Couple sitting in the back of a van with a dog.

Is Van Life Right for You? 16 Questions to Help You Decide

Trying to decide if van life is right for you? There’s a lot to consider before choosing to live on the road! From examining your financial situation to analyzing your relationship to technology, the questions below will help you determine if living in a van is your dream (or your nightmare)!

How Do You Feel About Spontaneity?

Couple planning a trip on a map in their van. Photo by Instagram user @thejahbus
Photo via @thejahbus

One of the most important things you need to live in a van is a great relationship with uncertainty! You won’t always know where you’ll park to sleep that night, when you’ll be able to use a real shower, or where you’ll get groceries, but adventure is a guarantee. If you enjoy flying by the seat of your pants, van life on the road will be a great match for you.

What Happens When Things Go Wrong?

White van in the middle of the desert. Photo by Instagram user @cassie_jb
Photo via @cassie_jb

If you’ve ever gotten a flat tire, missed a train, or gotten totally lost, what did it feel like? If a friend calls and changes plans last minute, what is your natural reaction? If you find you have a hard time going with the flow or rolling with the punches, living in a van full time will present a lot of new challenges in adaptability. Plus, you can’t control where and when your van will break down, so be sure you’re ready to practice patience and not panicking when the inevitable hiccups happen.

Is Your Adventure Short-Term or Long-Term?

Girl sitting in the back of a van looking at the mountains. Photo by Instagram user @jess.wandering
Photo via @jess.wandering

Something else to consider before embarking on this journey is how long you plan to do it. While you might be switching to this lifestyle so you don’t have to plan every destination, van storage is limited so you’ll need to make some decisions about what to do with your stuff. Depending on the length of your travels, you may want to sell your car and home goods. If you’re not sure how long you’ll be traveling, or if you’re planning to use your van as unique temporary housing between homes, consider putting your belongings in self storage so you won’t have to buy all new things after getting back.

What Is Your Current Financial Situation?

Man and two women fixing the inside of a van. Photo by Instagram user @losthiway_customs
Photo via @losthiway_customs

Can you live off savings or will you need to work on the road? If you’ve saved a solid nest egg, calculate the expenses of van life to see how long your money can last. Even if you plan to make money as you go by working remote van life jobs or boondocking in cities for seasonal or temporary gigs, buying a converted van or building out your own will take money to get started. Not to mention, having an emergency fund is crucial to staying on the road. Getting real with yourself about your finances and how well you can stick to a budget is important before making a major life transition like this.

Are You Open to Unique Work Options?

Computer at a desk in a van. Photo by Instagram user @vandogtraveller
Photo via @vandogtraveller

You might not need extra cash now, but it’s wise to consider how you can make money while traveling before embarking on this journey. Working remotely and taking on freelance projects is great for those who already have industry experience in their fields. Otherwise seasonal or temporary work is ideal for those who plan to stay in one spot for a bit longer. Either way, getting creative and being open to any and all opportunities is key.

How Well Do You Handle Fluctuating Temps?

Girl sitting in the back of a van in winter. Photo by Instagram user @rebeccamoroney
Photo via @rebeccamoroney

Van life could be a difficult transition if you like having central air conditioning. Think about how you feel when it gets really hot or really cold, then decide if it’s something you could adjust to or not. There are workarounds, of course. If you’re living in a van during the winter months, you can head south to warmer climates; and during the summer months, you can invest in portable AC and stock up on solar-powered fans. But even with the latest technology and strategic trip planning, you’ll have to get used to changing temperatures when you’re on the road.

Can You Handle Dust & Dirt?

Guy cleaning the floor of van. Photo by Instagram user @ausgevandert
Photo via @ausgevandert

Part of living the van life means getting used to the outside coming in! Even with the best intentions and a strict cleaning regimen, a nomadic life means some dust and dirt are bound to get in. Especially if you’re going surfing and spending time on the beach, cleaning up sand will become a part of your daily routine. And don’t forget about bugs, too! As doors and windows need to be open a lot for ventilation, you’ll have to get ready to befriend some creepy crawlies.

How Much Do You Love Being Outside?

Girl sitting outside of her van with her dogs. Photo by Instagram user @noel_russ
Photo via @noel_russ

When living in a van full time, you’ll need to become best friends with nature! Whether it’s sitting in lawn chairs outside of your van, setting up a tent for the night to get a break from your space, or walking around to stretch your legs, a big portion of your day-to-day activities will now be spent outside.

