How To Be Safe and Happy While Living in Your Van

There are many reasons for choosing to live in a van. You want to travel full-time, try your hand at minimalism or save money for your future. Whatever brings you to the lifestyle, welcome to your new home, on wheels! Here are some tips and tricks for living full-time in your vehicle comfortably, smartly and safely.

Upkeep and Fortify Your Vehicle

Your van doubles as your home, so it’s essential that you keep it safe and functional. Even if you’re not mechanically inclined, learning basic car repair like changing a tire and checking the oil can save you time and money. How much you spend on vehicle maintenance depends on how much you travel. A digital nomad driving across the country every few months will undoubtedly need more work done than someone parked in a friend’s driveway for weeks at a time. Additionally, prevent accidents, document unsafe driver behavior and protect yourself by installing a vehicle camera system.

Find Places to Park

One of the major concerns for those dwelling in vehicles is finding safe places to park. Rest stops and truck stops along the freeway are well-lit and welcoming, offering restrooms and dining options as well. You can also find campsites or boondock on government land for free a few nights at a time, but you may have trouble finding public toilets in some areas. If you’re dwelling within city limits for a time, retailers with large parking lots like Walmart are usually fine with vehicles camping out short-term.

Be Discreet

Especially as a solo traveler staying in a city, you need to remain inconspicuous to ensure your safety from predators. Don’t stay in one parking spot too long and make sure to park in lots or on streets with other cars. Quiet, empty streets may seem ideal for quality sleep, but there’s more safety in numbers. After a bit of time on the road, you’ll learn the best overnight options and maybe even make friends with lot managers or attendants.

Get Comfortable

Since you’ll be spending most of your time in your van, you should try to make it as comfortable as possible. Living simply doesn’t mean you can’t be creative or colorful. Many van dwellers have high-quality mattresses, storage space, cooking tools and even pets. You’re not paying rent anywhere, so you can splurge a bit on personalizing your vehicle and making it feel like home.

Update Your Data Plan

Living in your van doesn’t mean detaching from the world, especially in today’s digital age. While Starbucks-hopping for Wi-Fi is certainly an option, it’s doesn’t provide as much freedom as you may require and those fancy coffee drinks add up quickly. An unlimited data plan gives you access to the internet anywhere you can get a signal. Plus, you can use your phone as a hot spot for your laptop or tablet, allowing you to work from pretty much anywhere.

Get a Gym Membership

One of the scariest parts of living on the road is not knowing when you’ll get your next shower. Unless you have friends along your route who’ll lend you their guest bathroom a few times a week, you need a personal hygiene plan. Get yourself a cheap gym membership to a franchise with many locations, so you’ll always have a place to wash up. Plus, after all that sitting and driving, you could probably use a yoga class.

Start an Emergency Fund

No matter how well you plan, life happens. Live your best life, but stash some cash for when things go sideways. Don’t let yourself get stranded when your van dies in the middle of nowhere.   

Van living isn’t for the faint of heart, even if it’s only a short-term plan. However, with a bit of bravery, creativity and ingenuity, you can have a great life exploring the country while padding your savings account or paying off your student loans.