There was a time, perhaps not even a decade ago, when living in a van by the river was frowned upon, but those days are long gone. Lately, living out of a vehicle has not only become acceptable, but is now also — believe it or not — the trend du jour. Instagrammers such as Emily King (@wheresmyofficenow), Brianna Madia (@briannamadia), and Kit Whistler (@idletheorybus) are redefining the meaning of mobile home. These popular influencers' photos of sleeping beneath starry skies, waking up to fiery sunrises, and showering al fresco under the desert sun are making "living in a van by the river" look cool.
The funny thing about living this sort of simple life is that it's actually difficult at first: purging your belongings, learning how to cook, sleep, and do dishes practically outside, and ultimately letting go of the comforts of your normal life. These things, however, get easier with time, and any van dweller would agree that it's all worth it for #vanlife in the end. Also, what a unique way to travel the world! Here are 20 reasons to give it a try.
20 The Freedom
Perhaps the number one reason to ditch your stationary flat for a house-on-wheels is the freedom it provides. Imagine being able to sleep anywhere you want — whether it's on the coast, overlooking a canyon, amidst a pine forest, or in the mountains — on any given night. Humans, after all, have been nomadic for 99 percent of our known history, The Independent reported. It's human nature to want to move around, and living in a van offers the ultimate freedom to roam. You choose whether to call a new place "home" each night or to stay for a while longer.
19 The Views
Sleeping in the back of a van might not be considered luxury to many, but people certainly pay large amounts of money for the panoramic views that you can wake up to (often times for free!) when you're living on four wheels. You will probably find that living in a van puts you on the same sleeping schedule as the sun — when it sets, you go to sleep; when it rises, so will you. While most people are within the four walls of their cozy homes, asleep in their beds or mesmerized by television screens, you'll never miss a fiery sky during a sunset or a sunrise.
18 It's Economical
Maybe more people are moving toward mobile lifestyles because they simply can't afford a mortgage. Reuters reported this year that housing prices in the U.S. have hit an all-time high. The median cost of a house today is $264,800, and according to Inc.com, 63 percent of millennials in the U.S. have more than $10,000 in student debt, so who could afford to buy a house anyway? The only bills you'll be paying after you've moved your bedroom to the back of a van will be for fuel and the occasional visit to the mechanic, both negligible when compared with a quarter-million-dollar home.
17 It's Good For The Planet
Not only does the lack of indoor plumbing and electricity require less chores and maintenance, it also means that vanlifers usually have less of an impact on the environment. The math is simple: tiny homes have tiny carbon footprints — about 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per year compared with the 28,000 pounds a regular sized house produces, Renewable Energy World reports. And while vanlife isn't quite common enough to have its own statistic yet, it only makes since that its carbon footprint is even smaller than that of a tiny house because, well, it's tinier. Yes, many of these antiquated beasts are gas guzzlers, but, chances are, you would be driving a vehicle regularly anyway. The idea here is that you offset fuel consumption by using significantly less electricity. You'll probably also find that when you have to pack your garbage around with you, you'll inevitably reduce the amount of that, too.
16 It's A Good Way To Meet People
While they might be remote and quiet, campgrounds are rarely solitary. But having neighbors isn't always so bad, especially because living this nomadic lifestyle can get lonely at times. The good news about sleeping next to strangers is that you're sure to always have something in common, and that's camping. Whether they're doing it full-time, too, or out for a weekend romp with a surplus of s'mores (even better for you!), you'll always have folks around to share a few brews with around a campfire. The key to finding the best campsites with the friendliest people is through handy apps such as WikiCamps and Tentrr.
15 Minimalism Is Good For Mental Health
It's normal to lose sleep over the pile of dirty dishes in your sink. Studies have shown that clutter can affect concentration and cause anxiety, so if the mess that's accumulated in the corners of your home has you feeling frazzled, it's time to bid it adieu. Psychology Today says minimalism is good for your mental health, and if anything will force you to live simply, it's moving into a van. There's only so much an 88-square-foot converted Westfalia can fit, after all. Vanlife will teach you how to live with less and love what you have more than ever before.
14 It Will Force You To Reflect
Living in a van forces you to disconnect and reflect. Without such luxuries as television programs and everlasting laptop batteries, you'll be left with a lot of alone time, and one can only read by the light of a headlamp for so long before being failed by tired eyes and outright boredom. Needless to say, many nights spent in the van, surrounded by the silence of the wilderness and the pure darkness of night, will inevitably beckon big questions about life, but without any other means of entertainment, you won't have anything better to do than to seek answers to them.
13 Your Friends Will Think It's Cool
One New Yorker contributor writes that "vanlife is an aesthetic and a mentality and, people keep telling me, a 'movement.'" It's no longer frowned upon to live in a van down by the river. In fact, it's almost fashionable. Millennials especially are interested in "the American road trip, a culture of hippie-inflected outdoorsiness, and a life free from the tyranny of a nine-to-five office job," the 2017 article says. Your friends will see your life on the road as adventurous, admirable, and never dull. One thing is for certain: you'll be the life of the party with all the stories you'll have to tell.
12 It Brings You Closer To Nature
Much of our stress can be resolved by a simple walk in the woods; there's even scientific evidence of it. A 2010 study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information said that "forest bathing" — a practice made popular by Japan that involves taking in forest surroundings — reduces blood pressure and cortisol (stress hormone) levels. And you can't get much closer to nature than living in it. Vanlife requires you to cook, wash dishes, do laundry, eat, and use the toilet outside. There's simply no way to avoid being amongst nature, but with all of its health benefits, why would you want to?
