Have a quick browse through the hashtag on Instagram, and you’ll soon realise that van life means something different to everyone.
Maybe for you, it’s the excitement of waking up with a new view every morning or escaping the rat race and having the freedom to live life as you choose. Or maybe it looks like spending more time with your family and road-schooling the kids. Perhaps you’re attracted to the minimalism of van life and love the idea of having everything you need and nothing more – not being weighed down by stuff.
Yes, van life means all of this and more. But when spending time travelling out of my van, van life is simply life. Vanlife is not an Instagram cliché – it’s choosing to live life on my own terms and feeling utterly free to go anywhere I choose without almost any restrictions. I’ve done the whole 5-star globe-trotting thing for years, and I couldn’t be happier to escape from that as my primary way to travel.
So what does #vanlife mean to me?
When was the last time you were truly spontaneous? If your significant other, or maybe your best friend, suddenly sprung on you “pack your bags, we’re going on holiday tomorrow!” would you be excited? Or would you shrug off the idea as crazy and impossible? After all, you’d need to arrange time off work, maybe cancel your gym class, and find someone to water the plants…
For me, one of the most exciting aspects of vanlife is being able to take spontaneous adventures to anywhere at any time that takes my fancy.
Want to hike to the top of a mountain or cook your breakfast on the beach? Just go. What’s stopping you? Nothing! All your belongings are already in the van. You have no prior commitments and responsibilities. Everything you need is right here, and you can take it with you.
I think in today’s modern life, many of us have forgotten what it truly means to be alive. Is the point of life to work Monday to Friday so that we can make enough money to survive, and then waking up to do it all over again on Monday morning?
Or, is it doing whatever brings you joy, whatever makes your heart sing? Seeing the sunrise over the ocean? Staring at the night sky, knowing you’re the only person for miles around? Setting off on a trip on the spur of the moment and exploring far and wide?
I think you know the answer.
Spending More Time Having Adventures
Before I was sold on the idea of vanlife, my life looked much the same as it does for many other driven individuals who like to travel. I worked hard and on my time off I would travel fairly regularly staying in hotels that looked luxurious and had all the raving reviews to match.
If I am totally honest, the last 10 years of my life has become a bit of a blur with the many different trips, flights, and cities explored, and I can’t for one minute complain… and believe me, I’m not. I love to travel and I am incredibly grateful to have been able to at the extent I have.
But what I have come to realise, is that it’s far more about the act of getting out of the house and exploring new things, than it is about staying in fancy hotels and relaxing by the pool or strolling along the local beach.
My mindset used to be I need to get on a plane and stay in some 5-star hotel or resort to make it worth my while.
So many people live their lives like this and it’s simply not necessary! If you believe you have to get on a plane and spend a small fortune to make it worth your while, you may well have sold yourself a lie.
I now spend so many more days exploring and also being in nature. Some days this might look like hiking with my dogs and exploring the wilderness. Other days I might be working on my business in a cafe in a new town I’ve stumbled upon. Some days I might do nothing at all – relax by my portable fire pit, wherever I’ve parked up for the day, maybe read a book, enjoy a tasty lunch, and just chill out and enjoy my surroundings.
The point is, the choice is mine. And pretty much any day or week I feel like escaping to somewhere new, I can.
More Time in Nature, Not in front of the Computer
“Nature deficit disorder” is a concept I’ve seen thrown around in news articles and on the web for several years now, and it’s something I find horrifying.
We’re now so removed from nature as a species that our wellbeing (and particularly that of our children) is suffering. We’ve traded in the gift of Mother Nature for a concrete jungle and life spent inside a box.
You might think I’m being dramatic, but when was the last time you really got to be out in nature? If you’re lucky, maybe you live in the countryside and get to enjoy walks every day. However, if you fall into the majority of the working population, you probably live and work in a town or city and the most green you get to see every day is the patch of lawn in front of your house or the odd field you pass on your commutes.
As human beings, we’re meant to be in nature. It’s in our blood, in our DNA – we’re meant to run around and explore our environment, to forage for food and hunt, and to be active for most of the day. Instead, most of us are sitting at a desk, staring at a screen.
The corporate world is now starting to recognise that the workforce is seriously suffering from lack of nature and that this is impacting physical and mental health (and more importantly, from their point of view, productivity and profits). To combat this they’re bringing plants into the office and encouraging employees to take breaks outside.
But if you ask me, this is not the answer!
To really get the most out of the stunning world we’re blessed enough to live in, you have to get out there and live in it. Hike the mountains, swim in the lakes, chill under a tree, sink your feet into the sand.
Have you ever sat on the coast and watched the waves crash onto the beach? Or simply stared at the skies after climbing to the top of a hill? If so you’ll know how instantly calming and relaxing it feels. Just enjoying nature does wonders for your wellbeing that no pill or therapy can replicate.
Now imagine how much better you would feel if you were out there in nature almost every day. I know – I’m living it. And I can tell you that having the opportunity to live in nature is priceless.
