Van Life: Why People Are Leaving Traditional Housing Behind

Embracing the road: 51% of van/ RVs choose freedom over traditional. Discover the allure of the slow travel van life and other alternative living at its best and worst!

While many people live and travel in their vans due to necessity, this blog post focuses on those who choose van life and other forms of alternative housing as an alternate lifestyle. These individuals embrace the freedom, adventure, and simplicity that come with life on the road, reflecting the principles of slow travel, something I’m passionate about here at Duffelbagspouse Travels. According to a recent survey, about 51% of van lifers live in their vans full-time, highlighting the growing appeal of this lifestyle (source).Here are just a few reasons why.

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Table of Contents

Freedom and Flexibility

I met Phylecia Jones a few years ago at a Wanderful event in Portland, Maine. I saw her a month ago at WITS Summit in Salt Lake City. There’s no telling how many miles they’d driven between the two events. Phylecia and her husband live and wirk as creatives out their RV. She is a speaker and photographer. He creates video games. She says van life and other movable housing options offer unparalleled freedom. Last time I checked, they were admiring the beauty of the Grand Titons.

No more mortgages, rent, or utility bills. Instead, your home travels with you, letting you explore new places on a whim.

Imagine waking up to the sound of waves crashing on the beach one day, and the next, opening your door to a stunning view of the Grabd Titons like Phylecia Jones. Each morning brings a new adventure and a new perspective.

Van Life is Slow Travel at its Best and Worst

This style of slow travel allows deeper connections with each destination. You can stay longer, get to know the locals, and immerse yourself in the culture. You’ll find hidden gems and create lasting memories.

Even though I’ve romanticized a van or mobile life, I know it’s not for me. However, that doesn’t make it any less fascinating. The stories, the freedom, and the lifestyle continue to captivate my imagination. It’s a unique way of living that offers insights into a different kind of simplicity and adventure.

Minimalism and Sustainability

Living in a van or a tiny home on wheels requires downsizing, which promotes a minimalist lifestyle. This simplicity often leads to a more sustainable way of living. With limited space, you learn to prioritize needs over wants, reducing waste and carbon footprint. Slow travel in a movable home encourages a mindful approach to consumption and environmental impact.

Unfortunately, that may not be the case. One of my favorite YouTubers is a talented Dualex creator specializing in building and selling incredible van conversions. He began his van life journey to reduce expenses, travel frequently, and live a more economical lifestyle. However, as van life has surged in popularity, the costs have increased dramatically, making it less affordable for many. In one of his videos, he demonstrates how to build a luxury van for under $10,000.

Financial Independence

The cost of living in a van, tiny home, or other mobile housing is often significantly lower than maintaining a traditional home. This financial freedom allows individuals to work less, save more, or invest in experiences rather than material possessions. According to a survey by The Wayward Home, 52% of respondents reported saving money as a key motivator for adopting van life (source). Slow travel by movable housing also reduces the expenses associated with frequent relocations.

Connection with Nature

Van life and other mobile housing options offer a unique opportunity to connect with nature. You can immerse yourself in the natural world with your home parked in beautiful, remote locations. Hiking, swimming, and stargazing become regular activities, fostering a deeper appreciation for the environment. This nomadic travel lifestyle allows for ongoing exploration of diverse natural settings.

Building a Community

The van life and tiny home communities are welcoming and supportive. Dwellers connect with like-minded individuals through social media, meetups, and events. This sense of community can be comforting to an otherwise solitary lifestyle. The slow travel approach also means more time to build meaningful relationships on the road.

Alternative Movable Housing Options

  • Tiny Homes on Wheels: These small, often beautifully designed houses can be towed to different locations. They offer a compact, fully functional living space with the advantage of mobility.
  • Converted Buses (Skoolies): School buses transformed into mobile homes provide ample space and a unique living experience.
  • RVs and Trailers: Recreational vehicles and trailers are popular for those seeking a ready-to-move-in solution with various amenities.
  • Houseboats: For those who prefer water to land, houseboats offer a serene and flexible living arrangement.

Stories from the Road

  • Ladi and Margaret built a high-tech camper van with unique features like surveillance cameras, hidden storage, a motorized solar panel lift, and a design centered around their electric bikes. The van includes a well-organized kitchen, swivel chairs with heated floors, a composting toilet, and advanced electrical and water systems.
  • Bridget divorced at 52 and embraced van life for freedom and simplicity. She converted a 1995 Chevy G30 within a $5,000 budget, traveling with her dog for security. Equipped with essential storage and solar power, she found peace, a connection to nature, and a genuine community on the road.
  • Nigel and Sue highlight the realities of solo van life, including daily challenges like water refills, waste disposal, power management, and dealing with pests. Sue emphasizes this lifestyle’s freedom and privilege while addressing its positive and negative aspects to provide a balanced view for potential van lifers.

