#Vanlife has become incredibly popular lately. In fact, just last month The New Yorker magazine wrote an article about it. Of course TNY article focused more on #vanlife as a social media phenomenon it raised an interesting point as to why the new tiny lifestyle had become so popular. It is the irony behind the glossy photos that has become the point of living in a van.
Author Rachel Monroe recounts, “Just a few days into vanlife, I had become accustomed to this kind of encounter: the hunger in the eyes of middle-aged men at the sight of old Volkswagens, and how not entirely bad it felt to be a symbol that other people projected their fantasies onto. Smith smiled politely as the man kept talking. “You’re survivors,” the man said emphatically, thumping his steering wheel. “You’re living in reality.”
Granted I have never lived in a van nor have I truly desired to, I do have brilliant memories of a friend’s parent’s Chevy conversion van from the mid-80s that had aluminum blinds on the windows, carpet on the floor, an upholstered ceiling, wooden cup holders, and a rear seat that folded down into a bed. I often thought how cool it would be to just live in that van and travel wherever the road took me. Since falling into the tiny house world though I have realized that the smaller the space, the more “in your face” everything becomes. The dishes are in your face. Dirty clothes are in your face. Books and laptops and cords are in your face! But that isn’t all. I think there are some other tips that I have heard and that I think are relevant to anyone who is thinking about life in a van.
PREPARE. Just because you are living in a van and traveling the open road and able to sleep overnight at some rest stops, Wal-Mart parking lots, national parks, etc., does not mean there are no expenses involved in the venture. In fact, I would think the number one expense would just be fuel. You have to get from Point A to Point B and that more than likely involves gas! There are also things like food, laundromats, tolls, etc. Don’t take too much of a vagabond mentality. Be prepared so you can have a more successful time as a nomad.
ASSESS YOUR SKILLS. Are you mechanical at all? I am not. My wife is, but I am not. I couldn’t so much as change the oil if someone put a gun to my head. It is just not my strong suit. Living in a van and on the road would be a stretch for me in that it would test my ability to either pay for something to be fixed or to risk messing something else up by trying to fix the initial problem myself. Be real with yourself. Know what your skill potential is.
EXPECT CRITICISM. Unfortunately living a non-traditional way comes with quite a bit of scrutiny. Expect that when people find out you live in a van you may get some side stares, a few lectures, and even a few less-than-polite NO’s when asking someone on a date or to come over for dinner.
MINIMIZE THE EXCESS. Most American’s will need to downsize their clothes about 2/3 before taking up in a van. Granted you will need warm and cold weather clothing, layering may very well become your friends. Embrace the letting go.
EMBRACE MOOCHDOCKING. I can imagine that when living in a van there is a never a driveway beneath you. I would say (as we often said when we lived on the road in our RV) that every driveway is a good driveway!
STAY CLEAN. No matter what, cleanliness is important for health, sanity, and social reasons. When living in a small space, the space can be filled with smells quickly. That included body funk. Beyond that though, bacteria and fungus can grow quickly on dead skin. If nothing else, stop at a gas station with some soap and a washcloth and do a “nose, wings, and tail” bath in the bathroom sink. It will keep you from becoming a walking science experiment and also help you in those aforementioned social situations!