Van Life has taken the internet by storm and ignited a passion in people I have never seen before. There is a massive community of us out there that have packed what we can into a small space and decided to live minimally. Why? So we can experience freedom. Wake up in different places and not put roots where our feet should be. It’s an awesome movement to be a part of! But we want to share the realities of van life with you!
While converting and moving into our van we did so much research. From reading the latest blogs, to be inspired by Instagram posts. We were hooked and couldn’t wait to be parked in a picturesque setting. What we didn’t manage to find on our research spree though was the realities of Van Life. This isn’t to say we don’t wake up in picturesque settings, because sometimes we do. But often, the majority of the time van life is not like this at all. From parking in car parks, to showering with a tap and cold water there are realities that should be talked about. Not to put anyone off (I don’t think that’s possible) but to share the experience of what it is REALLY like to live in a van full time.
The Van is Rarely Clean
Living in a small space you expect that it is pretty clean. Well, unless we are taking some beautiful van life pictures, the reality of van life is most of the time it’s a bit of a mess. We have clothes on the floor a lot, our laundry bag either lives in the front seat or the back floor and dishes are not always immediately done. It’s not a bad thing, we are comfortable in our van home. Just like you are in your own home, cleaning is a chore and it is often one that can wait. Especially when adventure calls! This is just one of the realities of van life. Enjoy those picture perfect moments, but trust me everyone will have a build up of dishes and clothes on the floor at some point!
Our Van Broke down and Yours will too.
We loved our little car and although it was super old, we never had a problem with her. Buying and moving into Hugo (the van) was a whole different story. On our first big drive and adventure, we broke down twice. It was a bit of a drama but again another reality of van life. This reality though, is one we were prepared for. We had breakdown cover and through our love of other people’s van life stories, knew the likelihood of breaking down was pretty high. Everyone break downs in their van at some stage! So the hottest tip I can give you is, get breakdown insurance for sure! It’s not the end of the world when these things happen but it is one of the realities of van life you need to know.
We still have Chores
Living in a van full time is incredible, we love it! It doesn’t mean the chores stop though, when it comes to realities of van life, this is our least favourite one. From doing the dishes, taking out the trash, cooking, cleaning, filling up the water container and shopping. None of this stuff stops when you live in a van. In fact, for some of the chores, it can take a lot more forward planning. I mean if we didn’t do any of the chores, our van would be a mess and neither of us would eat! When you follow the blogs and Instagram lives of people living out van life, it’s often a forgotten reality of van life. But trust us when we say the realities of van life are often similar to living at home. But with just better adventures and better views!
Even though chores can be a bit boring, cooking with a view of the mountains one day, the beach the next and the forest the third. Never gets irritating or boring. Sure, sometimes we wish we could just order a domino’s, but living and cooking in van life, is so much better!
We live in a Car Park 80% of the time.
Van life means you live in vehicle that moves and a lot of the time it can be pretty tricky to find parking. Especially in the UK. So often you’ll find us parked in car parks. For us though this reality of van life is not because it’s the only place to park, but because our jobs mean we can live on site in the van. We still live in a beautiful place, but we don’t always wake up with views of the mountains, beaches and forest that others would have you believe.
Living van life in a car park isn’t all that bad, this is where we found our van life community. And we wouldn’t change that as we love hanging out with others in their vans! There is an amazing community in van life, so when you find it, you often don’t want to leave. So trust when we tell you one of the realities of van life is you’ll be in parking lots a lot of the time.
The bed is a priority, especially if you’re tall.
When building our van we went in and out of ideas. We loved the idea of sofas with a drop down table that changed it into a bed. But then we realised we would constantly be packing and re doing the bed each day. As you will remember, we don’t like doing more chores if we don’t have to. Also, a permanent bed meant we could have heaps of garage space. We liked that. So that’s what we went with! Callum is pretty tall and so when we built the bed we kept that in mind.
We didn’t want to make the bed the main feature in the van and so we built it so that width ways it was the same size as a king size. But not long enough. This meant Callum could sleep diagonally and me, well I can fit in anyway that works. The benefit of being small! One of the best pieces of advice we were given when building the van, never underestimate the importance of a good nights sleep. It’s true. The number one reality of van life is having a comfy bed. It’ll just make van life so much better and comfortable!
You don’t realise how much internet you use until you don’t have it.
We obviously use a lot of internet. We blog, are active on Instagram, use a lot of social media and apps for work and keeping in touch with our friends and family. So living in a van is tough. There’s no WiFi in the van (although that may change soon) and internet has to be planned. We could spend a fortune on a phone plan with internet but instead we opt for free WiFi spots. Thankfully through our outdoor seasonal jobs we can often get internet in the centers where we work. But otherwise we have to plan it out and actively seek it.
Buying the occasional hot chocolate for free WiFi is cheaper than spending a fortune on a phone plan. The realities of van life these days means you still need to have a paying job and for many of us, it’s online work. So when building a van and getting ready for van life, having a think about internet use is a good idea!
We miss pizza a lot.
In our van we don’t have a conventional oven. We use a Omnia Oven to make some treats we can’t live without (potato wedges, nan bread and cakes). Things like pizza is off the cards. It might be a silly thing to include in here, but when thinking about van life, your whole life has to be thought about. We don’t have pizza often and thankfully we mainly cook fresh food. But if you are an oven cook meal lover, you might want to think about this. There are some sacrifices when it comes to van life. The realities of van life for us include skipping pizza and missing it!
