Dismissed by some as simply a millennial’s pipe dream, there are people of all ages opting for alternative living in a tiny space on wheels. For some, it’s their answer to a rise in house prices; to others, it grants them the freedom to travel. Regardless of their reasons, more and more individuals, couples and families are finding that life on the road is perfectly suiting their needs.
Such a non-traditional living situation does come with its challenges, of which the van life community appears open about sharing. Internet accessibility has led to a degree of connectivity among owners of traveling homes like never before. Now, people can share, swap stories, and advise fellow van dwellers in a community that grows day by day. Take a look at the resourceful people who have thrown themselves into this alternative lifestyle.
A Couple’s Innovative Solution for Showering
Brittany and Drew are committed van life dwellers who have spent the last five years in their sprinter van, living their best life all over the world. From the US, Canada, Europe to Africa, this husband and wife have made it their business to survive in all types of climates and support themselves through documenting it on social media! They provide insight into what day-to-day living in a van really looks like, such as showering, for which they use a solar camping shower.
Standing in a simple plastic basin, Brittany balances her toiletries on their van window and performs her ablutions! However, the couple are honest about the difficulties they face, admitting that finding swimwear-friendly places can be a challenge: “Walmart parking lots – not so much.” They’ve recently shared their excitement at building a “little shower in a drawer/futon out of a utility sink” to allow them showers inside the van!
Ex-Lawyer Ditches the City for Nomad Living
Meet Lisa, the solo female traveler who left her lawyer job to live alone in a van! But make no mistake, solo van life is no solitary matter: “Van life is a lot like regular life. I still get together with my friends and spend hours talking about life, love, and boys.” And her Instagram proves it – she frequently posts photos of her hosting people, turning her convertible bed into a sofa and dining space!
Working as a self-confessed “digital nomad,” her laptop is all she needs. “Sometimes I do this in nature but sometimes I’m bunkered down in a motel parking lot in the rain, trying to stealthily blend in with the cars parked around me,” she confesses. But for this woman, van life is worth is sacrifices. “I fully embraced the constant inconsistency and opportunity for reinvention,” she explains, adding “van life is the ultimate freedom. Now I rule my time, my place, my energy, and my path.”
Navigating the Complexities of Travel Together
After three years in their van, Dustin and Naomi are well-seasoned van residents who proudly represent diversity in van life. Cohabiting in Irie (the name they gave their ’85 Westy,) they don’t skirt around the difficulties of living with someone 24/7 in a small space, conceding that its “not always sunshine and rainbows. Being with someone in the high-stakes, high-stress situations that come with travel makes it clear whether or not you really like each other.”
But if its the right relationship, Dustin and Naomi are a testament to how living in a van can bring you closer together. Naomi asserts that “The more often we’re put in trust-inducing situations, the deeper our bond grows. Someone once told me, ‘you travel alone to find yourself, you travel with someone to find each other.'”
The 19-Year-Old Solo Female Sharing a Van With a Snake
Living in a 1995 GMC Vandura Explorer that she custom painted a conspicuous pastel blue, Jennelle Eliana is a teenager who has risen to van life stardom this summer. Her first Youtube video introducing her cozy van interior rocketed her to internet fame, seeing her achieve over 1.3 million subscribers in 3 short weeks. An unlikely candidate for road life, this 19-year-old is opening minds to who van life can suit.
As a younger teen growing up in California, she acquired an interest in living sustainably, and in 2017 organized herself enough to buy a second-hand van for $2,500. Despite what you might think, she lives an indulgent life opting to eat out for almost all of her meals: “It’s a luxury I can afford now that I don’t pay rent.” At the moment, she continues to work a 9 to 5 job… but judging by the rate her fame is growing we expect that’ll change soon!
The Couple Raising Their Daughter in a Van
Giddi and Jace are a couple choosing to raise their little girl in a yellow self-converted sprinter! “It’s our little sanctuary everywhere we travel, fully equipped with kitchen, toilet, shower, beds, solar power,” they assert, living with their toddler Juniper and even a dog, names Lotus. Frustrated at working full-time jobs, they decided to leave that life behind and earn money on the road through their home-made jewelry business.
Raise their daughter in a van, they assure their audience that “sometimes the scariest things and decisions can turn out super positive and beneficial if you take the leap. We don’t know where we’re headed still or how long we’ll continue in a van, but we’re still happy and in love and trying to make the most of it all.” This brave family sets a strong example for others to live life in the moment and try to make your dreams a reality.
