One Van No Plan: Things Nobody Tells You

by Claire Raymond 16 days ago in culture

From being hassled to being sick. Nobody tells you this stuff.

One Van No Plan: Things Nobody Tells You

Following Vanlifers on social media is fun. I know because I used to follow loads of them. Some of the shots are mind blowing. Beautiful beaches, mountains and forests. They really make you feel like van life is the only way to go. No worries, no responsibilities, no work, sounds perfect right? The trouble is there are worries, loads of them. If you’re travelling with animals or kids, then there are responsibilities. And as for no work, if you’re not working then you’re not moving. Fuel costs money, and if you want money, you have to work.

And as much as van life is definitely for me, it’s not easy. Those butt on the beach shots you love come at a price. The person attached to that butt is probably very tired. And I hate to break it to you, but that butt probably hasn’t showered in at least 2 days. 

But the adventure and excitement must be constant, right? Wrong again. There is adventure, there is loads of excitement. But there is also a healthy dose of reality to keep you grounded. Real life still happens when you’re travelling, but without all those home comforts, it takes a little more planning. When you live in a brick house, you have little things like a washing machine, a shower, a comfy bed. Everything I took for granted before we started our van life adventure. When you live in a van, you have none of these things. But you still need to wash yourself and your filthy clothes. So hours, even a whole day, can be taken up with that. We have a really hairy dog and cat (and me) in our van, so washing everything regularly is a must. You still have to do normal things, and that’s what nobody tells you. In fact, nobody tells you a lot of things about vanlife, because that doesn’t translate into followers or sponsorship.

You Have To Do Everyday Stuff

Like I mentioned, showering, laundry, etc. All of these things need to be done regularly. But there’s other stuff you don’t even think about. Personal admin, repairs, haircuts. You need to keep on top of all of these things, otherwise they’ll pile up and become a big deal. Believe me, we left the washing for a few days and one load turned into 3. That’s washing, drying and parking money at the launderette. Cooking is another thing nobody thinks about when they’re following vanlifers on social media. They eat out at the most amazing looking places. Some colourful street food, a 5 star restaurant now and then. But these people have money, and lots of it. If you’re on a budget, then it’s eating in the van for you. And if you’re a full timer, you’ll know it’s not always going to be the nicest stuff. There’s a lot of dried and tinned food that you’ll have to become friends with if you want to be a full timer. 

Your Plans Might Change

And this could be no fault of your own. You may have designs on heading somewhere then your engine craps out. You might be stuck by the ocean in the middle of a storm. Your pet could get sick and need vet care which will take all of your budget. If you’re in a van, plans have to be flexible. And even after only 1 month I now realise that it’s best not to make plans to begin with. Especially as the month I went full time, the coronavirus pandemic happened. 

my neighbours for the foreseeable future

It’s Not Always Sunny

Especially not if you live in the UK. In fact, it is hardly ever sunny. So you have to prepare for bad weather. And bad weather in a house is hard enough, but when you’re in a van, it’s even worse. Not only is it messy and dirty, but you have your safety to think about. In fact, even as I write this I am being quite violently rocked by the wind in Cornwall. And if you have a dog in a van, then bad weather means constant cleaning of muddy paw prints. You Have To Be Really Tidy

Messiness in a house can be pretty annoying. But if you’re untidy in a van, then it can get borderline claustrophobic. Everything has to have a place or you’ll end up getting frustrated and losing your temper. The same goes for cleaning, you need to keep on top of cleaning and laundry or it will get gross really fast. 

You Might Get Sick

If there’s one of you, it’s not too bad. But if there’s two of you in the van, then this could be a bit of an issue. Not only will the chances of the other person catching it increase. But you could end up in that really annoying constant cycle of reinfecting each other. You’ll need to clean constantly in order to stop this, and even then it might not be enough. If whatever it is is airborne, then you’re pretty much screwed. 

You’ll Get Hassled

So far it’s only happened to us once. But I imagine this will increase. It was a few young “gentlemen” in Dorchester. They were banging on the door about 10:30 at night and riding around on their motorbikes. They kept pounding on the walls of the van. Being 2 women, we’re always aware, and always armed. We opened the door, they saw the dog and my crossbow. They left and didn’t come back. I travel with my wife so I can’t even imagine what it must be like for solo women. 

I love van life. Well, I will once the pandemic settles a bit. But I would advise anyone to think really carefully before making the decision to go full time. 

Claire Raymond
Claire Raymond
Read next: Camping > Hotels
Claire Raymond

I have been a writer for 14 years now, I'll figure it out one day.

See all posts by Claire Raymond