How to Live in a Van
I’ve been back in my home without four wheels for a few weeks now, giving me time to reflect on the #YourLead van trip. Since my return to semi-real life, I have been bombarded with questions and comments about van life, ranging from “How did you do that?” to “Never. I would never. No.”
Committing to living in a van full-time is quite the lifestyle change. Maybe that’s exactly what you’re looking for—great! Maybe you want to test the waters first by renting an RV or camper or transforming your minivan for a night or two. Or maybe you’re just reading this post with a horrified interest, shaking your head vehemently.
Whatever your goal is, here are some tips to living a happy #vanlife.
Organize your belongings
Contrary to what a fisheye camera lens tells you, vans are actually pretty small vehicles. Fill one with necessities like beds, cabinets, and gear, and your space gets a whole lot tighter. When you move in to your van, take the time to designate a spot for all your things. Then, make it a point to keep things tidy. A van can feel very messy, very quickly.
Heidi and I were sticklers to the adage “A place for everything, and everything in its place.” We would put things back exactly the way they were the moment we were done using them, which made it easy to find the blue bowl, not the red bowl, in the dark in the middle of the night. I kid. But not really.
Make it homey
A van is a functional vehicle. It’s also your house for however long you’re living in it. And it may be hard to feel settled if you’re transient and calling a new city home every night. Add some personal touches to make the van feel cozy.
Heidi and I strung up our Goal Zero lanterns to create some mood lighting. We played music as we cooked in the evening. I brought my ragged-but-beloved toy to sleep with. These things may seem small, but they turned Betsy from a van into a rolling home.
Develop a routine
Yes, you’re living a carefree, vagabond life. But that doesn’t mean you should throw all caution to the wind and resolve yourself of responsibilities. Chances are that you still have a job while traveling the country. Settle into a routine that satisfies you, whether it’s exploring in the morning and finding a coffee shop to work from in the afternoon, or knocking out work early and finding adventure later in the day.
Experience all the things
Use this adventure to branch out of your comfort zone. You’re living in a van, after all—you have to be at least somewhat spontaneous. Follow that questionable dirt road. Jump off that cliff into the blue pool below. Tube in a river or ride a raft at sunset. Meet Internet strangers.
Roll with the punches
Above all, don’t forget to keep your expectations in check. When you’re living in a moving vehicle, things may break, campsites may be nonexistent, valets may rip your roof off. It is not always going to be as perfect as depicted in the Instagram photos. And that’s OK! If you had wanted a mundane life, you wouldn’t be living in a van.
Thank you for you essay Tanya. Might some of the pictures you posted be taken from the Boise area?