We all know some clichés about vanlife, don’t we? Vanlife people are all outdoor-lovers, adventurers, and minimalists, of course. They all drive instagramable cars, have fancy decoration, and are laidback hippies. After one year on the road, I can tell you: most of the clichés about vanlifers aren’t true at all! In today’s post I want to disprove a few of them …
As a disclaimer I want to say that OF COURSE do I not know ALL vanlifers and OF COURSE am I highly generalizing in here. This post is not about telling you the 100% truth about vanlifers but shares what I got to know during one year of fulltime travels while getting to know maaaany other vanlifers.
Why I am sharing this at all? Because I feel like the picture that is drawn on social media isn’t quite what the reality on the streets look like; I feel like many people have an over-romantic view on vanlife. This is not to say that vanlife isn’t romantic and absolutely wonderful! This is just to say that it is not always and not for everybody.
For everyone who is considering moving into a van and every vanlifer thinking that s/he is weird because s/he doesn’t fit the Instagram-cliché of what a vanlife looks like; here is a little bit of what I experienced during one year on the road!
Here we go with myth no. 1!
- All vanlifers spend most of their time outdoors in the wild
Many vanlifers love nature – and many actually chose life on the road to be closer to nature. However, most vanlifers do hardly spend as much time outdoor as you might think!
There is always something to clean, tidy up, repair or fix in a camper; that is one of the reasons for why many of us spend less time outside than we would like to. But then a camper is also extremely cozy and when you can see the most beautiful landscapes from the window anyway, why not stay in bed or the couch for a little longer!? Also, many vanlifers work and have routines that a similar do non-vanlifers. They enjoy their evening walks at the beach but spend their days sitting in front of a laptop. Furthermore, many vanlifers park in spots where they are not allowed to put out chairs or a table so things like working or eating simply take place inside. And finally, around 30% of their time vanlifers are busy checking out where to park/find water/empty the toilet/find a laundry service/find food …
- All vanlifers are minimalists
I always thought ALL vanlifers are minimalists but during the past twelve months I hardly got to know any minimalists at all! Personally, I define a minimalist as someone who enjoys having less – who enjoys having only three shirts, two books, and two plates and who is not easily getting attracted by random stuff (this is a very generalized definition, I know, I keep things very easy here). Most vanlifers I know actually love stuff; even the very random stuff, decoration items, souvenirs, things like that. I have been to only ONE camper in the past 12 months that was not completely FULL. I got to know one couple that truly lives the minimalist lifestyle, all others just like their random stuff and have loads of stuff with them and most campers are on heavy overweight because of all that stuff. Of course people living in a car have less than people with more space but this does not make them minimalists.
- All vanlifers care about the environment
They love nature, they park in the most beautiful surroundings; of course they care about the environment, don’t they!? Well, unfortunately many do not! Throughout the past twelve months I got to know many vanlifers that treat nature like … well like they could just drive off to the next beautiful spot as soon as one is dirty. Which they can! And maybe that is the problem!? I don’t know but many vanlifers do not only poop EVERYWHERE in nature, they also leave their trash, including tons of plastic water containers. Many buy the cheapest food, sold in plastic containers without thinking about what that food has to do with the drought in Spain that they complain about at the same time (read here what it has to do with each other) and with all that plastic in the ocean. That is actually really sad and the one thing that I was most frustrated about during this trip. I mean, I know not everyone is in that little bubble of mine, where it is all about making sustainable choices and buying organic food, but I did think that vanlifers would at least care A LITTLE more than many of them do. But again: there are many who do actually care! It’s just that it seems like unfortunatly even more do not.
- All vanlifers live in their vans by choice
This is another one I didn’t really have in mind before starting into our little adventure: there are actually many vanlifers out there who did not choose to move into a van because they think it’s cool, instagramble, or romantic; but because they lost their house and everything else and all they had left was moving into a camper! Especially in Spain where the financial crisis hit really hard, many people and even families lost everything they had – and moved into a camper. Also in France, many seasonal workers live in vans because it’s the easiest way to move from one seasonal job to the next. This is not to say that they do not enjoy their life in the van; but many of them do actually not really have another option and feel trapped in their vanlife.
- All vanlifers are easy-going hippies
And again: I AM GENERALIZING in here! And when I write “easy going hippies” I mean people that take life easy, that go with the flow, and that are overall rather relaxed. Well, before becoming a fulltime vanlifer myself, I thought all vanlifers are like that. But – big surprise! – people are different! Also people who live in a van are different. We got to know a few easy going hippies, yes. But we also got to know people who are constantly stressed, thinking about work, money, about where to go next, etc. Also, we met families living in camper since 13 years and yet having very strict rules: home- school for the kids for five hours every day, fixed lunch and dinner times etc. Which of course is totally fine! It wasn’t what I expected from families living in a camper but yes, also here, people are just people and people are different!
Now that all of this is said, I still want to let you know that I LOVE vanlife and that the fact that vanlife is “real life” with all it’s different facets does not make it worse at all! Just keep in mind that not all in gold and glitter when moving into a van 😉
What other clichés do you know about vanlife? Or what do you think vanlife is like? Feel free to let me know here in the comments or on Instagram!