15 Thing You Didn’t Know about Van Life

17 May 2021

The Van Life Seems So Unreal and Dreamy On Instagram. Find Out What the Reality Actually Is.

Instagram makes Van Life, look amazing! It appears glamorous, uncluttered, care-free… and if you’re keen on going on a road trip with your S.O in a van., then best you read this article first!

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Without further ado, let’s get straight into the article.


From the Odd Road Trip to a Way of Life

We apologize for the pun up front but isn’t it funny how the wheel has turned and something that used to be done for a few days break here and there has become a way of life for so many?

Rewind to when you were a kid, and you and your entire family would pack up the camper van and head off for a few days on road trip and then you’d pack it up again and head home. The unpacking when you got back home was always the worst and you were pretty thrilled to be back in your comfortable bed.

The situation has reversed and now people living in vans head home for a few days break.


It’s Not All Waterfalls and Sunsets

Ok, we’ll try not add any more bad puns…

If you follow any hashtag with the words van life, they will show surreal sunsets, picturesque valleys, waterfalls that look too unreal to be real. Truth is, you will see the most incredible places in your van during road trip, but they won’t all look like they do on social media.

We’re not saying the images are fake, we’re just saying there is a long back story before that image was posted.

For example, the couple in the picture probably haven’t showered in 4 days and they’re wearing the same pair of socks for a 3rd day running.

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Vans Break Down

And it will often be in the middle of nowhere, late at night or when you’re trying to get somewhere for a specific time.

Vans are unreliable at the best of times. Often people are buying older vans and fixing them up themselves, which is great when you’re at home and have a buddy to come and help you when you’re stuck.

When you’re out on the road, you’re going to learn mechanical skills quicker than you ever imagined.

Shelling out for a more modern van may be expensive initially, but it might save you a lot down the road. Don’t forget the added expense of converting the van to be able to facilitate sleeping during the road trip.


You Can’t Just Park and Sleep Everywhere

Vanlifers will tell you that they’ve all encountered some rude awakenings on their trips. Depending on the vehicle you’re vanning in, you may not just be able to pull up anywhere and catch 40 winks.

Sometimes a Walmart parking lot is your only option, and even then, some store managers have irately made crusty-eyed couples move their vans in the early hours of the morning.

Sleeping under the illuminated signage of a Walmart is not quite what most vanners anticipate, yet that’s an undeniable reality and happens often.


Toilet Facilities Are a Luxury

If you’ve spent time on the road living in a van, the first question people ask you is “where do you pee and poop?”

Bet you never imagined having to explain to people where you pass your bowel movements, but here you are.

The beauty about vanning in America is that there are rest rooms pretty much everywhere you go. You could also just buy something like a portable toilet or waste disposal packets designed for this exact purpose.

You can spend money installing a fancy toilet, but Aluxers, even the fancy toilet needs to be emptied … and who’s going to do it? You are. So, might as well be responsible for your own poop bags, eh?

The pandemic made the toilet paper temporarily as valuable as gold, but check out Most Expensive Toilet Paper in the World to see actual valuable toilet paper.


Say Goodbye to Personal Space

By the time your van life ends, you won’t even know what the words Personal Space even means! If you’re travelling with someone else, you will get to know everything about them. The good, the bad and the really ugly.

Many Van Lifers have completed their journey’s and share sound advice on how to ensure that you prioritize personal space, as difficult as what that may be in such a tiny space. Even if it’s just half an hour a day, that alone time is vital to ensure you don’t ruin the relationship while you’re halfway across South America… it will be a pretty tough trip driving all the way back to Rhode Island while ignoring your now ex.


Internet Connectivity Can Be a Challenge

If you don’t have a limitless budget to travel and you’re still working on the road, then be prepared for some challenges.

Trying to stay connected can be problematic and you’re not always going to be able to get online.

Like Kristen Bor wrote for her website, bearfoottheory.com, “the internet is also a game-changer for easily being able to find parking, places to camp, water, dump stations, laundromats, and directions, as well as things to do.”

Bor shares several tips to stay as connected as possible. These include:

  •         Turning off the background refresh on your apps.
  •         Turning on the “Use Less Data” setting on Instagram.
  •         Download music and movies only when you’re on WiFi.
  •         Waiting to get on WiFi to upload large files online.
  •         Turning cellular data off on all the apps that you don’t use all the time.

