According to Brent Rose, #Vanlife is NOT what it is portrayed to be!
Brent is a writer for Gizmodo, Wired, Outside Magazine, Deadspin and numerous other publications. He has been roaming around the country, writing and taking photos. He makes the point that #Vanlife is not ALL about perfectly beautiful people in perfectly beautiful settings. He recently summarized his experiences in an article for Overland Bound.
He writes, "For the last three years and three months I have been living and working out of a converted (and highly pimped-out) van, looking for adventure, stories to tell, and things to photograph, and I’ve hated every minute of it. Okay, not really. In truth, most of it has been good. I love traveling on a whim and never worrying about what I need to pack. I love waking up with the surf right outside my bedroom window. I love the people I’ve met, the photos I’ve been able to take, the food I’ve eaten, and the adventures I’ve managed to get myself into. I haven’t been doing this for three-plus years because I have to, it’s because I want to."
Brent and his Sprinter van in Missouri
Living in a van is still LIFE. Plus, you have complications of finding a (legal) parking place, day and night. As Brent relates in his article, many cities are cracking down on people living in vans and RV's. Parking on the street in residential areas may result in a knock on the window in the middle of the night bu the local Police. Parking overnight at Walmart isn't glamorous, either. And many Walmarts have now banned overnight parking due to slobs who have abused this privilege and set-up permanent residence - complete with awnings and slide-outs extended (taking three or four parking spaces!), bar-b-cue grills. and trash.
If you have a long, tall van like Brent's Sprinter you aren't exactly "stealthy". Camper vans with high roofs, air conditioning, and large RV windows can't blend in anywhere except a camp ground. On the other hand, plain cargo vans or minivans are so generic that they are still nearly invisible.
Brent squeezing into a "normal" parking place
All this changes once you are out of town. #Vanlife is best lived once you are in the woods or desert. There you can take advantage of the mobility of a van as opposed to a large motor home or truck and travel trailer. A van allows you to pull into a small slot in the trees, fix a meal, and sleep comfortably. You can live a self-sufficient, albeit minimalist lifestyle in a van.
The GoneCamper Dodge Grand Caravan, "boondocking" on the Mogollon Rim in Arizona
But it's not all bad! Brent admits that #Vanlife has it's advantages in terms of freedom. He concludes, "I love that no matter where I go I have everything I could possibly need with me, even if I pick up and go on a whim with no plan. I love that I don’t need to worry about a hotel. I love that if I have a couple drinks I can just go to sleep wherever I parked. I love the places it’s brought me and the people I’ve met and yada yada yada. But it also sucks. Not just sometimes, but frequently. And I thought you should know that side of it, too."
For the most part, we agree with Brent's conclusions - even though we don't LIVE in our vans! We have seen many people willingly and gleefully accept the limitations of #Vanlife. While we wouldn't recommend #Vanlife for families, many couples and single travelers have adopted #Vanlife as a viable alternative to a home or apartment. In addition to the cost savings over any other residence, most van dwellers simply treasure the freedom of movement. You can follow the sun and the seasons, visit friends and relatives anywhere, and plan your travels around a calendar of events and festivals. Wherever you drive, you have your home with you!
GoneCamper Chevy Express outside of Bryce Canyon, Utah
We don't live in a van. But we have enjoyed tens of thousands of miles of adventures that were made possible by a camper van. We have traveled to the end of the road and the Yukon River in Alaska, to national parks, off-road races in the desert, and simply to the mountains for a change of scenery or to escape the summer heat. Sometimes we pay for campsites to get electricity and running water. Other time we "dry camp" in the boonies. Our vans have also taken us on cross-country trips and serve as daily drivers. Our vans serve double-duty as campers, yet fit in the garage! We don't have to pay for storage fees for an RV, or additional insurance and registration.
Dry camping along the Kennecott River, McCarthy, Alaska
No, we won't be joining full-time #Vanlife. Travel and camping in vans is an escape for us and many, many other van campers. But the advantages of a self-contained van for travel and exploration, then a comfortable bed at the end of the day can't be denied!
Why not join us on the road? Contact us to schedule the delivery of YOUR camper conversion for minivan or full-size van!
Traveling Efficiently, Camping Comfortably, Living Frugally