A Guide to Van Life

Guide to Van Life Blog Post - Exploring Alternatives

We’ve been living like nomads and experimenting with different types of travel — backpacking, house sitting, living in a van — for almost 4 years now. In that time, van life has become our nomadic lifestyle of choice even though we’re the first to admit that it’s a bit unconventional.

People ask us all the time why we like to live and travel in a van and I can understand their curiosity. Living in a van — especially one like ours that lacks running water, a shower, and refrigeration — is clearly less comfortable than living in an apartment or a house.

But for us, we’re not comparing our van to an apartment or a house. We’re comparing it to travelling with heavy backpacks, relying on plane, train, and bus schedules, and sleeping in expensive hotels and hostels — all of which can add up to make travelling a bit uncomfortable at times.

Our van gives us the freedom to travel when we want, without luggage, and in the comfort of our own home. When you look at it that way, van life starts to sound much more appealing. We’ve had some of our best travel experiences in our van and whenever we’re not travelling in it, we can’t wait to hit the road again.

I could go on and on about all of the reasons why we love living in a van, but if you were a fly on the wall inside our van, you’d see that the lifestyle is not always freedom and rainbows. It can also be really hard.

Sometimes we can’t find a place to park overnight and we’re forced to drive around in our pyjamas when all we want to do is go to sleep.

In extreme cases, we’ve kept clean with just wet wipes and dry shampoo for…actually, I’m not going to tell you how many days in a row we’ve done that because it would shock the heck out of you.

I’m not trying to scare anyone away from van life, I’m just admitting that it’s hard, and that Mat and I had a steep learning curve when we first started.

We would have liked to have more information before embarking on our van life adventure and since we know there are lots of people (maybe you?!) who are thinking about van life as an alternative lifestyle and/or travel option, we decided to create the Guide to Van Life that we would have liked to have when we moved into our van. We’ve been working on the guide for months and it’s finally ready to share with you!

Guide to Van Life - Package Cover Image

We wrote a 160-page PDF eBook and filmed a 4-hour video course to answer the most frequently asked questions about van life, including: How to buy a van, where to park overnight, how to stay clean and go to the bathroom, and much more. They’re both packed with tips, inspiration, and resources, and you should definitely check them out if you’re interested in living or travelling in a van!

Happy Exploring :)



7 thoughts on “A Guide to Van Life

  1. Miles

    Did you really just post this guide TODAY? Because I just started seriously researching the van lifestyle TODAY and came across this–what a coincidink! :)

    I really wish that I was ready to buy my van and hit the road because I just put in my notice at work and am moving cities (I’ve been going cray cray here in San Diego), but unfortunately I only have a few grand right meow, so I’m gotta save up a biiiiit more before taking the plunge.

    Anywho, you guys rock! I’m definitely gonna follow your blog to keep me inspired.


    1. Danielle Chabassol Post author

      Hi Miles – it sounds like you’ve got some exciting plans coming up! We just posted our guide to van life and this blog post this week — sometimes things happen for a reason (and sometimes they don’t haha). Happy exploring and keep in touch :)


  2. T

    This is so cool you guys! My husband and I moved into our 1989 Westfalia Vanagon in October, and the information you two have shared was incredibly helpful. We live in Victoria BC, and we are continuing to do our 9-5 jobs, so it’s had it’s challenges for sure. I never thought I’d get over peeing in a bucket in the middle of the night…but one adapts! Haha.

    1. Danielle Chabassol Post author

      Hi T! I’m so glad you guys found some of our van life videos helpful :) I’m impressed that you’re keeping up your 9-5 jobs while you’re in the van. How was it spending the winter in your van in Victoria? Maybe we’ll cross paths on the road one day!

      Happy exploring :)


      1. JC Scott

        I have land and a converted van in San Diego that I may be able to share with some others. Especially someone with a clean shipping container I could use, and organic gardening and construction experience. Interested? Call 657-500-8085.

  3. Lily

    Hi guys! I love your videos and admire what you do! I don’t think I could ever live in a van full-time, but my husband and I have started to “overland” in our Jeep for our summer holidays. One of the problems I’ve come across is keeping food cool. We bought a plug-in cooler so its cold while we are driving, but when we are parked and tenting at night, everything gets warm. I watched one of your videos where you say that you don’t eat food that requires refrigeration, just curious what kinds of foods you guys eat in order to have not needed refrigeration all these years? you must buy groceries often?? Looking forward to your response and maybe even a video – like “what we eat in a week”? Thanks!!

  4. Scott

    Hey. Found your website and wanted to add a comment I think gets overlooked by a lot of people when thinking about living in a van.

    It’s great and all, BUT… you’ll notice that the people who are most happy about living on the road are the ones travelling as a couple or family. That I think is what makes it work. Having someone to share it with.

    I did all the planning, purchasing, designing and execution of my plan by myself. I was proud of how I’d put it together, the systems I had, the opportunities I’d created for myself. I saw some incredible parts of the country (Australia). In the end though, the loneliness drove me spare.

    Granted I had a couple of extra challenges to deal with than I think most people would have to. I’m a little bit Transgender, and a little bit Tin Foil Hat wearer. Which means that meeting people to stave off the loneliness can be a little harder. But I don’t think those factors had that much of an impact.

    The reality of living in a van is that EVERYTHING takes longer. Even if you have your own toilet on board, finding a private place to take a dump without freaking people out can be a challenge. Cooking a meal takes two, maybe three times the effort. And like living on a boat, there is lots of maintenance to do to make sure systems and equipment don’t fall into disarray.

    Without someone to share just the physical stuff to do, that can get a bit frustrating. But it’s the psychological toll of not having a community. Not having friends you can drop in on (because they are now on the other side of the country) that I found the biggest obstacle to enjoying my time living in my van.

    I ended up cutting my adventure way short and moving back to Melbourne so I could feel connected to human beings again. If I’d had a partner to share it all with, I need never have stopped.

    Seriously, I got so lonely I wound up creating an imaginary girlfriend that I was talking to all day every day. Bitch never did any of the chores though. But I was happy to do it all for her just so I had some company.

    Make sure you really do want to be by yourself. Not a story about how you think you are independent and enlightened. Or have a community that spans the country that you KNOW you can connect with when you need to.

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