Challenges of Adapting to Life on the Road: 10 Tips for the First-Time Living in a Van Full Time

Sometimes you just want to get in a vehicle and put some road behind you. If the nomadic life is calling you, you’ll be glad to know that there are plenty of people already living in a van on their terms. 

More than 50% of the people committed to the van life also live in their van full time. You might consider this doing it on “hard mode”, but it’s also the most rewarding and fulfilling way to go about it. 

Living in a van full time can foster a sense of wonder and adventure like nothing else. If you’re interested in learning some tips that’ll help you make the most of this experience, keep reading. 

1. Become Your Own Accountant

When you’re living in a van, you still need to take care of all your life responsibilities. People want to experience the free-spirited life without thinking about their responsibilities. Conversely, it’s easier to live free and unencumbered when you know that your business is taken care of. 

Get strategic about the way that you handle your money, starting with creating a budget. Calculate the cost of living in a van per month, considering things like your food, fuel, and supplies. Use a spreadsheet or app that can help you keep track of it all. This way, you’ll know how much you can spend and won’t go over your allotted amounts each month. 

2. Make Sure Your Income and Savings Are in Order

You also need to make sure that you keep a steady stream of income while living in your van. This will give you more control over your time so that you get the most from the experience. 

Many people who spend their time living in a Sprinter van do some kind of remote work. When you can work anywhere that you have an internet connection, it’s easier to take care of all your expenses. Consider finding and using a skill that you can earn income doing. This can include things like freelance writing, accounting, graphic design, and editing. 

Set aside some savings so that you are prepared for any financial emergencies that you come across. As a rule of thumb, you should have 6 months of income set aside in your emergency savings account. 

3. Map Out Where You Want to Go

When you’re about the Sprinter van life, make sure that you always know where you want to go. The last thing you want is to become aimless about your travel. 

You can plan out your travel a month or two at a time, figuring out what geographical areas you’d like to explore. For example, if you’re exploring California for a month, you might choose to spend a week in Los Angeles, a week in San Diego, a week in the Bay Area, and a week in Northern California. 

You can also fill your weeks with sights to see and different activities. By filling your time with plenty to do, you’ll enjoy the freedom and fulfillment that this lifestyle brings. 

4. Invest in a Reliable Van

The main thing that you need is a van that you can rely on. This way, you can drive for several miles without worrying about your vehicle breaking down. 

Having a van that you can trust is half the battle when you’re living the van life. Check out some different years, makes, and models in your price range that you can shop for. If you plan to live the van life long-term, you owe it to yourself to get a van that you can put plenty of miles on without concern. 

Look at different van conversions to find an option that will let you put plenty of miles on it. Check out the specs, including the engine type, fuel economy, transmission type, interior, and a variety of other features. When you have a van that you know you can trust, you’ll have less anxiety exploring areas you’ve never been to and planning out long-distance trips. 

5. Get a Repair Service Plan

Repair work and maintenance are essential for van life. This means taking care of everything from getting the oil changed to cleaning the fuel injectors. You’ll need the help of a repair shop that can also maintain your tires and sell you new ones when it’s time for a change. 

If you’d like to keep your van in the best condition, it means finding the help of professionals that can manage the upkeep. If you’re planning to travel all over, consider getting a maintenance plan with a business that has repair shops all over the country. You can also have a maintenance plan with a business in your home area — just make sure to put it in the shop whenever you’re back in the area. 

Keeping track of your parts, fluids, and the overall performance of your automobile will help you enjoy the road and stay out of danger. This will prevent you from getting stranded in the middle of nowhere with a van that won’t start. 

Find a repair shop that works with a variety of different van life builds and they can also repair and maintain your interior appliances and other fixtures. 

6. Scope Out Camping Locations

Half the battle with your van lifestyle is knowing where you’re going to sleep. You need to take care of your basic survival needs first, so make finding a place to sleep your priority when you get up in the morning. One of the best ways to do this is by finding campgrounds or camper-friendly locations. 

This way, you’ll be able to park somewhere safe with other people who are camping out in their vehicles. Campgrounds also offer you an excellent way to get a shower, use of the bathroom, fresh air, and a place to stretch your legs. Find out if you need to book a slot at the campground or if you can just show up and find a space. 

