5 Things that Happen When you Live in a Van

SarahVan Life9 Comments

5 Things that Happen When

you Live in a Van

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When I decided to live in a van, my main motivation was saving money. Besides saving tons of money on rent and living expenses, I started to notice many other wonderful things beginning to happen.

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1.Your purchases of useless crap decrease significantly

When I lived full time in what I now call “permanent structure housing,” I was a free spender and bought whatever I want whenever I wanted. When I started Van Life officially in July 2016 this lifestyle came to an abrupt halt. I found myself browsing things on Amazon or in a store, entertaining the thought of purchasing and then thinking “Well, where am I going to put this?”.

When you live in the square footage of a full-size bed, any unnecessary items taking up precious space will just irritate you. If it is not essential to me or does not have a significant emotional attachment to me, I’m not buying it.

One of the reasons I live in a van is to pay off significant student loan debt. Personal Capital makes it so easy to see the big picture and track my net worth while on the road. Sign up here.

2.You realize you really don’t need to shower every day

Anyone who knows me personally might laugh because I was never one to shower every day before I started living in a van. However, when your residence does not have a shower it becomes less of a choice. Not having running water was probably one of the hardest adjustments when transitioning to van life for me. I plan my showers usually 3x a week at the gym. If I am going on an adventure like a hike with friends I usually ask if it’s okay if I shower at their place after, most people don’t ever seem to have a problem with this. Keep in mind that I work full time as an Occupational Therapist, so I have to look presentable each day. Even with limited access to showers, I was able to look professional each day, no complaints from patients or coworkers…yet :).

3.You spend significantly more time outside

The most epic alaskan road trip: the lower 48

This was something that was a pleasant surprise. My M-F after work activities did not change too much living in a van. I still participate in typical “unwinding from a long day” activities. I still may work out or relax on my computer, watch Netflix, read etc. However, if it was a nice day I would typically hang out at a park before I drove to a spot to sleep for the night. My first assignment in Soldotna, Alaska I often spent many afternoons on the Kenai river with my door open reading while taking in the breathtaking Alaskan summer sights or walking along the sky blue glacier-fed river looking for wildlife and watching people fishing for salmon.

In the past, it seems as if activities like this had to be planned and required more effort. Usually, at the end of a workday most people, myself included, just drive home and most likely remain there the rest of the night. But when your home is your vehicle #homeiswhereyouparkit!

4.You don’t ever need to pack/unpack

When I first started living in my van full time in Alaska I often visited a friend who lived 3 hours away. It was a Friday at work, I was really tired and was planning on driving up to her place the next day. She texted me to ask if I could come Friday night instead. My initial response: “Ehhhh…I’m tired plus I won’t get out of work until 5:30.” Her response: “Come on Sarah, it’s not like you have to pack!”. For someone who chose a job that requires traveling, it’s ironic that I truly loathe packing and unpacking. Living in the van full time has pretty much eliminated the need for this.

Having everything you own in the world in your car and on your person is actually a relief and an amazing feeling.

5.Life becomes simple

The less stuff you have the less cluttered and less complicated your life becomes. You truly realize how much you simply do not need. You feel a better sense of control in your life because everything thing you need is in your living space and in a sense you’re always prepared.

The Most Epic Alaskan Road Trip: Canada

Emerald Lake: Yoho National Park

I am someone who would lose my head if it wasn’t on my shoulders. Living in such a small space forces you to be more organized because you simply have to be while living in a tiny space. I used to waste so much time frantically searching around my apartment for keys, hairbrush, cell phone or whatever I lost that day, but not anymore!

In short, living in a tiny home means tiny expenses, tiny amounts of stress, but provides so many more opportunities to enjoy your life. Van life has freed up time and money for me to be able to have more adventures and memorable experiences :).

Do you or have you ever thought about living in a tiny space? What would you do if you had more time and money?

About the Author


Hi there! My name is Sarah and I am the creator of Tiny Van Big Living. I am a former traveling Occupational Therapist who lived in a converted camper van (Vanny Devito) full time for almost two years. I am collecting experiences, not things while slowly climbing out of the giant hole that is student loan debt.

9 Comments on “5 Things that Happen When you Live in a Van”

  1. I really think it’s cool and great experience what your doing love your blog😀

  2. Do you have pics of Vanny? I would love to see what the set up is and what you paid for in the conversion.

    1. Hi Eliza! If you click under the “Van Life” tab there are more posts and pictures. , this is the post about my complete cost breakdown. Check out my instagram (@tinyvan.bigliving) which has a lot more pictures. Thank for reading 🙂

  3. I’ve been working on a lot of these with a 1350 SF home (plus husband, kid, roommate, and 2 large dogs), and it’s frustrating sometimes because things can hide in the few closets we do have.

    I’m definitely jealous of the not needing to pack thing! Staring at my packing list for Hawaii in a week and a half… will probably pack the night before, like I always do 😉

  4. Love this! Not sure I could go nomadic, if you will, but the perspective you’re offering even for us permanent structure dwellers is great!

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