Van life, which sounds more like a hashtag than an actual word, is probably one of the most chatted topics among outdoorers.
Many own a van and use it during their outdoor adventures as a temporary home where to sleep, eat and chill. Some others decide to give up on their rent and their solid four walls and move in a van, living pretty much anywhere they like.
And what many describe as a longing for less, actually falls into a completely different philosophy. In fact, it’s a longing for more: more life, more adventure, more space, more exploration and freedom. The “less” part comes of course in terms of inner space and belongings that you can take with you when you spend your time in a van, or when you actually live in there.
The philosophy behind living in a van, or using it as much as you can to explore and venture into the wild, is pretty much the same philosophy behind every Apache Pine’s product: to remember that there’s so much more to life than our daily jobs, our routine and our neighborhood. There’s so much more to explore and live and discover. And we should always aim for it. Nature is such a paramount aspect of our lives.
At the same time, living in a van is not all beauty and glamour as you might think and as many of the contents related to this topic show you. It does have its (many) cons and uncomfortable conditions. In general, as everything else on this Planet, it has its pros and cons.
So today, here on Apache Pine, we’ll list the pros and cons of living in a van and we’ll give you some tips on how to overcome or enhance them.
Heads up: we’re going refer mainly to living in a van, but what you are going to read is suitable also when it comes to spending a holiday or a long weekend in it.
Pros of living in a van
Okay, good news first! Here are all the reasons why you should live in a van:
Living in a van is cheaper
This is probably the first, most valuable reason. When you live in a van, after the cost of the van itself and that of the little changes you want or have to make, then that’s all you have to spend. There’s no rent, no bills, no extra monthly cost. Of course, fuel and insurance, but wouldn’t you have to pay for them anyways for your car or van even if you were living in a home? And yes, accidents do happen and your van will break down and will need to be fixed, but again, it would happen anyways.
Also, vans have less space, so you can’t own too many things. You won’t be buying all the cute gadgets for your house, because you won’t have enough space, and in general you will learn to live with less.
Last but not least, time! Living in a van will save you a lot of time. Smaller spaces and a simpler lifestyle will allow you to cut on superfluous activities too. You won’t go shopping as often (also because you can’t have too many things), you won’t have to drive home from anywhere and in general you will take up new habits that will assure you a much better use of time.
Living in a van allows you to do more
Exactly because you will save up a lot of time, you will also be able to do much more with your life. You will be able to work and adventure from the same place, you can have a friend over while spending time in the outdoors together. You can go to one place and know already where to sleep.
All these things make you open to many new activities and possibilities that you never had or never imagined before. You can spend more time in a new place, which will allow you to know it more and better. You can spend more time pursuing your passions and goals. You can spend more time with the people you love.
In general, the freedom you gain by living in a van will be incredible.
Everywhere is home
This is true especially when you can work from home, because if your van is home and wherever you park it is home, then you can work from pretty much anywhere, as far as you have an internet connection.
So really you are going to be free to live wherever you want for as long as you want. This could mean so many things: you can live near your friends when you visit them in their city, you can live right next to your favorite crag, or you can live in the place that you love the most in nature.
And if working from remote is not possible for you, then you can live very close to your office, so you won’t have to commute for long hours every day, saving a lot of time.
Life gets more flexible
Life is more flexible when you live in a van, as your possibilities to change place often, therefore change routine, makes it possible to adjust your life to your needs day by day.
Life becomes incredibly flexible, which means that you can choose more how to live it. You want a specific and never-changing routing, you have it. You want something completely different every day? You have that too! All you have to do is choose.
You learn to be more practical
Van life is a very practical kind of life: if something breaks down, you need to learn how to fix it. If you need to make changes to your van, you need to know how to do them yourself. If something unexpected happens - which is going to be a lot more often than you think - you have to be quick and solve it properly.
So you will become a much more practical person and will learn the art of problem-solving, no matter what or how. This will be so useful in life you can’t even imagine right now and will release so much creativity and adaptability in yourself that you will benefit from it big time.
