If you follow me on Instagram (which you totally should! @morganabydesign) then you might know that I am planning an EPIC budget van build. I have decided to document both the process of a van conversion build as an amateur and the transition into full-time van life here on the blog. Today I want to talk about what drew me to van life, what exactly I mean by “van life” and an introduction to the van build series! So buckle up and get ready to ride!
What is “Van Life”
At it’s very basic form “van life” simply refers to an alternative lifestyle, centered around individuals choosing to live and travel nomadically in their vehicle. You might have seen the #Vanlife on Instagram, as the lifestyle has become really popular recently, especially on social media. The lifestyle origniated (in the US) by those wanting to travel the states, but found train travel to take too long or be too expensive. It was then taken over by the hippie movement in the ’70s, as a sort of rebuttle to the “nuclear family.”
Vehicle living is nothing new to those living below the poverty line, but their motivations are born out of necessity rather than choice. This is an important aspect to note as the rise in van life popularity has posed a threat to the homeless and those living in their vehicles by necessity. Van lifers in urban area’s are taking safe parking spots from locals, as well as taking advantage of free wifi/power outlets to an extent that owners are now having to charge for these amenities, creating a real issue for locals that depend on those free services. I say this not to deter anyone from van life, or criticize other van lifers; just to bring awareness and remind anyone currently living the lifestyle or seeking to to be respectful and conscious of these services that are a luxury and important to others who are native to an area.
Why I am choosing Van Life
People choose to live the van life for just about every reason in the book, no two van lifer’s stories are the same. Part of what drew me to the community is the flexibility and creativity in the lifestyle, you can be as on or off grid as you prefer. You can travel as much or as little, you control the extent of the lifestyle you want to adapt. Again, no two people life the “van life” the same way, we all have different priorities and motivations. The idea of traveling full time whether by living van life or otherwise has always been a dream of mine.
A few years ago I looked into getting a class C motorhome to live in. (information on the different classes of motorhomes here) But ultimately I decided against it, as it wasn’t right for my lifestyle at the time. Due to the coronavirus hitting my life, like most americans, was turned upside down. One way or another I found myself without a job, a place to live, or really any idea of what the future held. Van life has held the answer for most of those problems. The three main factors motivating me to van life are security in having a place to live, the freedom to travel, specifically for my business, and the mindset shift to minimalism.
Security in home
Since moving out of my parents house about 5 years ago I have pretty much been in a constant state of moving. Due to one reason or another I have moved apartments/houses every 3-6 months and let me tell you it is exhausting. I have long wanted a place to make my own to feel secure and happy in, but without the permanence of buying a home. Of course financially I can’t afford to buy a house nor can I really afford an apartment by myself at this time.
The idea of having a home that I can rely on and not have to ever worry where I’m going to stay, while also having the ability to travel is one I am really drawn to. This is probably the biggest factor leading me to van life. I would also like to add that I am choosing to take on a van conversion build so that I can truly create the home of my dreams and one that will suit my needs and lifestyle.
Freedom to travel (travel business)
Since I’m a travel agent, the ability to travel the country and have first hand experience in the place and adventures I am trying to sell is a huge advantage. I base my business in authenticy and pride myself on always being honest with my clients and never trying to upsell for the sake of making money. If I am able to travel and have these experiences I can give my clients better recommendations and honest reviews on areas.
In addition to the business advantage, I am an avid traveler anyway and look forward to exploring the country in my van. I have a passion for the parks service and have a personal goal of visiting all 400 national parks in the next 5 years, the van life will make this goal much more accessible.
While minimalism isn’t required to live the van life, and there are definitely van lifers out there that don’t subscribe to the lifestyle; I personally am drawn to it. When you are working with 60 sqft or less you have to be selective about what you bring in, whether you call yourself a minimalist or not.
I am guilty of being a very impulsive buyer and while I don’t think van life will solve this problem, I do think it will help a little. More than that I believe van life shifts your perspective to really think about what adds value to your life and prioritizing not only the things you allow but the people and ideas. I personally will be taking a more natural approach to van life, meaning I plan to spend my time hiking and camping etc. This has always been good at changing my perspective and showing me what is truly valuable to me.
What I hope to achieve with this series
Show a true budget van build
I am a solo female traveler, who works full time and has zero experience in electrical work, plumbing or carpentry. What this means is I basically have no idea what I’m doing, I have done extensive research and plan to consult professionals BUT I want to really highlight what it is like to build a van from the ground up as someone with zero experience and limited funds.
I will have Youtube/IGTV videos and extensive blog posts explaining everything I’m doing and what works for me and what didn’t. So if you’re interested in following the journey from a more visual standpoint definitely check out my Youtube channel and/or Instagram page!
Talk about gatekeeping and classism in the Van Life community
As with every community the van lifers have their own struggles and, unfortunately, their own gate-keeping and classism going on. The more popular and mainstream that the trend gets, the more this is prone to happen and it can be a real deterrent for new van lifers and creates issues for locals around the country as I mentioned at the beginning of the post.
I want to have these conversations to bring awareness to the issues that are happening, but also help give resources and solutions so that we can all continue to enjoy this special lifestyle.
Be upfront and real about the struggles and “less-desirable” parts of building a van/van life
While there are youtube videos and articles that explain the “less-desirable” parts of van life I have always found them to be a little to careful in their explanations. While there are many parts of van life that seem glamorous and luxurious, for the average person it isn’t likely to be this way, not without a lot of work at least. I want to be the person to be blunt, upfront, and honest about the things I don’t like about van life or that I miss about “traditional” living. I especially want share my honest opinions on the lifestyle and really show how anyone can life this lifestyle, but not everyone will be able to as easily as another person.
I hope you guys have enjoyed this introduction to van life and if you have please remember to subscribe to the blog so you can be updated every time I post! If you are really invested in the van life & my conversion be sure to check out my Instagram and Youtube channel as I will have more information there!
Until next time, stay safe and happy travels!