The Realities Of #Vanlife ~ A series of honest feedback from real full time travelers

The Realities Of #vanlife is a series featuring guest posts from full-time travelers

There is a movement happening. It has become both trendy and for some folks necessary to leave behind the confines of the 9-5 and hit the road #vanlife style. Why the hashtag? Because up until the last few years this term wasn’t a thing. Though people have been traveling and even living in vans for years, but thanks to social media (mostly Instagram) it now has a name, and a massive following.

RV travel has been around since the ’50s but used to be more for people in retirement, or families on the weekends. But now more and younger people and us “in-betweeners” are stepping out of societal norms and creating a little taste of freedom.

Rising housing prices and more and more work being done remotely are big factors for many. Also, the accessibility to travel and travel inspiration again thanks to social media has made anything seem possible.

We chose this lifestyle because traveling was our biggest shared passion. We worked conflicting schedules but we had good jobs. We bought the house, filled it with the things and thought we were following “the steps”. We rarely saw each other and a week of holidays here or there was difficult and left us in debt every time.

So we sold it all (well most of it, some sits in storage) picked out our van and have been on the road since 2017. We made a big decision to take control of time, and create the freedom to live the life we were dreaming of.

We are constantly learning more about how to exist in this tiny space, and how to navigate the challenges of life on the road. There is a learning curve no matter how prepared you think you are.

I worry that there is a side to this life that isn’t always clearly reflected. I don’t just mean where to shower or where to do your “business” when you live in a van. There’s so much more to consider. Because social media is often about the beautiful shot or a way to grab attention, and now that everyone throws the word ‘authentic’ around so much it’s almost lost its meaning. We sometimes miss out on the real why’s and the real lessons.

We love this lifestyle with all its ups and downs. I have written about some of our favorite aspects of van life before. But I wanted to start a conversation, so I reached out to some of our friends who also travel fulltime and are living #vanlife. I asked each of them to share the good and the bad of living this way.

Their responses are personal and honest. They are reflections of different people from different places, with different backgrounds and very different lives. What started as a question inspired a little series to help share a true picture of this lifestyle, and a useful resource for anyone considering it.

Chapter 1 will be posted tomorrow and features our friend Amanda, who has been on the road for over 6 years.

The Realities Of #Vanlife Chapter 1: Tideline To Alpine

The realities of life on the road from full time travelers

The first guest in our series on the realities of van life from full time travelers is an old friend from before life on the road.

Amanda has been living this lifestyle for over 6 years. She is an avid through hiker and inspiring solo female traveler.

Follow her journey:
IG: @tidelinetoalpine

Website/Blog: www.tidelinetoalpine.com

Reminiscing on many years of living in a van with my dog Frank it has become clear that the common perception of #vanlife often misses the truly best thing about it. As much as I enjoy the travel and gorgeous places I call home, the interesting community, and independence of it there is something even better. Free Time. By choosing to live a simple, low cost lifestyle I have the freedom to choose to keep my time for myself instead of trading it for a wage. Having more free time than I always know what to do with means I can focus on personal growth, creative pursuits, and spend ample time with loves ones. For me this is far better than the pretty views and open roads (which are also great).

On the flip side there are endless little struggles that rarely make their way onto social media. Dealing with moisture, mechanical problems, and bad weather are all less than ideal, but manageable with lots of free time. On the road there is nothing that irritated me more than waiting for late mail to arrive when I want to leave a town. This has happened many times and I can’t stand it. The days or sometimes weeks drag on, and I feel helpless living at the mercy of the postal system.

There is a lot about vanlife both good and bad that I was not expecting when I handed in my last apartment keys, but one thing stands out most. Over the 6 years I have lived in a van I have watched as more, and more places get red listed (meaning you can no longer park there overnight). Each year there are less options, and more newcomers who don’t yet understand the consequences of their actions on the road. So, for those who are entering vanlife please respect the places you call home, respect locals, and always practice Leave No Trace practices. Try to leave spots better than when you arrived, and be very discreet when stealth camping (or if it’s unclear whether or not you can be there). Conduct yourself as if you will be living in a van for the rest of your life, and as if you will return to each place you stay. We will all have a easier time enjoying the good things about vanlife if we are responsible as a community. And remember, it only costs as much as you decide. For me it’s not about the van, it’s about what living in a van allows me to to do.

