How We Started
From the moment I considered Van life within 30 days, I began living in a 1989 Ford camper van with my then 9 yr old kid. I only had two things to worry about and, those were "Where should we park at night and where to go next?". The first place we slept was in plain sight at a Mcdonald's parking lot across from their drive-thru. My son and I were excited, but I was nervous about sleeping there. I figured the worst thing that could happen was that we were woken up and asked to leave. Otherwise, our camper van was just like any vehicle in the parking lot waiting for its owner to return. We bought dinner there and went to sleep peacefully. Fast forward four years and, we still find Van Life to be the most adventurous and rewarding experience of a lifetime even with a few obstacles.
In all honesty, we didn't plan anything until we got started and created our rhythm with the lifestyle. We didn't know a single Rv or Van Lifer to ask questions.
Even though we winged it for three years, LOL Van Life is an unconventional lifestyle and a big commitment. Having more time to prepare for it is better than thinking van life is as simple as sleeping in a van. There's a lot to think about and, in this blog were going to cover the first things you need to consider when designing your desired style of van life.
Step 1: Write Your 'Why' Down Now!
Often when people reach out to me and say they want to do Van Life but don't know where to start.", I tell them to first identify the main reason why they want to start van life and make it clear before doing anything else. Knowing why you want to do van life will decide the how, when, where, and even the rig that you should buy! Fun Fact: I hadn't heard the term rig until 8 months after we started van life. It was only after someone complimented our van when I asked what they meant by "rig"? HAHA
Why in the world would you want to live in a van?
What's your goal?
What are you looking forward to once you're on the road?
Are you prepared mentally to adapt to change and unexpected events?
Write the answers down!
Don't expect everything to be perfect before and during van life. Expect the experience to be worth it because of the person you will become in the process! You'll see what I mean!
Make your reasons for wanting to do van life clear because they will become the fuel to keep you going when you get tired of finding parking spots, hot showers, or when your van breaks down unexpectedly.
Why We Chose Van Life
Prior to Van Life, we were already traveling full-time by plane for 6 months and I was tired of flight hopping, packing, and being a full-time travel agent looking for airfare deals and comfortable affordable hotels and Airbnb's. Moving into our camper van was my all-inclusive strategy to simplify my expenses, go full time in my speaking business, and give my son an epic education while he was young. We had everything we needed inside our van and I no longer had to drive to work, drop my son off at school, deal with traffic, rent cars, book a hotel, or pack a suitcase. Therefore our camper van was not only our home, it was our classroom, office, and moving hotel rent-free! The only thing we needed was gasoline, food, wifi, and cash for miscellaneous things. Moving into the van made everything simple, but it started with a strategy for every angle of this lifestyle!
Examples of situations we had to create a strategy for that come with this lifestyle:
Time Management and Weekly Routines
Budgeting for gas and camping fee's
Banking and Financial Emergencies
Receiving Mail and Packages
Doctor and Dental Appointments
Insurance and Auto Registration Renewal
Play Dates for children
Traveling safely in Ideal weather conditions all year round
Where to Park the Van temporarily or long term in the event of an emergency
These are all things that I can cover in this blog if you're interested in what worked for us.
Step 2: Declutter
Less is More!
I never really knew what that meant until I moved into our van.
"Free your mind and the rest will follow! "- En Vouge
There's something about not having to keep up with a lot of stuff and being able to clean up your home in 15 minutes that brings more peace and mental space than you can imagine. When the only things you have to worry about are right in front of you then you're doing it right.
How to Declutter Before Travelling Full Time
(Next Blog In Progress)
Step 3: Have Multiple Ways To Earn Income
A lot of people associate van life with quitting their job and then they ask everyone else how they make money. LOL Unless you already have a side hustle that can sustain your lifestyle, don't quit your day job. It is easier to start van life when you are employed than it is to start when all you have in your savings. Use W2 Income to buy your ideal van or RV and keep working that job until you need something else to meet your basic needs and beyond.
