P1410733 (Large)If you’re used to living in a traditional house, living in a van will turn your life inside out. It takes time to harness the new powers granted to you by van life. The extra time and money you now have on your hands are valuable resources. They can be used for personal enrichment and getting ahead financially, or carelessly squandered. I’ve done both.

Most parts of my life are pretty typical. I work, pay taxes, own property and fill my free time with outdoor activities. Instead of traditional housing, I choose to live in a van or on a sailboat. I like the simplicity and flexibility of living in small, mobile spaces. I’m one of the lifers. Even when I‘m taking a break from living in a van I’m thinking about how to start doing it again. After five years of facing the challenges of van life and living the dream, I still want to live this way.

I’ve learned many important lessons along the way which make it easier to embrace this lifestyle long-term.

alaska_office1. Have a job or some other source of income. My remote computer programming job has been such a good thing (as soon as I took it on the road and got out of the office, anyway). Money in the bank eases many concerns on the road. Living in a van is risky, and money helps to mitigate the risks. Something like a vehicle breakdown can cost you your vehicle and your lifestyle in an instant if you don’t have extra cash. Also, don’t you want to enjoy your lifestyle, drive to exciting places, and do incredible things? It’s hard to do that while living in the Wal-Mart parking lot.

There are many employment options for people living in vans. Seasonal work is easy to get in Alaska. Driving your van to Alaska to work for the summer will be an amazing adventure, I guarantee it!

2. Go to the gym or find other ways to exercise. Every day. This is the best use of the extra time you’ll have on your hands now that you’re not cleaning, organizing, and maintaining a home. Going to the gym gets you into an indoor environment so you can enjoy a comfortable temperature and spend time around other people. You can take a hot shower. Getting indoors to escape the heat of summer, and especially the cold of winter, can be very soothing. It feels good to see other people at the gym, whether you talk to them or not. This can reduce feelings of isolation common to van life. Sometimes I would sit in the hot tub at the gym after working out and enjoy a nice conversation.

Plus, exercise is good for your physical and mental health. Taking good care of your health is absolutely paramount while living in a van. Conditions affecting your health will be more difficult to manage when you’re living in a van. You may not have ready access to your family doctor.

P1430442 (Large)3. Find your tribe. Find people who support and encourage your dream to live in a van. Maybe this will be your friends and family, and if so, that’s fantastic. My family wasn’t supportive of my choice to live in a van, but my adventurous canyoneering friends certainly were. They gave me their encouragement, invited me to events, and loved my van as much as I did. Their approval and inclusion meant the world to me. I needed that validation in my early days of vehicle living while I was still figuring it out.

4. Do something meaningful with your money. Once you’re living in a van, you will probably have extra money on your hands. Pay off debts. Save money for a down payment on some investment property like a duplex. Only buy property you can rent out and make a profit on. If it puts money in your pocket when rented, great.

5. Find a house you can go to occasionally while you live in a van. Between trips to Utah and Colorado, I enjoyed parking my van behind a house of roommates while I was in Boise, Idaho. I found them on Craigslist. I felt safe there, had a legal place to park, was able to prepare meals in the kitchen and use the bathroom. Parking behind the “feral house” in Boise was a wonderful time in my life and my roommates were incredible. I contributed $100 per month to the household and helped with utilities. They liked having me around and thought my lifestyle was cool. After I moved on and stopped parking there, one of the roommates started living in an old school bus in my old parking spot.

6. Have a plan for winter. Living in a van in winter can be tough. It’s cold. Days are short. Go south and find a place you enjoy, or plan to spend more time indoors during winter.

7. Don’t be afraid to do it by yourself. Many people are interested in living in a van but hesitant to do it alone. It’s really, really hard to find someone to live in a van with. If you have the chance to pursue this dream, go for it! Don’t worry about finding someone to ride shotgun. Maybe later on you’ll fall in love with someone who absolutely would never want to live in a van. Then you may settle down without ever having the chance to experience this way of life. Don’t put your dreams on hold!

I hope these tips can help more people live in vans successfully. Living in a van can be a beautiful, enriching experience. Let’s defy that old stereotype of “eating government cheese, living in a van down by the river” that we all saw on SNL. There are as many ways to enjoy this lifestyle as there are people doing it!

More van topics:
How I Set Up My Van For Off the Grid Living and Working
Living and Working Remotely as a Computer Programmer


Lisa Hackett

About the Author

Hi, I’m Lisa. I’m a tall, blonde superhero and I live in a van. I do it all. I rappel big waterfalls, drive from Idaho to Alaska solo, live and work in a van in the wilderness and dodge encounters with wolves and bears. Seriously. More

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About the Author

Hi, I’m Lisa. I’m a tall, blonde superhero and I live in a van and on a sailboat with my superhero husband, Brian. I do it all. I rappel big waterfalls, scuba dive with sharks, dodge encounters with bears and wolves, and work remotely as a full time computer programmer.
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About the Van

Hi, I’m Vanifest. I’m a big, 4x4, off-the-grid van complete with solar panel for power. I'm a 2000 Dodge Ram Van and Lisa has had me since 2009. Read more about me here.


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