Vanlife is a lifestyle. Not for everyone, mind you. It broadens your horizons, yet requires courage. It will give you freedom, yet you gain it through some uncomfortable situations. With vanlife, you might find yourself, yet will get lost on the way there many times. That’s why it’s good to evaluate all the pros and cons of vanlife before you make a final decision.
Whether you are looking for a reassuring kick or want to know what are the disadvantages of vanlife nobody talks about, this post is for you.
PROS OF VANLIFE
Travel, travel travel
Despite all the different reasons to jump into this lifestyle, one of the main pros of vanlife is being in a travel mode. At last, you can reach remote areas not accessible by public transport. You are not limited to your state/country either. If money isn’t an issue, you can even ship your vehicle to another continent and continue your vanlife adventure overseas. Driving your own home with you might also soothe your homesick blues.
👉 Get inspired by our post Why should you try camping in your car and where to camp in the US?
🏆Best cars for camping 🏆
- Fiat Doblò camper XL, High Roof 🇪🇺 4.0/5
- Honda Odyssey 🇺🇸 4.0/5
- Volkswagen Sharan 🇪🇺 3.9/5
- Caddy Maxi Camper (Life) 🇪🇺 3.8/5
No crazy jetlags
As you are bound to overland travel, you avoid long-haul flights. That includes jetlags, but also fear of flying. Win-win.
Free from exhaustive search for the best hotel
Apart from chasing the best rate for airplane tickets, finding the best place to stay on your trip can be tiresome. Especially if you plan a long-awaited holiday that you desire to be perfect. Well, living in a van ain’t all sunshine and rainbows, but you definitely won’t be stressed with research, checking reviews, and hoping for the best bed, buffet breakfast, and free pick-up from the airport.
From now on, you are fully responsible for your choices of what to see, when to leave, and how to explore a new destination. No more tight schedules with travel agencies, no more rushing through sightseeing because you have only two weeks of vacation per year.
Viva decluttering! No matter the size of your room, apartment, or house you’ve lived in before, moving into a van will teach you to minimize your life. Fundamentally. You will live only with necessities that make your life easier and more comfortable. There will be no cellar or attic for all “things I might use later”.
Downsizing makes you also do less shopping since vanlife golden rule is “one thing in, one thing out”. Once you purchase an item, you get rid of another one to keep the van space liveable.
For the sake of staying sane, you start organizing stuff you own. Compartments for clothes, tools, and food. There might be some messy days where you won’t be able to find anything, which could only encourage you to keep things neat and tidy so that you find anything even blindfolded.
No more packing/unpacking
Living from a backpack is fun, but after a few years, it can feel daunting. Constant packing and unpacking, keeping an eye on your stuff at a hostel, and double checking when leaving a place not to forget something will not be a problem with vanlife.
Bonus: Finally you can travel to countries with different climates since you have space for clothes in hot and cold weather. For more info on how to go camping in winter, read our article Winter car camping: How to keep warm when car camping in cold weather?
If your “pre-vanlife” expenses included rent, utility bills, monthly metro/bus/train tickets to commute to work or school, and TV subscriptions, then it’s definitely going to be a breeze at the end of each month as you won’t have to pay them anymore. Surely, vanlife brings expenses on fuel, health, car, and travel insurance, but it’s nothing compared to all compulsory payments related to your previous lifestyle.
You are the owner of your home
Rarely do you meet a young person who would be able to pay for their apartment without taking a loan. By the time you pay off all debts and own your own place, you are in your 60s, playing with your grandchildren, and supporting your kids who might get into a mortgage themselves. With vanlife, you own your own home from day one, without being worry where you get the money to pay the rent.
One of the best pros of vanlife is reducing the speed of life. A never-ending to-do list, commuting, giving up on me time because of lack of time — this is going to change. You are a master of your time. This doesn’t mean you become a careless dude. Rather opposite. You start to prioritize things cause you know you haven’t left your comfort zone to waste time with useless activities or interaction with people you don’t feel good with.
Boosting your mental health
This is a huge one. With vanlife, you are spending more time outdoors, which is proven to improve your sleep, reduce stress, and lift your spirit.
👉 Check out more health benefits of spending time in nature.
