Living in a van just makes sense to me. Tom and I lived in a rented van for ten weeks, 15 years ago, when we were travelling around Australia. This is what I discovered.
* Being in a van you are very much outside all the time. Our little van was a two berth, fully converted camper, with curtains on all the windows, but even with them all drawn you never felt fully indoors.
* We need a whole lot less than we think we do. In our van we had bed sheets, a few kitchen essentials, clothes, a small amount of food, a battery-powered radio to pick up BBC World Service, a pack of cards, a couple of books and an old camera. I never once wished I had anything else.
* Humans create a huge amount of moisture. Even on hot, dry days, everything in our van felt slightly damp.
* It’s easy to budget in a van. Money was tight for us in Australia and we had plunged a huge amount into renting the van in the first place. We were driving impossibly long distances and spending massively on fuel, so this was by far our biggest expense. However, in the days before smartphones and mobile internet, it was one of our only expenses, the others being mainly food, parking and campsites. We kept a simple budget book and tried to average around 50 Australian Dollars (roughly 20 GBP at 2002 exchange rates) per day for everything.
* You become keenly aware of your energy and resource use. In a house, these things are, for the most part, hidden. Until it comes time to pay a bill (and even then, it can be hard to relate all the numbers on dials and screens to actual energy used), our use of gas, electricity and water is pretty much taken for granted. In our van, we had to be constantly aware of our water usage, fill up whenever it was available, always conscious of how much we might need. We had a small fridge which ran off the van’s battery but we knew that if we parked up for even just a day, we would probably need to top the battery up from a mains source, or switch off the fridge.
* In a house we become obsessed, to an unnecessary degree, with being clean. Our van had no shower and one small sink, with limited water. We would wash our hands only when absolutely necessary and take showers at campsites when they were available. Campsites with showers tended to cost more than those without so the idea of going for a few days without was good for the budget, and meant we could spend a bit more on food. If there’s a choice between having a clean body and dinner, food wins.
* Living in a very small space with few possessions is incredibly freeing, peaceful and relaxing. Fine weather days were spent simply walking and outside in nature. Wet weather days were for reading, writing, playing cards, exploring the free attractions in a city, or splurging on a café.
* Vanlife often requires a focus on meeting basic needs in a careful and methodical manner. The day starts with a checklist of necessities: Where are the nearest toilets? Do we need to source water, food, electricity or fuel? Can we go another day without a shower? How can we mitigate extremes of temperature? Where can we find safe, convenient or comfortable parking to sleep at for the next night? These daily questions serve to anchor you firmly in the present, forcing a confrontation with the here and now; denying thoughts of past or future concern.
Vanlife is all about getting busy with today, being alert and living in the moment. It fosters an appreciation of what is really important and a paring down of what is not.
Do you agree? Have you spent time living a vanlife? Was it enjoyable? Comment below or head over to the link on our Facebook page.