The Realities Of #Vanlife Chapter 2: Carey On Vagabond

The Realities Of #Vanlife Chapter 2: Featuring Carey On Vagabond

Chapter 2 of The Realities of #Vanlife features our good friends Irene, Dave, and of course their girl Pistol. These three were our biggest inspiration when deciding to hit the road. They have been full time for 3 years and are currently finishing their new van build!

You can check them out for amazing vanlife content and resources

IG @Careyonvagabond

https://www.careyonvagabond.com/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCeM0xEsKuci2uIuK6Vi7fmQ

Vanlife Resources fulltime travel

When people find out we live and travel full time in our van the reactions are varied and so are the questions. Some find it bizarre but more often than not people are intrigued and want to learn more. We should sit down sometime and put together a list of our most commonly asked questions and our answers. When we do we will put that on our website.

Vanlife Resources Realities of #vanlife

One of the most common questions we are asked is what is our favorite and least favorite thing about van life.

There are definitely things we love and don’t love about it but we are happy to report that the things we love far outnumber the things we don’t.

One thing we have to say before we talk about what we like and dislike is that there are many ways to live and travel in a van. None of which are right or wrong. Each of us has to find our own way and live the life that works for us.

The thing we love most about our life is the freedom we have. The freedom to live when and where we want. To travel as little or as far as we want. To chase the weather we like. To find new adventures and see something new nearly every day. Meeting amazing people everywhere we go that often become lifelong friends. Meeting up with these friends again all over the continent, planned or not.

The thing we like least about this life is leaving our family and friends behind in our hometown. We’ve found the best way to deal with this is to not take time with family and friends for granted. When we lived near family we would make plans together and something would often come up and there would “always be tomorrow.” Life’s just to short to live or think this way.

In the end, we had to find a way to balance all the things important to us in life and just do the best we can.

Full time Resources of #vanlife carey on vegabond

It’s hard to give advice to someone considering van life since there are so many ways to approach it and everyone likes something different. I guess I would say be flexible because sometimes things won’t go as planned. We have learned to roll with it and look at each day as a new adventure. Even after three years of full-time van life, we are still learning new things every day.

To Continue The Realities of #vanlife series check out Chapter 3 here!

The Realities of #Vanlife Chapter 3: Summit Of Freedom

Our friends Orry, Carroll Marie, and Etta Rose have been on the road since 2018! We have known them since before they started their van build, not only are they full time they also built out their first rig all on their own! These three are our favorite full time family and share great inspiration and resources for traveling and living in a van with a little one!

IG @summitoffreedom

summit of freedom 2

Living in a van full time as a family is full of the good, the bad, and the ugly, but to us it couldn’t be any more glamourous. Our biggest motivation to quit our “9 to 5” lives and hit the road full time was getting to spend more time together as a family. The thing about van life is, the positives are often also the negatives. For example, we get to spend every day together traveling and exploring new places; however, it is hard to get alone time and impossible to have a date night while traveling full time. Our house is super tiny and takes approximately 15 minutes to clean the whole thing; however, put one thing on the countertops and the place looks like a wreck because it is so small.

Luckily for us, the cons don’t really bother us at all. We’ve always been a “better together” type of family, so the more time together, the happier we are. Our ever changing front porch view and seeing the world through the eyes of our daughter has brought more happiness and joy to our lives than any date night or dream house could. The biggest tip for traveling full time with a kid? It’s cliche, but have a good attitude. The same negative/positive principle applies. Kids are going to get upset, have a melt down, throw up, take a nap, or be hungry; however, they will also make you smile bigger, adventure more, love better, and remind you that even the smallest things (including a tiny home) can really be the best.

summit of freedom

The Realities Of #Vanlife Chapter 4: Drifter Journey

Chapter 4 in our Series The Realities Of #vanlife features our friends Jess & Greg who have been full time since 2018!

