The Complete Guide to Living Van Life and Loving It


Jupiter Moon

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Bio: Jupiter is a 20-something wanderer who has traveled the US full time in a Class C RV since 2019. They are accompanied by their two dogs, and enjoy hiking, writing, reading, seeking out the best food on the road and finding new Black & LGBTQ+ friendly places to explore.

As long as wheels have been around, people have been living in vehicles — or out of them. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, “van life,” has become the newest iteration of this tradition. Many wanderers are taking to vans, school buses, and RVs to live out the life of their dreams.

These days, van life is more about taking control of your life, carving out space to pursue your curiosities on your own terms. Ultimately, van life is more than a lifestyle — it’s a mindset.

Step One to Living Van Life: Find the Right Rig

Freedom Elite Key to Vanlife
Jupiter in front of their Freedom Elite RV

Full disclosure, finding your perfect RV can be time-consuming and overwhelming at the beginning. However, it’s best not to rush it. It’s an important decision and you want to choose the right rig for you.

Make a list of the things that you need in a tiny space — the ability to stand up, bed size, kitchen space, etc. — and weed out any options that don’t meet those. If you’re stuck or torn between a few, try some on for size. Good Sam’s RV rental platform will allow you to try different types of RVs, from Class B’s (the most “van” like RV out there) to big ol’ Class A’s. 

In this phase of the journey, you can determine what the van life will look like for you. Will you be a part-timer, full-timer, or weekend warrior? Are you planning to build it out yourself, or do you want something move-in ready? Will you need to tow another vehicle for grocery grabbing and excursions?

All options are great options and with resources like the Camping World Design Center, even turn-key rigs can be turned into the custom tiny home of your dreams.

Step Two to Living Van Life: Keep the Show on the Road

Working Remotely on laptop While Camping in RV Van
Working Remotely While Camping in RV Van Motorhome.

Is your job remote-friendly? Do you need Wi-Fi in your rig, or will you be able to sustain yourself and your travels with offline work – like work camping at a campground? Job searching can be done as you’re shopping for your rig, or as you’re building it out, but the sooner the better. You definitely don’t want to find yourself on the road with no idea whether you can afford your next tank of gas. 

If you’re wondering how much van life living will cost, start here: An Authentic Budget Breakdown of Full-Time RV Living

Once you’ve decided on your rig and your source of income and your budget, one of the most important things to prepare is your mindset. While #vanlife looks glamorous and wonderful online, like any other lifestyle, it comes with its own challenges and obstacles such as finding clean drinking water and clearing waste tanks. If you camp off-grid, you need to consider things like the position of the sun over your solar panels. If you’re camping in mountainous terrain, stay aware of the incline of the ground and grades.

Step Three to Living Van Life: Pave a Path for Self-Care

Vanlife Self Care
Image: Shutterstock

While it’s true that you probably can’t prepare for all stressors of the road, you can prepare your mindset. Getting in the habit of prioritizing self-care can make stressful moments on the road a little more manageable. A few things to try are:

  • Breathing exercises
  • Initiating a meditation practice
  • Moving your body (yoga, exercise routine, etc.)
  • Slowing down to enjoy your natural surroundings

Giving yourself these tools before you hit the road is just one way to ensure that living the van life is a healthy life for you. Check out the video below for more tips on staying fit and healthy while on the road from the FitRV travelers.

As with any lifestyle, van life included, remember to give yourself grace and commend yourself for branching out to try something different from the status quo. Even seasoned travelers generally need one to three weeks to reacclimate to the lifestyle and the daily decisions that come with it.

Step Four to Living Van Life: Plan Stops to Avoid Burnout

Off-Road RV Waterfront View
Image: Shutterstock

Set a goal to plan at least one stop every month that lasts more than a week. If you’re a slow traveler, this may not pose an obstacle, but if you’re setting out with a packed itinerary and a list of must-sees that spans coast to coast, you may want to build in some down time. Traveling fast is exhausting and can also burn through your budget. Follow these tips for How to Find Your RV Travel Pace.

It can be exhilarating to get behind the wheel with nothing but the open road in front of you, yet that freedom can quickly become tiring when every day is a new city and every night is a new hunt for a place to park. This is especially true for solo travelers — making all the decisions is fun but can be exhausting without support.

Step Five to Living Van Life: Establish a Timeline

handwriting in a planner for trip planning
Use a planner or calendar to write down when and where you want to camp.

One of the last things to do before downsizing and driving off into the sunset is to give yourself a timeline. If you have the privilege and ability to live the van life, it is a game changer for customizing how you spend your time.

Promise yourself you’ll commit to a trip period that makes sense for you. At the end of your pre-determined time, reassess. Treat your trip like a lease or trial period. This ensures that your belongings and livelihood aren’t going to be adversely affected by your big adventure. This can take some of the stress off making van life work long term. Plus, it allows you to enjoy the experience for what it is.

Living Vanlife and Loving It

Vanlife Couple with Pet in Class B RV
Image: Shutterstock

Humans have always had wanderer tendencies, and van life is just one way to explore that. Transitioning into a nomadic lifestyle can present challenges, but if you’re considering van life then these steps can help ensure the ride is an enjoyable one. Go forth and have fun friends. After all, that’s what (van) life is all about.

Have you experienced Vanlife? Tell us all your tips, tricks, and advice in the comments below!

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