Why Is Van Life so Popular?

by Vera Lawrence | LAST UPDATED June 10, 2021

Van Life
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No one set lifestyle is going to appeal to everyone.

Some people are very content with going to a standard office workplace for 8 hours and spending the rest of their time however they want. Others are geared more towards creative ventures and would like to have a job that fulfills them creatively and fills up most of their time doing what they love from the bottom of the heart.

Then, some simply can’t imagine spending all of their life in a single place and want to go and see as much of the world as they can before the clock strikes midnight.

As you might have guessed by the title, the subject of today’s article is the latter group of people that are interested in van life and why is van life so popular?

The Travel

There was no way that we would make an article on the benefits of van life and not put the globe-trotting aspect of it as our first segment.

Wanderlust is like a mosquito bite; you don’t pay much attention to it, but the second that you notice you’ve been bitten, it’s all you can think about. After the travel bug bites you, that’s it; there’s nothing you can do but start looking through travel agency plans.

Van life is quite simply the easiest way that you can scratch that itch permanently. You’ll be able to go to all of the places that you might have been meaning to but didn’t have enough time. You’ll get to experience the local culture, go to some of the most notable locations, visit some exotic restaurants and so on. You may even be tempted to post some pictures of striking landscapes on social media as well.

Aside from the tourist side of things, staying a bit longer in a single location can also have its benefits, like allowing you to meet fellow expats and maybe make some new friends. This also allows you to see and experience a country in a way that a two-week vacation will never allow you to do.

Frankly speaking, we didn’t need to go into that much detail about the benefits of traveling worldwide. However, if the idea of visiting some of your most anticipated locations on the globe in a Ford Transit van with a custom build doesn’t appeal to you, then being a full-time van lifer really isn’t for you.

It’s Better Than a Cubicle

A van parked under the stars

We touched on this in our introductory segment, but the truth is that some people are simply not designed for working in the office regardless of their reasons.

When it comes to personal preference, you might not particularly mind or love going to work at a desk every day, but pretty much everyone that’s worked an office job can attest to the fact that there are too many restrictions.

However, not all offices are stuffy white rooms full of people in ties and buttoned-up dress-shirts, but a good portion of them feel like they’ve time-jumped from a 1960s black and white movie.

We’re trying to say that it’s easy to imagine why people working in those typically monotonous environments don’t particularly have a fondness for the work they do.

But, naturally, this does not apply to all the situations out there, and perhaps you’ve had a decent office experience. Maybe you’ve found yourself among good people and a more chilled-out environment. As we said, different people have different affinities, and that’s okay too.

That being said, most vanlifers that we’ve talked to have also confirmed that they went through almost exactly the same thing as us and wanted to break free from an environment that simply didn’t suit them.

Namely, there might’ve not been anything that’s especially wrong with the job or the work environment itself, but they still couldn’t focus on the tasks without having their mind wander off to some distant place.

We’ll be the first to admit that our mind still wanders even when we take our work on the road with us, but there are different advantages to the digital nomad lifestyle that make the job so much easier to handle.

Working on Your Own Terms

A van in nature

Working off-grid sounds tricky, but it’s actually pretty easy once you get all of your ducks in order, and all you’ll really need is a reliable laptop and access to a semi-decent wifi connection.

The wifi can be obtained at pretty much any gas station, restaurant, or coffee shop, or you can simply splurge a bit and get a limitless internet deal for your phone and use the hotspot.

As for the laptop, depending on what sort of work you’re planning to pursue, you might need a bit more power under the hood, but most likely, you’ll be able to get by with a relatively inexpensive yet still reliable option.

We won’t go into the exact jobs that you can find on the road, but if you’re interested, we’ve expanded on that topic in another article, covering some of the more attractive job options for digital nomads that may be available to you.

We’d just like to point out that the main characteristic of van life and digital nomad jobs is the flexible schedule. This will allow you to set your own work hours, and while you’re naturally going to be expected to complete a certain amount of work each day, you won’t have to get up early in the morning to do it unless you want to.

