by Liberty Stembridge, Lifestyle Columnist
Published in Lifestyle on 6th June, 2019
The term "van life" has gone through a major rebranding over the last few years. As little as five years ago the idea of living full time in your vehicle was a laughable concept, seen as something only the very poor or very weird did.
Now though, there is an entire community of "vanlifers" - people living at least part time from their vehicles, often self-converted into a livable, moveable home.
As the community grows, more and more people find different ways to live out of a vehicle, installing showers, toilets, kitchens and even full separate bedrooms into their tiny homes on wheels.
If you've seen these adventurous vagabondes, who often document their journeys on instagram, you might also be wondering if this kind of lifestyle would suit you, too. Although on the surface, van life can seem great - ultimate freedom, no rent, the ability to travel whenever and wherever you want, there are plenty of drawbacks to the lifestyle too. Here are the pro's and con's.
Flexibility: when you live in a van, you aren't tied down by a home, and potentially not by a job, meaning you have the ultimate flexibility to leave or stay wherever you want and whenever you want. Don't like a place? No problem. Just drive away, with your whole life in tow behind you. Stay put for a few weeks or hit up a new town every day, it's completely up to you.
Money: Although the cost of buying and renovating a van can be expensive, ultimately it can be a lot cheaper than paying rent and utilities every month. Although you might be forking out more for gas money, you'll end up saving a lot overall, with a lot more freedom to do what you like with your money.
Many people specifically choose van life to avoid having to pay rent, instead choosing to take that money and put it towards a downpayment on a house, or another financial milestone. With cost of living rising in many cities, van life can provide a more affordable alternative for many students and young professionals.
Simple Living: It should come as no surprise that living the van life means you have to pair down your belongings, a lot. Embracing a more minimalist approach to your stuff is essential, since you simply won't have the space. Everything in your life will become simpler, and although this can be limiting in some way (you probably won't be cooking three course meals or wearing a lot of fancy clothes) it can also be very freeing.
Travel: the van life naturally lends itself towards a travel lifestyle. You can go wherever the roads take you (within reason of course) and sometimes even off the beaten track, depending on your vehicle.
A constant stream of new places, new people, new experiences and new inspiration to keep you on your toes and learning more. Whether you're exploring your own home country or abroad, travel will always teach you something new and you're unlikely to get bored or feel "stuck".
Cost: On the flip side, van life can be expensive. What you save in rent you may end up pouring back into your van by the way of repairs, breakdowns, renovations and gas.
Although van life can be a much cheaper option for some, it can still be very expensive. The money you save buying an older, second-hand vehicle for example may come back to bite you in the form of repairs. vIf you're looking into van life as a more permanent housing solution, this is something to take into account. Rising fuel prices can also contribute to a large portion of your monthly expenses, especially if you're travelling a lot.
Space: regardless of how big a van you buy, you'll still be likely living in a lot less space than you are used to. For some vans, you may not even have room to stand up fully, which can start to feel very claustrophobic after a while. Although living small has many advantages, it can be difficult, and may take a while to get used to. Small spaces get very messy very quickly and you will probably have to say goodbye to many much loved possessions.
Van Life Burnout: although van life can be a lot of fun, the lifestyle can take its toll on even the most adrenaline-fueled adventurous folks. Finding safe places to park and sleep, showering in public facilities, having to shop for food much more often and struggle to find the nearest toilet are all part of the daily grind of van life.
Lack of amenities: depending on your build, you may be able to incorporate some of modern life's conveniences into your van build, such as a toilet or shower. For most people however, especially when just starting out, your own shower, toilet, washing machine or dishwasher are no longer a luxury you have space for. You simply have to make do with what's available nearby.
Loneliness: Although van life and travelling often brings with it many new friends and new experiences, there's something to be said about having a permanent home base and a community of friends and family around you. When you're on the road 24/7, it's hard to find this feeling - especially if you're travelling alone. As such, van life can feel isolated or lonely, and homesickness is a common problem.