The realities of van life and life on the road laid bare before you. Having spent a whole 3 nights days in a campervan in some pretty atrocious weather, I feel very qualified having had time to consider our recent experience. With this in mind, let me give you some advice as 48 year old man of the realities of van life #VanLife.

Space

You can get lost in it, some people want more of it, some people like to go into it. David Bowie once wrote about living in a tin can, though he wasn’t thinking about a campervan at the time, he was thinking about space. Space becomes a problem in a van. Especially if you’ve been arguing, want to get away from your dog’s farts, or you can’t find something. At times, you’ll think its a jail cell on wheels instead of the roaming home on wheels you’d thought you’d get. There is nowhere to escape, except when you get told to “get lost” in the great outdoors. Campervan, more like cramp van.

Cutting your toe nails is bad enough at my age, but try getting dressed in the narrow confines a freezing cold campervan, it’s either a series of uncontrolled farts or achievement of a bizarre sexual position left out of the Kama Sutra. There is hope though, a pop-up roof will make all the difference. Mostly though, a campervan is the exact opposite of Dr Who’s TARDIS in that your campervan will look bigger on the outside than it is inside.

Space becomes a problem in a van

The Bathroom

Want to talk dirty with your partner? Read on. There’s a finite supply of water and there’s no shower in a campervan, you’ll smell worse than any roadkill you’ve knocked down with the van’s vague steering. You’ve downsized to a drawer for all your clothes so you’ll need to get comfortable with dirt unless you want to air your dirty linen in public. In short, hygiene habits can take a hike.

The burning question you have, what if you want a number two? For those who haven’t figured it out, number two means poo. Every one does it. You could poop in your porta potti (cassette toilet), if you have one. Or you can crouch and complete a combat crap in the countryside, dump your dumps with a drive to McDonalds or poop in a plastic bag Apollo astronaut style. Either way it’s an inconvenient inconvenience and not a restful restroom, in essence, it’s crap. Social media will not show you this no matter what Instagram filter you want to use.

Sleeping

Want a good nights sleep? Dream on. Camping can be beautiful, wild camping under the stars or by the sea sounds super. The sound that wakes you up is not the waves of the sea but your dog licking his balls one foot away from your face. Unless you get really out in the wilds you can’t always find somewhere free to snooze for the night, you’ll be moved on or kicked out of a car park. If you are really lucky you might manage to get parked by some bins in a lay by – not exactly parked in paradise.

If sleeping in the van on the street you’ll need to employ stealth technology. Otherwise you’ll have some pissed up kid rocking up and singing “if this van’s a rocking, don’t come a knocking” and then promptly spewing six pints of cider over your rear wheel. That money you thought you’d save from wild camping might be better spent at a campsite. And campsites have showers.

Additionally the temperature inside a van (van lifers never call them campervans) on a wet, cold and very autumnal October night is approximately -273 degree, the same temperature as outer space, not exactly snug as a bug. Unless you have a heater. Which you’ll need to use electric hook up for at a campsite you need to pay for.

A level pitch, electric hook up and warm showers = bliss

Cooking

Forget feeding your friends at festivals and forget the fancy kitchen, campervan kitchen cooking is a drag. With only 2 rings to burn your food on, this is either a blessing or a curse. There may may be more talented chefs than ourselves out there, at least 6 billion on the planet, that would be able to rustle up roadkill you’ve knocked down with the van’s vague steering or whip up a one pot wonder, not us though, we had to opt for basics for breakfast of beans and bacon on burnt bread.

BBQ’s can make cooking a breeze but not in Britain. Mainly because BBQing in Britain is always in a breeze and trying to boil away the botulism from your baked beans is likely to be a long time. No need to worry about letting your BBQ cool down and bring back inside your van, the British weather will soon damp down the flames.

Campervan cooking
Only 2 rings to burn the food on….

Costs

Buying a van, restoring a van, or in some cases a rusty tin can, even renting a van will not be cheap. If the thought of a 30 year old vehicle with rust and reliability issues thrills you, then welcome to the world as the proud owner of a financial black hole. Of course, one way to offset your campervan costs is sell your “merch” when you become YouTube and Instagram famous.

I’ve seen enough videos on YouTube to convert a panel van to become a paid up member of campervan culture. Weigh in purchase, maintenance, repairs, servicing, tax and insurance costs and all that cold hard cashed you’ve saved will fall fast as the realities of van life #vanlife set in. But it doesn’t stop me from wanting one.

Author

Nick Cook. Amateur astronomer, space, history, nerd, extreme dog walker, cat slave, severe tinnitus sufferer. 13.7 billion years in the making - not that much better for it.

11 Comments

  1. So we rented a retro van in July…we loved it for all the reasons u hated it! Haha. It’s scheduled to post on a week or so. I’m reposting it from an old blog I used to write on! We decided we didn’t want to buy one….way too costly for sure.

    • None! Really glad we tried it, been wanting to try it for ages.

      Yes it can get quite cramped, especially if you don’t park on level ground you’ll just end up rolling into each other like we did on the first night – that was a steep learning curve. The beds are a little too hard so can understand why lots of people choose a really thick mattress. That was our biggest gripe really, ended up waking up a lot to keep turning over.

  2. I wish I could give that a try sometime, but as a claustrophobe, I bite my nails just thinking about it. You are a brave man. 😉

    • Its the exact opposite of the TARDIS! it does well with the space it has, just not enough of it. Can understand now why people convert those large delivery vans into campers now!

    • It’s all true! I just need to remember the awful bits as well as the nice bits, I still want a campervan though….

  3. jasonlikestotravel Reply

    Living the ‘dream’

    Glad you got to experience van life and I’m sure you made some great memories. However it’s certainly more amusing to read about the negatives of it than the perfectness of it you see elsewhere.

    • I’m glad we tried it in really horrible weather, that first 24 hours was shockingly wet ad you can see in the video. The best time to try it I suppose and would certainly recommend to anyone interested!

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