Living in a van or an automobile might seem like an unconventional choice, but it has become increasingly popular in recent years. More and more people choose this alternative way of life for various reasons – from financial freedom to a desire for adventure and simplicity. The number of people choosing to live in their van (van dwellers or nomads) is estimated to be around 3 million in the U.S. According to some online statistics, people choosing to live in their van or other recreational vehicle has increased by 63% since 2020. While there are some folks who have no other option but to live in their vehicle, most van lifers are choosing to hit the road.
Why Choose Van Life?
One of the main reasons people choose to live in a van is the potential cost savings. With rising housing costs and expenses, living in a van can be a more affordable option. Van dwellers are able to save money on rent, utilities, and other household expenses. This allows them to have more financial freedom and pursue their passions or travel without worrying about high living expenses.
Mobility and Flexibility
Living in a van also offers a sense of freedom and flexibility. Van dwellers are not tied down to one location and can easily move from place to place, exploring new destinations and experiences. This lifestyle is especially appealing for those who love to travel or have a nomadic spirit. Additionally, living in a van allows individuals to disconnect from the traditional 9-5 work schedule and create their own schedules, giving them more control over their time.
Minimalism and Sustainability
Another reason people choose van life is the appeal of minimalism and sustainability. Living in a smaller space forces individuals to become more mindful of their possessions and lifestyle choices. This can lead to a simpler, less materialistic way of living that is more environmentally friendly. With fewer possessions and a smaller carbon footprint, van dwellers can also contribute to preserving the planet.
Ways to Make Money on the Road
While living in a van may seem like a carefree lifestyle, it still requires income to sustain it. Here are three of the most common ways that people living in their vans make money:
- Remote Work – Many van dwellers work remotely, using the internet to earn a living. This can include jobs such as freelance writing, web design, virtual assisting, and more.
- Seasonal Work – Some van dwellers choose to work seasonal jobs that allow them to travel and live in different areas throughout the year. These could include working at national parks or ski resorts during peak seasons. Another popular part-time gig is working in an Amazon fulfillment warehouse as seasonal staff.
- Van Life Businesses – Some van dwellers have found creative ways to make money on the road, such as selling handmade goods or offering services like photography or music lessons.
Choosing a Van and Best States for Van Life
When it comes to choosing a van for living purposes, there are several popular options among van dwellers:
- Sprinter vans: These vans are known for their durability and ample interior space.
- Ford Transit: This van offers a more affordable option compared to the Sprinter, while still providing a decent amount of space.
- Promaster Vans: Similar to Ford Transit, these vans are more budget-friendly and offer good gas mileage.
As for the best states for van life, it ultimately depends on personal preferences. Many van dwellers prefer states with warmer climates or scenic landscapes, such as California, Arizona, and Colorado. However, some may prefer states with more liberal laws and a thriving community of van dwellers, such as Oregon or Washington. Some locations require vans that have front-wheel drive for challenging or remote terrain.
Tips for Living in a Van
Living in a van may sound like a dream but comes with challenges. Here are some basic tips to help you make the most out of your van life journey:
- Plan and research: Before embarking on van life, it’s important to do thorough research and plan accordingly. This includes choosing the right van for your needs, creating a budget, and researching places to park and stay.
- Stay organized: Living in a small space requires organization. Make use of storage containers, hooks, and other creative solutions to keep your belongings tidy and easily accessible.
- Prioritize safety: It’s important to prioritize safety when living in a van. This includes investing in quality locks, keeping emergency supplies on hand, and being aware of your surroundings.
- Find community: While van life can be a solitary experience, it’s important to find and connect with other van dwellers. This can provide a sense of community, support, and opportunities for advice and tips.
- Be mindful of waste: Van life also requires being mindful of waste and finding ways to live sustainably. This includes using reusable products, reducing water and electricity usage, and properly disposing of trash. Choosing bio-degradable soaps, shampoos, and cleaners is a non-negotiable for those without a sewer system.
Say Goodbye to a “Sticks and Bricks” Home and Consider Van Life
Living in a van can be challenging at times, but with the right mindset and preparation, it can also be an incredibly fulfilling and rewarding experience. If you are thinking about a simpler way of living, van life may be the perfect choice for you! Make sure to check out online forums like Reddit (r/VanLife) for advice and help from people living the nomad life. For more resources, check out “The Wayward Home” blog and podcast for more information and DIY resources for building out your van. Don’t forget to hop on YouTube to access hundreds of instructional van life channels showcasing nomads of all ages and lifestyles.
Although it’s not for everyone, van life offers an alternative lifestyle for those seeking adventure, simplicity, and financial freedom. From cost savings to flexibility and sustainability, there are many advantages to living in a van. With the right mindset, preparation, and creativity, van life can be a fulfilling and rewarding experience. So, if you’re considering this lifestyle, do your research, find your community, and hit the road – a world of new experiences and opportunities awaits!
Melane Ann is a writer, blogger, and life coach. In 2020, she turned her experience in midlife divorce and creating a new life for herself into midlifeismagical. With a master's in Marriage and Family Therapy, Melane focuses on helping women over 50 navigate their relationships and commit to healthy aging. She and her new husband share 7 children between them. Melane jokes that she has a black belt in blended families! In addition to her writing, Melane works virtually with her coaching clients from her home office.