5 Reasons You’ll Want to Break Your Lease and Live in a Van

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Many years ago, I toured around the country as a musician. Without the funds for a hotel, our band van was the only place we could call home. Once that chapter closed, I kept the lifestyle (also known as vandwelling) alive by taking a handful of extended trips with a van as my home.

When I add it all up, I’ve spend the better part of a year with a van for digs. And though it may seem like a one-of-a-kind experience, there are actually more people voluntarily choosing to live in a van than you’d expect. As of writing, the Instagram hashtag #vanlife has nearly 5.5 million posts—up from 1.2 million just two years ago.

Most live part-time, like I did (a 2018 report from Outbound Living, a digital van lifestyle publication, puts it at about 51 percent). Though many, live full-time, long-term in their vans, too, like Amy Bunker, teacher and artist who sold her house in Austin and, since May 2018, has been living out of an RV and traveling pretty much nonstop. There are also those who do a mixture of the two, spending their time on the road during the day and stopping at friend’s, families’, and friendly strangers’ homes (or the occasional hotel) each night.

Why the increase in nomadic living? Economic shifts, like the rise in independent contract hiring, means more precarious employment but also less day-to-day commitment to employers. And with remote opportunities on the rise as well, more people can live comfortably on the road than ever before.

Relying on a van for shelter is one of those things you can’t fully understand until doing it. While the glamorous images we see on Instagram can be misleading about the difficulties of living in a van, there truly are many reasons to go for it. Here, the five things I found particularly compelling about van-life. Who knows? It might even sell you on breaking your lease, picking out a van, and hitting the road—at least for a while.

1. Money

You know what happens when you don’t have to pay rent? You save money. Sure, that’s in exchange for the insurance, payments, gasoline, and general repairs a van might require, but a lot of us are paying similar auto prices anyway—while also coughing up dough each month for rent or a mortgage. While there can be some unsuspecting expenses, living in a van can save many people a hefty chunk of change. According to blogger Dynamo Ultima, living in a van saved her a little over $1,000 a month.

2. Adventure

This word has become so overused that I hesitate to even use it here, but the sense of adventure living in a van generates shouldn’t be undersold. If you already have everything you need in your vehicle, spontaneous detours to a nearby beach or mountain aren’t really that big of a deal. You just sorta… make a decision and go!

“I love how much ground I’ve covered and being able to see so many beautiful parts of our country,” Bunker told me. “I am in awe of the sheer amount of open space we have to our avail. Getting immersed into huge stretches of land, especially with the dynamic geology of the southwest, reminds me how tiny we are in the grand scheme of things.”

3. Mindfulness

I found that the tight quarters of a van and the demands that come with them (less stuff!) force you to learn how to be more mindful. Meditative long drives will also help!

4. Personal growth

#Vanlife takes a growth mindset. Yes, it can be hard, but you’ll become more resourceful, resilient, mindful, adventurous, and pragmatic with each challenge your van throws at you. I found that these are lessons you’d never learn in your day-to-day apartment life. And with all of the changing places and faces, your worldview could rapidly expand from a jaunt in a van—even if it’s only short-term. 

5. Flexibility and freedom

Maybe ‘flexibility’ is the more accurate word here because ‘freedom’ implies so many different things, but it sure does feel like freedom once you have it.

I asked Bunker about her favorite benefits of life on the road, and unsurprisingly, “freedom” was at the top of her list:

“[I love] being able to go wherever you want with no real schedule,” she said in a message to me.

Interested in learning more about #vanlife? Here, 8 stylish RV vans that will give you a peek inside the spaces.

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