What Is It Like Living In a Van?

The short answer, not too bad.

The long answer, not too bad if you’re committed to it. What we mean by that is that it takes patience and an open mind to live simply.

As of this writing, we have been living full time in this van for about a year. We have gone through multiple seasons in New England while working full time. Just like in any house, there have been problems. We recently had some trouble with the heater being finicky. Ultimately it only required one zip tie to fix, however, in the process our water froze and we froze. Before our gray water system went straight outside the van, we had a separate gray water holding tank that we had to manually empty. Several times, we neglected to empty the tank and ended up with gray water on the floor. Just the other day, the lid of the toilet fell down as Alex was peeing. These are just examples of small things that go wrong in the van, mostly due to human error.

You also have to remember that the van is a vehicle and requires regular maintenance. Because it is a diesel truck, the maintenance is a bit different. Oil changes are every 20,000 miles but have to be done either at an authorized shop or at a dealership. The oil changes are quite expensive as well – about $300 – (though it’s more than just oil; they do other stuff like change the fuel filter). You also have to regularly replenish the Diesel Emissions Fluid, which reduces the exhaust pollutants. Unlike other diesel vehicles, you do not have to plug in the engine block to heat it on cold nights, but it does prefer to idle for about 5 minutes on cold mornings before hitting the road.

None of these things have caused us any more trouble than the standard problems one can get in a house or apartment. In fact, there are many more positive aspects that out weight any negative effects such as, saving more money. We pay less in our loan and car insurance than either of us has ever paid for an apartment. Its great living in a van because when you want to go on a trip, there’s no packing required and we can always bring our cat with us even when we go on a long trip.

Our first year in the van started with a 3 month trip around the west coast and finding places to camp was relatively easy out in the wilderness. However, when we came back to Portland, Maine, we had jobs and school to go back to and that forced us to live in a more urban area. Our friends at Evo Rock and Fitness, Portland, were nice enough to let us park in their parking lot for about a month while we got our bearings and found some other places to park at night. In the spring and summer nights of 2016, we parked in the neighborhoods of outer Portland, where there tends to be plenty of open, on street parking with little through traffic. Each night we parked, we would immediately block out the windows with cut-outs of Reflectix (the material that windshield shades are made of). We didn’t draw much attention because we never stayed in the same place two nights in a row. We wouldn’t leave the climbing gym until 10pm and we got up and left for work around 6 or 7 am. The only time we ever got hassled was by the police when we parked near a city park. They banged on our windows but couldn’t really tell that we were in there, so we didn’t answer and they eventually left. We quickly moved and never returned to that spot.

Like we mentioned earlier, having patience and an open mind helps make this dream of living simply a reality. Currently the dream of traveling and exploring all that the United States has to offer is underway. We have left Portland, Maine this winter as we head to find endless sun and endless adventure.

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