Vanlife: Common Questions Answered

As we come into our third year of living in a van, we feel as though we have a few things figured out. We get a lot of questions being on the road from people that are interested in living in a van themselves, or are just curious.

Here are a few of the top questions we get asked:

How do we save money while being on the road?

Our answer is always the same, we don’t eat at restaurants or go out to bars. A lot of people may find this to be sad, that we are missing out on things, but we don’t feel that way. In fact, we don’t mind the act of ‘going out,’ it’s more of the act of spending money. For example, when a group of friends wants to go out, we will join, but since we have our van (full of food and drinks,) we will just eat then go in. Occasionally, we might splurge on something, but typically we leave a bar having only drank water.

Honestly, it feels silly to go out to a restaurant when we have a fridge full of food just a few steps away. If we were to go out to a restaurant, even just once a week, we are looking at spending $40 + on just food for both of us. That’s equivalent to spending $40 on gas. All that money from ‘going out’ adds up FAST.

Our intention is to not shame people into doing the same, but it’s to help them understand that our priorities are different. We fully understand that people like going out and trying new dishes or drinks. That’s fine, if that’s what you want to do. But don’t expect to save money or be surprised that that’s how we save money. Our priorities go towards saving every penny we earn and spending it on groceries and gas. If we want to drink alcohol, we just go to the grocery store and buy some there. It’s always cheaper than getting a drink at the bar which is usually somewhere between $5-$8.

Other ways to save money, are to look for discounts at different grocery stores and other retailers. It may take us extra time to find the savings, but in the long run we will remember where to get the best deals.

If traveling to National Parks is your thing, then splurge on the National Parks Pass. This will save time and money in the long run.

For camping, we tend to look for BLM or public land to park our van. Both of which are free. On the East coast, where there is no free camping, making friends and parking in their driveway is the only way to go to save money.

Finally, finding free activities to do is the best way to save money. We climb which is typically a free activity. Hiking, swimming, and going to parks is always fun and free.

How do you go to the bathroom and shower?

Ah, the most common question! In our van we have a bucket for the occasional pee in the middle of the night. We used to have a boat toilet that was essentially a glorified bucket. Toilet

We found this to be too complex and would leak. Ew. So we decided to go simple and just get a bucket. The bucket is easy to clean as well. We store the bucket in a closed box with a lid, thus concealing any smells.The bucket is primarily used for #1 only.

For #2 instances, we can typically find a bathroom close by. If there is no bathroom than we either dig a cat hole (a 6-10 in. hole in the ground,) where we bury the poo sans toilet paper. We fully believe in leaving no trace so we carry in/carry out if we can dig a hole. wag bags

In the instances where a #2 emergency may occur, we have wag bags that can be used inside and out of the van. We have yet to use these in the years that we have been living in the van.

In order to shower on the road, we had originally built a solar shower mounted on the roof, except it ended up exploding due to water getting showerfrozen. Oops. Instead we purchased a Nemo Helio LX Pressurized Shower. It was a splurge but it’s worth it to have a convenient shower to use. Before we got a solar shower, we would just go to local recreation centers and pay for a hot shower.



How can we stay in a small space with two people?

This question is our favorite because it’s kind of silly. Alex and I got married. If we didn’t like each other we wouldn’t have signed up for this lifestyle together. We know each other very well, in fact, we have seen each other go to the bathroom, get sick, and deal with fiascos in the van.

In the occasional instances where we are getting on each other’s nerves, then we focus on ourselves and our own hobbies. Sometimes, one of us will go for a solo walk if we really need space. Honestly, it’s easy to be away from each other even when being in a small space. We both have devices where we can listen to music, watch Netflix, and/or read.

We also went with a longer Sprinter van because we knew we would want more space to walk around. In fact, one of us can do yoga in the van without being in the way. Our suggestion to other couples is to establish a way of communicating your needs. Luckily, both Alex and I have learned how to communicate our needs through our education. Tina through Social Work and Alex through his Psychology studies. When we got married, we made a pact to never go to bed angry and it has helped us deal with issues when they pop up.

Well that’s it for now. If there are any other questions, feel free to ask.


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