So You Think You Wanna Live in a Van, huh?
Here are five realities you better be ready for.
Right, so you’ve been scrolling through Instagram on your lunch break and you’re infatuated with the glamorous photos of adventurous souls touring the world in their converted camper vans. It’s all sunrises out the back doors, parking on the beach, surfing all day and beers around the campfire with beautiful bikini clad women all night (I’m looking at you @mitchcox and @roamingwithrob).
Seems amazing doesn’t it? (It is) You sit in your office chair and think, fuck this I’m gonna buy a van and ditch this mundane reality of society.
Good call, I’m all for spontaneous irresponsible decisions that result in incredible adventures.
That said, van life isn’t glamorous. It’s quite the opposite. You ask any one of us and we’ll tell you the truth. It isn’t always easy, it takes commitment, you make a lot of sacrifices and it’s full of struggles. In my humble opinion, it’s all worth it; but there is no doubt it ain’t for everyone.
So before you push back your swivel chair and buy a road map, consider if you can handle it.
1) You’re going to be a bit of a dirt bag.
You have no toilet, you have no shower, you keep your dirty laundry 2.5 feet from where you sleep, your salty wetsuit is fermenting somewhere, your gym runners are within an arms length of your “kitchen”… you get where I am going with this? You are going to be in a very confined space. There is no escaping everything dirty, smelly or sweaty. If you’re thinking of living in a van you’re probably an active person, so you know exactly what I’m talking about. You can build in storage for this stuff but it’s still right there with you, all the time. I’ll get into to showering later but forget about showering every day. I promise there will come a time when it’s day three with no shower and you realize that smell in the van is you.
There are ways around all of this, of course. You can prepare for some of this and make it more comfortable if you consider all of this in your build. Just be ready it is a lot more effort to keep things fresh and clean in a van though, including yourself.
2) You can’t just hop in the shower
On the dirtbag train, showers are a planned event. If you’re posted up somewhere you’ll get a gym membership and it makes things a little easier. Still, you need to actually drive to the gym, take all your stuff in, shower and then figure out how you’ll dry that towel. You don’t get to just wake up still half asleep and stroll into a nice private shower for a morning rinse. Things get even more complicated if you’re on the move. Gym memberships to multi-locations are an option but they’ll still be days when one isn’t around. If you’re off the grid you may have a solar shower to trickle some water on your half naked self (it’s not as satisfying). Make no mistake though, you’ll end up going a few days without a shower more times than you’d like to.
4) You’re gonna feel the weather
Your house is temperature controlled. This incredible human accomplishment is so undervalued. Growing up in a house with air conditioning and heating, I took the indoor custom climate for granted. In a van, if it’s cold out, you will be cold. If it’s hot out, you will be hot. If the temperature is between +1 and +25 Celcius, it will be manageable with a properly insulated van. Outside those temperatures, you are either sweating your balls (tits) off or your water is frozen and you can’t feel your nose when you wake up. Yes you can get a heater, yes you can get a fan… doesn’t matter, you’re going to be way more in the elements than you are used to. Some days/nights it will be extremely uncomfortable. This is especially true if it’s hot. When it’s cold you can bundle up and run the heater more. Hot is inescapable, your van becomes an oven and you mate, are the pizza. You’ll be sleeping naked on top of your blankets with a fan on speed 10 pointed directly at your junk. Forget about sex if it’s over 25 degrees. I mean go for it, but you might want to have that shower planned after cause your both going to feel like you just dove in a pool.
5) You’re going to piss in a bottle.
Yup. We’re getting real now. Imagine yourself sitting on the end of your bed dangling your junk over a gatorade bottle at 6am trying not to piss on the floor. Ladies I don’t even know what you do. Someone can answer this but just warn me because I’m currently enjoying my ignorance on this matter.
“Oh I’ll just go outside” - you might if you’re off grid. When you’re stealth camping in a city you’re not crawling out of the back of your van to piss on Mrs. Smith’s front lawn unless you’re asking for a ticket and/or a lot of negative attention. The time will come my friend when nature calls and you have no other choice. I recommend a nice large mouth bottle. When guys are half asleep we can miss a toilet, imagine shooting for a 1inch wide target. Go for 1L or bigger, after a night of drinking you can fill a standard water bottle incredibly quickly. Cycling in/out bottles mid-stream is not a task to be taken lightly while hungover.
4) You won’t eat as good.
Cooking can be difficult. Again everything is easier off grid because you’re basically luxury camping but most of us don’t have the luxury to just never be in civilization. Same as taking a piss, Mrs. Smith ain’t going to be so stoked if you’re having a grill up in her front yard every night. I’ve done it, full out cooked an English breakfast 15 feet from the front door of a beach front, multi-million dollar Californian mansion. It felt good.
Not always a smart option though, especially if you’re in the area for a bit, the coppers can get wise pretty quick to flush out the fringe living van hippies. This is why I recommend installing a good solid indoor cooking setup. If you don’t you will eat out more than you’d like to and the meals you don’t buy out won’t be extravagant healthy food network specials. It’ll be macaroni and cheese or a sandwich.
@Tinyvantravels is maybe the only exception to this. I’ve seen that girl cook some full on delicious, crazy ass vegan superfood meals in her kitchen-less van. Props to you Tasha, I’ll just be over here eating my Little Cesar’s pizza being envious of your kale infused Whole Foods concoction.
This is just scratching the surface. A two thousand word article titled, “150 things you need to know about van-living” isn’t as good click bait as just five. It can be a challenging life at times, that’s for sure.
So if it’s in your future, just be mentally prepared. If you breezed through all these thinking, “pfft, easy, I piss in a bottle and sweat a lot during sex anyways”, maybe you’re up for the challenge. Push back that desk chair and flip your boss off on the way out. I recommend both fingers, more impactful.
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