Waking up to a Million-Pound View on a Shoestring Budget
Talking about being out in nature and enjoying stunning views, some people pay a pretty penny to wake up every morning to a fantastic view. I am one of them I cannot lie.
I know what I’m talking about here – I have the home with the ocean view and I’ve spent a fortune on the oceanfront vacations.
But you don’t need to be a millionaire to enjoy being in a great location and having a stunning view to enjoy while you sit and drink your morning coffee.
Vanlife gives you the freedom and flexibility to park up pretty much anywhere you choose, and some of the places I’ve parked my van in for the night beat the location of my home and any hotel I have stayed in.
Best of all, you don’t need to win the lottery or have a massive inheritance to live this way. In fact, van life can cost significantly less than taking regular vacations and long weekends. I’ve met people on the road who are earning six figures or more, and people who are subsisting on basically nothing. They all have the same opportunities to travel and work wherever in the country they choose.
Seeing More of the Country and the World
When I first set up my own business and started making enough money to really enjoy my life, I started to travel. I started out just by taking a few trips and gradually travelled more and more until I was spending at least half my time travelling.
I was well and truly bitten by the travel bug.
When you do start travelling, whether it’s abroad or closer to home, and meeting other people who are travelling, you’ll realise it can quickly become an addiction. A couple of weeks turns into one month, which turns into one year and beyond.
Of course, many people never get to experience the excitement of travelling to new places, meeting new people, and experiencing new things. So many people stay in the same town they grew up in, going to the same places, and living out the same routines day after day. Maybe they’ll take a two-week holiday every couple of years to a holiday resort in Spain.
Some people convince themselves they don’t want to travel, but in my opinion, they’re missing out on so much. The world has so much more to offer than the tiny corner you already know.
As I have stressed already, travel doesn’t have to mean flying to exotic locations and exploring far-off lands. What I have found out this past year particularly, is the UK offers some amazing travel opportunities, and you can easily spend years exploring without ever getting bored. From the stunning isolated beaches of the Scottish highlands to the desolate beauty of the Welsh mountains, there’s so much to explore here and van life makes it possible.
Escaping the Consumerism of Modern Life
When you first left home to set up on your own, maybe heading off to college or university, you probably didn’t have too many belongings. But as life goes on, we naturally attract more and more stuff, and in just a few years you can find this builds up to epic proportions.
If you have a corporate career or any kind of well-paid job, you’ve probably been sucked into the vortex of consumerism even more. You work to pay for those fancy suits and expensive shoes and the car sitting in your driveway.
You fill your home with designer sofas and pointless knickknacks, expensive gadgets, and a wardrobe full of clothes you never wear. Christmas comes around again and you spend hundreds of pounds on your partner, who already has everything they really want anyway.
Do you ever stop and wonder what’s the point of all this stuff?
Vanlife forces you to strip back, get really minimal and live only with what you need. When you’re learning to live in a 10sqm space, you’ll soon realise what you really need and what items are superfluous.
What’s more, you probably won’t really miss any of your stuff. Ok, maybe at first when you’re transitioning into vanlife for extended periods of time. But when you’ve been on the road for a week or two and realise you really don’t need any of “that stuff”, you’ll suddenly understand how little you need to enjoy life.
One of the things I love most about van life is that all my important belongings are right here with me in the van, and there’s not that many of them. Trust me, all that stuff is weighing you down, and you’ll feel a million times freer when you realise how unattached to “things” you really are.
Learning Every Day
Some people think that learning stops when you leave school or college. I couldn’t disagree more. I’ve probably learned more during my time travelling than I did in all my years of conventional education.
What’s more, as the years have gone by, I’ve learned to focus on what really matters. I’ve learned to work my own way out of difficult and stressful situations, and to live in a simple and minimal way when needed, enjoying the small things that so many people take for granted.
I’ve learned how to work for myself, and how to really focus on working on projects I’m passionate about. I’ve also learned that working hard doesn’t always mean working smart.
But most of all, I’ve learned more about myself than I ever could have done if I’d continued living my everyday suburban mundane existence. I’ve learned to get the most out of life and squeeze every opportunity I can out of the life I’m lucky enough to have. I’ve learned to be grateful and humble for my life, and I hope to inspire others to go on to live their best lives.
Having the Freedom to Live Life as I Choose
When it comes down to it, van life for me means freedom. The freedom to spend many of my days as I choose, the freedom to go where I choose, explore where I want, and not feel like I am stuck in a box we call “home” or the “office”.
Vanlife means getting back to the basics of what it really means to be human and truly living life – not just going through the motions.
Some days, van life means having amazing experiences and bursting with joy, and other days it means having time to just sit with my thoughts in nature, eating a simple meal, preparing for my next adventure. Vanlife is not always romantic, and it’s certainly not as glamorous as social media tends to make it out to be. But the one thing that’s always consistent is that I always feel free when I’m on the road. Van life is my life of freedom that I’ve created for myself without having to jet across the world.