Of course, you will still be able to ask for help from friends and people who are more expert than you, actually, you will for sure. But this too is another one of the incredibly beautiful things about living in a van: you learn to live with other people and ask for help. And you will discover that you have a lot more friends than you think.
Sharing is caring
When you live in a van with another person, to share such a tiny space might sound like a con, but it actually is a big lesson that can make your life much happier: coexistence.
Van life teaches you to share and care about those (very) next to you. You learn to leave space and respect the other person’s privacy, which sounds like a paradox in such a close and shared life, but that’s what really happens.
You learn to support each other, make quick choices, especially on important things, and to share the hard moments without snapping at each other. In a way, you help each other to feel welcome and home in the same tiny place, creating bonds that nothing else in life can actually create.
Cons of living in a van
Okay, time to be realistic and realize that van life is not all so glamorous and easy as you may think, so here are all the reasons why you should not live in a van.
Lack of space can get on your nerves
We are not talking about coexistence, but the actual quantity of space you have at your disposal. Especially when your van is full of gear too, then keeping it clean and tidy is very difficult. Dust is a constant, as well as moisture during cold, humid nights.
You might end up feeling the need for something wider, that will allow you to be messy without occupying all your vital space. Indeed, just because you are willing to live with less, own less and call the whole world as your home, it doesn’t necessarily mean that living in a van is the right thing for you.
Remember, just because it’s popular and many people consider it an amazing thing, it doesn’t mean it's something that works for everyone. You might be more suitable for other kinds of lifestyles, like backpacking for long periods of time, or car camping together with some good old camping sites.
Don’t fall victim of the “outdoor fashions and trends” and choose your own life.
Hygiene conditions are very delicate
Running water is something we almost don’t pay attention to and give for granted until the moment comes that you have none, or very few. The lack of a “constant” stream of water that you can use whenever you want is probably one of the most difficult things to overcome when living in a van.
Even if your van as a water tank, you still need to refill it every so often and you can run out of it a lot more easily than you think. And all of a sudden you will realize that the most difficult thing is not to take a shower or wash your hair, but to wash all those dishes and clothes that you will end up using on a daily base. And since you won’t be owning much, you won’t be able to leave them dirty for long periods of time. So the main struggle will be to find a place where to do your laundry and wash your dishes whenever you need to.
Also, even when living in a van you should live by the principles of leaving no trace, so be careful to not pollute streams of water or water sources with soap and other kinds of polluting elements. Make sure to use sustainable products and to respect nature as much as you can.
In general, hygienic conditions can be very unstable, so it’s very important that you dedicate a lot of attention to this part of your daily life. Just because it’s more complicated to stay clean and protect it doesn’t mean that you should oversee this point. Actually, it’s more important than ever to have a good toiletry kit, some toilet hacks that you can use when you are out in the wild for a few days, or weeks and that you don’t let laziness and underestimation have the best on your hygienic habits.
The dark side of flexibility and of having the whole world as your home is the fact that your life might end up changing every single day. And if on one side is an incredible thing, which will help you to not fall into a routine and alienate, it can destabilize you a lot too.
Constant change can be tough after a first “honeymoon” period when it’s great to be so free and wonderous. You will start to feel the need to stay in one place for a longer time, bond with the community, have healthy habits or simply live close to the ones you love.
The great thing about living in a van is that you can do all this anyways. You can live in the same place for many months, changing your parking spot from time to time. It will just be easier and cheaper to travel and you will be able to switch habits again as soon as you feel the need to.
You are less safe
Breaking into a van is much easier than breaking into a house. So for people with bad intentions, you will be a much better target. Make sure to leave your van in safe places and to not make it too easy to break in and steal it even. Also, if you intend to leave it for a few days, don’t just park it wherever. Either leave it in a guarded parking lot or land it to a friend of yours to use it and move it around while you are gone. A bit like a house, you don’t want to make it too clear that it's empty and unguarded.
In general, when living in a van you will happen to spend a lot of time in the outdoors, alone and away from civilization. Make sure to know how to stay safe in these kinds of situations and how to look for help.
Know the basics of how to fix your van or a flat tire, how to rescue someone and how to solve a stuck-in-sand situation.