Our friends Jess and Greg have been on the road fulltime since 2018! They balance working and freedom and have been sharing realities in Vanlife since the get go! We have included links back to a couple of great articles they have written. Be sure to check them out and go follow their journey:

IG@Drifter.Journey

www.drifterjourney.com

When it all started, we wanted to live in a van so that we could travel and do more things. We wanted to hike and bike new trails, soak in new hot springs, eat more tacos, check out new National Parks, you get the idea. Being able to do all of those things, and more, is definitely one of our favorite things about vanlife. In the last year, we’ve been all over the United States, and several other countries as well. We finally visited several places on our bucket list including New Zealand and we couldn’t be more thrilled about our adventures to come.
But there’s so much more to it than that. Living in a van and traveling has given us the opportunity to join a family of nomads that we didn’t even know existed. When we struck out on the open road, we had no idea that we would meet so many amazing people and end up with lifelong friends and travel partners.

Caravanning with other nomads is a really fun way to travel and we enjoy spending time with other people that have a similar take on life. We finally found a community that “gets us.” Not only do we have a nomad family, but we’ve also found a ton of people to mountain bike, climb, hike, and camp with!
The absolute freedom that we experience while living in a van is, by far, our favorite thing about this lifestyle. Since our living expenses are minimal, we don’t have the financial burdens that we used to have. Without a mortgage or a stationary job, we have the freedom to travel and do as we please. Being able to make choices for our own happiness rather than our obligations is something that we’re incredibly grateful for. It’s a characteristic of this lifestyle that we didn’t expect, but has become very important to us.

On the other hand, vanlife isn’t all unicorns and rainbows. We’ve written an entire post about the Real Worst Things About Vanlife. The short answer to that question varies by the day. It depends on the challenge we’re up against that feels insurmountable at the time. For us, there’s not one thing that bothers us all of the time, but there are a few things that tend to come up often.

One of the worst things that happens regardless of where we are is clutter. Keeping the van tidy is usually a lower priority than adventuring, so it can get out of control quickly if we don’t stay on top of it. The unfortunate nature of living in such a small space with two people and all of our gear is that sometimes there isn’t a place for everything. As much as we wish we could keep the van clean all of the time, it’s just not realistic. There are times when the clutter causes us anxiety and frustration. Mostly because we have a pile of stuff that gets shuffled all over the van throughout the day because it’s in the way. A tidy home is a happy home!

In addition to that, finding a level camping spot can be a chore. Just when we’ve found a good camp site, it will take us another 10 minutes to find a level spot. Even worse, sometimes we have to break out the leveling blocks and try to level the van manually. We know it sounds like a petty thing to be annoyed with, but we’re usually tired and hungry when we’re looking for camp. We both need shirts that say, “I’m sorry for the things I said when we were setting up camp!”

In the end, there’s so much more to vanlife than this short list. Vanlife is a lifestyle. Nomadic, minimalism is a movement. It’s a way to choose your own path and experience the freedom and happiness that comes with it. There are highs and lows, both of which feel extreme compared to the spectrum of “normal” life. The best experiences always outweigh the worst and we are more resilient for it. We’ve put together some Advice for Couples New to Vanlife for Go-Van that will help any couples who are looking to vanlife together.
Our advice for aspiring vanlifers is to get used to spontaneity and lack of control. Finding a routine might be difficult, but that’s part of the journey. You will be challenged, but you will grow. It’s true that vanlife or nomadic living isn’t for everyone. It requires sacrifice and hard work to maintain. But for those that are drawn to it, it can be the most rewarding life imaginable.

Looking for more tips and tales from real full time vanlifers get the here!

The Best Resources For Finding Free Camping

Van Life Resources ~ We Are Sharing Our Favorite Ways To Find Free Camping

Two years on the road has given us a fair bit of practice finding the best spots to sleep or better yet camp! We are sharing our favorite resources for finding free camping!

