Living in a city is tough. Costs are high, pollution is bad, and the best hours of the day are often spent indoors sitting at a desk. For anyone looking for something different, van life can offer the solution - you can transform your weekends, and it can even lower costs enough that you can take a break from work. This is our first in a series of articles on the ultimate guide to van life - how to move from four walls, to four wheels, and leave that office behind.
Why Choose Van Life?
Whether it's paired up with remote/freelance work to be entirely location independent, or used as an opportunity to make the most of the your free time, a converted van is the ideal solution for anyone for whom a day-trip isn't long enough. Van life is flexible, too - you don't have to give up your home, allowing you to find a balance between life in one place, and life on the road.
Here's everything you need to know to get started.
1. How To Find A Van On A Budget
Whether it's in addition to a permanent home, or it's going to become your permanent home, there's one thing you can't avoid: you need to have a van that you can live in. The key bit of information here is:
It's cheaper than you think.
We spoke to our good friends at Roam Campers, who pointed out that "because camper vans can be upward of £50k, people often think that's how much they need to spend to even get started. The truth is, you can buy a van and have it professionally converted for less than £4000 in total. That means for less than the cost of a new city car, you can have a mobile home with electricity, solar panels, and the freedom to go wherever you like!".
Shop second hand, and find a bespoke van converter to quote for the conversion. Like Roam, any good company should be able to quote for your budget, meaning there's an option for almost everyone.
2. Make Your Home Rental Friendly
If you're planning a move onto four wheels, but are nervous about giving up a fixed address, then do a soft launch. Find a way to arrange your home so it can be rented out. Whether renting the whole place, or just a room, all you need to do is put a lock on the space you use to store valuables, and you're all set.
The rental income alone can offset almost all of your housing costs while you take your newfound freedom for a test drive.
3. Get Used to Living In Close Quarters
If you're traveling solo, then you're good to go. If you're traveling as a couple, it's time to start preparing! Living in a van means that your personal space is also someone else's personal space, and you both need to find a way to adjust.
Our recommendation: spend a week where you're both always in the same room. That means cooking together, sitting together, sleeping together, and dressing together. If by the end you can still say "I love you", then the road ahead is going to be paved with gold.
4. Pack For Keeps
When you live in a van, everything has to earn it's place. Those five tote bags, and four broken rucksacks? You need to replace them with one hard wearing weatherproof backpack. Those 10 pairs of shoes? You'll be bringing two at most. You may need to spend a little more, but when you make every item count, it gives you an opportunity to buy kit that'll last you a lifetime.
5. Organisation, Organisation, Organisation
Stay Organised. When your living space is this small, it only takes a little bit of chaos for your new mobile home to become a mess on wheels. Kieran at @KieranJDuncan swears by our packing cubes: "I'd be lost without them. Or, everything I own would be lost without them! They keep my mobile life totally in check, and as a bonus, packing cubes mean I can quickly throw collections of kit into my Assynt for an expedition".
6. Minimise Your Road Miles
It may sound counter-intuitive, but the biggest thing you can do to save money is to reduce the road miles. Not only are you saving on petrol, but you're lowering ongoing maintenance costs.
Why not pack a couple of folding bikes for local trips of under 3 miles - over time it'll save a fortune. And the best Pro Tip we've heard comes from Anna @Girlclimber: "If there's a ferry to get from A to B, take it! Not only will it probably be cheaper than the petrol, but it'll also keep an extra few hundred miles between you and your next service. Just because you live on four wheels, doesn't mean they always need to be spinning!".
7. Focus On Your Diet
You may not enjoy the luxury of a large fridge in your new portable home. But don't fret, with a little bit of problem solving, you can eat healthily, save money, and reduce your environmental impact, all in one.
Think tins, fresh fruit & veg, pasta, and pulses. This neatly aligns with a plant based diet, which will mean that as well as living off the grid, you'll be further reducing your carbon footprint. As a bonus, learning what foods can be kept for long periods means you can stock up for extended trips, and minimise supply runs.
8. Rediscover Your Old Hobbies
Whether part-time, or full-time, Van Life can reduce your overheads enough that working less can be a reality. This means you've got some more of the most precious resource back on your side: time.
That means you can pack a small capsule book collection to finally start reading again. You can bring along a yoga mat, so you can find beautiful locations to reconnect with both your body and with nature.
And why not bring that guitar you've been meaning to learn for the last few years? After all, when you can drive out into the middle of nowhere to practice, there's no one around to hear you plucking a few wrong chords.
Thanks for reading. We're Trakke - we hand craft waxed canvas backpacks and accessories in our central Scotland workshop. We use locally sourced materials, local craftspeople, and plastic-free components, to create items that are meant to last a lifetime. So, that's exactly how long we guarantee them for.
It's our way of saying "no" to fast fashion, "yes" to the protecting the climate, and "absolutely" to a life spent adventuring.
Oh, and our van is called Rudy.