Van Life Resources

  • Van Life Diaries – A popular blog and community that shares stories, tips, and experiences from van lifers worldwide.
    Website: Van Life Diaries
  • Van Clan – A comprehensive resource offering articles, guides, and reviews related to van life, including vehicle builds, travel tips, and gear recommendations.
    Website: Van Clan
  • Vanlife on Reddit – The r/VanLife subreddit is a community where van lifers share their experiences, ask questions, and advise on various aspects of van living.
    Reddit: r/VanLif
  • Gnomad Home – A blog run by a couple living the van life, offering insights into van conversion, living tips, and travel experiences.
    Website: Gnomad Home
  • The Vanual – A detailed guide created by Zach Both, covering everything from converting a van to living on the road, with practical advice and personal experiences.
    Website: The Vanual

Challenges and Realities

Living solo in a van highlights the less glamorous side of van life. Tasks like refilling water tanks, managing waste, and handling power shortages become daily challenges. Unexpected issues disrupt routines, such as running out of gas while cooking or dealing with mice infestations. Van life and other mobile living arrangements are not always as picturesque as they seem. These lifestyles come with difficulties like finding reliable internet, coping with extreme weather, and maintaining the vehicle. However, many find the freedom and rewards of this lifestyle worth the challenges. Military spouses often choose van life for its stability amid frequent relocations. Recognizing these hardships provides a balanced view of van life, often idealized on social media.

Van Life Vloggers

  1. Eamon & BecYouTube
  2. Kombi LifeYouTube
  3. The Indie ProjectsYouTube
  4. ninth elementYouTube
  5. Van Life Sheldon’s TravelsYouTube
  6. Lidia RicoYouTube
  7. Hobo AhleYouTube
  8. Panda MoniumYouTube
  9. Enigmatic NomadicsYouTube
  10. The Nomadic MovementYouTube
  11. Glorious Life On WheelsYouTube
  12. Strange Days DiariesYouTube
  13. Hannah Lee DugganYouTube
  14. Nomadic IntrovertYouTube
  15. Nomadic FanaticYouTube
  16. Gone with the WynnsYouTube
  17. AdventureVanManYouTube
  18. Less Junk, More JourneyYouTube
  19. Tiny Home ToursYouTube
  20. We’re the RussosYouTube
  21. Keep Your DaydreamYouTube

Quiz: Which Alternative Lifestyle Suits You?

1: How important is mobility to you?

  • A. I love the idea of waking up in a new place whenever I choose.
  • B. I like moving but prefer staying in one place for longer periods.
  • C. I prefer having a permanent base and rarely moving.

2: What’s your budget for transitioning to an alternative lifestyle?

  • A. I’m ready to invest a significant amount for the perfect setup.
  • B. I have a moderate budget and am looking for cost-effective solutions.
  • C. I’m on a tight budget and prefer DIY solutions.

3: How much space do you need to feel comfortable?

  • A. The smaller, the better — I love cozy, compact spaces.
  • B. I need a bit of elbow room, but nothing too spacious.
  • C. I prefer more space, similar to a traditional home.

4: How important is being close to nature for you?

  • A. Extremely important — I want to live immersed in nature.
  • B. Somewhat important — I enjoy occasional outdoor activities.
  • C. Not important — I prefer urban environments.

5: What is your priority when choosing an alternative lifestyle?

  • A. Freedom and flexibility to travel.
  • B. Minimalism and reducing my environmental impact.
  • C. Financial savings and simplicity.

Results:

  • Mostly A’s: Van Life or RV Living — You crave freedom and adventure, so a mobile lifestyle like van life or living in an RV is ideal for you.
  • Mostly B’s: Tiny Home on Wheels — You appreciate a bit of stability but still enjoy the flexibility to move. A tiny home on wheels offers the perfect balance.
  • Mostly C’s: Converted Buses (Skoolies) or Houseboats — You prefer more space and a touch of uniqueness without sacrificing the essence of mobility. Skoolies or houseboats can offer you a more rooted yet flexible lifestyle.

Final Thoughts

Van life and other forms of movable housing represent more than just a trend; they are movements toward freedom, simplicity, and a deeper connection with the world. For those willing to embrace the adventure, they offer a fulfilling alternative to conventional living. Whether you’re considering this lifestyle or simply curious, the stories and motivations behind van life and other movable housing options are inspiring and thought-provoking.

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