Vehicles parked in the middle of nowhere with magnificent views and with a perfectly photogenic campervan with a beautiful girl lying on the bed….Van life for women looks indeed glamorous in the social media.
“But is van life really for me?”
That was my long term concern even before I started this lifestyle. I was not quite ready to go on with my life without shower 3 days in a row. I had no clue how to deal with my period in the van without a toilet or unlimited water. I’ve never slept in the car before and I was not even into camping.
After 2+ years, I’m still living in a van traveling full time and I’m not planning to quit anytime soon.
In reality, van life for women is certainly not 100% pretty. Hygiene and safety issues can be more tricky than men. Here I will share with you van life safety, hygiene and essential tips that I learned over the past 2 years.
Tips For Starting Van Life
1. Do Test Drive & Practise Parking
The first step and most stressful thing in van life is to deal with driving and parking. It really feels different driving a huge vehicle compared to a normal tiny car. Especially parking in the street is like…a nightmare.
I highly suggest you go for a test run in the city, where the surroundings are more hectic which is more difficult to drive than in nature, and practise parking in the city multiple times even before you actually start van life.
2. Van Life For A Week Near Your House
If you feel more or less comfortable with driving your campervan in the cities, you can do a test run for actual van life. Drive somewhere near your house and spend some time in a different type of location.
Good practise for van life in nature. You can open up your sliding and back door and use the camping spots for cooking and lounging. Usually they have access to hook up, water and bathroom. Usually poor or no access to wifi.
Usually a very RV friendly free overnight parking option and you are more likely to depend on it many times as you travel. You can try to park overnight and adjust yourself to living in a van with all doors closed. Usually 24 hours open with a bathroom & Wifi available.
It is the hardest one of all, because there are many restrictions especially in the big cities. You will have to read a parking rule sign very well. Also you have to be prepared to have no access to the bathroom.
Van Life Safety For Women
1. Don’t Drive At Night
If anything, avoid driving after dark. It’s not only for your safety but for your van as well.
You obviously can’t see the road clearly in the dark. You might run into sudden curves or hills, potholes or speed bumps that can cause your van serious trouble if you are not paying attention well.
In order for you and your campervan’s safety it’s always a great idea to plan ahead where you are going and sleeping on that day. The best is to use “the vanlifer’s best friend” app called iOverlander, which lists review based information of places for free or paid camping.
2. Communication is the key
One of the best parts of van life is to meet people. Be friendly with strangers, have a chat if you have a chance. Most people are genuinely kind and they are willing to help you if you are in any sort of trouble.
It seems like opposite advice for women in van life, but it is very important to let people around you know “You are there” as much as you can and it is important to put yourself in the surroundings where people can help you right away.
3. If You Are Not Sure, Just Ask
If you are staying in the campsite, walk around and say hello to neighbors. If you are planning to sleep in a Walmart parking lot, ask the customer service to see if it is ok to park overnight.
In any situation, if you are in the spot where you are not sure if it is ok to park overnight, find someone and just ask if it is ok, to avoid someone knocking on your door in the middle of the night and disturbing your sleep instead.
4. Trust Your Instinct
And lastly, if you feel not safe, or if you feel uncomfortable even a little bit, trust your instinct and just leave. Don’t be ashamed to run away or ask for help.
Van Life Higiene For Women
How to deal with Period in van life
I use multiple products to be less stressful, messy and sustainable.
1. Period underwear
My skin never irritates with this because they use 100% cotton, easy to wash with water and dry quickly. I wear this without using a pad or menstrual cup when I have light flow. I have 2 pairs so I wash one with cold water at the end of the day, and wear the second one the next day while I dry the first one.
The best way to find out which cup is right for you is to measure your cervix height.
Here are some great resources from Period Nirvana.
Also, it took me quite some time to get used to inserting and removing the cup without making too much of a mess, but I learned as I got more experience.
Van Life Tips For Women
1. Don’t Aim For The Perfection
I know, it’s hard not to imagine the perfect lifestyle seeing millions of stunning van life photos everyday in the social media, but there are always “behind the scenes” in these photos.
There are absolutely ups and downs in van life just like in a “normal lifestyle” you used to have. There are days you just don’t have a perfectly clean looking van interior. There are days that it seems like nothing is working out. They are completely normal and it’s important to give yourself a break sometimes.
2. Take Occasional “vacation from vacations”
You would feel van life is so worth it when you travel to one place to another place anytime, anywhere you want.
At first I started a van life, we were so excited and we drove everyday to the place where they have the most beautiful scenery to take a gram photo, sightseeing every spot, hiking every path we saw in the parks. We tried to boondock in the national forests feeling fulfilled not spending money to sleep in those beautiful places.
However, at some point, you will get exhausted.
I used to feel bad staying in one place for more than a few days. I hated the feeling of skipping the activities and not doing anything.
After some time of doing van life, I came to a realization that it is ok to be tired, it is ok to rest,
“It’s ok to do nothing”
The world is big and there are too many places to visit. It’s impossible to cover absolutely everything.
3 Don't Feel Ashamed to Pay to sleep
If you feel exhausted, you don’t have to go to a “best place to visit” spot in the town. Don’t be afraid to pay a campsite and stay for a week or two. If you are tired from van life, you can even stay in the hotel or Airbnb and don’t feel ashamed about it.
One of the important van life tips is to find your own pace and get used to living and traveling in a van little by little, so that you can keep doing van life for a long period of time.
4. Have a Cleaning Routine
Keeping your van interior cozy & clean is also important for long lasting van life. Cleaning in the van is actually easier than cleaning the entire house, but also it is easier to get dirty fast.
My solution is to give myself a 15 – 30 minutes cleaning time every morning. I open all the doors if I can to let the fresh air in, sweep the floor and wipe the counters. It is sort of my morning exercise and this way I don’t have to do the deep cleaning frequently.
Final Thought: Van life for women can be difficult sometimes but certainly manageable!
We all imagine a perfect, photogenic van lifestyle, but I know thinking about safety and hygiene issues always concerns many women.
Actually, taking basic precaution and trusting your instinct would protect you from any harm most of the time. People are genuinely nice and kind, and there is always someone willing to help you out when you are in trouble.
Although van life is not glamorous all the time, it is indeed a once in a lifetime experience and even after 2 years, I’m still madly in love with it.