A good summer road trip never goes out of style, although it’s not exactly the easiest vacation to pull off. More often than ever, though, people are looking to camper vans and converted vehicles not just as temporary summer vacation ideas, but as a long-term way of life. If Pinterest search trends are any indication, men on the internet are obsessed with the idea of van life, though they might not know what they’re getting into.
According to Pinterest, “camper van,” “van conversion DIY,” “road trip prepping,” “side-door hammock,” and other van-life keywords are some of the most popular searches among male users. The social platform told HelloGiggles that campers and vans were even taking the place of the notorious “man cave” in popularity among men.
But it’s not just male Pinterest users who are interested in living in a van full-time.
On Instagram, there are 3.5 million #VanLife posts, where both men and women are living their best van lives full-time, or just as a temporary escape from the “real world.” It might sound cramped, but there are perks to living out of a converted van or camper. You can live at the beach, in the mountains, or literally anywhere you can legally park your vehicle.
According to Brent Rose of The Verge, who lived out a van for over two years, it was the perfect living solution after a terrible breakup. As a writer, he didn’t have to be tied down to any apartment or city, so he bought a van already outfitted to work as a home and got the heck out of his shared place. Living out of a van means that you don’t have to stay in one place if you don’t want to, and you can access some of the most beautiful spots in the world, which is a pretty badass way to live given the cost of rent in 2018.
Adam Glick, who you might know as the chef from Bravo’s Below Deck, has been living out of a camper van for 10 years (when he’s not cooking it up on TV, of course). HelloGiggles slid into his DMs to ask him what he thinks of the surging interest in van life. He told us, “I feel like a bit of an OG with van life [having done it for a decade] and believe a lot of people are in over their heads and won’t last when they get on the road.”
Hey, he makes a great point. It’s not something you can just jump into without doing the requisite amount of Pinterest and internet sleuthing. Glick added, “I have to stress that the life has very high highs and very low lows.”
One of the highs and lows is figuring out how to do it the “right” way, many van-lifers told HelloGiggles. It’s not just about parking on gorgeous cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean and having a bonfire every night (although there is also a lot of that, too).
While you can most definitely cut a number of costs by living on the road, you have to find a way to support yourself, too. Fuel, repairs to your van and appliances, and feeding yourself still costs money. In fact, van life is kind of a full-time job, even if it’s just for a temporary amount of time. Of course, there is something really fun and charming about tinkering with a camper and turning it into your humble abode. But you might also need an internet connection and a source of water every day, too, depending on the circumstances.
Take it from Bionca Smith, a single mom who decided to take her work and her 9-year-old son off the grid.
She says that some people don’t realize the little things that have to be considered before packing up a van or camper. As much as she loves her lifestyle, finding a wireless internet signal on the daily is a pain in the butt.
“I work on the road and my son attends Connections Academy, an online public school, so being able to access a reliable and strong signal is a must for being productive while on the road,” she told HelloGiggles. Which is why she suggests that everyone find a van or camper that really, really suits their lifestyle. She added:
“Everyone choosing to do van life has a reason for choosing to live more simple and remote. The van should accommodate accordingly. For example, few people prefer to live truly off the grid…In our case, I’m a professional traveling with a child who is doing virtual school on the road, so comfort is key. I purchased a converted van classified as a motor home with everything that a house has, including a toilet, shower, water heater, sink, oven, and even a CO2 censor.”
She continued, “Another factor for us was size: our camper van is small enough to park and camp in most places where other RVs aren’t able to park and stay for extended periods of time. Although this sounds incredible, having a motor home requires a lot of weekly maintenance. So, many van-lifers actually prefer to go without those amenities for that reason, and instead rely on finding several of those resources on a daily basis.”
So there really is no perfect or right way to go about it, much like everything else in life. But those van-lifers who find a vehicle that fits their needs really know what they’re doing. In 2017, the New Yorker profiled professional van-lifers who make dough through sponsorships based on their social media presence.
“Van life, as a concept and as a self-defined community, is primarily a social-media phenomenon. Attaching a name (and a hashtag) to the phenomenon has also enabled people who would otherwise just be rootless wanderers to make their travels into a kind of product,” Rachel Monroe wrote for the magazine.
So maybe it’s best to try van life out as a vacation before you move into a camper full-time. One vacationing van-lifer, Aaron Thomas, shared on Instagram that he and his girlfriend spent just nine days in a van together.
“[We] nicknamed it MT for marriage tester. While living in a van had its challenges, we got to see some of the most beautiful places and have the most interesting adventures of our lives,” he captioned his pic.
Meagan Pendleton has also recently started living out of a camper with her partner. She captioned a recent pic, “I’m actually surprised at how quickly and easily we adapted to #vanlife. The first few days I felt kind of lost, like what are we doing!? And now I am much less paranoid/worried and it’s become easier to take life as it comes and just focus on one day at a time.”
She added that she also finally feels comfortable cooking food on a grill with her feet hanging out of van. You need to adapt.
If living in a converted van or camper sounds like fun to you, go for it. Just make sure you check out all the tips and tricks on social media — and maybe even reach out to fellow van-lifers first for advice. The professional van-lifers might call you a newbie, but at least you’ll know what you’re doing by the time you hit the road.