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How To Transition To Van Life: Planning Tips And Considerations

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Van life might seem like a carefree, simple lifestyle, but the transition to living and traveling in a campervan does have its own unique challenges.

This includes

  • Finding places to sleep every night,
  • Dealing with reduced hygiene
  • Living in a cramped, tiny space

These are all legitimate challenges we experienced ourselves during our first few months of van life.

And if you find yourself worried about these same issues then you’re not alone…or crazy!

But after three years on the road (and counting!), we’ve learned a lot of tips and tricks that have helped us successfully live full time in a camper.

So in this post, we want to list our top 6 tips to help you transition into living in a camper van.

Woman drinking beer and relaxing inside her campervan
Transitioning to van life is tough!

So if you’re ready, let’s get to it!

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    Tip #1

    Resist The Urge To Travel Fast

    When you first move into your van, you will want to travel fast and see as much as you possibly can.

     After all, there’s just so much to do and so many places to visit!

    You’ll be tempted to wake up early, drive long hours on the road, and go out exploring every day. Traveling is a thrilling experience and a new adventure is always around the corner.

    But by moving so fast, you’ll be burning yourself out before your camper travels even really started.

    Learn to pace yourself and take days off from traveling. Your mind and body will thank you.

    Van Life For Women - The Best Van For Van Life
    Finding time to just sit and relax

    Tips To Help You Slow Down

    • Stay An Extra Day – Love your camp spot? Stay longer! We’ve almost never regretted staying an additional day at a beautiful camping location, but we have definitely regretted leaving early.
    • Prioritize breakfast Breakfast is a slow ritual for us and we almost never rush through it. Having a calm breakfast helps to set the pace for the day and ensures we don’t start our day stressed and rushed.
    • Clean the vanCleaning is calming and meditative. Every morning we sweep our floors, shake out our rugs & pillows, and wipe down our countertops.
    • Create a calm music playlist – Music has a strong influence on our mind. Playing music that is relaxing helps you to slow down and enjoy your surroundings.

    Tip #2

    Create New Daily Routines

    When you transition into van life, virtually all your old routines that you developed previously at home are destroyed.

    And one of the things that makes the move to van life so difficult is that you enter this new camper lifestyle with no habitual routines.

    And without routines, everything you do every single day is brand new. Your brain is always learning and experiencing new things.

    How exhausting!

    That’s why van life is so difficult and stressful when you first start out.

    Van Life Solo Female - Cleaning Campervan
    Cleaning the van every morning

    To help ease your way into van life, we suggest trying to create new daily routines for yourself during your first few days in your camper.

    Potential routines can include:

    • Exercising once you wake up
    • Cleaning the van every morning
    • Visiting a cafe in the afternoons
    • Listening to the same playlist daily

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

    Tip #3

    Maintain Good Hygiene

    When you first start your travels, it’s easy to let your hygiene slip. Campervan interiors get dirty & dusty and you can easily go days without a shower.

    But not maintaining a high standard of cleanliness for yourself and your van is a surefire way to burn yourself out and quit van life early.

    So when you’re first starting out, remember to keep yourself clean and healthy, like you would if you were living in an actual home.

    Solo Female Campervan - Solar Shower
    Using a solar shower when there are no other options

    Tips To Maintain Good Hygiene

    • Shower regularly – We don’t think it’s a badge of honor to say you only shower once a week. Shower at gyms, truck stops, campsites, or a bring a solar shower to help keep you clean.
    • Eat healthy – As tempted as you might be to only heat up a can of beans for dinner, invest in fruits and vegetables to keep your body and mind healthy.
    • Clean & de-dust van – Camper vans get dirty and dusty very fast. Take time out each day to clean your camper, which improves internal air quality.
    • Crush that ‘time of the month’ – For the women, look into picking up a FlexCup and/or Thinx Underwear to help you ease through period time.

    Surprisingly, a toilet isn’t necessary to maintain good hygiene in a campervan. For more info, read why a toilet isn’t necessary for van life.

    Tip #4

    Learn To Be Okay In A Cramped Space

    It’s no secret that the interior space of a campervan is considerably smaller than in a normal house.

    There’s less space to walk and move around, things are always in your way, and your significant other is always around you!

    (Hint: Your partner probably thinks the same about you.)

    There will be times where you suffer from bouts of claustrophobia. But learning how to effectively deal with times like this will help with your transition to van life.

    Enduring claustrophobia when starting van life
    Talk about an invasion of personal space!

    Tips To Living In A Small Campervan

    • Build a open layout – If you are converting a camper, prioritize maximizing airspace inside your van. Doing so will will help make your campervan interior feel bigger.
    • Open the doorsGetting fresh air and sunlight into the van helps quell feelings of claustrophobia. At campsites, our sliding and back doors are constantly open for air circulation.
    • Go outsideGrab a camping chair and find a nice spot to take a seat. (Not having the van in your peripheral vision helps a lot here!)
    • Take a napIf we’re unable to go outside, we sometimes just stop whatever we’re doing, lay down, and close our eyes. This really helps to reset the mind and calm emotions.

    Tip #5

    Plan Ahead For Great Overnight Spots

    One of the biggest stresses during van life is figuring out where to safely park for the night.

    Avoid overnight spots that are:

    • Unsafe
    • Illegal to park overnight
    • Loud all night long
    • Dirty, polluted, and/or foul smelling

    Parking in places like these makes your transition to campervan life needlessly challenging.

    Boondocking on national forest land
    Parked on National Forest grounds, just outside Mt. Ranier NP

    Other than paying to sleep at a campsite (which can be expensive), you can locate safe and free overnight spots using the following apps and websites.

    Tip #6

    Be Ready For Inconsistent Internet Access

    At home you most likely have access to unlimited, fast Internet 24/7.

    But during van life, this is hardly the case.

    Sometimes when boondocking, you won’t even have a single bar of cell reception.

    And that can be frustrating, especially during your first few weeks of van life.

    Working In Our Camper Van

    Where To Get Internet

    If you know where to look, you can always get Internet access. Although speeds may vary.

    Options include:

    Learn To Live Without Internet Access

    It took a while, but we’ve learned to slow down and step back from the online world. Life feels slower. We spend more time outdoors, talk with each more, and find ourselves just living in the moment more often.

    We don’t need to be connected 100% of the time and we think you won’t need to be, either.

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

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

    Final Thoughts: Making The Move To Van Life Is A Lesson In Adaptability

    No matter the challenges you might face when transitioning to live in your camper van, we’re confident that you’ll be able to adapt in the face of change.

    Take it from us. Before van life, we were just a couple of city kids accustomed to the conveniences of urban life. But we made it. And after 3 years on the road, we’re still at it!

    And in some ways, that’s one of the most important aspects of van life. Every day you’re putting yourself in new and different situations.

    Sometimes those situations are uncomfortable at first, but humans have a strong knack for acclimating to new environments. So no matter what concerns you might initially have about traveling in your van, we hope you’ll realize that you, too, can learn and adapt in the face of change.

    Happy traveling!

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