Living in a van, down by the river!

I’ve read a number of these “go live in a van” sites now, and stereotypes aside…

… there is something aesthetically (ascetically, maybe?) appealing about the idea of being free to go and live wherever you want.

This all culminates in… THE VANUAL

I’d seen earlier, less visually fancy takes (but not one iota less obsessed takes) such as

Which is a really fun read. Building the thing is half the fun.

There is of course, a subreddit, too:

Have you, or anyone you know, done this?

There is of course the super high end van conversion stuff but that is more of an RV take, for vacations. The “build your own van and live in it permanently” movement is, I think, a more personal journey.

One of my wife’s cousins, upon graduating, did something like that. He worked remotely doing It work, and lived more or less wherever the wheels took him. Spent some time in the Colorado mountains, then to the west coast, showering at gyms and YMCA type deals, etc. only did it for 6 months to a year.

Another friend of mine, however, did that for a couple of years out in Oregon, so it is definitely a thing with some appeal if you are either retired, or fresh out of college and no permanent ties to any location.

We met a couple a few weeks ago who are modifying a school bus for this purpose. I don’t think I could do it, but I’m fascinated by people who do.

It’s even more of an extension of tiny homes, for the most part, van/bus living are the single guy version, usually.

I too wondered about the draw, but then I talk to coworkers in their 20s that are 100K plus in debt, just for college. It’s affecting them, heavily. And there is something to be said about the ownership, craftsmanship, and portability of this style of living.

I admit, I could hack it if I was younger and single. But I’ve lived on a ship. Many people are just not cut out for close quarters living, and I understand that completely.

My son is super interested in this or in getting some cargo containers and making a go at building a house of those. He’s almost 18 and has no idea what he wants to do with his life yet, so I guess it is good he’s chasing more reachable goals? Me, I’d love to do this – but my wife of nearly 24 years is decidedly not into this (or even fixed-location tiny homes in general).

Not a permanent, live the rest of your life in a van story, but a favorite book (and author) of mine is Blue Highways, by William Least-Heat Moon. An autobiographical account of his 13000 mile jaunt around the country, sticking to ‘blue highways’ on the map, back around 1978.

I’ve really been fascinated by digital nomads. If I was 30 years younger today, I’d do that/

I could see doing the tiny house thing or living out of a van, but I wouldn’t want to share with someone. I need very little space when it’s just me, but with someone else I want a bit of solitude.

It seems a lot less romantic to me. I guess it’s because the first image that pops into my mind is a broken down RV that tweakers have parked on a street in Portland knowing it won’t be towed for weeks. Here’s one example out of many:

My friend has a tiny house that she uses as an AirBnB. I think it would be a great place for a traveler to rest, but I can’t imagine living there. There isn’t any room to store any physical object that isn’t needed for survival. There’s not even enough room to have a TV without having your eyeballs pressed up against it.

Not really my thing but I can see the appeal. It sounds so millennial, the creative approach to dealing with financial constraint and still getting to live the “experience”. Krakauer’s “Into the Wild” and all that. And of course sticking it to the man (the bank) by not having to have a huge mortgage loan (or the hassle of trying to get one with no credit). There’s also the dodging of some utilities and taxes by not having a home.

As an alternative to owning an RV, maybe. But to live in, with no place for a real PC and no bookshelves? Not for me.

I got a feel for this during my 2-year stint as an OTR trucker.

Not sure how I could handle living in a vehicle without AC during the summer, though. Must be awful hot.

@BigWeather Also spent a year residing in a shipping container. It has to be well insulated or it is extremely hot in the summer and cold in the winter. I’ve seen house structures made with shipping containers but they are not ideal or cheap for this, better to stick with 2x4s and a shingle roof.

Relevant to this topic, Noah Caldwell-Gervais is a Youtube critic, essayist I’d say, producing these awesome long form looks at games, in far more detail than what I’d think some of them deserve. Got married, got a van, currently living in the van while traveling in the US. Sometimes it even comes up in his essays.

We did it with an Airstream for a couple of years, after selling our SF condo and outfitting the Airstream for working remotely (there were a couple of articles about it at the time).

Now we have it parked next to a small cottage on an island (using it as a home office). Once you shift modes like that and make the emotional / behavioral adjustments to clutter reduction (which is cathartic), tiny houses are easy and enjoyable to live with.

When you’re mobile, the notion of “your space” expands to include the outside world wherever you are. If you’re doing it right (scenic state / national parks, BLM land, etc. and avoiding parking lots — or RV parks that look like them), it’s pretty terrific.

If we were to do it again, we’d get a Sprinter conversion, and plan for a using it a few weeks/months at a time, not permanent. Once you shift your expectations a little, you really open up your options.

Check out the family behind Mali Mish, and what they manage to do with 3 kids.

Living in a van: otherwise known as, “get a camper”.

Van Life sounds cool. What you quickly discover is that this means “living in Wal-mart parking lots” because Wal-mart is one of the only retailers that doesn’t run off auto-based overnighters or charge them fees for staying.

If you’re like 22-23 with a girl/boy friend and want an extended year of a traveling bedroom, it’s awesome because you’re immune to discomfort and can live off air and water, and like Dr. Strangelove’s mineshafts, have much time with little to do. If you’re like 65 and want to meet new people and living the great outdoor adventure, it’s … kind of awesome, but you’re likely going to end up living in various RV parks. If you’re anybody else, you need to go in with both eyes very wide open as to what you’re getting into.

Otherwise, just get one of these. (Although personally i’d like to get one of these others instead.) The real mysterious problem of van living is that you’re actually not as free to wander as you think, and finding spots to overnight, be sanitary and not run up suprisingly high camp fees is harder than you think - unless you’re crashing in the front driveway of friends’ and families’ homes.

If you want a rabbit hole to go down wumpus, research into making your RV/Van 100% solar w/ AC.

When my brother in law remodeled his house, my father-in-law lived in a van in the driveway for the entire construction.

It was weird, but he said he liked it. There was a small converted garage out-building type thing in the backyard, where he showered (and where my brother in law and his family were living). For the most part, he (father in law) just hung out in the back of the van and chatted up people walking by or the construction workers.

The Frugal Shunpiker’s guides are helpful in learning about places to stay on the cheap (or often free) without caving in and doing the RV park thing (or worse, e.g. store parking lots).

Campendium is also helpful in finding places to try (including non-depressing RV parks when necessary), and where to avoid.

Oh, and i forgot to mention the Bruder X ultimate camper. If you imagine yourself somewhere between glamping, Mad Max and Shadowrun (with the kids in tow), and you don’t mind getting it custom shipped from Australia.

I’d love one of these

Living in a van seems very different from pulling a trailer. The trailer is infinitely more practical but the van has a little bit of stealth mystique.