Ben and I have slept in a metal box on wheels for the past 50 days, living the #vanlife. Moving your whole life into a van is like going to grad school for minimalism, relationship therapy, gear management, and living without service, all wrapped up into one big outdoor advanced diploma. If you’re just starting out on the road, been living it for years (please send us tips), or just want to know a little more about how we do it, please, see below.
Roxy and Ben’s List of #vanlife Tips and Tricks
- Expect to show up to a campsite after dark and assume every terrible thing that can happen will. Expect to wake up the next morning, but it’s beautiful, peaceful, and welcoming and you remind yourself you shouldn’t be creeped out by the dark. Repeat.
- Your mouth is a dishwasher, your clothes are a napkin, the ground is a desk, the dashboard is an underwear drying rack (thanks for tip, Jess!).
- On that note, a sink can also be a shower. It’s like that quote “Every zoo is a petting zoo, if you’re brave enough.” Every sink is a shower, if you’re brave enough.
- Cooking gets extremely creative when the cooler gets sparse. Think eggs with hot dogs and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches except the bread is a spoon.
- You CAN have ice cream. Just load up the cooler with ice, and eat it right away. Probably for dinner.
- Wear the same clothes every day, until you can’t. You will know when that time comes.
- Spend as little time in grocery stores, around cities, or at gas stations, as possible. To do this, divide and conquer. Set jobs and stick to them. Trust your partner will get their half done. This tip actual applies to every part of van living.
- If you’re looking for a camp site past dark, pull over and make dinner before the sun goes down. Don’t try to find a site, unpack in the dark, and start dinner. This is a recipe for a disaster and a bad dinner. If you fail to heed this advice, have a quick meal on hand.
- Everything takes longer than you think it will. Five-hour drive? Assume seven. Quick grocery run? Find myself wandering around looking at decorated cakes. Always allow more time for every task.
- Have a pack all ready to go, with a water bottle, snacks, and maps. That way when something strikes your fancy off the side of the road, it doesn’t take forever to check it out.
- Spirits down? Watch a movie! It can totally change a rainy night stuck in the back of the van.
- The front of the van is the food command center. Don’t be fooled, the cup holders are actually salsa and hummus holders. Don’t forget to store a spare set of silverware up there too.
- Use your sleeping bag as a comforter when you’re around the campfire. Don’t get too close and light it on fire, but you and your bag will go to bed warmer.
Pretty often spiders fall out of the sky. This has happened on multiple occasions and I am not joking. Continue on, but only after screaming as loud as you can and crying a little bit. There are bugs everywhere. If you live in a van, they are on you right now.
- Magnets for everything! Just get magnets, you will find uses for them.
- Being eco-friendly is a much bigger struggle. If someone could set up a service where people just pick up your recycling from the door of the van, I would be eternally grateful.
- Check out this site, it is a life saver when the sun is going down and the Walmart parking lot lights are shining directly into your back window.
- Logistics is King. But driving without a destination is Queen.
- If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! You’re ready to live in a van. Prepare for the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows — and for the former to FAR outweigh the latter.
I recently met up with some old high school friends and we were all catching up. “I live in a van,” was my opener. Then someone says, “Down by the river?” just like everyone says. And I tell them, “We try to sleep by a river as much as possible, just to keep the dream alive.”