An early morning yoga session, deeply inhaling the fragrant scent of fresh pine followed by a short hike over earthy, volcanic terrain. Late afternoon swims in sun-warmed, pristine lakes accompanied by a campfire dinner as the sun sets over the snow-topped ridges.
With the freedom to create your own adventure like this every day, it’s no wonder van life is so popular. That’s why hundreds of people all over the world are quitting their 9-5’s, selling off all their possessions and trading in their brick and mortar home for a home on wheels. If all this sounds like living the Vanstagram dream to you and you’re thinking of making the transition here’s some vanlife tips to get you started.
Stealth over Style
Whilst there are tons of posts out there stressing what to look out for when buying a used vehicle (covering the mechanical aspects a lot better than we could) we’re here to talk about aesthetics vs practicality.
In an ideal world, we’d all love a Pinterest perfect little camper that we can park up wherever we please without fear of getting a ticket. Or worst-case scenario, becoming victims of an opportunistic thief.
Opting for stealth over style could save you money and wasted hours hunting for campsites. Plus, having a van that doesn’t attract unwanted attention could help make you feel safer when you’re in and out of the van.
Stealthiness, on the other hand, can sometimes become a massive inconvenience. If you have that roof space is it really sensible that you don’t utilise it for fear of drawing unwanted attention? Are you really going to be able to live comfortably with your paddleboard, surfboard, camping and hiking gear squeezed into an 82 square ft space with you?
Have an emergency fund for mechanical work
If you’re considering buying an older van or don’t have the mechanical know-how we can’t stress the importance of this enough. Unexpected repairs can take a huge chuck out of your well-earned funds. Even potentially wiping you out if you’re on a super tight budget.
For instance, when we took a trip through NZ we had a busted starter motor, a loose catalytic converter shield, a flat tire, a speed sensor fault and a problem with our radiator pump. All these problems happened within the first 3 months of our trip and all-in-all, breakdown cover included, it cost us over $700 in repairs.
You might think we were just the most unlucky people in the world. Nevertheless, as a result of this – even with planning ahead – we had to tighten our budget for while.
Thankfully, we’ve never had a run of bad luck like this again, but we’re not saying it won’t happen. In fact, we’d say of all the vanlife tips and advice this is probably the most valuable.
Be prepared for the bad days
It’s safe to say that living in a rolling home turns every day into a new adventure. Along the way, you meet so many inspiring, like-minded travellers but we’re here to tell you it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.
There are days when everything goes wrong. Days when it rains non-stop and your van breaks down again immediately following a costly repair. When you fork out 40 bucks for a campsite with hot showers only to find they’re ice cold and someone has stolen all your toiletries.
Then there are the good days. The days when you find the perfect wild camping spot beside the ocean or deep in the forest. A spot where you know you can relax and recharge before continuing your trip. Moments when you discover hidden gems, remote towns and national parks you wouldn’t have had the chance to visit if you’d just taken a flight and hired a rental car.
It can sometimes be hard to stay positive on the bad days. Nevertheless, the bad days come with the good and it’s all part of the experience.
Consider your essentials carefully
Are you a vacation planning pro or someone who leaves everything until the last minute? Either way, another of our vanlife tips is, take some time to consider what you don’t need and what you couldn’t possibly live without.
When it comes to amenities, will that shower cubicle just end up an expensive space-hogging storage closet? If technology is a huge part of your daily life will one 125Ah leisure battery be enough? If you’ll be staying on campsites do you really need that £700 composting toilet?
It’s important to think long and hard about this. Although you might find you’ll only realise how little you actually need – and discover the things you can’t live without – once you’re on the road. That’s why another one of our vanlife tips is to save some space (and extra cash) and to don’t be afraid to ditch the dead weight.
If staying connected is important – plan ahead!
Whether you work remotely, run a small business, a blog or you simply want regular contact with those important people back home – if your style of travel means you regularly rely on public internet access you’ll want to plan ahead.
More than once in our travels through Europe where we’ve had to drive an hour or two out of the way in hopes of finding that elusive, reliable 4G connection. In Western Australia, we had to switch networks in advance when we flew from Cairns to Perth to ensure we were on the best network for coverage in WA.
During our tour of NZ we got stung when we discovered Wanaka library – unlike many others – did not provide free unlimited access. In our case, this meant changing our route at the last minute and traversing the South Island to meet an important deadline.
Although van life could mean sacrificing access to reliable (or affordable) internet access, don’t let this deter you. Whatever the reason you need to stay connected, with careful planning, even the most remote locations are accessible and it is often those locations where the greatest adventures are found.