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  • Writer's pictureRandy Reek

​FIVE Reasons Why a Minivan Is Perfect for Van Life: Part FOUR

Updated: Jul 14, 2021

Look at the ADVANTAGES of choosing a minivan for the “#vanlife”.

GoneCamper is creating a new trending hashtag: #MiniVanLife"! (Is the minivan camper the new “Vanagon”?)

There are many characteristics which make the generic minivan perfect for the “#vanlife”. So far, we have looked at the FIVE Reasons Why a Minivan Is Perfect for Van Life:

1. Minivans are everywhere. Minivans are easy to find and cheap to buy.

2. Minivans are everywhere. Few vehicles are more “stealthy” and less threatening in any setting.

3. Minivans have a high load capacity, making them ideal as versatile camping vehicles.

4. Minivans are economical to own and operate.

5. Minivans are the most versatile small vehicle option for camping.

Now we will spend some time discussing BONUS Reason Number 6: Minivans are the perfect choice for the “part-time full-timer”.

Reason Number 6: This is a BONUS reason to consider a minivan for #vanlife. A minivan is perfect if you fall into the category of “part-time full-timer. What is this? MOST vandwellers are NOT full-time, 365-days a year.

If you have read this far, you know my opinion that #vanlife is as much – or more – about your mindset as the van you drive and inhabit. We can endlessly debate the Pro and Cons of Sprinters versus ProMasters versus box trucks or even cargo trailers. That’s not the focus of this article.

Most people define van life and vandwellers as a 24/7/365 all-or-nothing lifestyle. I have a different, broader definition I want to submit: I consider “Van life” as anything longer than a three-day weekend campout. It is intentional. You have prepared yourself and your van for extended travel, plus on and off-grid camping.

We have taken several three-week vacations in the GoneCamper minivan. We have traveled from Arizona to Alaska and back. We have traveled from Wisconsin across Canada and down the East Coast and back. We have driven back and forth between Arizona and Wisconsin many times. We have thoroughly explored every nook and cranny of Arizona while living there. We have enjoyed dozens of short camping trips. Some people would say this is NOT vandwelling! But for all these weeks on the road, and tens of thousands of miles, we weren’t “dwelling” anywhere else. We weren’t depending on another vehicle for both our transportation and our shelter.

My knowledge of “vandwelling” and the “vanlife” is a result of decades of camping experience, tens of thousands of miles on the road, combined with listening to, working with, and learning from long-term nomads. With this background, experience, and knowledge I submit that you can be a certified “vandweller” after you have lived in your van for more than TWO weeks! You will forever understand that a van is a viable, nomadic shelter.

I also have thousands of miles of bicycle and motorcycle touring and camping experience. I have instructed others how to prepare their rides and their gear. I teach that if you can prepare for three days on the road, you are prepared for a week-long trip. If you can complete a weeklong trip, you are equipped for a month on the road. If you have the vehicle, gear, and mindset for a month on the road, you can literally ride around the world.

The same is true for van living. It takes the same equipment and organization to spend one month on the road as a year, or more.

This ALSO means that you can be a committed and bonafide “vandweller” and enjoy the #vanlife even if you are not full-time, if your total time on the road is limited to only a few weeks per year!

Your lifestyle goals, finances, work and family responsibilities may dictate your calendar:

· Maybe a month on the road is followed by several months at home. Like us, you may have a comfortable home to return to – and that does NOT disqualify you as a “vandweller”. (We also have a full workshop where I build GoneCampers!)

· You may choose to work for several months at a seasonal job to finance the next several months on the road. Some seasonal jobs provide free campsites for workers (beet harvest, Amazon, Workampers, etc.) You may work one job in the North during the summer and one job in the South during the winter – and travel for several months in between. Some jobs in tourist areas provide room and board, and the vandweller travels the rest of the year.

· Some vandwellers travel for the Summer and return to school in the Fall. Some stay with family part of the year and travel the rest.

· Your vanlife travels may intentionally be short-term as you relocate to a new area or search for your new homestead. Some vandwellers live on a homestead during the growing season and save money to afford life on the road for part of the year.

