So, you’re thinking about living van life huh? SWEET! It’s not just for hippies down by the river anymore! The #vanlife movement is an increasingly popular mentality among people who are embracing minimalism, chasing their dreams and living lives that are most fulfilling to them.
It’s easy to get hung up in the pretty pictures of vans in epic locations but make no mistake about it, there’s A LOT you have to do before getting to that point. It’s a big change and It’s definitely not something you want to rush into. Getting your mind right and having plans in order is really important so you are set up for success.
There’s a lot of logistical things to think about and plan for when you’re building a tiny home on wheels but luckily there’s also a lot of resources for you. Connecting with those living the lifestyle already is definitely your best tool.
There are a lot of things to consider but here are our top 6 things to think about before getting started:
1. How long are you planning on doing this? And how so?
Are you selling everything to live in the van full time? Will you be a part time dweller? A weekend warrior? Whatever your situation may be, it’ll be a determining factor in what van you chose and its design. If you’re going to be full time- you’ll probably need more storage space than a weekend warrior who will keep most of their belongings home. Where do you plan on taking your van? Will you be off-roading? If so, you should consider a 4X4. But we’ll talk more about vans later…
2. How will you make money on the road?
Being able to sustain yourself on the road is especially important if you want to live this lifestyle and have fun. Let’s face it, you’re going to want to try the fresh blueberry pancakes in Maine or a locally made cheese in Wisconsin. Depending on your financial situation, living in a van will greatly lower your overhead hopefully allowing you to save money to have fun.
Keep in mind however, just because your overhead is lower doesn’t mean you won’t need funds for other things on the road. The unexpected things, I’m talking about. When you’re a van dweller, all kinds of things come up that you’ll need to prepare for so it’s better to know you’ll comfortably be able to pay for them when they come up.
3. Deciding which Van is best for YOU!
If you search #vanlife on social media, you’ll see an array of different vans converted into tiny homes on wheels. There’s the Mercedes Sprinter, the Ram Promaster, the Ford Transit, and some people have even converted ambulances! Each have their own pros and cons so it’s best to do research and reach out to those who may have the vehicle of your choice to see how they like it and if they would recommend it.
There’s different lengths, widths and shapes, some take diesel and some gasoline, some are 2-wheel drive, some are 4-wheel drive, and some have dually wheels. Depending on the design of your build and where you plan to take it, all are key factors in determining which van you should chose. If you live up north and know you’ll be in snowstorms, consider a 4x4 van because the weight of these things once built out is HEAVY and you don’t want to take a risk of sliding on slippery roads.
4. How important is a bathroom to you?
This is definitely something you want to think about because you’re going to have to use the bathroom and you’ll eventually need a shower; it’s just how do you want to accomplish these things. Many van lifers have gym memberships to nationwide gyms where they’re able to use their bathroom facilities. If you’re looking for a more private option- you can choose to put a full bathroom or just a toilet in your van.
There are many options for toilets to consider as well and depending on your lifestyle, you’ll have to decide how you want to handle the nitty gritty. There are compost toilets, urine diverting toilets, flush toilets that require a black tank, portable toilets, stationary toilets, etc. Everyone has a different opinion on this but from our opinion, if you’re able to swing a full bathroom in your van, definitely do it.
It really makes the van feel more like a home when you have your own private space to shower and go to the bathroom. Sure, you’ll save the space in your van but if you need to go in the middle of the night, you’ll need to find a public toilet or go outside.
5. How much water will you need? Are you a water waster?
A creature comfort of having a house is that you can turn on the faucet and water will run continuously. Your showers are long and hot, you’re able to take baths and for the most part, you don’t have to worry about running out. Boy does that change when you live in a van (and it should!).
You will have to decide how big of a freshwater tank you are going to need. The more water you have, the better obviously, but the bigger the tank, the more space it takes up. Regardless of the size of the tank you decide on, you will have to change your water consumption habits. You will do things like “submarine shower” which is when you turn the water off and on as you need and not letting it just run.
You have to do the same thing when you wash your dishes. You get everything wet, soap them up and then rinse them all at one time. It definitely takes some getting used to, but it can be done. You may run out of water while brushing your teeth a few times, but you’ll get it.
It’s important to remember that when you live in a van you have to think about safety in a whole new way. You must always be aware of your surroundings and be especially careful where you park at night. Taking a peek at the sideview mirrors of the van is a good trick for getting a quick view of outside before stepping outside. It’s also important you’re careful with who you share you live in a van with and your travel plans.
Sadly, it’s a scary world and you just never know. Better to be safe than sorry and keep your business as private as possible. You could have extra locks installed on your van doors and we’ve even seen people install dash and side cameras on their van.
Research and planning for a lifestyle like this will take a lot of time but it’ll be worth it in the end when you’re out there living your best life enjoying the freedom and beauty this lifestyle provides. Grab a pen and some paper and just sit and think about your future self in the van. What does it look like? Feel like? Then go back through the things above and write down a few bullet points under each thing to consider. Get the ball rolling, ask questions, research and make it happen!