We love her practical approach to van life and highly recommend you follow her blog.


You’ll Be Labelled

Choosing van life is ultimately a life-changing decision. Others may not see it that way. You’ll find your aunty is calling you a lazy hippie, your grandfather tells you to get a real job, your brother begs you to settle down and start living a normal life.

Luckily, you won’t need to hear any of their words when you’re out in the van. And when you’re done, you can tell your aunty how the lazy hippie travelled the country, fixed vehicles, did trade exchanges and budgeted like a pro.

You can tell your grandfather that not only did you continue working, but you learnt skills that will stick with you in any career you choose, and your brother is begging you to sell your van to him so he can escape the drudgery of his normal life.


You Get Homesick

Aluxers, you will miss home on the trip. You will miss the aunty, the grandfather and the brother that couldn’t understand why you had to take the road trip, or why living out of a van was so important to you.

Most Instagram posts don’t reveal the longing you feel for the familiar, the smell of your laundry, the noise your dog makes as you scratch him behind his ear or the sight of frangipani tree outside your bedroom window.

We take our creature comforts for granted, and on the road, we realize just how fortunate we are.


Unexpected Breakdowns, Break Ins and Expenses

Aluxers, even if you spend a fortune on a later model van, there will always be something unexpected occurring. The saying, “Expect the Unexpected,” has never been truer than when you’ve vanning.

Laura and Joel, who write the blog funlifecrisis, travelled for 15 months in their van. Their monthly expenses were roughly $2,200.

They did admit it was possible to go cheaper, but they didn’t want to travel all that way and miss out on things because they wanted to not spend too much money.

Break-ins are a problem and of course, an unexpected trip to a doctor, a flat tyre, a broken kettle… there are a million things that can increase your monthly spending.


Van Life Is Tough

We’re not going to sugar-coat it Aluxers, it can be emotional and exhausting, and the days can feel endlessly long.

Ben and Leah, nomadic travel vloggers, wrote an article for their blog kombilife.com where they detail all the tough parts of living in a van. They say, “those of you who browse the social feeds and get “instajealous” of vanlifers parked in idyllic, secluded camp spots can take it from us, for every unforgettable vista, there will be an equally forgettable urban stealth camping experience.”

As long as you go into the van life with eyes wide open, then you won’t be hit with major disappointments when the sh*t hits the fan.


Keeping Dishes Clean

Any vanlifer will tell you how difficult it is keeping the dishes clean. You wouldn’t think that would be such a downside, would you? But you have limited space and limited water, so cooking a gourmet meal is out of the question.

You might have attempted it yourself and given up when you ended up chopping vegetables on your mattress.

And with limited water and sink space, you can’t fill a sink with warm soapy water and wash away. Often, paper towel is used to clean the dishes, or a watered-down bottle of Dawn soap on the dishes which are then dried.

You do what you can, that’s the crux of it.


Be Prepared to Experience 100 Emotions a Day

From, I want to do this forever, to I just can’t do this anymore… Living out of a van will have you experience the most insane highs and lows emotionally during your road trip.

It will be your emotions and your van buddy’s emotions and it can be challenging to get them to sync.

If you’re still sold on the idea of van life, be sure to listen to “Fire Your Boss, Be a Nomad and Change Your Life” on audible, using our free download option by heading to alux.com/freebook.


It’s Hard to Keep Things Tidy

Which is surprising, considering you don’t exactly have a lot of stuff. But when your whole entire life is crammed inside a Van, even a little seems a lot.

On top of that, you don’t have as much free time as you thought you would. Living out of a van is very time-consuming. Everything takes longer to prepare, and you have to work harder at keeping things neat and tidy.

If you’re opting for van life to have freedom, you might find it from the rat race, but you’ll probably not find it doing things that inspire you. You’ll be so busy trying to maintain the van, your relationship and focusing on not smelling your unwashed armpits.


You Can’t Run Away from Deep Conversations

Aluxers, when we go about our daily grind, we are wrapped up in a lot. Work, family, responsibilities, and commitments. It causes anxiety, stress, and we often brush issues under the carpet because we just don’t have the energy to deal with them.

When you’re on the road, and you’re with your partner, or family with no other distractions – it provides a space for you to really talk.

Whether you’re prepared for that kind of commitment, is only something you will know.


Aluxers, have you spent time travelling and living in a van? We’d love to hear your experience of it.