Adventures now just happen
The best thing about living in a van is that adventures now, just happen. What do I mean? Well basically when it comes to finding parking, sourcing quiet spots and exploring brings on adventures. We go onto roads we wouldn’t usually drive, take in the scenery around us, go on random hikes and exploration days. Basically just have a great time. There may be some realities of van life that aren’t so different than home life. But living in a van offers more adventures than living in a home could ever offer. You may not wake up on a beach every day, or in the mountains, but you’ll experience the quieter, unknown places you may not otherwise find. Living van life, is the greatest adventure we have ever had!
We are outside more than we are inside
The whole point of moving into a van is that we would move out the house and be less encouraged to stay inside. It’s amazing how much space you can fill with things that are designed to keep you indoors. Even if all you want to do is go outside. So moving into a van and experiencing van life meant that we would take our home to the outdoors and explore it. We don’t have a TV to distract us, WiFi to stop us or any other reason why. The outdoors is our passion and now that our home can come with us, we spend way more time outside than we do in. If you don’t want to be outside, why would you live in a van in the city? When it comes to realities of van life, this is our favourite one we get to share with you.
Van Life still means movie nights in bed, just better.
Although we don’t have WiFi in the van (yet) we do still enjoy the occasional movie night. How you ask! Well Netflix has a snazzy function that means we can download what we want to watch when we have WiFi. Then watch it when we are in the middle of nowhere, with no signal, later. Living van life means we are out and about a lot but we love bed days and movie nights too. You’ve got to have a balance after all! Van life movie nights are way better than regular movie nights though. In our cosy small space, snuggled in the bed with all our pillows, fairy lights on, snacks out and Netflix on. It is the best movie theater in the world.
Eating Healthy is Easy!
Many people told us it would be tricky to keep up a healthy diet while we lived in a van. Van life profiles online showed us how people ate out all the time. We would love to be able to eat out all the time but it’s not possible. Both of us didn’t want to give up healthy eating and have made it a priority to keep our diet up. We have a fridge and gas hobs in the van, we have space to store veggies, cans and long life goods. There is no reason not to cook healthy and it’s actually so much cheaper! We plan our meals and shop in bulk to make sure we have enough to eat especially when we go off grid. There is nothing better than cooking, looking out the window to beautiful views every day.
The van conversion doesn’t stop when you move in.
Our van conversion took us just under a month to do. We would not recommend this to anyone. We had to move in quickly as our jobs needed us to move. So by the time we bought the van, put it into the garage and converted it we moved in with things still to be done. We originally wanted to build a shower and toilet in the van. But now we are living in it, we don’t want it anymore. Now after living van life for a while we know that we need more storage, so we are making overhead cupboards and spice racks. The roof is still to be finished and the garage needs some separator walls put in so we can organise more.
Once you convert and start living in the van you will want to change things. That is just a reality of van life. The conversion never really stops. But that is all part of the fun right? Until you live van life full time, you wont know exactly how you want things. So keep some tools in the garage, they will come in handy for sure!
The Van Life community is bigger than you think.
One thing we found when exploring the realities of van life is that the community is huge! From social media clubs to real life meetings. More people than you think live in their van. We were stoked about this. Moving into the Van we were told where we were going a few others lived in their van too. But once we got there, so many more than we thought were living in their vans. The best part of it is they are all like minded, fun loving and spontaneous people. Living in a van full time reminds me of what a small village life is like. We all take turns cooking for each other, we have BBQ’s together and give each other a helping hand when it’s needed.
Close communities are hard to find these days. But when you move into a van and take on van life full time, you’ll find an incredible community. This is probably our most favourite reality of van life and one we hope never changes!
Solar Panels are worth the investment.
Although our van is a giant, our solar panel is actually pretty small. This is down to the fact we had two sky lights put in when we bought the van. We were originally going for a bigger solar panel, around 360 watts. But we settled with a smaller one which gives us about 250 watts from Bimble Solar (who are awesome by the way). It fits perfectly between our two sky lights and since we hooked it up. It has never failed us. We use solar power in our van to run our fridge, water pump, sockets and lights. Even on the dullest days it still manages to charge the batteries and keep our power strong.
Living in a van means you need power. That is straight forward reality of van life and one that is only going to be needed more as our tech advances. So when it comes to solar panels on the van, we highly recommend you invest in one! Not one of the flexible ones that stick on top, but a more robust one that you can rely on for years to come!
Convenience Consumption slows down, big time!
Before we were living in the van we were like most, in a house. We had jobs that gave us money and we didn’t really need for forward plan too much. Going out and buying new clothes, takeaways, treats whenever we wanted was the norm. We are all convenience shoppers but when you move into a van, convenience consumption slows down, big time! Our shops are planned and a van is not an address so takeaways are minimal. Shopping we keep to a minimum because we want to use our money for adventures and we have limited space for more things. We reuse and re-wear outfits over and over again because, well why not?
Since taking on van life full time, we’ve cut back on all the luxuries we enjoyed when living in a house. And we don’t miss it! We are both less stressed, enjoy life more and don’t care if we need to re wear the same outfit to multiple parties. Plus, we are helping the planet without even realizing. By avoiding fast fashion, plastic products and takeaway waste we are probably more Eco friendly than we were back home. Yay for the realities of van life, right?!
What are your realities of van life?
Living in a van is an experience we think, everyone should do. It is so much fun! Van life for us had been a dream for years and now we are living it. it doesn’t disappoint us in any way. At times the sacrifices are tough and we do wish we could just order a pizza. But most of the time, the realities of van life are our benefits and joys.
As we keep adventuring in the van we will update this with further van life realities we find. In the mean time, stay tuned for more adventures and check out more of our van life stories here!
Do you have any realities of van life you would like to share with us? If so, leave a comment and let us know, we would love to hear them!