Outdoor & Road Trip

The Pros and Cons of Vanlife: The reality of life on the road

It’s strange to think that three years ago, I had no concept of what van life was. I was working in a regular 9-5 in Sydney, Australia, commuting to and from a one-bedroom apartment, dreaming of a life outside those four walls and suburbia. While those virtually me spoke of houses, corporate ladders, marriage and kids, I spent my days dreaming up a life full of adventure. I craved perpetually waffly scenery, the vibrance of new towns and people and variegated ways of living. There was just one small hurdle standing between me and my dream life…the fact that I had no track how to get there. 

But, in 2019, I did something that reverted everything.

While I don’t want to say that this one visualization reverted my life (far too cliche!), I will say that one simple, seemingly insignificant detail of my life has led me lanugo a path I had only daydreamed of a few years ago. Today I sit at my computer in Canada, working remotely from my laptop, writing wares just like this one, all from the repletion of my new normal; my home on wheels. 

Over these past few years, I have experienced all spectrums of the realities of life on the road. I have soaked in the perks of uncounted self-discovery, experiencing new places and people, all while coveting my wide-stretching mug hodgepodge in my tiny mobile home. I have moreover experienced the very lows: the empty fuel tanks with no gas station in sight, plush breakdowns and navigating the financial realities of life on the road. 

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re wondering if this strange and wonderful wits of van life may just be for you. Perhaps you’re looking for a little slice of the reality of van life, top tips for van life and the ever-looming question of “how much does van life cost?”. Don’t worry; I have you covered.

In this article, I have laid it all out: the pros and cons of van life and the reality of life on the road. I have moreover included some FAQ well-nigh the reality of van life, including answering the coveted question of how much does van life cost, the weightier things well-nigh van life, the reality of working from a van, as well as some of my top tips for van life. I hope that in reading this, you can decide if this wild ride of life on the road may be for you. Let’s swoop in.

The Pros and Cons of Vanlife: The reality of life on the road

But first, what exactly is Vanlife really?

Vanlife, or van dwelling, is not a new concept. Vanlife itself originates as far when as the 1850s with a transport named Wanderer and has ebbed and flowed throughout the last century and a half. Whether it’s outrageous outfitted carriages, a cute kombi or a fully kitted out Mercedes van, van life is,  in essence, well-nigh living and travelling in a vehicle. Yet, in reality, it is increasingly than that.

Living a mobile lifestyle is increasingly than coming and going as you please. The ‘reality’ of van life is well-nigh seeking new experiences and seeing new places, all while enjoying the simple comforts of home. It’s stuff worldly-wise to go out and see the world as if it were your own backyard. That is van life in theory. But in reality? Let’s swoop in. 

The Pros and Cons of Vanlife: The reality of life on the road

The reality of getting into Vanlife...

In early 2019, I had well-nigh the online presence of a centipede and was blissfully unaware of the plights of #vanlife. So when my partner and I bought our first van – a long-wheelbase VW crafter – we had very little sensation of the cultural fad that van life was and would protract to become. All I knew was that I wanted to see the country, and what largest way to see it all than with a road trip? I pictured infinite road trip snacks, bad singing to road-themed songs and uncounted exploring of this country I tabbed home but, in reality, knew very little about. 

So in late 2019, my partner and I scrounged up what savings we had and bought a shell of an old wordage van. It was well-nigh as old as it was banged up, but I secretly loved that well-nigh that van. Its bumps and bruises reminded me that it had a life surpassing us. As we converted it, we found glitter and forks stuffed into its walls. As I sat there cleaning them out, I imagined this wordage truck had moonlighted as a party bus in flipside life. In reality, I knew it had just commuted when and withal doing its daily grind, just like I had been doing. It gave me hope that it would now get a new life as the home of two reckless 20-somethings ready to take on the world.  

We spent what felt like uncounted hours watching youtube videos on how to turn that van into a home. We would go to work during the day, and then in the afternoons, we would throne to our local hardware store to get supplies and build. There were days when I would leave work buzzing with excitement and others where I would just cry and stare at the empty cargo van in front of me,  struggling to put my stovepipe whilom my throne from sheer exhaustion. But we did it. We turned that shell into a home, and in March 2020, we hit the road. 

The Pros and Cons of Vanlife: The reality of life on the road

The reality of a life on the road...

The day we finished our build, I remember so vividly the self-rule I felt. That has unchangingly been one of the weightier things well-nigh van life: the expansiveness of this thing we had achieved and the unshut road that lay ahead. When I say that this was just the beginning… it was the underestimation of the century. 

