“Rover, wanderer, nomad, vagabond, call me what you will. But I’ll take my time anywhere. Free to speak my mind anywhere. Never find anywhere. Anywhere I may roam, where I lay my head is home.” – Metallica
Most men have dreamt of hitting the road and seeing where life takes them. Their method of transportation may vary by the individual, but one of the most popular conveyances is the humble van. From the quintessential VW microbus to the luxuriously tricked-out Mercedes Sprinter, the type of van is only limited by your funds and purpose. The idea has grown in popularity in recent years and we have covered this lifestyle with a previous article on van life, that looked at the phenomena from a practical view.
But what about the romance of driving your home off into the sunset? The memories made by driving all day and seeing the world through the windshield of your domicile, stopping when you want to, why you want to, and for how long you want to? There is a growing fondness for the idea of laying your head down in a new location every day while keeping the creature comforts of home with you on the road, and for good reason.
Why Van Life?
While van life may seem extreme to most, it is realistically obtainable by those whose interests are piqued by the idea of living in a van. The savings of traveling with your home around you make van life much more approachable. You can achieve the same free-style living in a car if you are willing to sleep in a tent, sacrificing your comfort. Or you can travel in more luxurious accommodations such as an RV (sacrificing your savings). But a van walks the line between cost and comfort and allows you to optimize your own experience by driving down the center line of a nomadic life.
A van, depending on how you build it out, gives you the self-containment of the RV without all the costs. Most vans have sufficient room for at least a minimal cooking set-up, and with the growth of this sort of endeavor, new space-saving technologies are being introduced every day that bring even indoor showers into the realm of possibility.
How Long Is The Road?
Your day-to-day comfort will make long-term van life more manageable, but you really should have an idea of how long you want your adventure to last. Are you looking to take a gap year from school, career, or social networks? Or, are you looking to make the transition to van life a permanent way of living?
Knowing your planned era of being a vagabond will help inform your decision on how extreme to go with your accommodations. But more importantly, knowing how long you will be away from what your normal life may be can give you insight into how it may affect your relationships. For example, if you have a pet dog, you can travel without any major hindrance. If you have a pet cow, it becomes a different challenge. The same applies to significant others who may not relish the idea of living a life away from a suburb.
Van life isn’t the only option for traveling with your home, but it is the most sustainable. While sleeping in a tent does carry the romanticism of living life on the edge of society, a comfy mattress and a drip-proof roof over your head does make long-term life on the road more bearable.
Where Will The Road Take You?
If you know why you choose the van life, or for how long the van life is choosing you, then all that is left is to figure out your destination. Perhaps that is the true reason behind committing to living a life on the road, or off the road. As much as your van will serve as your means to get to your desired location, it is also the method by which you will leave so much behind.
Visiting the nation’s natural parks or escaping a life that doesn’t fit your nature?
Both are acceptable reasons for making life on the road your life.
Remembering that the destination is anywhere you can drive to is the key reason that so many have embraced van life, but some challenges come with living a life without a permanent zip code. Your family will think you are mad at them. You will miss birthday parties. You will have to depend on the grace of strangers. You will want to go home. But, you will gain much more by making your journey into the unexplored world a more permanent adventure. However, it is still a decision that must be seriously considered from both angles.
Most Americans get two weeks per year to enjoy the experience of being somewhere different, and that is if they are lucky. For some, that sounds woefully too short. Van life is for those people who want to live a life focused on the experience of life, while also enjoying the furnishings of life, at a smaller scale.
Photo by Jeremy Bishop.