The 72-Year-Old Woman Proving You’re Only as Old as You Feel
Ruth is a 72-year-old female van lifer living solo in a custom-built van that she designed. “I want to live real simple and this is doing it,” she says. Free of the burden of a big house or unnecessary clutter, Ruth has time to pursue her real-life passions. “You can leave your underwear somewhere, but not your golf clubs,” she jokes as she shows no sign of slowing down. “One day I’m gonna get old.”
On what made her make the change, she declared, “I looked around my house, I didn’t use the living room, the chairs, the great big old flat-screen TV… I used the bedroom, the bathroom, and the kitchen.” Ruth adds, “I just got tired of life as usual. I saw a couple of videos of people living in vans and I thought wow, that would work… The feeling of freedom is absolutely indescribable.”
The Swedish Pro Skier and Photographer Girlfriend
Striking blonde-haired, blue-eyed couple Jacob and Sofia decided to venture outside of Sweden and into the wider world – from a self-built van. They’ve spent all of their twenties traveling and opting for a life on the road when they do. They’ll tell you its the best way to do it, “waking up at the same places as people who spend hundreds of dollars on hotels,” Sofia asserts. And for her occupation this lifestyle works – she’s a photographer relying only on a camera and laptop.
Jacob is a professional skier, and an active, outdoor life suits him just fine too. His other passion in life is surfing – he’ll hit the waves whatever the weather according to Sofia who claims he’s “going surfing in (30 MPH) winds, in freezing water.” From the sounds of it, they feel a strong aversion to living a conventional life, looking up to those who don’t “conform to society’s norms or ideas of how life should be lived.”
The Family Who Lived in their Van While Renovating
Malinda and Darcy went a step further than other van life families, by actually living in the vehicle while refurbishing it! Living in Australia, the family of three claim to have slowly attended to the van, “bit by bit, for almost 15 months.” But they have no regrets – they now live in a dream home tailored to their needs: “Totally recommend this slow approach to anyone building… It’s the best way to know exactly what you want and need.”
This family value living a zero-waste lifestyle wherever possible. In the left photo, Malinda and their son Thyme bathe in siphoned puddle water that they heated. “It was cleaner than we were so we feel pretty good about it,” they assured. On the right, Malinda weaves palm fronds to make a woven screen door for their loo cubicle: “So happy to be learning these skills and techniques and to be hand-making our home from plants.”
Breaking Point Catapulted This Woman Into Living Her Dreams
“I was at my breaking point and needed an escape,” admits Sydney, a solo female traveler living an independent, nomadic life. She was working 70+ hours a week as “just another replaceable body filling in the gaps where work was needed,” – it wasn’t the life for her. She left behind her meaningless work-life and pursued her ultimate dream; working remotely and traveling full-time. The second-hand van she bought online became the best decision she ever made.
Two years later, and she’s living her dream with her pup, Ella. She earns money assisting and advising others on how to get started with van life, providing tips, tricks and logistic help on all the challenges this lifestyle throws at you. For example, she recommends not buying typical van fridges claiming that they’re an unnecessary high expense. Instead, she opts for a $100 “dorm” mini-fridge that works “like a charm.” PS: the same applies to induction stoves!
The Van Wife That Works a 9-To-5
Noel and Jonnie have been married for a decade and currently live in their second van, with a custom-built adventure rig on the way. They’re not alone – they share their little space with two furry friends, one small and one large dog. But they’re honest about life in a tiny space: “Your flooring sometimes doubles as your dining table, your clothing closet is where you store your food, and your bedroom is also your kitchen.”
They assert that despite everything always touching everything, it serves to make them more intentional about their belongings and how they use them. Every cloud… Still, that hasn’t stopped them from maintaining a semblance of ordinary life – Noel works full-time on weekdays at a youth homeless shelter, finding purpose in changing other people’s lives for the better.
Alone Time in a Shared Van
Peter and Shruthi have been married for seven years and spent four of them living by the mile in their 1987 Westfalia Vanagon, affectionately named “The Blitzkrieg.” While the couple “enjoy making tiny meals in our tiny kitchen,” life in extremely cramped quarters with your spouse does need careful navigating. “It can be a challenge because we’re both very independent, stubborn and need our alone time to recharge,” they accept.
Their time spent outdoors in nature is treated as important, allowing them to “sprawl out and get fresh air.” They’ve even taken to splitting up during a hike and regrouping at the end of the trail after some quality time alone. “Personal space isn’t just physical space – it’s also very mental. Podcasts and Spotify are my JAM when I feel like I need some headspace,” reveals Shruthi, adding, “at the end of the day, we feel ready to reconnect with each other.”