What was meant to be a 6-month road trip turned into a nearly two-and-a-half-year venture virtually the country. We toured every state, visited every major municipality and roamed through national parks. We swam with sea lions and took photos with smiling quokkas on Rottnest Island, we sipped on world-class wines in Adelaide, skied in Perisher, and road-tripped through the rugged peaks in Tasmania. And somewhere withal the way, we discovered the reality of van life and living on the road. 

Is travel exhaustion a real thing? (H3)

In the first few months of travelling in the van, I was so excited to see and do everything. So we did! If there was a sign that said ‘attraction’, we went there. A national park? We explored it. A swimming hole? The swimmers were on, and I was in it. Unsurprisingly, without well-nigh two months of this go-go-go attitude, I began to finger this overwhelming dread of having to tick off yet flipside thing. Flipside waterfall, flipside hike. And the guilt that followed for dreading this incredible life I was creating. 

It was a big reality check. This wasn’t a holiday. I didn’t have to jam-pack every wits into a short week-long adventure. 

This was my life. 

I needed to find a way to intertwine regular life with this new way of living. As it turned out, that included the occasional lay-in-bed all-day Netflix rampage session. 

So I began travelling slower. Living my life and adventuring in my surroundings in my self-ruling time. It was a little increasingly boring, yes. But my wallet and mental health thanked me for it!

The Pros and Cons of Vanlife: The reality of life on the road

How much does van life cost?

Van life is typically known for stuff a low-cost travel alternative, and it is typically one of the weightier things well-nigh van life for upkeep travellers looking to explore overland. I personally didn’t get into van life to save money. So over the past three years, on average, I have spent roughly the same as I would have if I had stayed in that Sydney suite and paid rent. The difference? I got to wits travelling all virtually Australia, having once-in-a-lifetime experiences. I had a new view every morning and got my dream of experiencing variegated people and places every single day. 

Overall, you can veritably do van life on a budget, but I unchangingly tell people that you will often bring your lifestyle with you. For example, if you are happy eating 2-minute noodles and travel very slowly – then your financing will be very low. If you prioritise experiences and organic veggies etc., your financing will reflect that. 

In general, if you are looking to project costs, I would squint at:

  • Fuel: starting at $50-200 AUD/week

This will vary depending on how far you plan to travel each week

  • Food: starting at $100-300 AUD/week

Have a squint at your current grocery financing for an idea! This probably won’t transpiration much. Except maybe you will eat a little less take out than if its was hands accessible. 

  • Activities: starting at $50 /week

If you want to spend your time in cities, you will likely need to upkeep increasingly for parking, paid activities etc. Alternatively, if you are spending your time in nature in national parks, your expenses may be a campsite or a national park pass, and that’s it!

  • Accommodation: starting at $20-$200 /week

If you want to stay in one location for a while, you may need to typesetting a caravan site depending on the local self-ruling camping rules. I did this once for a month-long stint during our lap, which forfeit virtually $250 per week on average. However, I mostly opted to stay in self-ruling camps for two years. We budgeted $80 a month for walk-up based on two nights a month at an expensive caravan park, but we rarely used this all.

Other considerations include if you have a timeline (travelling quicker ways increasingly activities and fuel in a short time) and whether you are living off savings for a while or working withal the way. These factors inevitably will transpiration how much you may spend on the road. Ultimately, answering the question of ‘how much does van life cost’ is very personal. I would recommend having a squint at your current expenses and see what could requite (i.e. take out and shopping) and what will remain relatively the same (groceries).  

The Pros and Cons of Vanlife: The reality of life on the road

What is it like working from a van?

There are so many ways to work on the road. I personally have picked up unstudied work as a cleaner and a spa retrospective on the road, but have moreover worked online, creating content for brands and freelance writing. Overall I have loved both experiences, but for variegated reasons. 

All I will say is if you plan to work from a van, be sure that you enjoy working in the space and that it is comfortable. If you are travelling with a partner who is moreover working in this tight space, this can moreover be a hurdle. One of my top tips for van life as a couple is to try creating separate spaces or working at staggered times to requite each other a little room. 

Navigating breakdowns and car troubles

About a year into our van life, the unimaginable happened – our van tapped down. Not just needed an oil transpiration kind of break-down, but engine light on red, smoke emanating from the hood kind of break-down. When I stood on the side of that desert highway, I could remember feeling so calm. It was that iconic eerie wifely surpassing the storm considering I didn’t know if we had the savings to fix whatever had just happened. 

