I get a lot of questions about “how to do van life” which, if I’m being honest, is such a confusing question because I truly don’t think there is the right way. If you mean if living in a van full time for van life right for you? Now that is something that I can help you figure out by process of elimination.
Here’s the thing, do I think van life is for everyone?
No, I don’t.
It may sound harsh, but there can be really hard parts of van life.
Some of it comes with the type of rig you have and some of it comes with the partner you are with and your relationship. Some of it may be the extreme weather or having to poop in public as your only option. Heck, it may end up being all of the above.
Do I think you can figure out what works best for you?
Honestly, traveling full time in my old van Rosa with my partner and two dogs ended up not being right for me. It was the combination of the van always breaking down, the leaky windows, not having a toilet, always being too hot or too cold, and the strain on my relationship (we now live in our own vans, but we’ll get to that in a separate blog post).
Want to know why I moved into a van in the first place? Why I quit the STATUS QUO and moved into a van.
Now that I have figured out what works best for me to live in my van full time, I do think it’s possible and that a lot of it being able to do van life full time depends on a lot of different factors.
So that said, I think these questions are going to be a good starting point, but most of this is going to really depend on your unique situation.
1. Full-time Van Life: Do you have a partner? What is your communication style with them?
I’m just going to hop right in and let you know this is going to be be a HUGE factor when jumping into your van and hitting the road full time.
Does your partner have the same goals as you about being on the road full time? If one person isn’t fully committed, you’re most likely going to have issues within a few months of being on the road.
I recommend setting some time aside to sit down and talk about your goals and what you both truly want out of the experience. Does someone have a time limit? How set is that limit?
How do you communicate in an argument?
Remember: when you and your partner argue, which you will, you can’t just go into the next room or out to drinks or dinner with a friend to let off some steam and get some perspective.
When you’re in a van, you have nowhere to go except to confront the real issues with your partner.
Are you able to communicate respectfully and listen to the other person’s side or do you feel yourself close off and get stubborn?
If you resonate with the latter, do you feel like that is something you can change over time? It may take some patience and self-awareness but I do think if you can communicate respectfully and work to see the other person’s side, you’ll be able to have great success with this!
In my opinion, communication and communication style is probably the most important thing to consider if you plan on living in a van full time with your partner.
2. Do you have any pets?
I plan on making a whole blog post about helping you decide if adding a furry friend to your van life pack is the right decision, but until then this is definitely something to consider if you want to go into van life full time.
From not having a dog when my partner and I first started out in our old van to eventually traveling and living full time in our van with two dogs, I’ll let you know that once you have a pet, most of your travel and decisions will revolve around their well-being.
Do you plan on mostly visiting National Parks while traveling full time in your van?
Heads up: Most National Parks do not allow pets on the trails or even out of the car unless in the parking lot and they may ticket or fine you if you leave your pet in your car while you are out on the trail.
If you don’t plan on visiting a lot of the National Parks, van life is amazing with a pet as long as it’s not too hot. We’ve definitely had to reroute our travels based on if it’s too hot for our dogs. It may be fine for us but if our dog is struggling, it is our responsibility to take that seriously and move to cooler temps.
Don’t get me wrong, full-time van life with a pet is incredibly amazing and I wouldn’t go back now that I have them. They are amazing companions and watching your pet roam free and happy is probably one of the best feelings in the world.
Again, I plan on creating a separate blog post allll about this so keep an eye out for that!
3. Living full time in your van — Are you uncomfortable with uncertainty?
This is another super important factor the considering going full-time because as you’ll quickly find out, sh*t happens and you just have to be okay to roll with it.
The van might break down. It might be too hot to sleep or too cold to move. You may get stuck in the sand or have to spend the weekend sleeping at the mechanics. The weather may turn and you have to reroute. The camp spot you’re heading to that looks amazing may be closed and you don’t know until you get there. You may have found the best spot but there isn’t enough sun. Someone may get sick. Or you head down a long dirt road and you realize rain is coming and you may not be able to get out if you stay (by the way all of these things have happened to us).
Are you okay with things changing on the dime?
(Just a personal note: Luckily, most of the time I’m of the mindset that all of those factors are just part of the adventure. When you’re traveling full time, It’s obviously not about the destination but the journey and rolling with everything that may go “wrong” is just part of it).
4. Do you plan on having a toilet and/or shower in your van for full-time van life?
Listen. Is having a bathroom necessary? Not at all. This is also a blog post I want to create on its own too because I have a lot to say about it but do think this will be helpful for trying to figure out if full time is right for you!