High Holidays in a Tiny Space
UK-based Lucy and Ben have spent three Christmases in their rust-ridden LDV Convoy minibus, as their spontaneous lifestyle hasn’t afforded them much planning in advance. Spending the holiday season in the mountains of Greece or Portugal “surrounded by hundreds of goats” does have its appeal. They spent the last Christmas at home with their families, however, which they admitted was “killing us to not be on the road right now .”
It can be hard to part with the freedom and wanderlust that van living grants you. Still, it was important for them to set aside this time as they usually only saw their loved ones when the money ran out and they needed some work back home. They’re not at a stage where they get paid sponsorships or laptop work, so they take “any remote work or paid jobs we can find” in their hometown. This couple’s “dream takes time, hard work and dedication to achieve.”
Surviving a Natural Disaster Put Things Into Perspective
Living on the road isn’t only a lifestyle option for the travel-enthused, as this family of four prove. After living through a traumatizing earthquake that devastated their 25th-floor apartment in New Zealand, Andrew and Amber became disillusioned by the 9-to-5 life. “We were wasting our lives going to work every day, putting our kids in daycare all just to have a nicer car, bigger TV and flashier house,” they thought, before deciding to exit the rat race.
“We want out of the prescribed life, we want to be free. Free to spend as many of the hours we have left together. Watching our kids grow up, having amazing experiences and truly living.” For them, this meant renovating an old city-turned-school bus into a home on wheels. It didn’t come at a huge expense, costing them $7,000 for the bus and $15,000 for refurbishing. Now, they’re prioritizing the important things in life.
A Motorhome With a Fireplace
When you live in the freezing temperatures of Alaska, surely a tiny home on wheels is an impossible task? Tell that to Tim, who’s been living in his 1989 Toyota Odyssey in Anchorage for the past three years. He came up with an ingenious solution to combatting the cold climate, by simply bringing a wood-burning stove into his motorhome! He stores his firewood in a storage unit to not weigh down his off-the-grid home.
Fittingly, Tim’s license plate reads “YRENT,” just in case you had any doubts about his opinions on mobile living. It’s a lifestyle that comes with strict requirements as he warns “You’ve got to stay organized,” which he accomplishes by having specified compartments for everything he owns. Featuring solar panels, a propane oven, and even a DIY bathroom, Tim has found a way of bringing creature comforts into his house on wheels.
Full-Time Adventurers of the Scottish Highlands
This young couple brave Scotland’s freezing climate for an envious life among the mountains. Kyle and Gillian have created a cozy home inside their Volkswagon Transporter Campervan to take in spectacular changing views every night of the Scottish Highlands. They proudly declare that their home is “built not bought,” an important aspect of van living for them as they value self-reliance in all aspects.
They document their gradual improvements, tweaks, and fixes on social media as and when, championing resourcefulness over a consumerist attitude. For example, their tabletop stove has been placed in a stripped out chest of drawers! “Outside is free,” asserts Gillian, and inside her campervan, it’s cushy enough to be their home away from home.
Newly Grads Who Labored on Their Van Build for 5 Months
Pete and Taylor were freshly out of college when they decided to spend every night refurbishing an old airport shuttle bus, bought cheaply on Craigslist, for five months. A 2004 dodge sprinter with an extra-long body, these young lovers have more space than others. Their two sofas fold out and meet in the middle to create a large bed space – a luxury to many van dwellers!
But these two aren’t limited to just the company of each other: “We’ve made some great friendships on the road. When you meet people living the same lifestyle as you, you automatically have something in common. If you don’t jive with someone, you go about doing your own thing. But if you make connections with people, they aren’t surface level.” For these two, life on the road accommodates deeper connections, as they allege, “you cut the crap and are just real with each other.”
A Unique Food Setup
Jolie and Mark have a particularly neat kitchen set up in their Toyota Troop Carrier. They fixed their gas stove to the rear door of the 4×4, nicknamed “Troopy,” allowing them to stand upright in the outdoors and cook! There’s also a retractable side table to the right of the cooker for meal preparation, giving them more than just their interior space to live in.
The Australian natives also found a way to best utilize food storage space inside Troopy, which caters to their long haul traveling. They declared their split fridge as perfect for their lifestyle: “For shorter trips where food is readily available we turn it up and use the freezer as the fridge and fridge compartment for food storage. When we’re going remote we can freeze enough food for weeks!” In such small living spaces, dual-purpose objects are invaluable.
A Work Schedule That Works for Us
New Yorkers Greg and Michelle saved up for a year while building their van to have the mobile home of their dreams. Now, over 7 years later, they’ve worked out a routine to support their life on the road. They work remotely most of the year with the summer months reserved for Greg’s job as Ocean Lifeguard and Professional Rescuer for New York State Parks and Michelle’s role in her family’s fabric company. But they still live in the van during this period.