Whether you're self-employed or not, there is always a trade-off with van life. What do you need the most of right now? Time, money, or both? In the beginning, I needed and wanted time more than anything so that I could homeschool my son and write a book. Then later, when the demand for my presence grew online, I understood that I needed more time and money to create and engage with my followers and brands without going poor. I'll save that story for another day. :-)
The bottom line is that it's ok to live in your rig and work a full or part-time job. Sure, you may not be able to travel far if you have a brick-and-mortar job, but you're most likely making more money than the average van lifer on social media trying to earn income by monetizing their lifestyle. Ask me how I know? LOL, Multiple streams of income are a must because you never know when opportunities will stop like a well drying up.
Step 4: Shop for your Dwelling
Can we keep it real here?
It's not uncommon for people to get caught up in the fancy van builds and beautiful Pinterest and IG pictures and they have no clue that they're only seeing from the point of view that the influencer is comfortable with sharing. LOL, You'll see the scenic parking spots and cozy scenes inside their rig, but won't see the credit inquiry, the down payment, the vehicle loan, or the credit card debt that they acquired from their van build. LOL, I don't know about anybody else but my goal was to simplify my finances and not have rent or car payments so I bought something vintage that was converted to an RV over 30 years ago to avoid a car note. What about breakdowns? All vehicles and RVs require maintenance and will break down at some point when you don't expect it. No vehicle warranty legitimately lasts forever. This is again why making your reason for doing van life clear is important so that you can make the right financial decisions towards your end goal.
Choosing Your Van or RV
Like lifestyles in general, there are different styles of vans and RVs that can make or break your desired experience on the road.
Amenities Matter! The amenities in your van or Rv matter significantly when it comes down to the ease and peace you can gain with your tiny home lifestyle.
Will you be spending more time on the go, outdoors, or inside the van or RV?
Some people spend more time outside of their rig and rely on public restrooms whereas some prefer to have one on board that is easily accessible and hassle-free.
Where will you camp the most? Do you have access to important amenities like a shower? fridge? Toilet?
What is the climate like? Rainy? Cold? Hot and humid?
If you're in a rainy climate, then you probably will want something you'll be able to stand up in to avoid feeling cramped inside all day.
Being able to stand up in our van was a must!
What we surprisingly went without for a long time:
AC - We camped the majority of the time in temperatures ranging in 50-75 degree weather at most. Whenever the weather was to unbearable to be in the van and we were far from a beach, we stayed outside of the van and went hiking somewhere shaded, to a cafe, Gym or YMCA to participate in group activities.
Solar - This is the one thing I wish we had installed earlier because we killed our battery a few times and felt limited whenever we were parked for longer than three days in the same spot. Driving the camper van was the only way, we could keep the battery charged since we relied heavily on the cabin battery.
A few types of dwellings on wheels to live in:
Class A RV
Class B RV
Horse Trailer with Living Quarters
Very Important Tips:
Make sure your rig meets the requirements to be street legal and insured. Don't disclose to the auto or insurance dealers that you plan on living in your van or RV because it will be seen as a red flag and you will most likely be denied. Living in a vehicle by choice is a form of glorified homelessness that lenders frown upon. You're always better off paying cash for a rig and having limited liability insurance at the very least opposed to leaving the state and driving away with a car payment and not being insured. That's illegal and can get you in a lot of trouble. Protect your assets responsibly so that you can sleep well at night.
Have your dwelling serviced regularly
Carry a fire extinguisher
Don't cook in any vehicle without proper ventilation
Have an emergency exit plan
Step 5: Conversations with friends and family
Gain community and support before your family or friend tries to discourage your desire.
You don't need to have all the answers and have everything figured out before you get started. I would strongly advise you to only discuss this unconventional way of living with experienced individuals before you introduce the idea to your family and friends. How? Join Facebook groups for nomads, full-time Van or Rv folks, remote workers, and so on then pick their brains.
It is only natural for loved ones to be concerned about your safety when you decide to live on wheels. You have to be confident enough to have discussions around van life when you are talking to people that have a traditional way of doing things. Be unapologetic about your agenda if it's in the best interest of you and your children and remember your 'why'.
Is it to reach a break and find happiness within? Peace? Adventure? To pay off debt? More savings? The possibilities are endless with this lifestyle commitment. Van life is a lifestyle that will result in adventure, more connection to the outdoors, and more time to yourself or with family in a busy world where people constantly utter the words "I don't have enough time."
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