When Foster Huntington, a surfer from America, decided to take his life to the road, he had no idea it would turn into a world-famous phenomenon.
Now, he's an Instagram star followed by one million people who can't wait for his new photos tagged with phrases like #vanlife, #livesimply and #homeiswhereyouparkit.
If you’ve never heard about vanlife before, there’s two ways you could be picturing it right now.
You're falling asleep under a starry sky. You close your eyes, smiling to yourself, thinking about the adventures the next day will bring. Ahead of you is a lot of time to do whatever you want, a new place every week, and your camera full of mind-blowing photos.
Or, you’re cramped in a tiny space, carsickness is kicking in, and you can’t stop pining for the comfort of your bedroom back home. Because however adventurous and fun life on the road sounded, it’s really not a non-stop vacation.
Even the dreamiest version of vanlife can make you feel lonely, steal your privacy away and test your endurance in ways you can't imagine. You can find yourself at the most beautiful place on earth wishing to be anywhere else.
But, at the end of the day, the phenomenon of #vanlife still intrigues and inspires millions across the globe. We’re thinking they must be on to something, and if you’ve ever been on a long road trip with your friends, or even alone, you already know what it is.
Vanlife For Two
The most common vanlife scenario is a couple deciding they need a change, and a drastic one. We're talking switching from a couple of date nights a week to sharing everything.
Not all couples are really clear on what they’re in for.
First of all, you can throw the idea of privacy through the window. Or, at least adjust it. A lot.
You and your partner will be side by side 24/7 for as long as you travel. This means staying together even in those moments when you hate each other's guts. You can't really storm off and slam the door when you're annoyed.
Your SO is right next to you when you're sick, tired and depressed. And we don’t mean the red-nose, slight-shivers sick. Think of your worst ever illness that had you running to the restroom on the regular. And now think of where the bathroom is in a van. We bet that's not exactly one of the things on your relationship bucket list.
The lack of space sounds discouraging, but it has its good sides, too. You may not have room for some alone time, but you won't have room for petty problems either. Your relationship will become much more intense and develop much faster than it would in standard circumstances.
You will quickly discover every little detail about each other and become closer than ever. This kind of experience will strengthen your relationship like nothing else could.
Who would have thought, but this amount of intimacy doesn't eliminate loneliness. You will feel homesick in a thousand ways. You'll miss home, your family and friends, but most of all, you will miss all the amenities and routines you are used to.
To make this transition easier, keep your gadgets close so you can stay in touch with the people at home. Even when you’re far from the sources of power, keep your phone and your tablet charged with a Sparkstone Portable Device Charger.
Sometimes, days will go by until you can take a shower. You will be forced to bathe in rivers and streams - which is much less idyllic than it sounds, by the way. Wet wipes and public restrooms will become your best friends. Although, if spotty personal hygiene is a deal breaker for you, you can always get a caravan with a bathroom.
Of course, you don't have to give up everything just because you're constantly on the move. You should still take care of yourself. Triumph And Disaster On The Road kit was created especially for travellers - it's compact, lightweight and includes all the grooming essentials you could need out there.
And let’s talk about “on the road”. Yes, every day will be a new adventure packed with adrenaline, spectacular vistas and profound experiences. But, before we figure out how teleportation works, it also means spending endless hours on the actual road.
You’ll need an insane amount of energy. Instead of lying on the beach somewhere, sipping cocktails in a five-star hotel, you will be driving for days, storming through cities, meeting people you'll probably never see again and communicating with friends and family when you're lucky enough to catch Wi-Fi.
You will be tired and irritated and have a love-hate relationship with this lifestyle. But, the rush you'll be getting makes it all worth it.
And now you're probably thinking: "Ok, but how would I afford this?"
Well, vanlife will make you embrace the lifestyle with minimal possessions, but it's far from cheap. You will need a reliable vehicle and enormous amounts of fuel. Breakdowns and accidents will happen, and campsites can be insanely expensive.
That's why you need to have a steady income. But, here's the thing. With a remote job, you can easily afford the life you want without just spending your savings.
Writers, editors, photographers or graphic designers are an awesome fit for a life in the van. So, don't quit your current job just yet. Figure out what job suits you, and learn how you can work from your new mobile home before you hit the road.
Home Is Where You Park It
Vanlife became so popular that the community of enthusiasts even funded Huntington's photo-book “Home Is Where You Park It”, featuring incredible images of vans, scenery, and other campers he met.
So, if you’ve started feeling the same craving for the cramped home but also the open road and the vast unknown, here’s what you should be driving.
Flexible and easily adjustable to all conditions, cargo van is the ultimate vanlife vehicle. However, this is also one of the most expensive choices.
You can relax with a cargo van because these babies are extremely durable and safe for campers. You'll easily cover over 600,000 kilometres without worrying about breakdowns. With a little work, you can turn a cargo van into your ideal ride regardless of how long you're planning to stay on the road.
You are bound to turn heads wherever you go with the famous "hippie van". The popular Type 2 van has an army of fans, and campers around the world are crazy about it.
VW vans are a cool option because they are often sold already prepared for an adventure. They have a bed, a kitchen, storage spaces, and everything else you need to call them your home. Still, be careful with a VW van because it's fickle and often needs repairs.
A caravan may not be your dream idea when you imagine yourself cruising the country. But, it's incredibly practical. It’s almost unbeatable when it comes to the amount of space.
It comes with a separate space for cooking, eating, sleeping and storage. A portable bathroom doesn't sound half bad either.
The downside to all that space is that a caravan is harder to navigate and park around busy towns and campsites.
This probably hasn't crossed your mind, but an old-school bus can be the perfect ride for a life on the move. Just think about all the space you'd be getting. That's even more than a caravan can give you. Let's just say that a regular school bus can carry 72 people.
Before you opt for a bus, be prepared you'll have to do a complete makeover. Unfortunately, they don't come in the form of mobile homes (yet).
Those in a rush to start their new life often chose a conversion van. They are already converted into living spaces with a bed, cabinets and high-top roofs. If you don't need a custom design, this one will serve you just fine. Add the price to the list of pros, because they are often sold cheap.
While conversion vans are convenient, they tend to be lower-quality and don't leave much room for creativity. You can change the interior only if you tear the whole thing down and start from scratch.
You need to choose your vehicle as you would choose a new house, making sure it fits the lifestyle you want to have.
Do you need the ride just to get from one destination to another? Or, are you planning to actually sleep, cook and work inside? Think about that before you get the wallet ready.
The next step is getting the right equipment. The stove, the fridge, heating, solar panels and the water source are essential to install before moving in.
Living in a van should be simple. Keep in mind that you don't have a lot of space so don't overburden yourself with things. Pack quality items that you can make use of in any conditions.
Even if you have the best home on wheels, leaving it to explore the area is the greatest part of the whole experience. That's why both you and your co-vanner need handy backpacks. We recommend the Patagonia Ironwood Backpack 20l that was inspired by the sliding door of a van. How cool is that? Besides, it's durable, waterproof and has a padded laptop sleeve for when you want to work outside.
So, do you think you're cut out for this lifestyle?
Could you ditch a comfortable city life for an unpredictable life on the road? Pushing your boundaries, trying new things and continuously learning about yourself? Let us know in the comments below.