It has been over a year since I made the leap from two bedroom apartment to living in a tiny van. During my first year of van life, I learned a lot about myself as well as life on the road. I have run into many obstacles that I had to overcome, but also have experienced some of the best moments of my life.
Here are 7 lessons learned after one year of living van life!
1. Van life is not always fun.
Sometimes van life is inconvenient and a pain. I have realized that sometimes you just need a real bathroom and sometimes the weather just won’t allow you to live comfortably. You’ll make classic RV mistakes. In order to live this lifestyle, you definitely have to be flexible and willing to adapt and overcome challenges as they arrive. Read more about my van life fails here.
2. It’s okay to live in a van alone.
Besides hygiene, this is probably people’s biggest concern when I tell someone my living situation. I’d be lying if I said living alone in a car wasn’t sometimes a scary thought, but I never felt increased vulnerability being alone.
I do my best to avoid sketchy situations. I have a weapon if needed and I don’t stay in spots that don’t feel safe. Obviously, anything can happen to anyone but please don’t let being alone deter you from solo traveling or living in van/mobile living space.
For extra peace of mind, you can find tons of YouTube videos, like this one from VaVaVans about solo traveling safety.
3. You need to care for your van.
This is not just your daily driver, it’s your home. If/when it breaks down, it can be a real hassle. This is one of my biggest fears. I take my van for regular oil changes and get the manufacture recommended service completed. I like to stay on top of maintenance to keep her running for as long as I need her.
4. There is no need to push you and your van’s limits.
Trying to tough it in winter in Alaska just didn’t work out for me. From getting stuck once every two weeks to attempting to sleep in negative 18-degree weather, it was rough.
Sometimes you just have to do what’s smartest and not what you want. It wasn’t feasible for me to return to the lower 48 at this time so I had to stay, thus renting a room for the cold months was worth it.
5. People seem to want to help.
When people learn that I live in a van and the reason why, they seem to have positive responses. I have gotten responses, “If you ever need to do laundry or shower, come over.” I always tell people, don’t say that if you don’t mean it! I have gotten to know people better by using their facilities and developed a greater appreciation for the kindness of strangers, who become friends.
6. Having a legit campsite is better than stealth camping.
Working full time and van dwelling has been significantly easier having a “legitimate” camp spot instead of stealth camping in parking lots. I have privacy and am able to cook and relax outside or inside with my doors open without freaking people out. I will be willing to pay a reasonable amount for that “luxury” on my next stops.
7. I still want to live in a van.
It’s been a great year with many challenges, but with many more rewards. At this point, I am thoroughly enjoying a more simple life. I am excited to see where the next year brings me and Vanny.