8 Vanlife Myths Debunked
The sight of the open road, a casual yet classic vibe, large sunglasses and some 60’s rock playing in the background… Vanlife, am I right? The idyllic Instagram lifestyle seems so perfect.
*screeching tires sound*
Let’s back this up and debunk a few of the common Vanlife Myths out there. This is Vanlife vs Reality.
1. Myth: You will enjoy beautiful and peaceful places to sleep.
Reality: The sounds of construction waking you up in the morning, the passive-aggressive “don’t park here” notes left on your windshield, the rumble of semi-trucks passing you at 70mph… These are the idyllic sounds of vanlife in the wild. Ah. So peaceful.
Remedy: Ear plugs are your friends! Also, try finding free campsites with ioverlander.com or freecampsites.net.
2. Myth: You will enjoy pristine and isolated lakes to bathe in every morning
Reality: You will pay $5 for a cold shower at a rec center three times a week.
Remedy: Stay away from cities at all costs. Also, invest in baby wipes and cherish the bodies of water when you find them! (That means don’t pollute lakes and rivers with shampoo and soap)
3. Myth: You will cook delicious meals while traveling to exciting places.
Reality: You will eat gas station food while driving for 14 hours straight.
Remedy: Get really good at prepping meals for long drives! If you make a batch of curry or chili when you’re camped somewhere you can save it for long drives.
4. Myth: You will travel extensively and enjoy happier times
Reality: Your van will break down on the side of the road and strand you in the middle of nowhere.
Remedy: There’s not really a remedy for this one. Just get a AAA membership and practice deep breaths. Also maybe sign up for a meditation app like Headspace or Calm.
5. Myth: You will work remotely while sipping margaritas on a beach (or somewhere like that)
Reality: You will pay way too much money for coffee while sitting in a cramped coffee shop next to six college students studying (loudly) for their midterm.
Remedy: Ok, sometimes you will work remotely while sipping margaritas on a beach, but not always. If you want to spend time working outside more often, get an unlimited data plan and a cell booster like the Weboost 4GX.
6. Myth: You will spend all of your time in National Parks enjoying the scenery
Reality: National Parks are expensive and you won’t be able to find parking anywhere.
Remedy: Purchase an America the Beautiful public lands pass! They are only $80 a year and will get you into any National Park or National Monument for free. Parking will always be an issue, but hey, park outside the gates and bike in instead!
7. Myth: You will do yoga every morning to stay limber and balanced
Reality: You will feel very awkward stretching in a Walmart parking lot.
Remedy: Practice stretching in your van. Or look to the Forest Service roads for quiet camping and comfortable outside places to practice yoga.
8. Myth: You will save money by not paying rent
Reality: You will spend an unreasonable amount of money on gas, park fees, parking tickets, van repairs and things you don’t need from a gas station.
Remedy: Be smart with your money! Avoid cities, spend as much time on public lands as possible, and try not to get parking tickets.
What did we miss?
Do you have any more vanlife myths that need debunking? Let us know down in the comments!
About the Gear Tester
Kaya Lindsay is a writer, photographer, and filmmaker with a passion for rock climbing and the outdoors.
In 2016 she converted a Sprinter Van into a tiny home and has been traveling around the US & Canada to pursue her passion for rock climbing. Since hitting the road she has begun a career in filmmaking and is currently working on her One Chick Travels series, highlighting solo female travelers who live and work to pursue an adventurous lifestyle. Her films have been highlighted by major brands such as Backcountry and Outside TV. To fulfill her passion for writing, she chronicles her many adventures in her blog. Professionally, she writes for the adventure sports company Outdoor Prolink and The Climbing Zine. Kaya hopes to spend many more years in her tiny home on wheels, Lyra, and is currently living in Moab Utah.
Spent a few summers in my 1995 Toyota Previa minivan; camped at Squamish, and numerous USFS campgrounds, and a driveway in Yosemite. IN 2018, drove from Colorado to Moab, camped in a very nice campground and climbed, then headed west to Utah and climbed, then drove to Red rocks, and then to the Alabama HIlls, where I met friends to climb with them .
In 2019, drove to Arizona and climbed at Mt. Lemmon, and then to the East side of the Sierra, and on to Yosemite.
Wow! That must have been a really fun experience. What was your favorite place?
You missed a rather important topic that seems to be getting flushed down the toilet: where are you going to take a shit while living in your van? Judging by how campsites, National Forest lands, and public areas have been left by novice campers this year, apparently it needs to be said that it’s NOT AT THE TRAILHEAD. Figure out a plan so my dog stops trying to eat it at e trailhead, and I quit stepping in it when I get out of my car. Bring a bag to pack it out, bury it, (for the love of god DON’T set it on fire), or find a place to camp with a vault toilet nearby.
That’s a great point Liz! Kaya can definitely share her perspective and experience on that.
Thanks for bringing this up. Maybe I should do a whole piece on this topic. Pooping is something people are endlessly curious about when traveling or living in a van. Typically, I encourage people to find gas station bathrooms, rest stop bathrooms, or make use of the national park/state park facilities. There are alternatives that work depending on your location. Leave No Trace has a *great* resource for emergency poop spots linked here: https://lnt.org/i-have-to-poop-outside-what-do-i-do/
I highly recommend everyone travels with poop bags, also known as wag bags. That way you can properly dispose of your waste anytime, anywhere!
Best of luck out there!