Living in a Van

7f64f34390dc8a2efdc6d3f8537f835dI just finished read a book on my kindle called “Minimalist Living, How to live in a van and get off the grid” by Mary Soloman. So with this title in my mind you must be asking, “Billy, why are you thinking about living in a van?” Well, actually it has more to do with many of the people I encounter each day living in cars, vans, rv’s and motorhomes. As many of these people I meet are college graduates I wanted to understand a little bit more about what makes them tick.

It seems that between my interactions and lessons I learned from reading the book many young people are discovering this lifestyle because they cannot find affordable housing and it is the only solution to paying off that mountain of debt they have created. It’s certainly not an easy lifestyle as they are missing many of the conveniences of living in a bricks and stick home. Things like bathing and eating each day along with using a bathroom are certainly a challenge. Many face great dangers like thieves and wild animals in their travels where there is less security than there would be in an apartment. But on the other hand there are great lessons to be learned about life as they take on the world as newly born pioneers and with the ability to travel they get to experience different places and cultures.

As I did some more research I learned that the RV lifestyle seems to be taking off in all age groups from these 20 somethings all the way up to senior citizens. This culture of rolling travelers is certainly not new, but recently in the last few years seems to be really growing. It seems that for most it is about affordable housing while there are still those who search for adventure. As commercial campsites can be expensive many try to find refuge of parking on the streets of the city closest to the current job they are working. This is where it becomes a problem for me. As a Code Enforcement Officer it is my job to respond to complaints of people boon docking in neighborhoods. In fact all across the country most cities and towns have similar laws that don’t allow people to camp on the street. It is my job to educate them on local laws and move them along.

Historically there has been many problems attached with people living in vehicles like crime and drug addiction. Many people feel a sense of fear when noticing a vehicle parked in their neighborhood and I believe this fear is justified. I have personally encountered situations like this and have had to call in police to assist.

As I put myself in the same situation in my mind through empathy I think a lot about what I would be doing if in the same type of situation. If I had to make the same choices of living out of a vehicle what would I do and where would I be. The one thing I would not be doing is living in a City as there are just too many dangers attached to these area’s. I would probably be moving from farm to farm working as a farm hand to earn enough to pay of those school debts. One of the advantages are obviously fresh food and a quiet, safe place to sleep at night.

As an older person struggling to make ends meet I would probably purchase a larger vehicle and find the most affordable place in the country to park it and live. I might even change my locating from time to time to find new experiences and opportunities.

In either case what I find most interesting is that this type of lifestyle is yet another practice in living a minimalist lifestyle where downsizing isn’t just an option but a must. It is also interesting how we seem to evolving towards this type of lifestyle versus that of one living in the McMansion in the suburbs. I don’t know if it is so much the socio economical struggles and pressures people are feeling or just a lost sense of freedom but the whole movement seems to be picking up steam. Just doing a search on Google for an image for this post gave me what seemed like unlimited options.

What about you? If put into a situation where being part of the rolling home movement wasn’t an option where would you be right now?

About SimpleLivingOver50

At 53 years old I am starting to realize how life changes both physically and emotionally. I strive for a life of simplicity. I am winning the battle with type II diabetes, created a plan to have all debt paid off in 4 years including the house, taking advantage of every opportunity to live life to it's fullest through adventures in nature, hiking, biking, loving and learning.
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47 Responses to Living in a Van

  1. geekkat says:

    This is something my husband and me have been talking about just recently. One of husband’s customers is doing this. He has actually put his home up for rent and has decided to go on the road. We would love to do it ourselves but right now in our lives it’s not a complete impossibility but it would be difficult to live like that with two kids. I mean I homeschool our two but it would be difficult for them to leave what they have. But if we had too, I don’t think it would be a difficult proposition because both of us are gypsies at heart.

