There is increasing popularity in the number of people choosing van life over a traditional 9-5 office job and home in the suburbs. Although this lifestyle is becoming more common, people outside of the van life community often stereotype van lifers as lazy, unemployed hippies. People often have a range of misconceptions and incorrect assumptions about van lifers.
When speaking to van lifers, people may forget to use their filters and ask personal questions or purposefully say hurtful things because they don’t understand the lifestyle. To avoid these awkward and unpleasant encounters, here are some things you should never say to a van lifer.
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1. “Where do you use the bathroom?”
You probably don’t ask most people where they use the bathroom. Some van lifers have a composting toilet or other system in their rig, and some rely on public restrooms in gas stations and parks. Other van lifers who do a lot of dispersed camping use a trowel to dig a hole and go outside. All in all, it is not your business to ask others where they do their business.
2. “You must have a trust fund to afford your van.”
A misconception about younger van lifers is that they use their parents’ money or a trust fund to afford their van. This assumption is especially true among van lifers in newer vans. In reality, many young van lifers take out a 15 or 20-year loan on their van. The monthly payment on the loan is often cheaper than rent or a mortgage.
3. “I could never live without (insert common amenity).”
Van lifers realize they must sacrifice amenities when they choose this lifestyle. Some of these amenities include an oven, microwave, dishwasher, endless running water, hot water, shower, toilet, air conditioning, and full-size refrigerator and freezer, depending on the set-up. Although you may feel you cannot live without these things, the truth is that you actually could make do without them as people have throughout history and as other van lifers do today. Usually, people make this comment when they try to rationalize why they could never do van life themselves.
4. “When will you stop doing van life and go back to reality or normal living?”
Some people view van life as just a ‘phase’ or a crisis that someone goes through. They do not see van life as a sustainable lifestyle that brings people joy and cannot fathom why someone might want to live in a van for years. Or, they might think van lifers are doing this lifestyle to save money or travel for a short period of time. Truthfully, most van lifers do not know when they will stop or change their minds and do van life for longer than they initially planned because they enjoy it.
Van life is not an escape from reality; it is just a different reality from the way others might choose to live.
5. “A remote or seasonal job isn’t a real job.”
Some believe that if you are not dressing up in a suit and tie and driving to an office job every day, then you are not really working. This stereotype often comes from older generations in the workforce before remote jobs became popular. Many van lifers work full-time remote positions with a salary and benefits. Others work part-time or seasonal jobs to save enough money to travel for the rest of the year.
Van lifers often work flexible jobs that allow them to travel, but this does not mean that their jobs are not ‘real’ simply because they don’t commute daily or carry a briefcase.
6. “Must be nice to just travel all of the time.”
Another common misconception is that van lifers are lazy, unemployed people who travel all the time. Although every van lifer has a different circumstance, this lifestyle is far from nonstop travel and fun or relaxing moments. Some van lifers work either remote or seasonal jobs as they travel, while others work hard and save money ahead of time to enjoy their time on the road.
Even outside of working, van lifers still need to devote time like everyone else does to doing less desirable tasks like laundry, cleaning, and grocery shopping. They also must research places to park, spend time doing regular van maintenance, and do less glamorous chores like emptying their waste and filling their water tank.
7. “How much did you pay for your van?”
For van lifers, their van is their home. Do you ask your friends and neighbors how much they paid for their home and the cost of the furniture and items they have inside it? Probably not. While some van lifers do not mind sharing what they spent on their van, conversion, and accessories, it is taboo to ask unless they bring it up.
8. “How often do you shower?”
Someone else’s hygiene routine isn’t your business or concern. Some van lifers shower daily or use body wipes to clean themselves when they don’t shower. Other van lifers might go days or weeks without showering, depending on where they are camping and which activities they are doing. Assuming you don’t ask most people this question, why ask it to van lifers?
9. “You are homeless.”
There is a negative connotation with being called homeless. Although van lifers do not have a traditional home with multiple rooms, a garage, and a yard, many consider their van a home on wheels. Although you might consider a van a “tin can on wheels,” van lifers typically have a bed, kitchenette, closet, and work area. They often decorate to make their van feel more homey. Van lifers can call home wherever they choose to park for the night.
10. “You must be so lucky to be able to do van life.”
This comment often comes from people who are jealous of van lifers or think people who do van life are exceptionally special or lucky. Van lifers are not lucky people; they are regular people who make intentional sacrifices because they see value in this lifestyle.
Van lifers work hard and put themselves in uncomfortable situations to make van life work for them. Although it may be true that van life is not for every person or fits with every life circumstance, most van lifers are just typical people who chose this lifestyle rather than following society’s expectations.
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