollars to buy a second-hand van. Even if you have car insurance or AAA, it can still be very scary to experience issues on the road. This can cause a huge issue, especially if you’re driving in the middle of the desert or a foreign country.
Sometimes, being unfamiliar with an area can also be a huge issue. Nearly everyone has dealt with a GPS giving bogus directions at least once, but sometimes it can nearly be deadly. One young YouTuber who goes by Anna’s Analysis said that one day, her GPS took her onto a foot bridge that wasn’t meant to hold cars. Thankfully, she made it out alive, but it was a traumatizing situation. After that day, she began to have driving anxiety. This was made worse by the fact that she was forced to keep driving in new areas every single day, and the stress began to manifest in health issues,
Unfortunately, a lot of people take the need for relaxation for granted. Think about the places you relax at the end of a long day. Maybe it’s your couch, reclining chair, or your large bed. You need these places to decompress after a long day. If you live in a place where it’s not possible to relax at the end of the day, you might not realize that at first, but it begins to take a toll on your body. Even if you have the ability to stretch out on your bed at night, that is often not enough to relax your muscles when they need it. Most people don’t want to lay in their bed until it’s time to go to sleep. So you will find yourself sitting in the driver’s seat, park benches, and wooden chairs in cafes wondering why you always feel so tense.
Aside from a lack of physical relaxation, your mind will also be racing in your new environment. Even if you went into a road trip without anxiety, problems are bound to arise, and you may end up worrying about what else could go wrong on the trip. Many people who live in a van talk about having nightmares related to getting into an accident, being robbed, and so much more.
If you are choosing to do van life because you feel motivated by gaining attention on social media, you might run into some issues that you never expected. Instead of living your normal life, you will begin to have followers who expect you to upload interesting content. At first, fame from having a lifestyle brand might seem intoxicating. The desire to create trendy posts is fun at first, and it can even be financially lucrative. But if having a lifestyle YouTube channel or Instagram revolving around van life becomes a part of your ability to earn an income, it can be complicated.
Suddenly, your decisions about where to go or what to do is dictated by your fans. Instead of doing what you actually want to do on any given day, you might feel pressure to keep pushing the envelope for what you do next. Eventually, van life needs to end. If you want to raise a large family, or if you begin to grow old, the idea of living in a van no longer seems sustainable. So you will have to figure out what you’re going to do next. Getting sucked into the fame machine can be a cycle that’s difficult to get out of, especially if you don’t have a backup plan.
In most vans, you won’t be able to stand up straight, especially if you’re tall. You will have to hunch over in order to walk through your tiny living space, and there may not be very many options for places to sit. Besides potentially having a sore back, you will also have to make some serious lifestyle changes when it comes to enjoying your personal space.
Living in a van means that you need to pair your belongings down to the bare essentials. You can’t keep large collections, a huge wardrobe, or appliances. In most cases, you will have to either give up your belongings, rent a storage unit, or ask your family if you can store your belongings in their home. If you are going the journey with a partner, this can be a true test on the strength of your relationship.
When you live in a real house, it takes a lot for it to be taken away. You need to miss your mortgage payments several times, and you’ll have to go through foreclosure proceedings. But when you live in a van, you could come back from a shopping trip to discover than your home is gone. Or, if you are trying to take your van abroad, it can get caught up in a lot of issues crossing the border.
On the YouTube channel run by a couple named Max and Lee, they tried to enter another country. They accidentally failed to fill out the proper paperwork, and the police seized their van. They had to pay over $700 to get it back. Even though they had gone through this experience once before, it happened to them again when trying to ship their van overseas. Customs helps onto their home for over a month, and they were charged over $6,000 in fees.
When you’re a freelancer, you can technically work from anywhere and live the life of a digital nomad. A lot of people imagine taking their laptop into random cafés for free Wi-Fi, or even sitting in a national park to enjoy the scenery while they work. This may be possible in some cases, but the reality is that working remotely is far more difficult than social media leads us to believe. Part of being productive with your work is having a consistent routine in your life. It’s also essential for you to have a comfortable place to work for long periods of time. Both of those things are incredibly difficult to find when you are on the road.