Outside of campgrounds, there are also certain business chains that are known for being camper friendly. These businesses will allow you to park in their lots overnight and access their electricity hookups. Look up the crime stats in any area you are planning to camp for the night. 

When possible, look for reviews and guides from other campers who have used the location. 

7. Prepare for Emergencies

Go through your day expecting the best, but always prepared if the worst happens. Since you’re in a van and on the go, you need to have plans to handle any kind of emergency that comes your way. 

This can include things like vehicle accidents, getting injured, having someone break into your vehicle and other related emergencies. Have a plan of action for how you will address these issues and you will be better able to minimize the damage and danger. 

Put contingencies in place so that you can handle your own emergencies quickly and safely. For example, you can get a roadside assistance plan that gets a professional out to you whenever you need help. This can include things like getting your vehicle towed, jumping your battery, and providing locksmith service. 

Consider carrying around a canister for gasoline that you can fill up in case you run out of gas. You might also choose to buy a generator that you can fire up in case you need to camp for the night. 

Make it a habit to be aware of your surroundings so that you give yourself the best chance to bounce back from these emergencies without issue. 

8. Always Keep Your Technology Charged

We live in an interconnected world right now. It pays to always have access to your tech devices so that you can communicate and find information. 

Invest in plenty of different charging cords, adapters, and outlets so that all of your devices stay at full power. Make plans for how you will charge your devices on the go. You might choose to scope out libraries and coffee shops that have outlets so that you stay charged and connected. 

This is how you communicate with the world, so take every opportunity to charge to stay on the safe side. 

9. Keep it Clean

Seriously. The quickest way for van life to get old and drive you to the brink is if you fail to keep your vehicle clean. Treat your van like your home and give yourself a set of chores to complete regularly to make sure that it looks great and smells great. 

This is excellent for your physical and mental health. A clean van is the difference between life on the road being an adventure and feeling like you are trapped inside your van. Get some basic cleaning supplies that can get the job done so that you scrub all your surfaces, wash your windows, shampoo ad vacuum your floors, and more. 

Collect and take the trash out regularly so that it doesn’t accumulate and become a cluttered mess. Definitely be vigilant about getting rid of food and other perishable items that are piling up in your van. This way, you can avoid pests and critters from taking over. 

Treat yourself to a full wash and interior cleaning, or grab some suds and do it yourself when you have some spare time. 

10. Have What You Need for All Seasons

When you’re living in a van, it’s easy to get so caught up in the moment. However, think ahead and make sure that you pack some clothing and items for all seasons. 

You can bundle up in the fall and wintertime by purchasing a bigger coat or jacket that you can wear when the temperatures drop. At the same time, you will also want to keep your swimsuits handy so that you can pull them out whenever warm weather rolls around. 

Think the same when it comes to the supplies that you pack. You’ll want to have some tools that’ll get you through these seasons as well. 

11. Make Friends in the Van Life

Networking is an important facet of life, even when it comes to the van life. When you know other people that live life this way, you can learn from them and exchange notes. They can also open you up to their network of friends and associates that they have met in their travels. 

It never hurts to have people you know on the open road. In addition to joining forums and online communities with people in the van life, look to have in-person interactions so that you can build a rapport. 

12. Find Some Great Entertainment

The van life is a great way to clear your head and enjoy the scenery. It can also become a bit monotonous unless you mix it up with some different ways to keep yourself entertained. 

Thanks to technology, you can watch and listen to all sorts of programming. Use this as a time of growth by getting an audiobook subscription or listening to podcasts or YouTube channels that educate and inform. You can pick up all types of skills or learn about subjects that interest you. 

13. Live in the Moment

Above all, give yourself the chance to truly live in the moment while you’re out on the road. Practice breathing techniques and still your mind, taking in everything around you. 

Try not to get too lost in your head, and use this as a time to collect plenty of memories and life moments along the way. 


Your Guide to Living in a Van Full Time

Living in a van full time is a great way to get out of the status quo and choose your own destiny. You can make this happen with no problem when you follow the above tips. 

Start with these van life tips and check out our other posts for more related information. 

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