The #vanlife movement has amassed staggering popularity online. From Instagram posts to vloggers, more people are being inspired to say goodbye to the 9-to-5 and hit the open road full-time. Perhaps inspired by the digital nomad movement, van life emphasizes personal freedom, financial independence and exploration. Rather than waiting all year for a two-week vacation, people turn their lives into an adventure, going wherever the road takes them, seeing America in its most natural form and getting back in touch with Mother Nature. You may like road tripping, but committing to any period of time in a van is a whole different story. If the idea of van life appeals to you, here are things to think about.
You’ll need to decide what type of vehicle suits your lifestyle, needs and preferences. Many full-time travelers have revamped vans that even feature built-in lights and electrical outlets. You have to think about how much you can commit to your initial purchase, insurance costs, remodeling costs, supplies and fuel while you’re on the road. There are many additional expenses many people fail to consider, which can complicate matters after you’ve hit the trail.
If you’re buying a new van, then you should consider whether you’ll take on a second auto loan on top of your current one, or if you’ll trade in your car for its cash value. On top of that, you may want to look into borrowing a personal loan from a private lender to cover the added costs of remodeling and renovations. The more effort you put into your ride now, the much better your travels will be.
We’re not referring to eco-consciousness, though that is important. When we think about sustainability of van life, we really mean how long you can truly stay on the road, set and stick to a budget and support yourself on a fixed or limited income plus maintain a healthy lifestyle. Once the initial wow-factor wanes, many people find themselves struggling with mental health issues, such as loneliness, depression, and anxiety.
It can be difficult being on your own for hundreds of miles on the road, and if you don’t have anyone back home either, you may begin to feel lost and disconnected from the world. When you take on this life, even for a short period of time, it should be because you want to see more, not do less. That means you are eager for what lies ahead, aware of the work it entails and have the right support and mindset to make it happen.
If you are going to be doing this on your own, then you absolutely must know not only how to be a good driver but also how to protect yourself at campsites. Female travelers in particular face a higher risk of harassment and assault, so you should always do your research, be aware of your surroundings and never put yourself in situations that make you an easy target. A few self-defense classes don’t hurt, either. If you do not yet feel ready in the safety department, you can have some online travel experiences before you decide whether or not the van life suits you.
Anyone who lives out of their van should also be fully aware that there are more risks than you face with a regular car. This is your home and livelihood as it contains all of your belongings, so it has to be protected. That means getting the right coverage, practicing street smarts and always researching areas you’re headed to mitigate any potential risks.