For some, living in a van isn’t something you just do down by the river.
It’s a way of life, a way to live a life of exploration and minimalism, seeking out the next opportunity for self-expression, creativity, and freedom from the oppressive reality of a mortgage, rent payments, and the rat race that stifles the soul.
But van life certainly isn’t for everyone. For those lucky few who can take on the role of traveler, embracing life on the road can be a challenge and an adventure. But casting off the bonds of financial servitude doesn’t mean a life free of planning or responsibility. Those who choose van life are embracing a life where they can learn to live with less and enjoy the simple pleasures of life.
Van Life: Hit the Open Road
The nomad life means the world is your home. Your van is your shelter and your sanctuary. Of course, the comforts of stationary housing are nice, but some things just aren’t practical in a van. For example, you’re certainly going to lack indoor plumbing.
You might want to get a van with a few modifications (or do those modifications yourself). Certainly, storage is at a premium — you’ll need a place to put your clothes, emergency supplies, and all of the things that go along with living a normal life. But the best part of van life is that exactly what those things are is completely up to you.
There are certain things you’ll need to plan for before hitting the road. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and you can’t go wrong.
Enjoying the Nomad Life However You Want
How you choose to embrace the traveler’s life is your business. The world is your proverbial oyster where you can be free to focus on your hobbies, pursue passions, hang out in solitude, or meet new people. Better yet, you can do all of those things! This is the van life in a nutshell: whatever you want to do on any given day, you can.
Want to live on the beach, learn to surf, and get a tan? You got it. Want to get a job waiting tables to make a little extra cash? You can do it. Want to hit a campsite and lounge with some new friends around a campfire? Go for it. Or if you just want sit around watching the sunset, reading a book, or watching movies, well, that’s perfectly fine too.
Preparing for the Van Life: The Things You’ll Want on Board
Preparation for life in a van is key to making your time on the road as enjoyable and successful as it can be. Staying safe is job one. There are a variety of hazards that come with living on the road, and while many can be mitigated by avoiding potentially dangerous situations, some require preparation.
Preparing well takes some forethought, but common sense will get you far. Items like clothing, money, and a cell phone are essentials. While living off the grid may seem appealing to some, maintaining contact with friends and family, even just for emergencies, is a safety issue.
While you can often get food and water on the road, you should have a stockpile that can last a few days, with a focus on non-perishable foods — canned vegetables, jerkies, and jugs of water — things with long shelf lives so you aren’t needing to continually replenish anything that goes unused. Military-style MREs — Meals Ready to Eat — are a good option too.
Remember that the van life is agile and light, so aside from the essentials, the less you have, the better off you are. Extras like a television, video game systems, a lot of books, and trinkets and knick-knacks will just be in the way, taking up space that could be used for more essential items.
There are a variety of other useful items that can be easily stored. Here are a few essentials that will make the nomad life painless to navigate:
A propane stove, cooler or portable refrigerator, cast iron skillet, cutting board, bowls and plates, and utensils will allow you to cook and eat comfortably and as healthy as you’d like.
Camp chairs allow you to get out of the van and lounge comfortably. A camping table is collapsible and can fit in a nook in your van, ready to come out when you need it. A sleeping bag might be a good idea, since it can roll up when not in use and be very warm. Items like an awning, string lights and/or an LED camping lantern, space heater, and fan will keep things as bright, warm, or cool as you need them. A roof vent can provide ventilation, and range from a crank and screen to a fancy exhaust fan. A coat, light jacket, hat, and sunglasses can protect you from the elements as well.
A first aid kit equipped with bandages, antibiotic ointment, sunscreen, tweezers, nail clippers and files, burn sprays, medications including ibuprofen or acetaminophen, allergy medicine, and cold and flu medicines are all essentials (along with any other medications you need to take regularly). But also don’t forget emergency road supplies like jumper cables, road flares, and road cones.
While gas station restrooms and truck stop showers give you the opportunity to enjoy that part of life, you can indeed live with no bathroom. You can improvise showers and use the restroom without relying on businesses or running out into the woods. But you can also take advantage of technology: Cleanwaste has an array of products designed to help you use the restroom on the road (maybe not literally ON the road), thanks to products like our WAG BAG® Go Anywhere Toilet Kits, the Pee-Wee® Unisex Urine Bag, or, if you want a throne for your miniature castle, the GO Anywhere Portable Toilet (PETT). These approximate the pleasures of a home restroom right from your van.
Of course, there are any number of other home comforts you can bring with you, depending on space, your needs, and wh