  2. evanlaar1922 says:

    My son and daughter-in-law were thinking the same thing as they felt they wanted to own their own home but could not afford it. Thankfully they found a nice place. But you see these professionally built vans/trucks/trailers and they are quite amazing. Those that use them – swear by them. But I love you note of comment – if you can afford building one of these and you can afford a park for the night – fine – but if this is a choice because there is limited income and you find yourself in a vagabond lifestyle – yikes – get’s pretty unsafe out there.

  3. gitfitsite says:

    It’s also becoming more popular to rent out a room or your entire abode on sites like Airbnb; I’ve seen owners post that they will be staying with friends/family while their place is rented. If they can manage it, it would certainly help cover the cost of home ownership.

  4. pruninglife says:

    I love the idea of a mobile life. Like a turtle wandering around. I couldn’t pick one place though to settle down and I guess, I wouldn’t have to!

  5. For me, downsizing would be a huge obstacle to living on the wheels. With that in mind, I am happy where I am now. I live in a condo where monthly fee is 22% of my income and that includes all utilities except cable and internet. This fits my budget to a T.

  6. RachelleGreene says:

    Taking debt into consideration is a great point. Both myself and my family have lived a bare-bones lifestyle for so long (to pay for my college education) that living in a small RV or camper seems like a reasonable solution–until we factor in a wheelchair bound relative. That would be difficult. However, we are blessed to have a home with a mortgage that’s already paid off and live in an area with taxes that are lower than average. We plan on downsizing in the next 5 years or so (as well as moving to California), but for now, it works. I would still consider a small mobile lifestyle in the future when I’m on my own or a newlywed. Why not?

  7. Meg's Healthy World says:

    I’ve always found a nomadic lifestyle appealing. Not simply because of the crimpling debt, but the freedom to move around. My husband and I are about four years away from being kid-less, so we are looking into many options of what do when that happens.

    I would love to have a tiny house on wheels. To be able to pick up and go where ever my heart desires. I currently work online, so as long as I have internet, I can make a living.

  8. Christopher says:

    Before I took early retirement, I looked at getting a small RV and taking off. In the end I didn’t because while I could have reduced my stuff to the level where it would all fit into an RV, there were things I didn’t want to give up. Things, that for me, make the difference between living a life and having an existence.

    I admire people who do it.

  9. hsampson says:

    Wonderful post Billy! Thanks I believe you have planted a seed in my mind now!

  10. kkeevins says:

    Terrific post, Bill. FUN reading it! I love watching “Tiny Homes” on HGTV. The thought of that lifestyle fascinates me. I’m just not sure I could actually DO it. I’m downsizing next spring. Looking for a two-bdrm space. I paint, quilt, bead, crochet, write, refinish furniture, reupholster, etc., so I can’t imagine having less than that. The thought of not having my garage scares me. BUT, I’m doing it!
    Have you seen the movie, “Lady and the Van?” 😀
    Thanks for the fantasy. It was awesome!
    –Kathy from:
    Diaryofadedicateddiabetic.wordpress.com

  11. we sold our home and daughter’s home in 2013. failing to find something in which we could all live happily ever after, we moved our daughter into a home and took off in the RV we’d bought a few years before. discovered that Yuma, AZ is an absolutely delightful winter area, and stayed there two winters, one in Goodyear, AZ. We really did enjoy the RV life–saw so many places, met people. Our problem came when we decided if we were going to really travel and continue to winter-over in warm climes for the winter, we’d need something a little bigger. traded in our Class C for an A. The A was a piece of junk and stranded us first in Las Vegas where the RV dealer there spent our last few bucks and still didn’t fix it. we still have a few of our most precious things stored in a mini-storage–going on 3 years now. finally forced to sell the RV, hubby took a job to pay down some debt. now staying with our son until we can find a home as we’ll leave our daughter in our Idaho home. living in an RV is a very simple life, though there is a learning curve. there are books of places to stay free (including Wally World if you can stand the lights and the noise). delightful parks all over the US. we had a great time, but don’t go into the lifestyle thinking you’ll save money. won’t happen. RV’s are expensive–to get, to maintain, and to move.