You may also have difficulty sleeping if the weather is not good, or if you feel uncomfortable in the van. These days of fatigue can take away from your productivity at work. Then, there is the availability of WiFi, and a limit on the amount of time you can sit on your laptop in a cafe before you start to get stares from the barista. Many van lifers find that they are less productive, and therefore make less money, which counter-balances any money they might be saving from the lifestyle. The van life isn’t always the productive life.
There are a lot of people that want to dive into van life because they assume that it would be cheaper than staying in a hotel while they travel. In reality, there are very few places where you can consistently park overnight for free. Most campgrounds want you to pay between $10 and $40 per night. On the high end, you’re just $20 shy of a $60 motel room. So if you overpay on both fuel and accommodations, it almost defeats the purpose of van life. Even when you do find somewhere free to park overnight, like a Walmart, this might not be the most glamorous place for you to stay, and it has been known to wear down on people.
The plus side to parking in Walmart is that there are security cameras and lights. But the combination of noise, exposure, embarrassment, and feeling uncomfortable living in your van near crowds of shoppers makes most people want to move on to their next location. There are apps that help van lifers find free parking, but there are different parts of the country where it’s easier than others. For example, there are tons of places in California, because they have embraced that lifestyle. But once you go out into the Midwest, you might have to drive over 100 miles to find free, safe parking.
Traveling can be a great way to meet new people. The only problem is that if you are living in a van, you are constantly going to be saying goodbye to the people that you need. Part of the lifestyle is constantly being on the move, so it’s difficult to maintain friendships once you leave a town. Sure, you could add each other on Instagram, but that’s not the same as having true friendship. When you stay in one place for an extended period of time, it’s a lot easier to become friends with someone on a consistent basis. It’s impossible to get close with a friend without spending an extended period of time with them.
This is also true for anyone who may be single while they travel. It’s difficult to have a consistent relationship with someone if you know that you’ll only be somewhere temporarily. As much as we all want to have an Eat, Pray, Love moment, those romances you see in movies of two star-crossed lovers learning to make a long-distance relationship work is not actually very realistic. And when they do work out, it’s usually because one or both parties have the financial means to make it happen.
3. You Don’t Actually Save As Much Money As You Expect
A lot of people want to get into van life because they believe that it will help them save money, compared to paying rent to live in an apartment. However, you have no idea how expensive a trip will actually be until you experience it. With so much to worry about on a daily basis just to get your basic needs met, it can be difficult to think about much else.
When you live in an apartment, your expenses are fairly predictable. With van life, if something goes wrong, you might be forced to pay over $1,000 before you can drive away. In his article for Outside Magazine, Chris Wright said, “If I was obsessing about a breakdown, I was also fixated on money and the way it seemed to flow through our wallets like water through a sieve. Living out of a van can be surprisingly expensive, especially if you’re burning through gas on long drives every couple of days. I had underestimated our costs.”
If you enjoy hosting your friends for drinks or the occasional game night, you can forget about doing that in a van. Even in the larger van builds, the maximum that can comfortably fit in a van are two adults at one time. Some people have one child or a dog that goes along in the van with them, but it quickly becomes uncomfortable to have a crowd in such a small space. No matter how big your van might be, it’s simply not possible to have a growing family inside.
Sure, you can drive your van to a park and have you and your friends sitting at a picnic table together. Or, you can bring your mobile home to their driveway so that everyone has a chance to go inside and check out the space. However, you’ll never be able to host a large family gathering like Thanksgiving, Hanukkah or Christmas. For some people, this might actually be a good thing, because it takes away the responsibility of hosting. However, if you’re a social butterfly, this could be sad to have that taken away.
Last but not least is that van life makes it more difficult to own a pet. Forget about bringing a cat on the road, because it will likely howl or run away as soon as it gets a chance. One of the most famous van lifers on the Internet, Janelle Eliana, has a pet albino snake named Alfredo that she keeps in a terrarium. In a lot of ways, a snake is one of the best pets to have on the road, because she can keep him in his little heated space and know that he will be perfectly happy.
Most people opt for having a dog when they go on the road. They are loyal, and can give you love when you’re feeling lonely. Dogs will also love going on hikes in the wilderness. However, bringing a dog on your trip will also present its own challenges. There are a lot of parks that ban dogs from the premises. Plus, when they are accidents, it becomes exponentially more challenging to clean it up.