Online work is also a bit more liberating in terms of employment contracts since many of the jobs you can find are either going to be as a freelancer or part-timer. This will give you a choice to either save up just enough money as you might need to keep the road trip going or work hard and put a little away for a rainy day.

Finding work online can also be exceedingly easy, and in that case, you’ll easily be able to switch careers if things don’t work out.

DIY Tiny Home

Tiny homes in nature

One of the most crucial van life tips that we can give is to pay a lot of attention to the type of custom van build that you decide to go for.

The van itself is where you’re going to spend most of your time, paying, and it’s going to be your method of transport, living space and workplace while you’re on the road.

In short, it’s going to be you and your van against the world.

The good news is that there are a plethora of different camper van conversion options that any van conversion company can implement into your Mercedes Sprinter van to make it a virtual palace on tires.

Now, while the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is such a popular choice among a lot of van lifers that they jokingly refer to the movement as the “sprinter van life,” there are other options that you can go for as well.

You can decide to go for the Ram Promaster vans, any of the Dodge cargo vans, or even try and travel around the world in a school bus.

The point is that pretty much any vehicle can be turned into the best camper van for your specific purposes, and it can cost as much or as little as you like.

For example, a standard sprinter camper van goes for anywhere between $2,000 and $10,000, depending on the storage space, the state of the electrical system, whether or not it’s brand new, and a few other factors.

However, aside from that, the price of the sprinter van conversion will depend on you completely.

You can make a complete buildout and go for the complete high-end package and turn your van into a sports mobile with an optional awning and a raised wheelbase for off-roading. Or you can simply buy a reliable van and stick a mattress and a bucket toilet in the back and call it a day.

We obviously advocate going for the middle ground and maybe checking out some camper van layouts on sites like Outside Van to understand better what you might like to do to the interior.

The point is this—you can buy and convert a van for as little as 20k altogether or splurge and spend over 100k depending on your budget and preference.

You’ll never be able to find a house or apartment in that price range, and you’ll probably spend more on rent for a year in a moderately-sized apartment than you will on building your own high-end house on wheels.

Sprinter vans are also generally dependable and easy to maintain, so as long as you’re a considerate owner, you’ll get at least 10 years of life on the open road out of a reliable van.

A Minimalistic Approach

Living the sprinter van life is obviously going to mean cutting down on a few items.

Due to the large frame of the sprinter vans, you’ll easily be able to squeeze in quite a sizable bed, as well as a few crucial items like a portable toilet or a gas stove.

However, you won’t exactly be able to wash your clothes or take a shower without filling up a water tank and a lot of planning beforehand.

If you’re interested in getting a few more in-depth van life tips, we have a whole article covering the subject of van life living in greater detail.

For now, all you need to know is that living in a van is going to mean getting rid of a lot of everyday comforts like running water. For some people, this might sound like a living nightmare, but to us and a lot of vanlifers, cutting down on a lot of everyday distractions sounds pretty appealing.

Adjusting to the sprinter van life isn’t as hard as it sounds, and fewer distractions mean that you can enjoy your surroundings and the new locations a lot more.

You can also hop on Amazon and get a few solar panels that you can put on top of your van, which won’t be much of a problem unless you have a pop-top. These solar panels, along with an inverter, can help you power all of your electrical devices and allow you to work without having to drain your van battery.

Add a propane tank for the cooker and a countertop with a sink for your dishes, and you’re fully decked out and ready to tackle pretty much anything that the world can throw your way.

Conclusion

These are the most prominent reasons why we think van life is as popular as it is.

Keep in mind that not everyone's the same, and some vanlifers enjoy life on the road for a vast number of personal reasons.

Similarly, if none of the points that we mentioned caught your interest, there are a hundred other reasons as to why you might actually enjoy van living. Or it could be that van life is just not for you.

Vera Lawrence
Vera is a part-time van lifer after spending nearly four years in her 1990 Ford E350 (named Fred). She currently lives in Utah and takes extended weekend trips into the desert with her two dogs. She is an ice cream fanatic and avid runner.

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