“It took us a year or two to get our individual employment situations totally dialed in,” Greg admitted, “but we eventually found a healthy compromise that worked for us. Working seasonally for a few months at a time, allowed us to both continue doing work that we truly love.” They confess it can be a particularly stressful period back in NY, but “There is no better feeling than that last day at our 9-5’s knowing that tomorrow…[there are] new adventures ahead of us for the rest of the year.”
Van Life Isn’t Always About Living in the Fast Lane
Kerina and Joshua have created a sanctuary-like bedroom in the back of their van to retire to some peace and quiet. The photo below goes to show that living on the road looks more familiar than we think – there’s nothing better than those cozy night curled up with a loved one, watching Netflix.
Currently traveling around Europe, the couple is an adventurous pair but they know how to appreciate some quality downtime. Despite both being outdoorsy, they recognize that life “isn’t always about chasing new experiences. Sometimes it’s just enjoying those simple and special moments together,” Kerina accepts. Despite their active, social lives, she and Joshua make sure to wind down with good old movie entertainment now and again.
The Fiances That Capitalized on Their Love of Van Life
Sefl-confessed “fulltime vanlifers,” Trent and Allie have turned their offbeat passion into their life and income. On their social channels, they post frequently about their nomad lifestyle and create detailed Youtube videos on their experiences, providing content on anything from logistic issues to van tech reviews. They also film van tours of other people’s mobile homes, sharing the various setups that work for others.
Having held down jobs previously as a craftsman (Trent) and yoga teacher (Allie,) the adventuresome couple have since found a gap in the market: a cookbook of “Meals Made & Found on the Open Road.” In Van Made Meals, they offer 28 of their favorite recipes, all learned while living in a van. Working from home has its setbacks but these two prove that if you’re determined enough, you can live your dreams eventually.
Some Peace and Quiet
Seb makes up one-half of the occupants living in “Vincent,” the van he shares with his other half, Rose. Having grown bored of normal life, they looked for a way to “escape the everyday.” Three days after Seb passed his driving license, he bought their Vauxhall Movano Maxi Roof and they’ve been living their best life since. Living in a rolling home “provides us with everything that we need to live a simple and relaxed lifestyle. Everything is a lot slower.”
For someone like Seb who wants to spend his time writing, the slow-paced, nomad life suits him down to the bone. For now, his fantasy novel isn’t enough to sustain him. But his musical skill is, playing for touring bands throughout his life. And it’s granted him and Rose the freedom to live a fuller life: “Living small doesn’t mean you can’t have nice things, you just have to pick and choose the things you really want.”
Minimalism in a Rolling Home
Kit and J.R. are extremely intentional about the objects they keep in their life, but not to the point of discomfort. “We own exactly two forks and two spoons,” confess the couple. “One set for us, one set for company. It’s been that way for upwards of 7 years now, and it’s always worked just fine.” It is van life combined with minimalism, which arguably, goes hand in hand.
“Minimalism is, for me, a survival mechanism. I am easily overwhelmed,” admits Kit. “I feel a loss of control when there’s too much going on. Once I have fewer things around me, the overwhelm lifts. Carefully curating my possessions helps me contain my physical world into a manageable amount of upkeep.” Like a true minimalist, fewer, easier to manage belongings is all for a greater cause. “It allows room for what’s important, big thoughts and even bigger questions.”
The Inexperienced Van Lifers
Andes and Sophie are fairly new to the game, currently, 10 months into their van living experience as they travel around Europe. Having converted their Mercedes Sprinter together, they’re already making notes of the improvements they want to make in their next van in a small dedicated book: “[We] are slowly but surely filling with improvements of small and little things we would do different… A van never is perfect or finished.”
They’ve chosen to maintain transparency throughout their curated Instagram account, being open and honest about van life struggles. From being woken up in the middle of the night to not having enough clean clothes, they show the realities of a rewarding lifestyle that has its obstacles. And even when you’re adventuring in your home on wheels, you still need those nights in playing games with a cup of hot tea.
Living Together Will Require Compromise
Kathi and Baru are a Czech and German couple who have just completed a new van renovation together. They’re documenting their experience of building it, as well as now offering their vans for rental for those keen to see what life on the road is like for them. “Isn’t it just a miracle what you can create from a 5m2 metal box?” they ask, in their satisfaction with how their new build has turned out.
Like any couple, they negotiate their conflicting wants and needs. They admit that the mornings can be particularly difficult when one of them wants to “go out and have an adventure” and the other wants to relax in their rolling home. Someone compromises in the end though. It’s easy to see why one of them might want to get out of the van quick: “It’s easy to clean this tiny space but even quicker it’s a mess again.”