  12. How I would love to have a travel trailer. But it scares me a bit, living in a home I have to drive, what if I can’t afford the gas? I have heard the mileage is bad, but living in a van…maybe if I didn’t have dogs and cats it might be fun. Spent a few nights sleeping in my car back in the day…

  13. I live off gird in an RV. Very very stressful. Very VERY HIGH living expenses. Last year I lived in a section 8 rental w/ no debt. This year I drown in debt. Starving to make the minimum payments and the bills keep coming. I am parked in one spot, but there are hefty expenses w/ an RV and w/ being off grid. I did not really have a choice in the end as the new landlords that bought my building wanted me out. First it works better if you have A LOT of money and a ton saved. Second being disabled really spikes the cost. Then there is the issue of respect. The stigma of living in a trailer makes sure that people will look down on you. It is quite a misrepresentation that living in a tiny home or RV saves money. On paper in the planning stages it really seems smart, but in reality no so much. If I had my health it would probably be much more cost effective, but hard to say. Some say it just takes a lot of time and others say it stays expensive. Now if you are moving around or have a motor home that will need engine maintenance, then the costs would be out of sight. Maybe there is a way to make this work, but I have not found it yet. Not really any other options for me, as no liveable place takes sec. 8 any more and I no longer have it anyway and can’t afford the rents on the places that I can live w/ my EMF sensitivities.

    Where would I be if I had not? Probably living north of where I was before, in another sec 8 rental, in a not so great/or desirable area-not a place that would be much of a home. I would probably be much less stressed, which would be an improvement, as the stress I have now really impacts my health. Who’s to say though if this will improve or not. If it does, it will be well worth it.

    • Hang in there. Just to let you know I am not one of those who look down on people living off grid. People who I spoke with expressed the same frustrations. There are so many homes out there with space that is not being used but most people live in a state of fear to even thinking about sharing their space because of so many problems going on around them with drugs and crime. Even where there are good folks out there they get stereotyped into a certain class.

  14. New Journey says:

    I have given it much thought and if something happened to my husband, God for bid, I would sell all I won and buy an RV and call it home for awhile….we went around the US for 3 months in a 19′ RV…..no issues…plenty of room, well as much as we needed…chairs and small table outside when we parked, it was like another room…..our RV has a full bathroom/shower decent size fridge and lost of storage…it has a generator so we don’t need electricity to run things…we are very comfortable in it…I have learned I need nothing to be happy other than my health and the love of my family…..less is definitely best!!! kat

  15. Lois says:

    This was interesting. I thought long and hard about living in an RV just so I could split my time between my adult son’s homes but neither had space to park an RV and no parks nearby them. Then there was the added complication that both my son’s live in a cold climate and trying to keep an RV warm and dry is difficult. In the end it was a good thing as my health deteriorated and I am now in a wheel chair. Now if I didn’t have children and grandchildren I wanted to see regularly and had good health then I would jump at the opportunity to live a nomadic lifestyle as that fit my personality perfectly.

    I’m not so sure that the McMansion is dying. Here in the US the sale of homes 3,000 to 6,000 sq feet has risen to above 2008 numbers.

  16. I got obsessed with living in a van videos on YouTube for awhile until my husband caught me watching a video on living in a Toyota Prius, shook his head laughing and walked out of the room (after the woman who lived in the Prius discussed how she used like a large butter tub as her bathroom. We do live in a small house and that is enough for us (no butter tubs needed for the bathroom, ha!)

  17. I am a graduate several times over (2 undergrad degrees and 2 post-grads) and we spent 4 years living on a narrow boat to pay off our debts and save money. It was technically a non-residential marina, but there must have been a couple of hundred people living there full-time. My husband and I ended up with enough money to travel around the world for a year and spent a few months of that touring America. We bought a Ford Aerostar off of Craigslist for $500 and tore the back seats out so that, on the nights we had no where to stay, we could sleep in the car. It was a great experience, I’d do it again in a heartbeat!