11 You'll Always Have Your Closet With You
Haven't you had days when you desperately wish you could run home for an outfit change? Well, driving your house around means you've always got a spare change of clothes on hand, without even having to take the time to pack them into a bag. Perfect for days when you get stuck in the rain, your shoe breaks, or your morning Starbucks hops out of its cup and onto your shirt, your wardrobe, conveniently, is rarely ever too far for a mid-day swap. Living in a van might just be the perfect solution for those of us who seem to routinely forget everythingat home.
10 It Will Inspire You
Corey and Emily, the couple behind the lust-worthy Instagram @wheresmyofficenow, named "inspiration" in their top six reasons to live in a van. "This country, this world, isn't what the media portrays," they wrote. "There is far more good than bad. Far more magic than fear." And the only way to see it properly is to live amongst it. Vanlife encourages exploration, allows one to go where the wind blows them, in the direction of their dreams. Living the vanlife will inspire you to be kinder to the earth, to others, and to yourself.
9 You Always Have An Excuse To Have Bedhead
Living in a van gives you an excuse to look a little bit sloppy, all the time. If you like to do yourself up in the mornings, there are definitely ways to do it — solar, outdoor showers and gas station bathrooms, to name a few. Getting ready for the day does require a bit more effort when you don't have a bathroom of your own, but everyone knows you sleep in a van at night anyway, so you really don't have to. You can wander around with bedhead and socks with sandals and never be judged for it because all the other vanlifers out there look like they've just rolled out of bed, too.
8 You Can Always Make Coffee On The Go
Not only will you always have access to your entire wardrobe; you'll have constant access to your kitchen, too. No need to pack a lunch or prepare mid-day snacks when your car is equipped with a kitchen. It's true that always having food around isn't a unique benefit to vanlifers —anyone is able to stuff a package of peanuts into their purse on the way out the door, after all — but not everyone can make a cup of joe to sip by a scenic landscape they happen to be passing through. Coffeemaking on the go is something only a few can do.
7 Ultimate Family Bonding
One Australian couple, Amber and Keenan Badger, is living and traveling in an orange 1975 Volkswagon Kombi with their two daughters, ages 10 and 12. "Traveling like this, we are learning so much about each other and about ourselves, nurturing a lifelong bond as a family," they wrote on Vanlife. With four people sharing just a few square feet of space, they said that navigating around each other is a "comedy act," but they've embraced the challenge of practicing patience and tolerance with one another and are now undoubtedly as close as any family could be.
6 More Alone Time
Not traveling in a family of four like the Badgers? Although it might seem like you're living your life in public sometimes — cooking on the side of the road, sleeping in Walmart parking lots, and whatnot — the van is a great place to be alone. Anna, the blogger behind Spin the Globe Project, said that just four days into her solo vanlife journey, she began to rethink what it means to be single, ultimately achieving "the harmonious and much sought-after duet of being alone but not lonely." Who said you need a partner to share a van with, anyway?
5 Less Chores
It's true that ordinary chores might require a bit more thinking through when you're living out of a van with no dishwasher, laundry facilities, or perhaps even lights or a sink. But while doing laundry and washing dishes might take you longer, less space means there's simply less surface area to clean. You'll never have to fret over overgrown grass, busted pipes, or sweeping up crumbs from under the oven. You're allowed to be dirty when you spend most of your time outside, as long as you're leaving the land in the same (or better) shape in which you found it.
4 It's A Career Opportunity
Crawling out of a van in the morning and into an office where the rest of your colleagues are dressed to the nines is not ideal. Vans don't often come equipped with showers, after all. But studies show that millennials don't want office jobs anyway, which pretty much eliminates the need to get dressed up on the daily. According to Forbes, 72 percent of millennials want to be creative in their careers and be their own bosses. While living in a van might not be a fit for office dwellers, it's a great space for creatives, and one that will allow them to work from anywhere they want.
3 You Can Always Walk Home After A Night Out
You can start saving the money you spend on late-night Ubers for other, more exciting endeavors when your whole house is parked within walking distance of the pub. You'll already be back at your cozy van making a grilled cheese by the time your mates stumble out into the streets to flag down expensive taxis. Sure, parking your house-on-wheels is probably frowned upon in most neighborhoods (and is actually illegal, in cases), but who has to know? Say goodbye to nights spent on friends' sofas and the jarring email notifications from Uber on Sunday mornings.
2 You'll Never Have To Pack Again
Going away for a weekend is a little different when you live in a van, namely because you're already living in the car you're driving to your destination. Everyone loves a vacation, but nobody likes to pack for one. People hate packing so much, in fact, that there are concierge services that will pack, store, and transport your luggage for you (Garde Robe is one that Ivanka Trump uses). But vanlife takes the hassle out of packing naturally because everything you need is already stashed away nicely behind the driver's seat. No need to pack light, either; taking the van on vacation means you can literally take everything you own.
1 It Will Make You Stronger
Whether you realize you love living in a mobile home and want to be a vanlifer forever or decide that the challenging lifestyle just isn't for you, you will — without a doubt — walk away from your unique experience with more strength and resourcefulness than before. Vanlife isn't easy. It takes a lot of humility, sacrifice, and flexibility, says an Outside Magazine article about the unglamorous realities of vanlife, but you'll walk away from it with a newfound knowledge of cars, nature, tiny living, and more. You'll never be without a story to tell.