#Vanlife: Why More and More People Choose to Live in Cars

Picture of a man standing on the roof of his sprinter van overlooking a canyon living #vanlife

The elder generations’ biggest fears have become the dreams of the young


#Vanlife is becoming more and more popular. Especially young people are drawn towards giving up their four walls in exchange for four wheels. While homelessness once was the biggest fear of older generations, it is starting to become a dream of more and more younger people.

Saying “If you don’t work harder you’ll be sleeping in a car under the bridge” used to be a way of parents to scare their children into studying more.

Nowadays many would simply ask: “Which bridge?”


Freedom

#Vanlife is freedom. You are bound to nowhere, can go wherever you want, do whatever you choose and be whoever you want to be there. You could reinvent yourself in a heartbeat and be someone else every day.

What used to be almost impossible for our parents and grandparents has become a possibility: Combining work and travel.

The dream of becoming a digital nomad, traveling the world full time and exploring all there is to explore while doing compelling work, all while saving money does indeed sound great.

But increasing freedom comes at a price: you reduce stability in your life.

Many people enjoy a safe anchor in their lives and for some family is the most important thing. If you are thinking about moving into a van but you can’t stand a day without seeing your parents, then vanlife probably isn’t for you.

What used to be almost impossible has become a possibility: Combining work and travel.

Nevertheless, vanlife and digital nomadism have become a notion of freedom many choose to pursue. The idea of living a free life on the road is becoming more and more compelling in our world of restrictions.

With laws in action stating that “a pickle must bounce when dropped from a one-foot height” (Connecticut) or that you are not allowed to get drunk in a bar (Alaska), it’s no wonder people are longing for more freedom.

Simplicity

#Vanlife is simple. All you own is right there with you. You don’t have to go to work and commute back home because your home is where your work is.

There’s no need to get into your car, drive to the beach and then go back home before it gets dark. You just park your home there, watch the sun go down with your feet in the sand and then you hit the bed to watch the sun come up in the morning.

Living in a van is simple because of the limited space you have available. There’s just a certain amount of stuff that you can take along and that means you reduce your choices.

Vanlife is simple. All you own is right there with you.

Reducing your choices will lead you to have to make fewer decisions and fewer decisions mean simplicity. Minimalism at it’s best.

Time

#Vanlife gives you more time. Time is our most valuable asset. We can spend it on making money and increase our wealth but it’s never the other way around. No matter how much money you have, you will never be able to buy yourself more time.

How many minutes a day do you spend commuting to work on average? How many minutes a week do you spend on driving to buy groceries. If you can limit the time you spend on maintaining your life you can spend more of it actually living it.

No matter how much money you have, you will never be able to buy yourself more time.

Vanlife leads to more time at hand but living as a digital nomad also means that you can choose how to spend it more freely.

While most of us are bound to our 9–5s, digital nomads enjoy another benefit: flexibility. If you want to meet up for coffee with a friend you haven’t met in a long time and don’t need to rush it because you only have time for a 30 minutes break, you will enjoy the time there much more.

Money

#Vanlife saves you money. When you’re past the initial expense of needing to buy a van you can live in, there isn’t much else you’ll be spending your hard-earned money on except gas, repairs, and a parking ticket if needed.

It’s very much like buying a flat to live in: You save the rent each month. It’s much the same when you’re living in a car. Rent is probably the biggest monthly expense you have. The more you can reduce it, the more money you will save or need to earn less each month.

If you pay 500$ of rent each month you pay 6000$ a year that vanish into thin air. If you bought a van for 40,000$ and lived in it for 6.67 years you will have a van that’s probably worth around 10–20k and 40,000$ minus gas and repair costs in cash.

Rent is probably the biggest monthly expense you have.

The difference becomes even bigger the less expensive your van is but keep in mind that the older your used van, the more likely it is for you to run into problems with it, increasing the expenses you have for repairs.

So buying a more expensive one to start with is something worth thinking about if you’re planning your life on the road.

Sunshine and rainbows

#Vanlife is not all sunshine and rainbows. While it has a lot of benefits there are few things to keep in mind.

The notion of freedom and simplicity is romantic but it’s not always easy. You have to think about certain aspects of vanlife that can suck, to say the least.

When your car breaks down and needs repairs you are basically out of a home for the time it’s in the shop. That’s not a problem when you have saved money for emergencies because you’ll simply move into an Airbnb for the time being.

But when you’re away from home in a town where you know nobody and don’t have any money left, chances are you’ll truly be sleeping under the bridge.

Sleeping in a car also isn’t allowed in many places. And most times you won’t be sleeping in one of those beautiful spots as seen when hitting #Vanlife on Instagram but in a standard Wallmart parking lot.

The notion of freedom and simplicity is romantic but it’s not always easy. You have to think about certain aspects of vanlife that can suck, to say the least.

So if you’re thinking “vanlife”, think more about Wallmart parking lots than beaches.

 

Arial view of a grey parking lot and a few cars
Arial view of a grey parking lot and a few cars
Photo by John Matychuk on Unsplash

Keep in mind as well that if your car gets broken into that’s the same as if your home was broken into. And car windows break a lot easier than your front door.

So if you are carrying a photographer or someone else bringing expensive gear, make sure to take it with you when you leave your mobile home or risk it being stolen.

If your van doesn’t have a toilet or shower in it, personal hygiene also becomes more difficult. You can’t just go to the toilet when you wake up at night like you can when you are at home.


There are many things incredibly intriguing about vanlife. The idea of living life on the road and being bound to nowhere means freedom. But it comes at a cost and many people are disappointed when they make the jump.

If you are thinking about moving into a van I suggest trying it out first, if possible. If you can, borrow a van from someone you know and try that for a while.

Do I live in a van? No. But my girlfriend and I bought a VW T6 last year, which is perfect for our needs for now. The longest we lived/traveled in it and with it was about 3 weeks so far. So we didn’t yet have the full range of problems you get when you’re living the #vanlife full-time such as washing clothes etc.

But we have a good idea of the problems surrounding it and we know what problems we’d be facing if we switched to it full-time.

And that’s what we’re planning to do. Not forever but for a while. We want to travel North America for a year in a van and we’re already excited about it.

It will be a while because we first want to buy a flat where we live that we can rent out when we’re on the road but it’s on the horizon.

And damn, that horizon looks alluring.

Two people standing on top of a large van looking over a valley
Two people standing on top of a large van looking over a valley
Photo by Chinh Le Duc on Unsplash

 

Thanks for reading, have a wonderful day.


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