12 Misconceptions About Living in a Campervan Debunked by Experts

Living in a van is an amazing experience, but its not for everyone. Don’t let fancy Instagram images convince you that van life is ALWAYS amazing. Here are some main misconceptions debunked.

Living in a campervan certainly has its perks. You get to wake up in beautiful places, spend more time in nature, and live a life of travel. While these are definite pros of van life, not everything about living in a campervan is as picturesque as it might seem. Living in a campervan is rewarding and worth the trade-offs, but it’s important to understand what you’ll need to sacrifice as a van lifer and the unique challenges involved.

I’ll debunk some common misconceptions about living in a campervan below.

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1. Every Day is a Fun Adventure

couple standing inside their campervan
Photo Credit: Kaylin Zittergruen (@katekeepswild)

If you follow van lifers on social media or meet them while traveling, you may assume every day is packed with adventure and fun. In reality, most people who live in a campervan (like myself) still need to work remote or seasonal jobs, do chores like laundry and grocery shopping, and occasionally sleep in Walmart or Cracker Barrell parking lots. 

Most van lifers must also deal with mechanical issues as they happen unexpectedly, go without showering for days, and live in a cramped space (often with a partner or pets). 

There are moments of fun and adventure (and probably more than the average person experiences), but every day isn’t exciting.

2. It’s Cheap

woman standing in the door of a campervan
Photo Credit: Two Wandering Soles

Some van lifers live in a van to save money or pay off debt, but that doesn’t mean the lifestyle is inherently cheap. I often need to budget for travel costs, including fuel, maintenance, vehicle insurance and registration, mobile internet, showers on the road, and groceries. I also pay a monthly amount towards my loan for my van and conversion, which costs about $1,000/month. 

While it’s still cheaper than apartment rent and the cost of living in Colorado (where I previously lived), I still need to save money and be cautious of my spending.

3. Parking Spots are Easy to Find

Photo Credit: Brooke Alexander

You’d be surprised by how much time each week I must devote to finding free and accessible campsites to park overnight. I spend hours researching online, reading reviews and recent descriptions on iOverlander, and asking my van life friends for recommendations. 

As a van lifer, you also quickly learn that things don’t always go according to plan. Sometimes, spots are full when you arrive, you feel unsafe, or they’re illegal to park in overnight. 

In these situations, you must quickly make a plan B and find somewhere new to go (sometimes in the dark when you’re already tired). 

4. It’s Just as Comfortable as a Home

Photo Credit: Amy Warner and Michael Ross

Most campervans have nice amenities, including a stove, refrigerator, heater, sink, water tank, bed, and fans. Some even have air conditioning, solar panels, and heavy-duty battery systems that supply lots of power. However, even with these amenities, you must remember that people who live in campervans have limited space compared to traditional homes. 

Daily tasks like cooking, sleeping, bathing, and working can feel uncomfortable in a cramped area, and when the weather is rough, vans that lack proper insulation or heating/cooling systems can become borderline unbearable. 

5. Life is a Constant Vacation

campervan parked on the campground
Photo Credit: Tom Zittergruen @nomadxtom and Kaylin Zittergruen @katekeepswild

My friends and family often ask me where I’m vacationing next, as if all I do is sit on the beach or mountaintop with a book and drink in hand. I have the freedom and flexibility to travel wherever I want, but I still need to take care of my responsibilities once I get there. 

Most days, I cook, clean, do dishes, and take my dog for a walk outside of the hours I spend working on my computer.

6. It’s an Escape from Your Problems

woman on a campervan rooftop overlooking a scenic view
Photo Credit: Kaylin Zittergruen.

Some people start van life as a way to dodge their problems. Although it allows you to travel more frequently, it won’t inherently solve issues involving finances, mental health, or relationships. It provides space for you to get away and think about things, but these problems will probably still exist even if you live in a van.

Van life also presents new issues you must be ready to face as needed. Some of these include things like living in a tight space, finding campsites to stay in each night, finding places to shower and do laundry for each new place you visit, budgeting your water and battery usage, and adapting to a simpler way of living (which is rewarding but not necessarily always easy). 

7. You’ll Feel Isolated

Image Credit: Brenda, @theroadthroughmyeyes on Instagram.

Some people worry they’ll feel lonely and cut off from the world if they start van life, especially if they’re doing solo van life. You can isolate yourself and stay in remote locations, but you don’t have to live this way if you don’t want to. You can find a community of fellow van lifers on social media, make friends on the road, and attend van festivals to form connections.

8. It’s Only for Young People

Photo Credit: Winnebago

Some people assume van lifers are all young. This is far from reality! Van life is for people of all ages and backgrounds. You’ll meet various people on your travels from all walks of life, including van lifers with children, retirees who want to see the world, couples traveling together, and solo van lifers.

9. It’s Unsafe

Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

There is an assumption that living in a van is dangerous. Although these safety concerns are valid in certain places and circumstances, van lifers take precautions to protect themselves. This can include security measures such as alarms, motion sensors, door locks, window covers, lock boxes, and other forms of protection.

10. You Have to Be a Minimalist

Woman in a flannel standing in the doorway of a Sprinter van.
Photo Credit: Kaylin Zittergruen.

Although most van lifers are minimalists out of necessity (there isn’t room to store items), you don’t have to be a minimalist to be a van lifer. You can rent a storage unit or keep items at a loved one’s place. 

Many van lifers struggle with clutter, excess belongings, and finding creative storage solutions. 

11. It’s Easy to Disconnect from Technology

Living on the road doesn’t mean you can completely disconnect from technology and society. Although you can escape busy cities and offices, many van lifers still must use technology to work and to keep in touch with loved ones. 

Even if you don’t work or want to speak to others, you’ll probably still want to have a phone, laptop, and mobile internet to research the places you’re visiting, check the news and weather forecasts, and have a way to get help in an emergency.

12. You Can Live Completely Spontaneously

Photo Credit: Van Life Customs

Van life typically allows you to live more spontaneously; however, this isn’t always the case. I’ve found that I’ve had to stay in places longer than planned when waiting to get mail on the road if there is a delay. 

Other times, I’ve had to change my travel plans due to an engine light turning on, inclement weather, or getting sick. I plan my travel schedule around family events, friends’ weddings, and other commitments.

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