· Some people are vandwellers only seasonally, using their vans to escape southern heat or northern cold. Following the warmer temperatures avoids the costs of heating a home and buying a full second wardrobe of winter clothes.

Many seasonal vandwellers combine their nomadic, minimalist life with a tiny home or apartment. (Your van can serve as a guest room for visiting friends and family.) Some vandwellers consider their van their “vacation home” – as opposed to a cabin in the mountains, a lakeside cottage, or a condo at the ocean. Others look at their full-equipped, self-contained van as a “bug out vehicle” that will take them far away from natural disasters and manmade civil strife.

Nowhere is it written that #vanlife MUST be 24/7/365. Don’t let anyone minimize your commitment to the van life if you are not ready or able to commit to full-time travel. Van life is about maximum freedom and independence. Only you can define what that means, and your definition is going to change over time. Do what works for you.

If you are like me, you have watched hundreds of #vanlife videos and followed many individuals on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. One of the repeated themes is an elaborate van build, followed by an amazing series of destinations and cover photos, numerous videos of their travels and van designs, resulting in a growing fan base – followed by an announcement that they are leaving #vanlife.

I assume some get tired of the constant promotions required to maintain “celebrity status”. Lots of times, life just happens. YOU may be different. A converted van may be your dream home and you may have what it takes to commit to the minimalist lifestyle indefinitely. But it is simply a fact that at least 90% of you are not Bob Wells.

I believe that most of the long-term, committed vandwellers have fully-embraced the minimalist mindset. Long-term vandwellers will usually have more and better skills. Both take time. On a part-time basis, it might take you a few years to get comfortable with all the aspects of vandwelling.

Then there is the financial investment. Many long-term nomads have much less invested in their vehicle and “van build” than the well-heeled social media #vanlife celebrities. Spending more does not ensure your satisfaction. Vanlife is a commitment to voluntary simplicity, including reducing stress about money. Why would you overspend to test if #vanlife is right for you?

Whatever your reasons and motivations, if #vanlife is a part-time commitment (either part of the year or full-time for a few years), I recommend a minivan camper. As we have discussed in the previous articles, the lower cost and simplicity of a minivan camper are only two of the many advantages.

Regardless if you are a solo traveler with intentions of going full-time, or a committed part-time vandweller, I suggest you travel and camp in a minivan for one year. I see two outcomes:

1. You LOVE vandwelling and want to continue the lifestyle. You have honed your skills and have completed a circuit of the seasons. Now – with your experience – you have the best framework to determine if a minivan camper is still right for you. If Yes, you have begun with the lowest possible investment. You know what it is going to take to maintain your nomadic lifestyle. If No, you can sell the minivan and move on to a larger van or RV. (The GoneCamper conversion requires no permanent modifications to the minivan, so you can resell it as a passenger van!) In the process, you have established your minimalist habits and are much more likely to be successful in a long-term vandwelling lifestyle.

2. You may discover in a few months – or a few weeks – that #vanlife is not for you. If you financed an expensive diesel Sprinter van and a custom van build, you have wasted tens of thousands of dollars. You will never get back what you spent on the van build. With depreciation, you will never be able to sell your van for what you owe.

It is possible to outfit a used minivan for comfortable vanlife on the road for less than $5,000. The smallest teardrop campers routinely cost over $10,000 – NOT including the tow vehicle. If you need a dependable and comfortable vehicle for work or travel when you are not camping, an economical minivan is hard to beat. The minivan can be converted to a camper and back to a passenger van easily. The GoneCamper conversion installs in 15-minutes and removes just as fast. You can store the bed and kitchen in the minivan between camping trips. You can also transfer the GoneCamper package from minivan to minivan if you sell or trade.

A minivan will fit in any driveway or garage or parking ramp. It is cheap to operate and maintain. Unlike RV's and trailers, there are no added storage costs in the “off season”. The versatility and low cost cannot be matched by any other camper. For all these reasons, a minivan may be the best choice for the #Vanlife! Contact GoneCamper to discuss the many design options for your minivan. The minivan most completely defines our motto:

Traveling Efficiently, Camping Comfortably, Living Frugally

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