June 28, 2018
Summer is the season of road trips. Whether you’re rocking a custom Sprinter Van, shoving an air mattress in your Prius, or searching for inspiration for a future project, we’ll steer you towards vanlife enlightenment while helping you avoid the unrealistic romanticism painted by social media.
While you’re out on the trail, where do you address your mail?
Mail is a tricky matter if you do not have family nearby. It is common for people to use their family’s house as a permanent address and then get a P.O. box (the P.O. box has to be in the same state as the permanent address). If you do not have family in the same state that you are living, then you can cross your fingers that you have a close friend who does not mind being your permanent address. If you need a package delivered to you while you’re out “on the trail,” general delivery at the post office is a beautiful thing.
What’s the scoop with your poops?
I generally use bathrooms for my poops. Toilets are a nice invention. I do not have a toilet in my car, so this means that I can have emergency visits to gas stations or fast-food restaurants late at night. When I am out in the wilderness on the weekends I make sure to pack out my TP and dig a hole more than 6” deep.
What are the biggest costs?
The biggest cost is usually the vehicle if you do not already have that! In the build-out process, the biggest cost depends on how deep you are going with the build-out, or if you are paying for it to be done. For those who are attempting a DIY build-out, the deep-cycle batteries are the biggest expense. A good battery is ~$600, with most solar setups requiring 2 batteries. Don’t go cheap with the batteries, it’s a waste of your time and money. I think a close second-place contender could be the refrigerator, often running close to $1,000. If you are going to pay someone to build out your vehicle, it is going to be expensive! This is normal and fair. Keep in mind that you are building a home for yourself – don’t ask a friend to “help” you build out your vehicle and assume he/she would do that for free. You wouldn’t ask a contractor for a custom home for free, the same goes with a van.
How much money do you save in expenses every year?
This is very different for each person and what they’re day-to-day looks like. In my experience, I was paying ~$600 in rent each month before I moved into my van and had zero initial investment to move into my van. So, I have saved a lot each year! Some people have to buy their vehicle and build it out, or some people eat out a lot when living in their vehicle. These things are often overlooked and people think they are saving massive amounts of money when they simply are not. Van life is as cheap as you want to make it, or it can be as expensive as if you were living in an apartment if you’re not careful.
If you’re full-time in the van, where do you sleep while working?
I’m lucky enough to have a climbing gym that lets me sleep in the parking lot. I can also park outside my work. Being aware of city ordinances is crucial because in Costa Mesa it is illegal to live in your vehicle. If that’s the case in your city, make sure you don’t sleep in a residential area. On the other hand, you need to sleep in a private parking lot where police can’t give you a ticket.
What do you do if your home breaks down?
Ugh. I’ve had this happen so many times in the last 6 years. Usually, my friends will offer me their couch, but I feel bad saying “yes” to that; I hate feeling like I am mooching or overstaying my welcome. More often than not I rent a car for the time that my car is being fixed. If nothing else I sleep in the rental car, albeit with a much less comfortable sleep than normal. My job is also really lax about me sleeping inside, so I’ve definitely done that a few times!