If you don’t plan on having a toilet in your van, ask yourself how comfortable you are about going to the bathroom either in public restrooms or in a cat hole in the ground.
If you plan on digging a hole, one thing to consider is the ecosystem you’re in. DO NOT poop in a hole in the desert. I’ll get to this in a separate post.
We didn’t have a toilet in our old van and we lived in it for a year and a half. I have a Natures Head Composting toilet now and it’s a total game-changer. I seriously will never not have one of these in a van again.
If you’re not comfortable doing most of your business in public restrooms, this will be something to consider in your build-out or if traveling full time is right for you.
5. Do you have FOMO (fear of missing out)?
Whether you are traveling full time in your van with a partner or by yourself, one thing to ask yourself is how comfortable you will be being away from your community full time. You may be hundreds of miles away from a birthday party, wedding, holiday celebration, dinner party, or major life event like a birth or a death.
Instead of meeting someone for happy hour, you may only have face time and only when service is good enough for it. You are probably going to hear about things after the fact or while you’re scrolling on instagram and you see your friends together from someone’s stories.
Now don’t forget, you’re going to be doing your own epic adventure and seeing part of the world that you’ve always wanted to on your own terms! You’ll be creating memories that will last a lifetime.
If you are someone who struggles with FOMO ask yourself which one will be worse, the fear of missing out on your community events, or the fear of missing out on being on the road. It could help you decide if going full time is right for you.
6. Do you plan on having money saved up for full-time van life or do you plan on working from the road?
This is going to be a huge factor when it comes to living on the road full time. Here are a few options to decide how you’re going to have money or make money while living the van life full time:
- You’ll have a big savings nest to dip into month over month
- You have a job that you can work from the road.
- You’re comfortable with being able to find creative ways to find work once you’re out on the road.
Whatever option is right for you, having money to sustain you full time is something that I recommend you establish before hitting the road. I’ve always had jobs that I can work remotely since I’ve been on the road, so finding a job like working on a farm in the summer or having a savings large enough to get me by while I figure it out isn’t something that I’ve had to try.
I’ve traveled with and met people on the road who have found summer jobs or had large enough nests to get themselves and their van repairs taken care of for a set amount of time. Both of those options are going to give you much more flexibility on your schedule but the possible stressful side of this is that you’ll have to constantly be aware of every dime spent.
I’ve always had jobs where I had set schedules and had to be logged in and clocked out a set days. It didn’t allow too much flexibility on those days but it did take the pressure off of where my next meal was going to come from.
7. What is your relationship with cleanliness?
I’m a bit of a clean freak. I love when things are organized, the floor is swept and mopped, and my counters are cleared off and sanitized.
Before moving into a van, I never really cared about those things, but when you live in such a tiny space, dirt builds up fast. Not only is this your car, but it’s also your home and the spaces can become one really quick.
As far as personal hygiene, I’ve always been pretty comfortable skipping showers every once in a while but when you’re in a van unless you have a shower on board, you’re going to have days, maybe weeks until your next proper shower.
This is definitely something to consider and have a plan for before going full-time van life. Are you comfortable going to bed dirty after a long hike? How do you feel about dirty feet? If you have pets, how do you feel about them going in and out when it’s raining?
We didn’t have a shower in our last van but for this build, I installed one that goes off that back and I’m so glad I did. I still take the majority of my showers at planet fitness, but it has been nice to shower off after a hike or if I’m sandy from the beach.
Dirty feet in a bed really bothers me, so having a sink with good water pressure has been a great addition so I can wash my feet before bed.
If you are like me, make sure you have a plan before moving into the van to save some unnecessary stress.
8. Are you comfortable meeting strangers off the internet and camping with them?
Okay, I know that this is such a specific question, but I do think it’s important to ask.
My van life experience would be totally different if my answer to this question was no.
Creating a community while living on the road is one of my favorite parts of it! I’ve met people from all over because I met them on instagram or through a friend of a friend.
There is a feeling so specific about meeting someone and immediately having a fire and sleeping just a few feet away next door all within just a few hours.
If my answer to this question was no, I think it would be much lonelier to live in a van full time. I’m not saying it’s wrong if you don’t want to meet people, but I do think it’s important to know how to stay feeling connected.
So what do you think? Do you think you’re cut out for living in a van full time? Let me know in the comments below!