We get a lot of emails from people who are inspired by the vanlife and are considering making it their own reality. It’s great to hear about others’ enthusiasm of the lifestyle, but sometimes they add to their messages something like, “I just don’t know how I would be able to afford it,” or “I’m worried about doing it by myself and being lonely.”
Living on the road is amazing and we absolutely love it, but the truth is, it’s just not for everyone. And that’s okay!
For example, I am fascinated by Mongolian Kazakhs who ride through the mountains on horseback, hunting with their trained golden eagles perched on their arms. They’re like freaking superheroes. They live such primitive lives on exquisitely beautiful terrain, and I would love the opportunity to experience that life.
The only problem is that they don’t have avocados there, I would go insane not being able to talk to my friends or family (I doubt Verizon has many towers in Mongolia), and I can’t even watch fake animals die in movies let alone actually hunt them myself. So while I’m inspired by this lifestyle, it doesn’t exactly suit me. Extreme example, but you get the point right?
So we have come up with a few questions for you to answer to help determine if the van life is right for you!
1. Are you a homebody?
This is a good question to start out with. Yes, a van is certainly a home, but your home is constantly moving. A lot of the time you don't even know where you will be sleeping that night, so if you have a certain level of spontaneity and are good at adapting to new locations, you just might thrive living the van life!
Also, if you like being outside but value time spent it the comfort of your own home, the reality of this lifestyle is that easily 80% of your time is spent outdoors. Even when we are in our van working, all the doors and windows are wide open. If it’s hot out, we’re hot. If it’s cold out, we’re cold. If it’s windy, put your hair up ladies (and some gents).
Many people enjoy the outdoors. It’s easy to love going on hikes, swimming in earth’s pools, and camping on the weekends, but in this lifestyle, the outdoors is just as much your home as the bed you sleep in. So if that idea excites you, then the van life might be a viable option for you!
2. How comfortable are you with dirt?
By this, I’m not referring to personal hygiene. A typical stigma is that all vanlifers “are dirty hippies.” Hippies? Maybe, it depends on your definition. Dirty? Watch it, bud. I can only speak for me and Pete, but we care about personal hygiene. We may not shower every day (or every three days), but there are many ways to stay clean and we take full advantage of them!
Your level of comfort with dirt directly relates to question #1. You can do your best to stay clean and tidy, but when the outdoors is half your home, dirt and dust will find their way into every nook and cranny.
There’s hope for clean freaks though! I know this because I was one myself. Whenever sand was brought into the van, I swept. That meant I would sweep about, I’m not sure, somewhere around 100 times a day? I’ve been able to let go of the compulsive clean freak within me though. Right now, the dirt of the national forest we are camping in is essentially chalk: white and very fine. Everything in the van has a white hue. Snoop likes its softness and lays in it; there is a half black, half dusty white dog laying next to me as I write this and when he gets up, the cushion will be white as well. But as soon as I clean it off it will get dirty again, so I have learned to let go and life is much more enjoyable this way.
3. Do you tend to wear the same clothes repeatedly?
If your answer is no, then I feel inclined to say you might have a tough time packing for van life. Limited space is a huge factor and downsizing is all a part of the minimalistic lifestyle. Pete and I are pretty spoiled with our clothing storage space. We each have three drawers and a cupboard and that’s more than a lot of vanlifers have. I typically cycle through the same four or five t-shirts and pants and don’t even touch the rest of my wardrobe unless it’s a special occasion.
If you’re like me in this way, the van life would be a breath of fresh air. It’s a great opportunity to dedicate yourself to a simple, down-sized lifestyle and get rid of all the “stuff” you don’t need.
4. Are you willing to be creative in order to make money?
Making money is without a doubt the most common thing we are asked about. There is no easier to this question though. Those who live the van life come from different backgrounds and careers, all making money in a plethora of ways. Many people have jobs that can be done completely from a computer such as web developing, graphic design, freelance writing, social media marketing, and blogging. Others might do migrant labor, sell products, or work for a few months to save and then travel with their savings. Like I said, it’s different to everyone.
So to answer the million-dollar question, “how do you guys make money on the road and afford to live this lifestyle,” the answer is. . . A WHOLE BUNCH OF CRAP.
