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Van Life: Living in a Van Conversion for Beginners

When I was a kid, the late, great Chris Farley playing the fictional, motivational speaker Matt Foley warned me about living in a van down by the river. But living in a van is actually good fun for a lot of reasons. Van life means not having to pay rent. It means being able to pick up and move whenever you like. A van conversion can make your van every bit as comfortable as a traditional bedroom while allowing you a mobility that few other types of residences offer. The Scooby Doo kids made van life look pretty good. Now it’s your turn to try it out.

How to Best Enjoy Modern Van Life

Still, even though van life is great, before you pay for your van conversion and start living in a van, you’re going to need a few pro tips to make sure you don’t end up regretting it 10 seconds after making the decision. Here are some quick and dirty tips on how you can enjoy modern van life.

  • The engine is paramount. First and foremost, you need a reliable ride. Because your ride isn’t just your ride. It’s also your home. You need a solid engine not only to get around, but also for power and climate control. And if your ride breaks down, get ready to shell out for a hotel.
  • Organization is essential. Tupperware containers are a great way to keep your stuff organized, but the point is, you need some system in place. Labels are going to help a lot. But the whole “throw things on the coffee table and forget about them until you need them” thing is not going to work.

  • Overpacking pays off. Think long and hard not just about what you will need on a day-to-day basis, but what you will need when stuff hits the fan. When living in a van, anything that can go wrong will, and lots of things will go wrong that you never anticipated. Overpack with purpose. Take more than you think you need, but know why you’re bringing everything you take.
  • Don’t skimp on the bed. You don’t want to feel like you’re sleeping in a hotel every night. You want to feel at home. The best way to do that is to make sure you get the bed right. This should be the centerpiece of your van life.

Living Life on the Road

  • Clean, clean, clean. Vans get dirty and cluttered quickly. Start your day with a quick clean, clean a couple times throughout the day and clean at night. You don’t have to give it the white glove treatment, but you do need to make sure everything is in its place. Always make your bed.
  • Plan ahead but go with the flow. The best thing you can have is a rough plan for seeing the country. Things happen. Plans change. You need to find the balance between comfort with that and having a plan of action. Don’t be afraid to either stay put or keep on truckin’.
  • Keep a diary. Even if you or anyone else never reads it, journaling can help you to fully savor the experience of life on the road. Trust me when I tell you that it goes by quickly.
  • Safety first. A first aid kit and a fire extinguisher are the bare essentials. Drive safely, keep your vehicle maintained and let someone know where you are going to be at all times. Keep snow chains in your van just in case and have enough supplies on hand so that if you get stranded for three nights, you’ll be fine.
  • Be prepared for partner problems. Whether traveling with a soul mate or a best friend, you need to be prepared for close quarters life. Have a survival plan in place and be fully prepared for living in a tiny space with another person.

Van life can be very rich and rewarding. But it can also burn you out if you’re not prepared for it. Hopefully these tips will help you to avoid some of the common mistakes rookies make when they make the leap and start living life on the road.


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