This can look very different depending on where you are, and your budget. But if you’re like us, we opt for free spots, wide-open spaces, and we try to save paying to camp for when it’s somewhere that we really want to be!

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Apps and Resources for Finding Free Camping

Ioverlander (U.S.A &Canada)

This free app is user fed and has one of the biggest user-bases of them all. Find free campsites, rest stops, boondocking, Walmarts, propane, water, dump stations, and even showers. It’s usually the first app we check, open the map, search your area, chose a spot and link directions straight from the app. There is also space for users to include pictures.

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**Huge plus this is an app we can use when we are offline. This means we don’t need a cell signal to see a spot on the map or read the reviews.

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The downside:
Being user fed, it doesn’t include everything only places other users have been and contributed the information.

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Also, there is no criteria for information so you may not get the best intel every time.
Use your judgment: we have NEVER had a knock on the door, and this is because we don’t presume to bend the rules. If it’s posted no, if someone has previously been asked to leave, or some other issue, we don’t stay there. No judgment to those who do, but that’s what has worked for us.

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BLM/ National Forests /Wildlife Management/ LTVA (U.S.A).

These are a few of our favorite things! Public lands are one of the best ideas ever! These options are:
-typically free
-often do not require a permit

-can vary from established campgrounds to truly wild places
-usually have a limit of 14 days

LTVA- Long Term Visitor Areas are part of BLM but are more established, do require a permit, but will allow longer stays. Please remember as with any campgrounds to practice Leave No Trace Principles

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Click Here for BLM

For National Forests Click Here

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Crown Land/ Forestry and Recreation Land in Canada

In Canada, over 80% of the land is Crown Land which is federally designated for public use. This includes National Parks, Provincial Parks, Forestry land and waterways. Camping and land-use rules vary though from province to province on public lands so you can click on a province below to link to their resources.

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BC AB SK MB ON QC NB PEI NS NL YK

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Walmart/Cracker Barrel/Cabellas/Bass Pro Shop

These big retailers have a history of being RV friendly. Many allow overnight parking in relatively safe, well lit, even occasionally patrolled lots. Some even offer potable water, and dump stations!!

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The downside: None really, it is important to understand that this isn’t just inherently allowed at all locations see a No Stay List Of Walmarts here. It may or may not be quiet or busy. If it is posted no overnight parking, then yes, that means you too. If you are unsure best practice is to ask in-store. It’s usually ok, but some areas have bylaws and ordinances that don’t allow it. Some stores have also changed their policies as these locations are easily abused. If you’re staying, don’t set up camp, don’t pull out your BBQs and lawn chairs its a business parking lot, you’re not camping! It’s a spot to sleep. Early in, early out and try to be discrete.

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**Parking Tip: we always either back in to protect the area of the van where we sleep, also try to get next to concrete meridians for some added protection, in quiet areas of the lot, not next to a main entrance.

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We woke up to a nasty accident in a Walmart parking lot once, it happened about 10 feet from where we were sleeping (not to our van, but too close for comfort).

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Freecampsites.net

This website provides a user fed database that provides pretty clear details on a variety of free spots. Users can include pictures and review the sites. This again includes everything from wild camping to parking lot options.

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Park Advisor

We like this app for the combination of program and user fed database. It lists gas stations, Costco’s, Walmarts, Cabellas, and other retailers. You also see established RV parks, state parks, national parks, public and private campgrounds.

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Campendium

This user fed site offers well-structured feedback on everything from free spots to RV parks. The review structure provides details on the site, fees, access and even cell service which is a biggy for all you digital nomads.

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Memberships We Use

After 2 years on the road, we have tried a few things, here are the programs we use.

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Passport America

This program is $49/year and offers 50% off at thousands of RV parks all over the U.S. and Canada. We don’t stay in RV parks often, but when we do it’s almost always a P.A park. We have stayed in some great parks with all the amenities for about $22.50/night (sometimes more, sometimes less). Use our referral code R-0301705 when you register here

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Boondockers Welcome

Admittedly it took us a while to wise up and get in on this program. The membership is $50/ year and allows you access to locations all over the U.S and Canada. Mostly these are properties of fellow travelers, so it could be anything from a driveway to a church parking lot, to a farm.