We are marketing and entrepreneurship majors and we have always known we wanted to start something on the road. We saved up a lot of money before we departed and have had to depend on our savings some, but we are actively working to create our own income. The first thing we are actively doing to make a living is selling our eBook! We wrote an eBook detailing our entire conversion process in hopes of helping others who are converting their own vehicle or for those who are just curious. Selling this book allows us to help others while funding our lifestyle. So if you are converting your van already or are just curious about how we built ours, then buy our book and help support us!
Also, you are reading this on our blog, right? Well we put this here to provide useful and entertaining content for others. We also hope to grow our following so we can continue to create content for our readers and, in the long-term, make money!
I also have a part-time online job as a writing lab essay reviewer for an online tutoring website. I can accept as many papers as I like/can and can review them anywhere, as long as I have internet.
5. Are you an impulse shopper?
Piggybacking off of the previous question, if you don’t plan on having a consistent income on the road, you’ll need to be savvy when it comes to shopping. This is also one of the blessings of van life: only buying what you need. If you’re a person who gets into a check-out line, notices all the “impulse shopper bait”, and decides that you need more ponytail holders, new socks, a pack of gum, and a Twix, then you might struggle with this part.
It’s important to know when to pass on things that aren’t completely necessary. There are always times when it’s okay to indulge, but with limited funds and space, knowing how to prioritize your purchases is essential.
6. Do you have a pet?
This is a biggie. Let’s be real, everyone has a dog, or even a cat, that they think is the greatest in the entire world and want to travel the country in a van with them. We certainly share this belief. In our eyes, we have the greatest dog in the world and it's still difficult.
Snoop is the chilliest of the chill. If we leave him for a few hours to go on a long hike that his arthritis won’t allow him to take part in, he’s down to take a snooze on the bed as long as the van is a comfortable temperature. He’s so trustworthy and listens so well that we almost never have him on a leash. He’s nine years old and doesn’t have a lot of pent-up energy. He’s legitimately the best doggie candidate for van life.
However, there are still setbacks to van life with a pet that NEED to be considered. After all, you want the best life for your pet as much as you want the best life for yourself, right? Some places don’t allow dogs and if it’s too hot or cold to make the van comfortable, we do not go. This happens more than you would think. If your pet has separation anxiety or can’t be trusted off a leash, the van life might be especially stressful for you. But if you are willing to make many sacrifices and accommodate all of your pet’s quirks to give them a HAPPY and ENJOYABLE life, then you can certainly find a way to make this lifestyle work.
7. What are your hobbies?
Even if you plan to pack your days with adventure and exploration, you’ll still have a lot of down time by yourself. This is a great opportunity to nurture your hobbies and passions! However, if your favorite hobby is watching every season of The Office for the fifth time or watching videos about unusual animal friendships on YouTube, you may need to do some soul-searching before you hit the road.
If you enjoy reading, writing, playing music, yoga, climbing, surfing, or anything you can enjoy without technology and by yourself, then the van life offers a chance to explore those hobbies and cultivate new ones.
8. Do you like meeting new people?
I think people have this idea that living on the road is a lonely life, never settling in one spot and making friends. But that idea is so wrong! Since we’ve been on the road, we’ve made deeper connections and friendships in a matter of days than we have with people we’ve known most of our lives.
The nice thing is that if you would rather keep to yourself, that’s okay too! You see, when you meet others on the road, you already have a lot in common. But if you don’t particularly jive with someone, you can go your own way. When you DO have a connection with people you encounter, you skip all the surface crap and dive deep, getting to the good stuff. There’s no need to put on a persona; you just be your true self and others do the same.
9. Are you uncomfortable with uncertainty?
Honestly, this is the most important question to ask yourself if you are considering a mobile lifestyle. I’m here to tell you that almost nothing will go as you plan. . . and that’s the best part!
If you are genuinely a person who can roll with the punches and find a way to embrace all of life’s twists and turns, then you can find a way to make this lifestyle work for you. Vehicles will break down, weather will be unfavorable, people will get sick, and plans will fall apart; it’s all unavoidable. It’s how you view these obstacles that determines whether you will enjoy the van life because for every unfortunate event, there will be ten spectacular events that make it all worth it.
So what’s the verdict? Are you cut out for the vanlife? Comment below and let us know! We would love to hear your responses.