I have been living in my 1992 VW T4 Van (Multivan, Caravelle) for around a year and have travelled all around Europe, so obviously something appeals to me and keeps me enjoying the vanlife. Those of you who browse the social feeds and get “jealous” of us vanlifers’ parked in idyllic, secluded camp spots can take it from me, for every unforgettable vista, there will be an equally forgettable camping experience.
However, I can’t deny that there are more than enough breath-taking moments, sights, and experiences to endure the challenges that I have faced.
Many of the hard times that I faced were due to mechanical issues. Because some locations, country lockdowns, and the age of my camper of choice, I was often challenged with trying to resolve mechanical issues without access to a garage, qualified mechanic, or adequate parts and so I sometimes just made the best of it. Wire, tape, baked bean tins, (yes, I’ve used those to fix a hole in my exhaust pipe), cable ties, and a basic tool kit.
I am the first to put my hands up and say that I’ve made mistakes, but when you are constantly on the move, your own hands are the only ones that you can truly rely on to be there for you, even if they are woefully untrained hands. My new experiences have taught me so much and set me on a path of self-improvement, positivity and mental wellness.
1. KEEPING IT CLEAN
At times, you will stink, your van will be a complete mess, sand, dust, rain. For yourself, you are not always going to find the opportunity to get a good warm wash and sometimes a jump in a freezing lake or a baby wipe shower is your only option. For your van, it’s important to clean it every day inside as it gets dirty, fast!
2. FINDING CHEAP OR FREE CAMPING SPOTS
Cheap and indeed free camping isn’t that hard to find when you have been doing it for a few months. However, in densely populated urban areas it can be difficult, but not impossible. In France, many towns provide a space for camper vans to park up, it isn’t all that glamorous and free camping land isn’t found everywhere. If you are serious about living the van life long-term you must be able to find very cheap or free camping when possible!
3. CONSTANTLY MOVING
I live in a van so that I can travel because i love it. When you have to move all the time to find a place to stay or to not outstay your welcome can be draining. I recommend breaks from movement for long-term vanlifers.
4. SAYING GOODBYE
I’ve met more people now than I ever did before I started my Vanlife, which is great because I’ve made some great new friends; but saying hello means I also have to say good-bye a lot which is one of the hardest part of living a mobile nomadic lifestyle. What’s even harder is that I have been away from my friends and family at home
5. FINDING WORK & ENERGY
Living outside is great and I get to meet lots of people and experience new things, but sometimes it can be hard to work online uninterrupted, power, connection/WiFi. (Particularly when your van / office is a VW Bus.) When I can get quiet time to knuckle down and do some work, it’s hard to generate enough power from my small solar panel and leisure battery to work a full day on an energy hungry laptop.
6. “I NEED MORE SPACE”
I couldn’t bring with me everything that I needed for all environments that I was visiting. All items that I do have are either dual purpose so as to save space, are waterproof so they can live outside, or are totally necessary for my needs.
Kitchen space is a premium and storing food for more than a week, almost impossible.
If I could, I’d have many more items, but I must plan in advance, any additional items I might need and either borrow or rent for a short period.
7. BREAKING DOWN
When your Van (or whatever vehicle) is your only abode you don’t have the option of fixing it later, maintenance and repairs are always a priority. The good news is when you are stranded somewhere, at least you have your entire house with you.
Personal space, forget it! If you have a person staying with you for a few days better make sure your van buddy is a good buddy.
Whilst strictly not related to van life, being stuck in a van for long periods of time in crappy weather (hot or cold) can bring some of the toughest and most draining of situations.
10. HAVE YOU LIVED IN A VAN?
Leave a comment for what you think should be the #10 item on this list. I LOVE Vanlife, so i can’t actually think of 10 bad things about it, sorry!