The first time I watched Exploring alternatives’ video about living in a van, I was so thrilled about it, I couldn’t stand still. My brain immediately started streaming romantic dreams of road trips on the coast, warm sunsets, exotic destinations and no responsibilities… Just me, Pedro and our kitties… Nothing but adventure, happiness and the world embracing us in perfect harmony.
I wanted to go away the next day, I couldn’t wait another second.
At the time, I was living and working as a manager of a small B&B and I was struggling. I was suffering the consequences of 4 years of working non-stop, chronic stress and also a serious case of cabin fever. No wonder I reacted the way I did to the possibility of leaving everything behind.
Fortunately, Pedro is not as (crazy) emotional as I am, and managed to bring me back to reality (slowly…). So no, we couldn’t leave tomorrow. Or the next month, for that matter. We needed to think about it seriously. It took another year of saving money, downsizing our stuff, researching and studying van life.
Now, after a year living in a motorhome, I can tell you it was an amazing experience! We had loads of fun, we learned a lot about ourselves and about how we wanted to live our lives and we are certainly proud of what we accomplished.
I can also tell you it is definitely not easy and I wouldn’t dare judge anyone who wants to give it up. Before you decide, contemplate the following questions:
Can you get rid of 90% of your stuff,
keeping only the absolutely necessary?
A van and even a motorhome have limited storage space. Very, very limited, if you consider what you have collected over the years. We were pretty much stuck home most days, so we had a lot of hobbies and that means a lot of “toys” – books, CDs, DVDs, computers, video games, fabrics, paints, sewing supplies, drones, tools, etc. – and then, the usual amount of clothing items, furniture, kitchen and bathroom stuff… I get tired just thinking about it.
Get ready to be overwhelmed by the task ahead.
Everything you own will need to be examined closely for need/ function and sorted accordingly (keep, sell, give away, bin?). If you feel you can’t live without a big wardrobe or all your books or less than 3 pots to cook, for example, then you probably won’t be able to do this.
Can you share a very small living space with
your partner (and your pets, if that’s the case)?
Living in a van or a motorhome will be an exercise on tolerance, compassion and respect. In the beginning it will especially complicated, as you will need to learn how to move around without bumping your head, hurting yourself or getting on your partner’s nerves.
New routines and behaviors must be implemented and you both must practice a lot of kindness to be able to make it work. I am sure you love each other deeply.
I remember reading a story on Facebook about a couple that bought a motorhome to go for a long trip around Spain. They only managed to spend a week together – the lady flew back to the UK and left her husband in Spain. All they did was fight all the time. I don’t dare judge them. Don’t let this be your case.
Avoid taking it too seriously, most of all laugh about it and carry on.
Do you realize that even though you are rent free,
you still have to work to pay for food, fuel and other things?
Yep, in my first van life fantasy, I could quit my job and live on hope while on the road. That is not real life, I’m afraid. I did quit my job, because it was a live-in position and it was basically killing me with anxiety and stress. But my partner kept his job and I had to find another one that would fit our new lifestyle and to support us. We were still in the “rat race”.
If you are able to work remotely on the road, that’s fantastic – a lot of people do, successfully! . If your skills allow you to be a digital nomad, that’s brilliant, you can travel more. But yeah, you still need to work and pay bills.
Plan your financial needs and your work accordingly, before you go.
Would you suffer from separation anxiety
when leaving everything you own parked on the street?
This really affected me. Whenever I had to leave my cats and everything I owned parked on the street to go somewhere, I would always fear the worse.
What If someone broke in, stole our stuff or hurt our beloved pets? We had cameras and alarms on the MH, insurance… We had several safe spots to park, but I still struggled everyday with leaving. Think about how you can best protect your vehicle and how to handle it in a positive way.
Would you be able to handle people’s
judgement of your life choice?
The van life movement is huge these days, but so is the world. For most people, especially the older generations. For them, the 9 to 5 work model is the only one that can grant you any worth or respect, so they’ll have a difficult time understanding why you would want to live “like a hobo” on the fringe of society, even if it makes you so happy.
I only worried about my family and friends’ opinions, but I still didn’t allow them to change my mind. All you can do is explain the reasons why. If it makes you happy, why wouldn’t they support your decision?
The rest of the world…. I don’t care. Strangers don’t know who I am, so they don’t get to influence my views of myself.
Hey, these are not meant to kill your dreams. Not at all! These are only things you need to consider. Van life is really amazing! There is so much to explore, so much to experience. Life should be about feeling, seeing, tasting, out there “in the wild”, not stuck in an office for hours on end, wishing you were somewhere else.
Also, tomorrow is not guaranteed, so live NOW.