VANLIFE. Let’s explore the meaning of this word. It might be hard to figure out, but vanlife is a combination of the word van and the word life. To a mathematician this word likely looks something like this: van + life = vanlife.
The point here is that everyone attaches a different meaning to any specific word. For example, we were talking to another individual who was also living, traveling, and working remotely out of a van and they said something along the lines of, “I’ve been working a lot and it doesn’t feel like I’m living the vanlife.” The way they said this took us by surprise because to us, working is such a big part of this lifestyle. This conversation made it more obvious than ever to us that everyone defines the word differently based on their own experience.
It also seems to be that on a surface level, many people think the vanlife means traveling and exploring day in and day out without any major stressors or responsibilities. While this may be the image that Instagram pictures have painted about this lifestyle, the truth is that the van life can be whatever the hell you want it to be! And as vanlife has become a prevalent word in our lives, we’ve been exploring what this word means to us. In the most basic sense, this word roughly describes our lifestyle. It categorizes us as people who live in a van.
We call a van our home. We travel in our van. We work out of our van. We sleep, cook, eat, and host dance parties in our van.
We’ve come to realize that the word “vanlife" simply translates to “life” in our situation.
As we all know, vanlife has quickly become a buzzword. It’s commonly used to describe a glamorous lifestyle of constant travel, sleeping in breathtaking locations, and romantic days spent doing anything but work. Although it’s easy to guess that this lifestyle isn’t all flowers and rainbows, there’s no arguing that it’s truly amazing for those who desire to live it.
And the beautiful thing is that no two “vanlifers” do it alike. Everyone has different motives behind why they’re living out of their vehicle. Some people have to work to sustain their lifestyle while others don’t. Some live out of their vehicle in one location or region while others travel every few days. Some have been on the road for 15 years and others will only live this way for two months. The point I’m trying to make is that there is no secret recipe to living this way. Just do you, whatever that is!
In our opinion, this lifestyle represents so much more than the meaning the word carries. And just to be clear, we have nothing against the word “vanlife”. What we’re saying is that we’ve gained so much from this lifestyle that we never would have expected, and we want to extend the breadth of this word.
Alright let’s move on from this rant and get on with it. Here is what vanlife means to us:
Unexpected Opportunities and Possibilities
This is by far one of our favorite aspects of vanlife and travel in general. It was one of the biggest draws we had to this lifestyle. We made an agreement before hitting the road that we would always go with the flow and open ourselves up to any opportunities that presented themselves. To this day, we’re amazed at the number of unexpected opportunities that this lifestyle has brought our way. It’s been a culmination of constantly putting ourselves in completely new situations, and being open to trying new things.
And we've said this before, but we can't stress it enough: the people you meet on the road are reason enough to travel.
Traveling and Being Stationary
One of the main reasons we decided to take our life on the road was to give ourselves the freedom to travel and become as location independent as possible. I think it’s fair to say that travel is a major factor that draws most people to this lifestyle.
What we love most about this freedom is the ability to spend as much or as little time in one place as we want. If we love the area that we’re in or find a great work opportunity somewhere, we have the flexibility to stay as long as we desire. Sometimes that means being stationary for a month, or two, or four! But to us, it’s one of our strongest motivations for living this way. We’re traveling to experience new places, immerse ourselves in new hobbies, meet inspiring people, and see where this crazy journey takes us.
Traveling is the journey, whether our tires are moving or not.
Creating a Life for Ourselves
Transitioning to this lifestyle within a year of finishing college was a risky move, there’s no denying that. We didn’t have enough money saved to travel without worrying about where our next paycheck was coming from. We worked full-time and busted our asses while converting the van, but once we hit the road, we had absolutely no steady income.
We threw ourselves to the wolves. We had the biggest fear of all lingering over our heads – What if we spent all of this time and money converting our van and then couldn’t find a way to sustain this lifestyle? What if we ran out of money in two months and were forced to give up this way of life before we really even lived it. We would have felt like complete failures. I know it seems harsh, but that was the reality of our situation.
But instead of letting this fear paralyze us, which fear often does, we harnessed the feeling and used it as motivation. We knew that we HAD to create an income for ourselves if we wanted to live this way. What other option did we have?
What we’re trying to say is that this lifestyle inadvertently pushed us to explore our skillsets and knowledge in a way that would add value to others in the community. We buckled down in Joshua Tree and wrote a 100+ page eBook that outlines our entire conversion process and now sell it on our website. After we wrote the book, we decided to collaborate on the songs that Pete had written throughout his travels and recorded them as an acoustic album (which we also have on our website for download). The whole reason we created a blog and social media accounts was to give back to this beautiful traveling community and those who inspire to live this way. Through these ventures, we’ve begun generating income that keeps us on the road.
Without making this lifestyle change, we likely wouldn’t have explored these avenues or pushed ourselves in this way. Living and working on the road is a ton of work, but the work we’re doing is fueling our passions.
Vanlife means creating a life for ourselves.
Growing From Struggles
Vanlife has pushed us to grow in ways that we couldn’t have imagined before hitting the road. Those struggles range from searching all night for a place to sleep, to stressing over our alarmingly low checking accounts…and everything in between. We’ve grown individually, as a couple, and as a family.
To sum it all up, here’s quick and dirty list of what vanlife means to us:
1. Pushing ourselves mentally and physically.
2. Learning to enjoy and appreciate both happy and stressful situations.
3. Being thrifty as hell.
4. Making lifelong friends.
5. Working hard for the money we earn.
6. Having realistic expectations.
7. Living minimally and learning to enjoy the things we often take for granted.
8. Exploring the most beautiful (and some not so beautiful) places in this country.
9. Staying grounded and grateful for everything we have.
10. Expanding our viewpoints, talents, and passions with every experience we have.
Now we want to hear from you!
What does Vanlife mean to you?
What attracts you most to this lifestyle?
What about the Vanlife inspires you?