Van Life Pros and Cons: Is it worth it?


Artwork by Margot Pullen

Thomas Gravely (he/him), Staff Writer

One of Ms. Patton’s favorite things was her van. Each day, she’d retire to her van during her planning period and nap so she’d feel refreshed before her next class. In class, she’d often talk about her van and her fondness for it. She was an incredibly adventurous person, and would often travel to national parks with her partner and dogs during the summer. It also helped her to feel better about settling down in one place because the feeling of adventure was always there. In memory of her free spirit, here are some of the pros and cons of fully committing to the van lifestyle.

Van life has had an exponential rise in popularity over the past few years. Typica- lly, van lifers deck out a camper van to suit all their needs and live their lives as nomads on the road, camping and sleeping wherever they need. This alternative lifestyle is praised for the freedom it provides and the minimalism it forces you to embrace.

PRO: Affordability

It’s an appealing way of life for many; living completely on the road, not bound to any one place, and only taking what you need. And it certainly has its pros, one of the biggest being its affordability. Living in a van negates almost all the expenses that come with living in a house or apartment, with your primary costs being gas and food.

CON: Limited Space

However, it’s important to remember that as such an alternative lifestyle, van life does come with its costs. With such limited space, there are certain things you’ll have to learn to live without. For those favoring the minimalist appeal of the lifes- tyle, this is a blessing. For others, it may be a dealbreaker. Daily tasks that would normally be simple, such as cooking, become an unexpected challenge due to the limited space, especially if you’re traveling with a partner.

PRO: Travel

You can go anywhere that roads will take you, from North to South America. Your van can even be shipped across the Atlantic to Europe, Asia, and Africa, with the only cost being gas. The freedom to explore granted by living in a vehicle is truly unmatched, which is one of the first things you’ll notice about the van experience.

CON: Hygiene

If you’re lucky, you’ll have a camper van with a built-in shower, but most vanlifers rely on public facilities to get washed up. Often this problem is solved with a gym membership, but it’s still inconvenient and typically people will only shower once every few days. Even if you’re willing to make the trip every day, living in a van will always be dirtier than settling down in one place.

PRO: Minimalism

All of your possessions must fit inside your van, so you’ll grow to learn what it’s like to live with only the bare essentials. Living in such a consumerist culture, it can be invaluable to shed all the things you don’t really need to remind you of what’s important.

CON: Privacy

Most of the time, you’ll be parking in public lots or residential neighborhoods, so you’ll almost never have a space completely to yourself. This can be stressful for many people, so be sure to consider if this is something you’re willing to give up.

Shortly before her diagnosis, Ms. Patton made the difficult decision to sell her van to a dealership. She regretted it almost immediately. Her van was incredibly impor- tant to her, along with the things it represented. For me personally, I will always remember her for her adventurous spirit, boldness, and desire to see the world and seek the full, uncensored truth. Van life is something I’ve long considered, and now I will always associate Ms. Patton with it and carry her memory with me.