When you are out there pushing two wheels or hiking, you pray for good weather perpetually. When doing vanlife, you are pretty much weather independent. Obviously, when there is a hailstorm or snowstorm, you get to a safe place ASAP.
Enhancing creativity, learning new skills
From basic maintaining your vehicle, and upcycling your clothes, to learning about edible plants and some survival skills in the wild nature — you’ll have oodles opportunities to hone them on the road.
Strengthen your bonds
Whether you set off for vanlife with your friend or a life partner, it will be a real trial by fire. Get ready to test your communication skills, the art of compromise, and setting some healthy boundaries. It all pays off tremendously.
Getting a new perspective
When feeling stuck in life, sometimes getting out of a routine helps to clear your mind. Now imagine you are out there indefinitely — encountering new cultures, ways of living of different social classes, being exposed to new languages, flavors, and opinions of locals you don’t necessarily agree with. All this helps to look at your own life and the world from a different perspective. If you are open enough to accept it.
CONS OF VANLIFE
Walking into your bathroom on autopilot each morning is no longer possible. Sometimes you might even feel like a major part of vanlife spins around finding a spot to have a shower and use a toilet.
- Bring your own portable toilet
- Use river, lake, and sea to refresh
- For proper showering and washing your hair, look for indoor gyms, swimming pools, or bathrooms in some major train stations
- Toilets are available at most petrol stations, camping sites, restaurants, cafés
This is relevant when you need to receive a spare part for your vehicle, or electronic devices if you work online.
Solution: Staying in a city to receive it by courier. Or ask at a camping site – some allow shipment deliveries, others don’t.
No biggie if you do not need Internet for your work. But if you are dependent on upload and download speed to deliver your work to your clients, then you might face lots of frustration.
- Buying a sim card in the country you travel with a convenient data package
- Sending off your work in bulk once you reach a café in a city
Overall, vanlife is about using common sense, similar to any means of travel – don’t keep your valuables on display, lock it up, and don’t park in areas you have a bad feeling about. However, when traveling to some South American countries or to Africa in general, you will need to do some profound research before you find the right place to park overnight as that part of the world might have more sketchy neighbourhoods.
This might be one of the least expected issues with vanlife. You would imagine that when driving a van, there would be just you, endless scenic roads, empty spacious parking spots at the beachfront. The reality is, that you will encounter many curious peaks inside your vehicle, random strangers keen to have a conversation about your vehicle, and personal questions, too.
The lack of privacy comes especially when you travel as a couple. This will require some solid house rules regarding alone time.
This is quite disputable as it all depends on the size of your vehicle, your pet, and the amount of patience to compromise destinations you pick and places you park as not all of them will be animal friendly.
Lack of routine
Personally, this is one of the biggest cons of vanlife. Keeping yourself fit regularly, and balancing work time with exploring adventures.
👉 Check out our list of Portable Exercise Equipment for Camping.
Solution: Slow travel.
Visiting cities more than you desire
If you decide to do vanlife full-time to leave the pollution and noise of the city behind, you might be disappointed that you will actually spend quite a lot of days in an urban environment. Getting food and water supplies, fixing your electronic devices, catching up with work in a café with decent Wi-Fi — all this will bring you to a city.
Lack of community
For obvious reasons, you won’t be able to join any community for a longer period. You’ll meet some awesome vanlife fellows, that’s guaranteed, but eventually, you will part ways, which can create a feeling of being disconnected from friends and people in general.
Regular medical checkups
If you roam around your previous home base where your doctors are, this won’t be a problem. But if you intend to leave the state or country, it can be complicated with regular visits.
Solution: Stay healthy, and do all necessary check-ups beforehand.
I am not talking about all the wildlife behind your van door but inside your new home. Get ready to become a master of getting rid of ants, mice, geckos, snakes, and birds from your vehicle and keeping yourself safe from bears, boars, or other wildlife.
What are your personal expectations of vanlife? Share them in the comment below!
Founder of NimbleCamper.com, avid traveler and outdoor enthusiast. Car camping and microcamping allows me to keep traveling and exploring with a much greater level of freedom & privacy – to go anywhere and sleep anywhere. I didn’t have 30K to buy a VW Multivan, so found my way to the world of everyday car camping conversions. Here I share my experiences and what I learn.