Long story short, well-nigh $8,000 and a month of waiting later, we were when on the road. Even though we were quite fortunate that we had the worthiness to save and work and pay for the fix, the unshortened event was incredibly stressful and unnerving. Not knowing when we would be worldly-wise to be when in our home. 

Since that event, one of my top tips for van life is unchangingly to have an emergency fund. Just the peace of mind that you are covered for the unexpected. Oh, and have roadside assistance – that small fee will save you a huge headache! 

The Pros and Cons of Vanlife: The reality of life on the road

Top tips for van life and living on the road

After years on the road, and myriad missteps, there are a few things I unchangingly recommend to new vanlifers. Here are a few of my top tips of sage translating from one traveller to another: 

Slow down

Things in van life just take longer. Simple. 

Things you once took for granted, like electricity and water, are less readily misogynist than they once were. These van life chores can finger time-consuming and exhausting at first. Learning to slow lanugo and fathom that they are just part of the wits will help you get so much increasingly out of this lifestyle. 

Budget your travel

Vanlife can be a unconfined opportunity to save money or at least proffer it. If that’s your goal, I recommend travelling slowly, planning meals, reducing eating out and opting for self-ruling activities. 

Google maps

One of the weightier things well-nigh van life is the community. And this polity delivers when it comes to recommendations well-nigh the weightier places to stay, places to stave and more. Depending on where in the world you are, there is unseat to be an app to help you navigate this lifestyle. Whether it’s iOverlander in North America or campermate in Australia – there is a ton of info on where to sleep, get water and so on. 

That stuff said, part of the joy of van life (and one of the weightier parts of van life) is going where the wind takes you. In these cases, I do not live without my google maps in satellite mode. If you find yourself in a town with no recommendations (or just want to find your own), you can jump onto google maps and zoom in to peruse the streets to find a quiet place to park yonder from prying eyes. 

Have an emergency fund

When you travel and live in a car, there is a likely endangerment that things will break, need fixing, or that unstipulated unexpected maintenance will show up. This obviously will vary profoundly depending on the vehicle you buy/ where you travel/ how fast etc. Ownership a newer van wasn’t in the cards for us at the time. So we paid what we could, and in our case, that meant paying for it lanugo the line. 

That stuff said, I have moreover known newer vehicles to have similar troubles and older vehicles to go by without a hitch. Sometimes it’s just the luck of the draw. As much as possible, focus on ownership a mechanically reliable car within your budget. Regardless of whether you buy new or second-hand, it’s important to have an emergency fund, so those unexpected maintenance days don’t reservation you off guard. 

Create a daily routine

I have seen travellers shrivel out time and time again. In a life of unvarying motion, it can be easy to get swept up in the rented momentum of uncounted opportunities. The weightier antidote? Have a practice, ritual or routine that grounds you and serves as a way to help you get your situation each day (sometimes literally). For some, it may be a morning stretch, while for others, reading a typesetting may suffice. 

For me, it has unchangingly been a cup of coffee. 

No matter the weather, location or the day ahead, I know I will have that one unvarying of a cup of coffee in my van while I take in my surroundings and plan out this new venture of the day ahead. Plus, I’ve found this is unchangingly a fun way to integrate the local places we visit as we hit up roasteries and try their blends. This is expressly important when I’m working from a van. I like having an afternoon walk routine for my work days, so I don’t get unprotected inside all day. 

Create boundaries with work and play

While there are many unconfined things well-nigh working from a van, one of the downsides of working remotely from a palmtop is stuff worldly-wise to separate working from a van and enjoying life from the van. One of my top tips for van life is to create a work zone, be that physical or mental. Having some boundaries virtually when you work and when you don’t can be essential to longevity on the road and sustaining working from a van long term. 

The Pros and Cons of Vanlife: The reality of life on the road

There you have it. The pros and cons and the reality of van life. 

Overall, I would say that life on the road is not too variegated to that at home (after a little adjusting, of course!). You will work, buy groceries, spend your weekends exploring your local zone and spend time with people you love. In the end, there are some things you will have to learn for yourself. The pace of your travel, your style of working from a van, and of course, discovering the reality of van life for your lifestyle and travel goals.  

The biggest difference (when it comes to the reality of life on the road)? 

Learning to let go and roll with the punches of a life in motion.

As always, happy adventuring!