Starting Van Life? Here Are 8 Things To Consider

Starting van life isn’t rocket science. It can be as simple as adventuring into the great unknown with the vehicle you already have in your garage. But having success is all about planning and doing your homework.

So, in this post, we list the top 8 things that we think are critical to consider before beginning your van life adventure.

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1. Know What Your Van Life Goals Are

“Van life” is such a diverse term that everyone’s van life experience will differ. Although your expectations may change over time, it’s a good idea to know what your initial goals are when entering van life. This will help you when it comes time to plan your conversion build and budgeting.

For some, ‘van life’ means living in their van in the city and not traveling. For others, it means getting away from society and camping long-term on BLM or National Forest lands. For others, it means traveling the country (and possibly internationally).

2. Understand Your Van Life Timeline

Everyone’s van life experience is different, and so are their timelines. Some may only be living in their vans for just a few months. And for others, van life may consume several years of their lives.

And though your timeline may change, you must set an expectation for how long you plan to live in your van. As mentioned above, putting an initial timeline will help you better plan your van build and finances.

3. Know Your Finances and Set a Budget

Everyone’s finances are different. While some may have the money to fund a more lavish camper van lifestyle, others must live by a stricter budget. Therefore, it is critical to understand your financial standpoint.

Once you know your expectations for your van life (what you want to do and length of time), you can begin setting a budget for yourself. You must set aside money to purchase a vehicle and convert it to a camper van. Lastly, you’ll need to develop a daily budget that includes fuel, food, camping, insurance, eating out, and more.

4. Select the Right Vehicle for a Van Conversion

There are so many different types of vehicles to choose from for van life. Vans come in various lengths, heights, off-road capabilities, and more. You’ll also have to decide whether to get a used van or a new one from the dealership.

Getting the right vehicle that meets your needs entails considering what you want from van life, your timeline, and your budget.

To help you get started, check out our post on the best vans for van life.

If you want to buy new, read our extensive post on negotiating with a dealership for the best possible price.

A woman posing outside her camper van
Yuko standing next to her van

5. Figuring Out Your Electrical Needs

Electricity is one of those things we can’t live without, which is true even when you embrace van life. And having a correctly sized electrical system that adequately meets your energy demands vastly improves your van life experience.

To build an adequate electrical system, you must know how much power you’ll require each day and install enough batteries and solar to meet those demands. Calculating takes a bit of time, but we take you through the sizing process step-by-step.

6. Will You Earn an Income During Van Life?

Many van lifers intend to fund their lifestyle from their savings. However, some choose to work and earn an income while living out of their van. There are many ways to work during van life, including freelance work, remote work, blogging, vlogging, and more.

If you do choose to try to earn money during van life, it’s a smart idea to build your online presence now before you quit your day job. Many online jobs take months, or even a year, to reach a point where you can earn a reliable income to support your van life adventure. That is true whether you are a freelancer on Upwork or creating videos for your YouTube channel.

Woman working on a laptop while sitting inside a camper van
Yuko putting in a few hours of work

7. Recognize Real Life vs Social Media

It is an obvious point, but it’s worth repeating that there is a substantial disconnect between the van life you see on social media and the real van life thousands of people live daily. Yes, there are thousands of stunning campsites in the world, but assuming that every day will be a fairy tale adventure is a recipe for disappointment and possibly quitting van life earlier than you planned.

Recognizing that you will live in a cramped environment, overnight parking at Walmarts, taking fewer showers, and possibly even peeing into empty water bottles will help you establish a more realistic expectation when starting van life.

8. Appreciate the Transition Process

The first few days of van life are hard. You’re learning an entirely new lifestyle and trying to develop new routines and schedules. As with anything new, there is a transition process, and every day you live the van life, the lifestyle becomes smoother, easier, and more comfortable.

It took us a couple of months of learning ‘how to van life’ before we got into the travel rhythm with our camper van.

To learn more about some of van life’s most significant adjustments, check out our post How To Transition Into Van Life

If you have any questions about how best to transition to van life, please let us know in the comments section below.

Happy traveling!

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