Questions To Ask Yourself Before You Consider Living In a Van
Is van life right for you?
Before you go quitting your job and selling all your belongings, first you want to make sure this lifestyle is right for you.
Instagram often makes other people’s lives look better than our own. We constantly compare our current situation to one that we dream of living, without truly considering the challenges and downsides. Before going all in, it’s a good idea to make sure it’s really something you want and you are willing to endure the struggles that can come along with it.
I’ve put together some questions for you to ask yourself that will help you determine if you have what it takes to live in a van.
How attached are you to your belongings?
When we moved out of our apartment, we had to sell everything we owned.
When I say everything, I literally mean everything. All of your clothes, your car, your couch. Your banana slicer? Yep, say goodbye to that, too. You are going to have limited space and let’s be honest… how often are you really going to use that thing?
Now, don’t get me wrong. We did keep a few boxes of special sentimental items at our parent’s house, but we really made an effort to ditch everything we didn’t absolutely need. And, after living in our van for the first few months, we found ourselves getting rid of even more stuff.
If you find that you are attached to your things, then you may have to do some preparation before you decide to live in a van. I’d recommend checking out some books on minimalism (Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing is great) and working bit by bit to get rid of things you don’t actually love or need to hold on to.
A lot of the things people own end up being impulse buys that we hold on to because we think we may need them some day, but in reality, those material objects don’t actually bring us any joy.
How much money do you expect to be saving?
Van life is pretty cheap, but it’s definitely not as cheap as you might think.
We are saving around $500-$600 per month compared to when we lived in our apartment. This is a good amount of money, but often we find ourselves spending this savings on experiences, such as campsites (ranging from $20-$60 per night), renting equipment like kayaks for the day, purchasing new outdoor gear, or even going out to eat for tacos in the new cities we visit.
If you really wanted to be frugal, you could get by with very little, but the whole reason we are living in a van is because we want to travel and see the world. Having experiences like these is a big part of that. After all, what good is traveling without being able to embrace another culture and checking out new cuisine or events in different places?
How resourceful are you when it comes to vehicle care?
We bought a brand new sprinter van to avoid having to go to the shop, but some people purchase older vehicles because they are cheaper to start out with. Now, we aren’t saying a new van won’t require some upkeep, but it is less likely to have breakdowns.
With an older vehicle, you might run into problems on the road and you’ll either have to bring it to a shop, pay for someone to tow it, or work on it yourself. You may even find yourself spending the night in the repair shop’s parking lot if it’s the weekend because they’re closed until Monday.
Even with a new vehicle, there may be times where you’ll need to call a shop or get towed. We actually got our van stuck in sand once and spent hours digging ourselves out with no shovel because we simply didn’t have one. Things like this do happen and it can really suck, so it’s best to be prepared.
Are you cool with ditching your daily shower?
Showering is something you don't really appreciate unless you’ve been really dirty. One thing that a lot of people don’t have in their van is a shower, so people want to know how they will wash themselves. There are tons of ways you can shower while living in a van, but you will not be able to shower the way you used to at home. Say goodbye to your daily shower routine!
We’ve gone as many as 6 days without showering. If you aren’t cool with this idea, you could potentially build a shower in your van. But, even then, you'll have to preserve your water supply so showering daily won’t be realistic.
Does uncertainty make you feel uncomfortable?
This is the one thing I thought I would be okay with before I started living in the van. Life on the road has tested my limits and challenged me to think differently. It’s taught me to be resourceful with any obstacle that comes my way, but with that comes a lot of uncertainty.
Being uncertain about where we are going to sleep, where we are going in general, or when our next job is coming is not exactly fun and it definitely makes you uncomfortable sometimes. Be honest with yourself. Can you handle it?
There were times where it felt really hard for me, but at the end of the day, I love it. Life is never predictable, and taking a step out of my comfort zone has helped me grow as a person and discover more about who I really am.
Does not knowing where you’ll sleep for the evening stress you out?
If this stresses you out, it doesn't mean you shouldn’t live in a van. I remember when we first got our van, this is the one question that kept popping up in my mind over and over again. Where are we going to sleep?
We were definitely in for a rude awakening when we found out you can’t just park anywhere. We spent more nights in Walmart parking lots than we had anticipated. Our life did not look like those enviable Instagram photos at all. Some days we would find ourselves planning our whole day around where we were going to sleep for the evening.
Figuring this out last minute after it’s starting to get dark and you’ve been driving for 8 hours is definitely stressful. Early on, you’ll learn how to manage that stress factor and you’ll discover a few places you can park without worrying (more on that later).
Do you enjoy the simple things in life?
If you enjoy reading a book next to a lake and cooking a basic dinner, then you’ll probably really enjoy van life.
It’s very simple. So simple, that often times you’ll wonder what to do with yourself. We’ve found occasionally that we can get a little bored because we aren’t being entertained by our phones, Netflix, or TV like we used to be.
In the evenings when it’s dark, we’ve even started going to bed around 8 or 9pm. This is extremely early for us. When we lived in an apartment, we’d stay up until 1am each night binge-watching Netflix.
The simple things are amazing once you really sit down and appreciate the present moment. It can be challenging at first because it is a big transition, but you’ll find new hobbies, or even pick up old ones that you had given up because life got in the way.
Do you find yourself wearing the same 4-6 outfits each week?
I got rid of so many clothes. Even the amount of clothes I kept was still too much, and I ended up having to get rid of more. It was liberating! One of the most interesting things I found out about myself after living in a van is that I never needed all those clothes. Why? Because I never even wore them.
After living in our van for a few months, I realized I only ever wear a total of 6 different outfits. Occasionally I’ll put on a nicer outfit for events, but that was it. I didn’t need the excess of clothing. It was an eye opener for me to see that I could be happy and live a great life with so much less.
Are you cool with reducing your shopping habits?
If you suspect you are a shopping addict, you better go get some help before making the transition to van life or it will be a real shock. Now that we live in a van, we don’t buy stuff like we used to because we just don’t have the room for it. You’ll probably save a ton of money by not purchasing clothes or random knick-knacks. Living in a van helps you learn to consume less stuff, and helps to eliminate bad shopping habits.
Do you have a guaranteed source of income?
Many people quit their jobs after saving up enough money to start their van life, but then don’t know what to do when the money starts running low. You’ll have to get really creative when it comes to making money.
Some people have remote jobs that allow them to work from anywhere with an internet connection. Cody and I started our creative studio 3 years before we decided to live in a van, so we have a source of income and we are able to work on the road because of it. Granted, sometimes business is slow, so we had to figure out more ways to earn extra money on the side. We started a YouTube channel and can earn income through sponsorships and ads, and we also have a blog where we can earn money through affiliate links. There are so many ways to earn an income, you just have to get creative and focus on your skills and how you can help others.