How it works: You request to stay directly with the host, and once approved, they contact you with details for your arrival. You get a safe and unique place to park up. We have done this a few different ways: arrived late in the evening(with approval from the host) and basically went straight to sleep, we have also sat and visited with and shared a coffee or a meal with hosts! It is a great way to meet fellow travel enthusiasts, and hosts have the best inside scoop on their areas and love to help you plan your visit! Sign up here

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Harvest Host

We are still fairly new to this program but we love it! For $79/year you gain access to hundreds of locations in the U.S and Canada. Harvest hosts are categorized as Vineyards, Farms, Breweries, Museums and more.

How it Works: Request a stay directly with a host, you get a cool, safe place to campout, and it’s always a bonus to do a wine tasting. Furthermore this program asks that you purchase something from your hosts in exchange for your stay. So you can stock up on wine, beer, do a tasting or buy local fresh produce! Save 15% off when you sign up here!

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We hope these resources for finding free camping help you plan your next trip!

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If you’re interested in wild camping we wrote about our Epic Trip in the True North to the Arctic Ocean here

The Best Money-Saving Apps For Life On The Road

Van Life Resources ~ The best money saving apps for fulltime travelers

Here are some of the best money-saving apps and cash back programs we use while traveling full-time!

Definitely use them whether you travel or not these money-saving apps are useful for everyone

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Gas Buddy:

This app provides current fuel prices at gas stations in Canada and the U.S. so you can plan ahead and avoid paying top dollar. American users are also eligible for discounts and free fuel offers!

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Get Upside

Fuel is one of our biggest expenses after 2 years on the road and 90,000kms (almost 56,000 miles). Every penny we can save in fuel adds up! Get Upside offers cash back that can be deposited to your PayPal account. The app is user-friendly and allows you to chose between different stations and different fuel grades. Just chose an offer, fill your tank, and snap a picture of your receipt! Earn an extra $0.15/gallon bonus when you sign up with our referral code: A2KEH

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Shell Fuel Rewards

This one’s a no brainer! Shell isn’t always the cheapest station, but we have come to rely on them. They are found from coast to coast, so it takes the guesswork out of finding fuel. The rewards program starts you off at $0.05/gallon discount at all Shell stations. You don’t need to carry a card you can use your phone number! Their app is also straight forward and easy to use, it also makes tracking your fuel spending easy. You can also earn extra fuel discounts when you make in-store purchases (if it’s a snack and fuel stop you could easily triple your savings!) Sign up here and Never Pay Full Price For Fuel again!

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Rakuten/Ebates

We use the American and Canadian versions of this cash back program. Hello online shoppers, this app is for you! Cash back offers on everything you buy online! From your favorite housewares stores, to shops like Sephora, save money planning your next trip, flight deals, hotels, car rentals ( we cleaned up booking our Ireland trip in 2019!) and of course Amazon !! If you are traveling or building out a van you are likely doing a lot of your shopping on Amazon so start earning cash back on the stuff you are buying anyway! Easy to use just head over to the app, find your store and you will be linked directly to their site (your purchases are still from the store, this program just tracks the purchase and gets you cash back! They have also started offering some instore offers, so honestly, there’s money to be saved any time you shop.
You can get a $10 bonus cash back for signing up when you use our affiliate links!

U.S.A shoppers click here

Canadian shoppers click here

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Fetch Rewards

This user-friendly app offers a super simple rewards program! Scan receipts from grocery purchases to earn reward points. Then redeem your points for great stuff like gift cards and prepaid credit cards!! Earn 2000 bonus reward points when you use our referral code: 3WURW

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Ibotta
We use this cashback app for groceries, but they have offers on a lot of different stores and branded items. Easy to use just check the app for offers before you shop, scan your receipt and start earning cashback! Get started by clicking here!

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Thanks for checking out these money-saving apps, never leave money on the table, happy savings to you!!!

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We also wrote about ways to Stick To Your Budget While On The Road click here to check it out!