Have You Ever Gone a Week Without Showering?

Girl showering in her swimsuit outside of her van. Photo by Instagram user @salty.roamers
Photo via @salty.roamers

While many van lifers hate the stigma that they’re smelly, the reality is that showering every single day like you’re used to probably isn’t happening on the road. Of course, solar-heated showers and portable buckets with pressurized hoses are a thing, but it’s not the same as scrubbing yourself clean in a shower daily. Many van dwellers purchase national gym memberships for more regular places to shower and use the restroom; however, it’s not guaranteed in every city. Get ready for a lot of washcloths, baby wipes, and other on-the-go hygiene items to be a part of your routine when you live in a van.

How Do You Feel About Minimalism?

Minimalist decor can in white. Photo by Instagram user @mallory_virgets
Photo via @malloryvirgets

Does the idea of decluttering your entire life excite you? For many members of the van dweller community, a life of travel means living with a lot less stuff and experiencing more. So if the idea downsizing your home, having a small capsule wardrobe, and letting go of personal items is exciting to you, a van adventure could be a perfect fit!

Do You Have Kids?

Mon and kid playing guitar in a van. Photo by Instagram user @yellow.like.sunshine
Photo via @yellow.like.sunshine

Living out of a van with children will change your experience greatly. It’s an amazing opportunity to spend a lot of family time together, but you’ll have to confront having more bodies in your tiny space. Whether you’re caring for a newborn or figuring out the logistics of homeschooling, traveling with a family will require more planning than if you were going it alone.

Will Pets Come Along?

Two brown dogs sitting in a van. Photo by Instagram user @divineontheroad
Photo via @divineontheroad

If you have a furry companion, chances are you’ll want them on the road with you. Much like children, bringing a dog, cat, or another pet with you will require a little extra planning. Sure, you can hold it until you find a bathroom and drive for long hours without leaving the van, but your pets will need more breaks. On the plus side, bringing animals along for the ride could mean they’ll have a bigger backyard and more time with their favorite humans than if you were living in the city. Check out van life tips from travelers with dogs or those on the road with cats.

How Good Are You at Being Alone?

Girl sitting on the top of a van in the desert. Photo by Instagram user @soweboughtavan
Photo via @soweboughtavan

Planning to do van life solo? Of course, you’ll meet kindred spirits on the road,  and you can always join a VanLife Meetup, attend a Women on the Road gathering, or catch seasonal events like the Midwest Vanlife Gathering, but what happens in between? From long days of secluded boondocking to stealth camping in cities, being on the road will come with a lot of quiet time with yourself. Be sure to also consider what kind of friendships mean the most to you. Are you okay with short interactions? Do you already go for long periods of time without seeing your best friends? Because you’re not staying in one place for too long, you’ll have to decide if these kinds of relationships work for you.

Is Your Relationship Ready for Life on the Road?

Two girls kissing on top of a van. Photo by Instagram user @letsplayrideandseek
Photo via @letsplayrideanseek

Traveling with a partner or best friend will certainly help when it comes to loneliness. But is your relationship ready for less space, infrequent showers, and lots of one-on-one time? Check in with your partner and discuss what you both will need to be happy together in such close quarters. Need inspiration? Check out these tips for a successful relationship on the road from a couple who’s done it!

Are You Addicted to Technology?

Guy petting a dog and watching TV in a van. Photo by Instagram user @vannabelcaro
Photo via @vannabelcaro

Is your favorite hobby watching Netflix? What’s the longest you’ve gone without your phone? Van travel means endless battery power and WiFi are no longer at your fingertips. Even if you have a hotspot for your phone, there are certain areas where getting a signal is just not going to happen. Keeping your technology charged is another feat, as having enough juice for lights, fans, cellphones, and laptops can be a struggle.

What Are Your Biggest Sources of Joy?

Girl laying in a van reading. Photo by Instagram user @thewanderingwagners
Photo via @thewanderingwagners

Do you love going out to eat? Is retail therapy your preferred way to relieve stress? Are nights out at the bar your favorite? Evaluate your hobbies and what brings you the most joy. If the majority of the things you love to do require spending money, you might want to reconsider van life. However, if constant adventures in nature, having freedom to travel, and living life spontaneously outweigh the uncertainty of life on the road, van life could be a joyful and thrilling experience for you!

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Not ready to part with sentimental belongings? Extra Space Storage has convenient locations across the U.S. for anything you don’t want to take on the road. Find self storage near you!

A Guide to Van Life

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