It always starts with Instagram. Whenever wanderlust strikes, I browse the #vanlife hashtag to ogle at all the photos of lush green forests, colorful sunsets, and ocean waves. From there, I move to YouTube and watch hours of tutorials about creating a cozy home on wheels.
It doesn’t take long before I’m convinced that it’s an excellent life decision to trade my car for a camper van, ditch my studio apartment, and wander the country. Unfortunately for me, my boyfriend and cat have become accustomed to a permanent address, storage space, and indoor plumbing.
But for plenty of people, trading in their apartment for a camper van is an exciting way to explore all of the riches nature has to offer. Whether you want to drop off the grid indefinitely or just for a weekend, a camper van offers a simple way to indulge your wanderlust.
Life In A Camper Van
Van life isn’t always an Instagram-perfect paradise, but YouTubers Corbin and Kelsey Scott said it’s worth it to see something new every day.
The couple spent six months traveling the country while living full-time in a camper van, and they documented their journey on their YouTube channel.
In a vlog discussing the realities of van life, they said keeping clean and dealing with frequent breakdowns are their biggest frustrations.
“The negatives of living in a van, I’d say, are feeling dirty all the time,” Corbin Scott said. “We still take showers. We have a shower in our van, but you just don’t get to take a nice, long shower. It’s like a rinse off, soap up, and rinse off again.”
For Kelsey Scott, the hardest parts of life on the road are doing the dishes and running out of water.
“Dishes are really hard because you have a tiny sink, and it’s just a pain to wash the dishes,” she said.
One surprising thing that doesn’t bother them: living in confined quarters. Making time for yourself is key to sharing a small space with another person, Corbin Scott said.
“I think it’s really important if you’re living in a van with another person, or if you’re living in a tight space, that you have to still have your own time at least a couple of times during the week so you’re not just with each other constantly all up in each other’s business, because then you’re going to get into fights,” he said. “It’s just going to happen.”
What To Know About Camper Van Conversion
If my romantic version of van life is to be believed, most people go the DIY route and convert their own van into an Instagram-friendly road palace. If you’re handy, there are plenty of YouTube tutorials that will help you get started.
But before you hit the road, here are a few things you should know before you start your own camper van conversion project.
What’s The Best Camper Van?
Choosing the perfect camper van depends on what you’re looking for. Some of the more popular models include classic VW camper vans and Sprinter camper vans. If you want to build your own, keep an eye on Craigslist for used cargo or conversion vans.
If you just want to take a camper van for a spin on your next road trip, here are businesses that rent them. For instance, Lost Campers offers a variety of affordable vans to rent with pickup locations in California and Utah.
Can I Have Electricity?
Yes! You have a few options, depending on your needs. If you don’t anticipate needing much power, you can install a second battery in your van. If you plan to convert your van into a full-time home, you can install a full solar system, with panels on the roof and a hidden solar collector.
How Do I Shower In A Camper Van?
Many DIY builds include a small shower inside the van. If you’re living in a van full time, you might consider joining a 24-hour gym to use their showers. You can also use coin-operated showers at truck stops and campgrounds.
Are There Toilets For Camper Vans?
A portable toilet is a part of many camper van designs. Some builds feature an area that’s curtained off and includes a portable toilet. Composting toilets offer a sustainable solution, as they’re small, portable, and don’t require water or sewer hookups.
Where Can I Park My Camper Van?
When you’re on the road, you can spend the night in any camping space that allows vehicles. Businesses that are open 24/7 — like Walmart, casinos, and truck stops — also allow overnight parking. Many cities have laws regarding overnight parking, and it’s illegal to sleep in your car in some places. Always check a city’s laws before you travel.