  18. devisecreateconcoct says:

    I have a friend who lives this way – in a van. He is 48 years old and chooses this lifestyle. He has a full education, but his passion is music and acting, which for most people doesn’t make a whole lot of money. He chooses to live in a van so that he can do what he loves as opposed to working in a job that he wouldn’t have a passion for, even if it would make him more money. He is happy this way, and I must say, I respect him for it. It is a struggle sometimes, but he is figuring it out as he goes along. It is certainly not for everyone, myself included. 🙂

    • I respect it also. You can’t put a price on happiness and if living in a van is what it takes to pursue the things that bring you joy then Rock On. I have to agree with you though, I don’t believe I could do it either. I would miss things like my garden and comfortable bed.

  19. shcteve says:

    This idea entices me. I think I’d really enjoy living from a van. I just might try this lifestyle some time soon. I do need inspiration for my blog. I’m trying out as many new things as possible while still young, this fits the bill.

  20. tvolan says:

    Great post – thanks for sharing! Your post hit a note with us, as that’s a bit of our current life adventure. We’re tired of the rat race, the stress, and the struggles to keep up in the mainstream lifestyle. So, we’re trying something else. Although, with a little different twist, as we don’t have a pension or fixed income coming in. So we’re doing seasonal work (that provides housing) and van-camping in between. Granted, this is a new adventure for us, so we’re still figuring it out. http://www.middle-aged-gypsy-living.com

    I love the idea of simple living and getting back to the basics. Will definitely check out more of your posts.

    All the best,
    T

  21. Larrry Todd says:

    There is another option. You don’t have to be mobile or on the road to take advantage of the simple life in a van. Buy an inexpensive piece of land near a place that you enjoy and live in your van on your own land. Unfortunately, in some states like Colorado for instance, they have made that against the law which is absolutely stupid and based on them wanting more money from you. Get the land out in the country for cheap and then be in a position to do day trips, or longer trips around the area, and then come home to your land. You could put up a storage shed to store items in and so on. I just wanted to say that you don’t need to be a nomad to enjoy the benefits of van living.

  22. Interesting. So where do they shower?

  23. I have heard of folks who have gym memberships and utilize the shower each day.

  24. Minimalist living in an Airstream which are strongly considering appeals to my wife and I. But only for a few months at a time. Like out West. We want to keep our home as a base and travel. We are retired and nothing is holding us back. We spent 5 weeks out West using B&B and hotels for lodging and lived it. I met one couple who chose to state that Wyoming is their home state. No state income taxes! Sounds like a plan!

    • I agree. I love the fact that I have a home gym and a garden to tend to in my home. And got forbid I get sick I don’t think I would enjoy not being at home to get through it. There are places to visit and places to be. I like doing the being at home.

      • chavaida says:

        Forgive me. Life on the road is still that. I liked Larry Todd’s comment: “Buy an inexpensive piece of land near a place that you enjoy and live in your van on your own land. Unfortunately, in some states like Colorado for instance, they have made that against the law which is absolutely stupid and based on them wanting more money from you… come home to your land.”
        In Israel, it’s called living on a Yeshuv or a Moshav, in a caravan ( like an R.V.). Not on your own land. Land is held in joint by the community. Not a Kibbutz. First water via water towers, then amenities outdoors. Families have raised kids this way for a generation. Most of that population, have no pension, no fixed income. Lot’s of social cohesion – taking care of the elderly is a priority.
        Big expense is a car for work, “when in doubt go without”.
        Sounds ideal. Should one want to start a Yeshuv, you have only one source of land -the Israel Land Authority. Very interesting place.
        Savyatseventy.wordpress.com

      • Pretty interesting. I believe that a system like the one in Israel simply could not work here due to all the drug addiction and crime that seems to go hand in hand with many people living in RV’s. We simply have too many folks who don’t believe in taking personal responsibility for their own lives and a system that appears to encourage them to keep doing the wrong things.

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