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Starting Van Life? Here Are 6 Things To Consider

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

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

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    Not what you need? Check out our “Van Life Hacks & Tips” category page for more similar content.

    1. Know What You Want With Your “Van Life”

    “Van life” is such a diverse term and everyone’s van life experience will be different. Although your van life 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 planning your van conversion build and budgeting.

    For some, it means to simply live in their van in the city and not travel. For others, it means to get away from society and camp long term on BLM or National Forest lands. And for others it means to travel the country (and possibly internationally).

    2. Understand How Long Your Van Life Will Be

    Just as everyone’s van life experience is different, 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, it’s important to set an expectation for how long you plan to live in your van. As above, setting an initial timeline will help you better plan your van build and finances.

    Building a camper van? Download our free e-Books with intuitive electrical, solar, and plumbing diagrams.

    3. Understand 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 will need to live by a stricter budget. Therefore, it is critical to understand your financial standpoint.

    Once you have an idea of what your expectations are for your van life (what you want to do and length of time), you can begin setting a budget for yourself. You will need to set aside money to purchase a vehicle and convert it to a camper van. Lastly, you’ll need to set 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 different lengths, heights, off-road capabilities, and more. You’ll also have to decide whether to get a used van or a completely new one from the dealership.

    Getting the right vehicle that meets your needs entails that you’ve thought about what you want out of 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 how to negotiate with a dealership to get the best possible price.

    5. Figuring Out Your Electrical Needs

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

    To build an adequate electrical system you will need to know how much power you’ll require each day and install enough batteries and solar to meet those power demands. It takes a bit of time to calculate, 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. But some choose to work and earn an income while living out of their van. There are a diverse number of ways to work during van life which include freelance work, remote work, blogging, vlogging, and more.

    If you choose to try and 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 get to a point where you can earn a reliable income that is enough to support your van life adventure. That is true whether you are freelancing on Upwork or creating videos for your YouTube channel.

    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 that thousands of people are living every single day. Yes, there are thousands of stunning campsites out there 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 be living in a cramped environment, overnight parking at Walmarts, taking less showers, and possibly even peeing into empty water bottles will help you establish a more realistic expectation when starting van life.

    Building a camper van? Download our free e-Books with intuitive electrical, solar, and plumbing diagrams.

    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 months of learning ‘how to van life’ before we really got into the travel rhythm with our camper van.

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

    Enjoyed reading? Check out our “Van Life Hacks & Tips” category page for more similar content.

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