A van lifestyle is all the rage among the younger generations these days. It’s a hip and fun new adventure to explore forests every day, chase sunsets, and curl up with a good book in your hammock next to your perfectly sized home on wheels.

Before you make the switch and decide to take a nomadic lifestyle through the nation’s stunning parks and wake up to breathtaking natural views, think through your decision and consider all the pros and cons. Here are some important details to think about when deciding whether to embrace the trendy van lifestyle.

Pro: Minimal Space, Minimal Cost

View from above of an RV with a tent attached and solar panels on the roof.

A tiny home van lifestyle is incredibly cost efficient: no home insurance, no extra utility bills, and no monthly rent or mortgage. Primary expenses associated with van living are usually just food and fuel. If you want to cut back on costs even more, consider upgrades like an electric or hybrid engine, and perhaps a solar panel with a battery to be eco-friendly and lower expenses.

Pro: Travel on Your Schedule

Van living allows you to choose your adventure, on your own time. Choose your destination and stay for a weekend or camp for three weeks. There’s no fuss over arriving at the hotel within the check-in time frame or fiddling with reservations. Just hop in your portable cozy home and drive at your leisure to glorious views and stunning sceneries. Travel more and see a bunch of sights, and if you land on a certain place that you like, stay a while longer to explore.

Pro: Carry Everything… and More

A big benefit of van life is the ability to travel with everything you own. Imagine never worrying about leaving your wallet or keys at home! Plus, having a small space means downsizing your belongings and finding a balance to carry along only the items that you truly need or feel a deep connection to. You’ll be able to cultivate a small space of the items that bring you true joy and carry them with you anywhere you go!

Pro: Explore Nature’s Backyard

Two people hiking and smiling as they look around at the greenery.

One of the biggest reasons many van lifers choose to abandon the stationary house and seek the house on wheels is the closeness to nature. Truly living on the land is an experience unlike any other. Cultivating a rich relationship with the Earth, respecting her power and beauty, and connecting with yourself on a deeper level in the quiet stillness of early morning outdoor bliss is a comforting feeling after spending hours on the open road.

Con: Showers

The chances that a live-in van comes with a shower are slim to none. Even if you can find a van with inside-shower hookups, a shower takes up a considerable amount of space in an already tiny living situation. Considering how much time is spent taking a shower versus eating, sleeping, or working, some find it wasteful to dedicate half the living space to a shower. But in that case, be prepared to start counting your days chasing your next place to stop and shower.

Beaches, streams, and lakes will do in a pinch if you are trekking outside of city infrastructure. If you can find a public pool to pay a few bucks to swim and use the showers, it might just be your lucky day. Some paid campsites will have shower access as well. Just be aware it’s unlikely you will be able to find a shower every day while living in the van. It’s a good idea to keep some baby wipes on hand to use as needed.

Con: Toilets

A similar situation to the showers, finding a toilet can be particularly exacting, especially at night when a lot of public restrooms are closed. Consider planning where you might drive to an open bathroom before going to bed and then drive to the same one again in the morning. For some people, the portable toilet is an acceptable substitute. However, these can be a hassle to set up and use. If you’re outside the city, a backwoods situation will suffice when needed. Otherwise, be prepared to spend a lot of days planning where you’ll land your next bathroom break.

Con: Working

Small table in a van with a laptop open.

If you have a full-time position, van life can make maintaining working hours difficult. Depending on where you park for the day, Wi-Fi can be difficult to access and restrict your working capacity. If you’re a freelancer, you might have it a bit easier and can make your schedule based on when you’re more likely to have a solid internet connection and an outlet for a computer recharge.

Con: No Rest for the Weary

It may sound a bit ridiculous, but a big adjustment for many new van owners is adapting to always being on the move. Your entire mindset changes to constantly focus on where you will stop next, what restroom options are nearby, when you might have your next shower, and other important planning considerations that change by the minute. It can be exhausting and will burn anyone out after a while.

Additionally, it can be challenging to adjust to having a roaming home rather than a home base. Life on the road is an exciting and constant adventure but be prepared to feel at least slightly unsettled every once in a while, without being able to recharge in the same stationary place.

Con: Small Quarters

This may go without stating, but to be comprehensive, the issue of downsized space must be included. It’s not a huge adjustment if you’re going at it solo, but for couples and larger families with children and pets, the space can go from small to suffocating in a heartbeat.

Make sure to check in with your family members and/or travel partner every so often and state your needs and boundaries clearly if you begin to feel a little cramped in the small space. If you need some alone time, find ways to manage your stress levels by taking a daily hike or having a sunrise tea. It’ll be a much more pleasant and fun experience for everyone if communication is clear and everyone takes the space they need to breathe.

Con: Stow Before You Go

A kitchenette with lots of dishes and and and storage.

Another adjustment while on the road: No dirty dishes can be left in the sink before you begin to drive. They must be cleaned and stowed away, along with any other items that are out in the open. Leaving items out while the car is in motion is not only a safety hazard but the clanking and rattling sounds can also become quite annoying after a while. Be sure to secure all loose items (you might have to get crafty with storage ideas) before hitting the open road.

Key Takeaways

Person with shoulder-length curly hair leaning against a red and white van with socks clothes pinned on a line attached to the van.

Living in your decked-out van and embracing a nomadic lifestyle can be a thrilling, once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Find friends on the road and at campsites to connect with and share your van stories. Enjoy spontaneity, financial freedom, and sunrises from the comfort of your bed. If you want nothing more than to sleep under the stars and wake up to gorgeous views  (and you’re also willing to hike it every so often to find a shower and toilet) then van life might be ideal for you!

About the Author, Melanie Theriault

Melanie Theriault is a writer, counselor, and lifelong learner. She holds a B.A. in Sociology from Southwestern University, where she discovered her passion for fostering human connection through storytelling.

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