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Searching for the van life hashtag on social media will produce colorful, dramatic photos of decked out vans, pristine mountain views, and picture-perfect smiles painted on the faces of bloggers who decided to give this lifestyle a whirl. Living in a van can certainly be a beautiful, rewarding experience, but there is a lot you need to know before you even begin shop for a sprinter van. If you can't stop dreaming of hitting the open road in a sprinter van or van camper, here's what you need to know before dropping everything in exchange for life on the road.
Tips You Need to Know
1. Choose the Right Van
Your van is going to be your home for the entire duration of your journey. The type of van you choose depends on several factors including the weather, your personal preferences, and how far you plan to travel. You also need to consider your budget for conversion costs if you plan on modifying the van.
If you don't plan on traveling during the winter, you can get by with a two-wheel-drive van. If you plan to travel far and wide, you may want to opt for a newer van to avoid breakdowns. You also need to consider your personal preferences and needs when you choose your new "home." Sprinters, van campers, and other types of vans all come with different styles and features, so spend some time researching and shopping around until you find The One.
2. Stay Organized
If you have trouble staying organized at home, keeping your van camper clean and clutter-free will be a nightmare. Living on the road requires you to stay organized so you can easily prepare meals, get dressed, and swiftly handle emergencies as they arise. If you aren't an organized person, learning some basic organizational skills will make your van camping experience easier and more enjoyable. Also, using a van rack is a great way to dry your clothes and it can tuck away anywhere.
One of the best ways to stay organized while living in your van is to adopt a minimalist lifestyle. The fewer items you take with you, the more space you'll have to sleep, hang out, and move around. Only packing the absolute essentials will allow you to keep your van clutter-free.
3. Be Prepared for Anything
The van lifestyle is anything but predictable. Breakdowns, bad weather, theft, and illness can arise at any time, so you need to have the necessary tools on hand, along with a plan for each emergency situation that may come up. Be sure to pack tools for repairs, and emergency medical kit, a fire extinguisher, and a jack in case you have to change your tire. A portable shower is another good idea so you can wash your hands and feet often.
Packing the essential items is just one part of being prepared. These tools are useless if you don't know how to use them. Before you head out, be sure to familiarize yourself with every tool you bring with you. You should know how to perform basic repairs, change a tire, and bandage a wound before you leave your house. You should also be aware of hospitals, gas stations, and mechanic shops along your route so you can easily find them if you are in jam. If you are bringing a pet along with you, be aware of where the vet clinics are located along your route.
4. Think Ahead About Health and Hygiene
While social media portrays van life as care-free, fun, and glamorous, most of your time will be spent doing the same things you do at home. Cooking, showering, eating, and doing laundry still have to be taken care of while you're out exploring the world. Keeping up with your health and hygiene while living in your van will prevent you from getting sick, and you'll be able to fully enjoy the experience when you feel clean and vibrant.
It can be tempting to whip into the drive-through after a long day of hiking and driving, but you'll save money and feel much better if you cook healthy meals and indulge in snacks like fruit and nuts. Living in a van is hard work, and your body needs the proper fuel for the job. Keeping up with your personal hygiene is important for your mental and physical health, so be sure to install a solar shower or carry a portable one and plan to stop at a gym once a day. Hand washing clothes is part of van life and hanging them on a portable drying rack is the fastest way to dry them.
5. Plan Your Days
The best part about the van lifestyle is that you have the freedom to decide what to do with your days on the road. Whether you want to spend the day painting, taking pictures, or visiting parks, having a rough idea of how you want to spend your time will help you get the most out of your van trip. A sizeable portion of each day will be spent cleaning, eating, driving, and cooking, but there is still plenty of time for fun. Have a routine and make a van life bucket list for an unforgettable experience.
If you are supporting yourself as a digital nomad, it's important to keep a work schedule to avoid procrastination. Creating a work routine will help you stay productive and reduce stress so you can fully enjoy your untethered lifestyle.
6. Don't Expect Perfection
One of the most important things to remember before committing to living in your van is to let go of the expectation that everything will go perfectly. Expect mistakes, emergencies, ugly scenery, exhaustion, and boredom. You likely won't experience breathtaking views and unceasing enthusiasm every step of the way, and that's okay.
Whether you want to blog your entire experience or hit the road without telling a soul, being prepared and sticking to a routine can help you maximize your experience and get the most out of this lifestyle. If you are determined to live out of a van, it's important to stay realistic and organized. Don't compare your experience to what you see on social media. This lifestyle is all about having a raw, authentic experience, and no staged, filtered photo can capture the wonder of what you will discover if you decide to follow your dream of living life on the open road.