Vanlife is a lifestyle that has become increasingly popular in recent years among young people, as well as among the generation approaching retirement. Although living in a van is not a new or even unusual way of life in many countries, in Italy it is undoubtedly a recent phenomenon that still leaves many people curious or full of skepticism.
Like any lifestyle, vanlife also has its pros and cons, so let’s see together what lies behind today’s much in vogue term, Vanlife.
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The Vanlife Phenomenon
As mentioned above, the choice to live in a van in many European and non-European countries has been quite common for many years: Germany for example, is one of the European countries where this lifestyle is most popular, also involving many people over 40; in Australia, to go further afield, is the most widely used method of being able to cross the entire state while enjoying its pristine nature to the fullest; in Latin America the vanlife phenomenon is enjoying great success, allowing many young people to learn about the multitude of countries and cultures that make up South America.
But what is meant by vanlife?
Vanlife is a lifestyle that involves living, full-time or part-time, in a van (car used as a living place) or motorhome. There are a wide variety of vehicles, just type in the hashtag #vanbuild to dive into the ocean of options available: from low-roof vans, to buses, to 4×4 cars; from furnishings including a shower, heat and all sorts of conveniences, to the more spartan ones where a bed and a few pots and pans are all you need to live.
Similarly, there are endless types of lives and jobs that people undertake while living in van: we find remote workers, seasonal workers, artists, artisans, photographers…
Although the professions of these people may be very different from each other one can find common and often present characteristics: a desire to make their passion their work, flexible life rhythms, and a propensity for the outdoors.
Nomadism between city and nature: why live in van
Vanlife is not only a lifestyle but a real movement. Indeed, it is not only about people who have decided to live in a van, but also represents a set of shared ideas and values that make living in van a thoughtful act with sometimes political implications. For many people, particularly young people, van living allows them to questioning some social paradigms that characterise today’s society: The unstoppable urban hustle and bustle and the idea that only by having “a mortgage, a permanent job, and a stable routine” can one live a happy life are definitely at the top of the list of myths debunked by a nomadic lifestyle like the vanlife one.
It is no coincidence that it is precisely in recent years of great uncertainty and profound transformations in the world of work – especially with the emergence of digital nomadism and the increasing possibilities for remote work – that the vanlife movement has begun to explode, becoming a real trend (this being “fashionable” brings with it some big “cons” which we will see at the end of the article).
But what then motivates so many young people to buy a van, truck it, and hit the road? Let’s look together at some of the possible ‘whys’ of such a lifestyle choice:
● A newfound interest in a deep connection with nature.
● A desire to break free from the urban hustle and bustle and experience freedom of movement and the ability to decide where and how much to stay.
● A reduced cost of daily expenses, thus being able to extend the stay on the trip compared to staying in b&b or hotel.
● The desire to live a life more in line with one’s own rhythm and desires
● An increasingly pervasive interest in minimalist lifestyles that focus on inner well-being rather than possessions.
Pros and cons of living in a van
Like any lifestyle, vanlife has its upsides and downsides; if you are thinking of renting or buying a van and going on an adventure, knowing some of these aspects might help you take that step. So let’s see together at the main pros and cons of van living.
Pros of living in van
- Freedom of movement. When you have your home with you at all times, the feeling of freedom you experience in being able to decide when and how much to move, without worrying about looking for a place to sleep and without depending on anyone is priceless.
- Wherever you go you have everything you need. Having little space prompts you to let go of many things and keep the most useful and essential, thus rediscovering the joy of owning little but experiencing much.
- Socialising. Every encounter becomes more intense when you live in van, because the outdoors becomes your backyard and other people become your neighbors; thus many relationships, though fleeting, can turn out to be among the most intense and magical of your life.
Cons of living in van
- The now sky-high prices of vans. Although the cost of living in a van is much lower than an apartment life, since vanlife has become fashionable there has been a surge in vehicle prices, making it more difficult to get started.
- There is no such thing as total privacy. As soon as you open the window, you are on the street, and anyone can cast an eye inside. Living in a van causes you to revise your concept of privacy, reducing it to a very few square meters.
- The small spaces (to share). For example, when it rains for a few days in a row, life in the van becomes a great exercise in patience.
If you are also thinking of embarking on this kind of life on the road and adventure, I’ll leave some final advice here.
If vanlife intrigues you, go for it, give it a try! Maybe start by renting a van for a short time and then approach buying a vehicle; until you try you don’t know. Get informed by watching videos and advice from people already doing this life, or by reading blogs like this one where Francesca and her partner Pablo tell us the “behind the scenes” and adventures of living in Van and the tools to make it possible.
Be inspired by others who, like you, have felt the call to a life on the move.
Wherever you go make sure you leave the place you park cleaner than you found it. It requires little effort but the benefits to the community and nature are enormous.
And remember: what you see on social media is only a small part of people’s lives, like every life there are ups, downs, difficulties and hiccups. Whatever the lifestyle, the solution lies not in what kind of life you live but in how you live it.
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