Living in a van, down by the river!


The trailer is often less practical (in our experience, anyway). It dramatically limits where and when you go, compared to a very mobile, stealthy, well-equipped van. It turns out that where and when you go has a disproportionally huge impact on quality of life when travelling, much more so than total living area for us – because of the outsized impact that your surroundings have.

There’s not as much usable space, sure, but if you can make the adaptation to begin with, the differences aren’t as stark as you might expect.


My idea would not to be in a remote area but in an urban area. Your PC is your laptop. Go to coffee shops, McDonald’s, the library, etc., for internet. My bookshelf would be my Kindle. I am down to fewer than 200 books now after having moved 4 times in the last 10 years, and I will get rid of more. The only books I’ll keep are my literary ones. I have a collection of contemporary poetry that would be difficult to replace – those books go out of print and disappear.

The biggest hurdle is healthcare. You can live free on a small income if you have a cheap place to flop, but there’s no such thing as cheap healthcare.



I had a coworker last year who lived out of a cargo van. He’d spend summers in the northeast with us on an archaeology field crew, then do a circuit of the country harvesting cranberries and working at ski resorts. It was apparently more expensive living than you’d think. I remember the project he was working on when I knew him was getting the van properly ventilated. Apparently condensation and humidity were a real problem, especially in the summer. He spent a lot of nights in Walmart parking lots, although luckily another of our coworkers let him stay in his driveway and use his bathroom and grill.

It’s not for me, I know that much.


I am curious, why is Walmart so lenient here when everyone else is not? What advantage does it confer to them vs the liabilities, which seem numerous?


Typically, these are the 24-hour stores and it’s technically at the manager’s discretion. They don’t provide any service so much as they just don’t run people off.


I don’t know. There is probably a corporate policy now.

It almost certainly started though because of that weird venn diagram that Wal-mart in the earlier days represented - 24 hour shopping, very large parking lots, rural / lower demographic shoppers. Wal-mart parking lots are relatively safe because of constant lighting, and they’re so large RVs could park way on the opposite side of the store and not bother anybody. There’s almost certainly a demographic alignment between living in your van/RV and Wal-mart usage that isn’t near as strong as any other major retailer, tbh.


Yeah, this got really popular a couple years ago when millenials started getting married and realized they couldn’t afford to pay rent on their “social media consultant” salaries and save any money, much less buy a house. A bunch of 'em just said fuck it and took to the open roads.

They customize vans rather than using RVs because they’re “stealth”. Usually a used mercedes sprinter van, as that model has a higher ceiling. Once they’re done you really can’t tell someone is living inside the thing from a cursory glance, so they can park basically wherever they want, and aren’t chased out of town to RV parks and whatnot.

I find youtube videos about customizing vans really engrossing for some odd reason. Not just the fact that they’re always like really attractive young people who wear bikini tops while insulating the floorboards and installing the vent fans, although that helps, but the whole process of customizing the van is neat. There are a bunch of these out there now.


I’m pretty sure the Walmart policy is a remnant of the policy back a few decades back when they were actively catering to truckers


That and their ongoing shtick of pretending to love retirees (same reason they employ the single retiree greeter at each store).


Just pulling from our experience, the hard thing about urban areas is that there’s usually nothing private about the area outside your vehicle. When that’s the case, it starts to feel very small indeed.

When you can lower an awning, put some chairs out, and that outdoor space becomes your front yard, so to speak – not exclusive but that does not matter – that’s when it’s magical. Assuming that you aren’t just sandwiched between RVs someplace (which, don’t do that).

So the trick is usually to find someplace near an urban area, convenient to commute to, but a little off the beaten path. Shunpiker’s guides are a good place to start (and start getting an idea for what to look for).


It is very odd to me that you wrote “people” here, because I am imagining some beefy dude in a bikini top now.

I dunno, maybe that’s what stusser is into… I don’t judge.


Really? Really? :)


Shame on you. @Wumpus is the least judgy person ever to walk this earth. With a few exceptions.

I haven’t seen any beefcakes wearing bikini tops in those specific videos, no. Elsewhere, sure!



I’ve watched a lot of the tiny house builder/Hunter shows, and the thing that grates on me about it is how much of an affectation the “tiny house” is versus, say, a single wide trailer. A lot of the tiny houses they show are only nominally mobile, and they frequently explicitly say they have no intention of moving it. In which case, instead of constructing a custom thing on a trailer bed or out of a shipping container, why not avail yourself of a trailer home, which has been designed by professionals as a living space? I priced them out, and they’re roughly similar, cost-wise.

The answer is, basically, “trailers are for poor people in Oklahoma, not cool urban people like me. I’m not poor, even though the whole point of this exercise is that I will never be able to afford a house larger than a trailer.”


I get it though. I was looking at some campers recently, and these “T@B” campers (yes, that is their name) are significantly more expensive than some generic trailer, and signficantly smaller to boot.

But the trailer feels like throwing money away. Everything has that “Sold at Walmart” feeling, maximized for price/performance, where it’s probably not bad (if you like the livin’ good in the country stylin’) but i’d expect it to depreciate to 0 in about 90 days, and be a constant headache to repair. While that significantly smaller trailer felt far better built, just stepping inside.

So it’s not just being urban cool, though certainly that’s part of it. It’s kind of like asking why those hipsters just don’t move to the country and eat frozen dollar meals from Dollar Tree. Even if you’re downsizing you can’t completely divest yourself of your internal quality controls.


I absolutely love living in a space where my face is never more than 20 feet from a toilet.


I actually am still somewhat enamored of small living spaces; whatever part of my brain was addicted to blanket forts at age 3 never really grew out of it, I guess.

But when I really look hard at my home life, 98% of it is spent A) sitting at computer, B) cooking something, C) sleeping, D) using the restroom, E) watching TV with the gf, in approximate descending order of likelihood. I more or less never use the majority of the space we have and haven’t looked at any of the useless crap I keep in the guest room or on our various book/DVD shelves in years. Tossing it all and moving into something half or a third the size of what we live in now would be very appealing to a certain part of my brain.

Sadly for any local miniature home startups, I am positive it would drive aforementioned partner insane, so alas :)


Yep! If it weren’t for this pesky wife and impending family I have, I’d buy a 400 square foot studio and never look back.