I Live in a Van Full-Time — Here Are the Downsides No One Talks About

This as-told-to essay relies on a dialog with Raychel Reimer, a van life content material creator from Vancouver, Canada. It has been edited for size and readability.

  • Raychel Reimer and her husband Nick reside of their van full-time.
  • On a regular basis duties may be exhausting, like getting a glass of fresh water.
  • Although residing in a van is cheaper than proudly owning a house, there are nonetheless bills that add up.

Again in 2018, my husband Nick and I traveled to Cambodia to show English. On the time we have been residing out of our backpacks when I discovered van life movies on YouTube. I simply bear in mind considering, wow, that will be such a cool method to journey. 

It was a seed that was planted in our heads, and I knew after we got here residence, it was one thing we needed to pursue. Then after arriving again residence in Canada, we started to construct out our van. 

Van ambulance conversion

Raychel and Nicks transformed van.

Raychel and Nick

We beloved the thought of having the ability to journey, and we knew it might permit us to chop down on the price of residing bills. 

To do it, we started to select up seasonal jobs, together with working in an workplace, home sitting, and dealing for a brick and mortar enterprise. Then after we had sufficient cash saved up, we left our jobs and hit the highway. 

Now that we have lived out of our van for 3 years, we have discovered quite a bit alongside the best way. Though we would not commerce van life for something, listed here are 5 issues you must know earlier than attempting it for your self.

1. On a regular basis duties may be exhausting

While you’re staying in a home, and also you need a glass of water, you simply head over to the faucet, the place individuals often have an infinite provide. 

Or, if you wish to take a bathe, you may do it with out considering. However, while you reside in a van, you need to be extra intentional. 

You are at all times fascinated with what you are doing subsequent. For instance, in case your water tank is getting low, you need to 

Van interior

The inside of Raychel and Nick’s van.

Raychel and Nick

take into consideration the place you are going to refill it. 

This additionally all modifications by the geographic location you are in. Are you off grid? Are you near the town? Are you able to refill your water tank immediately? Or, perhaps you’ll have to wait. This all modifications your consumption. 

Issues which are within the background for others, aren’t within the background for us. It’s a must to at all times take into consideration how you are going to reside, together with how typically you flush your bathroom.

2. Individuals typically ask about how we use the bathroom

We do not have a compost bathroom in our van, as these are $1200. However, we do have a Dometic Moveable Bathroom.

You possibly can consider it like a bathroom with a holding tank. It holds every little thing in a small tank, however then you need to head to a sanitation dump station and manually dump it. You could find these at relaxation stops alongside the best way, or typically while you get gasoline.

Should you’re fascinated with van life, how you’ll use the bathroom is one thing to contemplate. 

3. There are bills in relation to van life

Broken down van

One of many largest bills is when your van breaks down.

Raychel and Nick

It is perhaps a less expensive method to reside, however there are nonetheless prices. First, you in fact have your gasoline – and the price might be decided by how a lot you drive.

However then, you may have your automobile insurance coverage, your oil modifications, and one other is a gymnasium membership. Whereas the gymnasium may appear optionally available, that’s the place most who select van life bathe. For us, our breakdown appears like this:

  • RV insurance coverage: $133 a month 
  • Fitness center memberships: $45.00 a month
  • Laundromat: $15.00 a month 
  • Fuel: $800 a month 
  • Groceries: $520 a month

Then there’s the largest expense, van breakdowns. As soon as we have been on a visit by way of the USA, and ours broke after we have been in San Diego. It was disturbing, as we have been quoted $3,000 which is $4,500 Canadian {dollars}. For us, it was an enormous loss as a result of it took our emergency fund. 

When your van breaks down it’s by no means enjoyable. On prime of that expense, you need to assume, the place am I going to remain? Getting a resort unexpectedly positively provides to your bills. 

With that stated, when buying a van, you need to think about breakdowns. Whereas you may want a novel van, it’s higher to get one with a straightforward to repair engine, this implies one which any mechanic can repair.

We’re fortunate with ours. Because it’s an ambulance conversion, it has the everyday chevy engine. It is low cost to supply and most mechanics can work on it.

4. There are loads of social stigmas 

There may be loads of misunderstanding in relation to sustaining van life. 

We do not all have the identical revenue, and we do not all have the identical story. A few of us work remotely, some work a daily 9 to five job, and a few reside out of a van to not journey, however out of necessity.

We personally do seasonal work. We primarily tackle home sitting assignments, and different summer season jobs. For instance, I work at a traditional 9 to five workplace job. Then as soon as we’ve got sufficient saved up, we start our travels. It is a course of that we do repeatedly.

Many assume, individuals who take part in van life do not work, or we do not have actual jobs. Whereas some who reside of their vans is perhaps wealthy, or have belief funds, that is not true for all of us. The social stigmas are very loud, however the reality is rather like everybody else, we’re all completely different.

5. We miss moments with our household

It’s a must to put in loads of work to take care of friendships and relationships. It’s a must to make the time, and make the calls, as a way to keep in contact. 

Whether or not you do van life otherwise you’re nomadic, it may be onerous lacking birthdays, or being away from your loved ones. We miss issues like our nieces first steps, or different large moments similar to that.

It is actually essential for us to message them, or facetime them, that approach we will keep related. 

Fortunately, we’ve got additionally made many associates on the highway, who reside a really comparable life-style to us. Since we’re all on wheels, we frequently meet up with one another, and we will often do it inside a matter of days.

Van life couple

Raychel and Nick touring of their ambulance conversion.

Raychel and Nick

It is not all unhealthy

Though van life has downsides, there are numerous positives, too. We love being part of the van life neighborhood and we’d not commerce van life for the excessive price of residing in Vancouver. 

There may be location freedom, however there’s additionally monetary freedom, too. We do not have to make some huge cash — our summer season jobs and house-sitting gigs pay for our journey. One of the best half is we do not drown in payments attempting to pay hire. As a substitute, we get to go wherever we wish to go, each time we wish to go. 

We at all times inform individuals, in case you have the urge to do it and you may, you must attempt it. The expertise is difficult, nevertheless it’s additionally a rewarding one.

If in case you have a enjoyable, distinctive residence and wish to share your story, e-mail Alyshia Hull at

Correction: July 19, 2023 — An earlier model of this story misstated the connection between Rachel Reimer and Nick. Nick is Reimer’s husband, not boyfriend.