17 Tips on Surviving #VanLife

Whether you are seeking an outdoor adventure or wanting to try vanlife on for size, the goal is to ensure a positive experience and avoid negative scenarios as best you can. It is not always as glamorous or easy as Instagram might make it seem. That is where it pays to educate yourself and know what to expect when it comes to the lifestyle you are entering or just merely trying on for size.

There are tons of resources available online. I scoured the internet for a month before embarking on my journey. I read forums, reviews, blogs, National Parks websites, contacted the Department of Forestry. (I am quite thorough) However, you don't necessarily need to go to such extreme lengths before heading out on your journey. 

Since I have done the research, I have compiled a few key tips on surviving vanlife and creating a positive experience:

Wet shoes are hard to hide away in a small space. This is where it pays off to save plastic bags or hotel laundry bags to secure these away so you can keep your space clean.

It does get cold if the van hasn’t been fully converted and properly insulated. Do not underestimate the level of cold. Bring extra blankets, sleeping bag, and thermal blankets.
A back-loaded kitchen means you need to exit the van to cook and prep meals. Not ideal in windy or rainy weather.
A power inverter is a must. This plugs into your vehicle's outlet and can provide a charge for phones, computers, etc. Usually, I charged my computers while I was driving so as to not drain the car battery.
Mobile Hotspot and WiFi boosters are crucial for the digital working nomad, having 5G helps as well.
Have a backup plan...for everything. Have a physical map, a compass. Don’t rely strictly on digital assistance, it isn’t as reliable as you think.
The van is your home and your transportation. Lock loose items away while driving and drive with caution. Otherwise you’ll have a 3 gallon water jug flying towards to front window after slamming on your brakes...I speak from experience.
Aim for privacy- many vans have tinted windows (or none) or some variation of curtains. Privacy is highly desirable when you are exposed sleeping in a turn out on a roadside.
Pre-download movies, shows, meditations when you have access to WiFi. Also, utilize coffee shops to charge any electronics but make sure to be a good patron and at least buy a cup of coffee as well.
Ask the locals: On any trip, when I stop for gas or at a visitors center, I ask for the best hiking trails and secret hot spots. Even if you have everything planned out, sometimes they know best!
Gas up when you can. I never let my tank get below half the entire trip. Ideally you also carry a JerryCan if you have the space in the vehicle. (*Note: do not store near anything flammable nor directly near a window)

Know your limitations- if you are tired, pull over in a safe place (unless it states ‘no overnight parking’) The nice thing about van camping is minimal set up and take down.
Equip your van with snow chains, window scraper and a tire gauge. You’ll regret not having it the day you need to use it.
You can utilize the shower at gyms, usually they charge a day fee so you might as well get a good workout in as well. You can also book a night for a camp site at a KOA or better yet, a local RV park to use the facilities.
Protection- I did not enter this endeavor naively. I knew that camping in a not so conspicuous van by myself might draw attention and sometimes unwanted. Just as you would protect yourself from wildlife dangers, so should you for any other dangers. I always have a knife and a headlamp within reach. I also post locations to social media after I have left them.
Journal- whether it be digitally or physically, jot down thoughts as you experience them. Even if you don’t have an intended end use, it’s a therapeutic and cathartic practice that encourages you to be more present in your now.
Stock up on necessities such as water, soap, food and firewood. (paper grocery bags are great for building a fire

You need to be aware that you are leaving the comforts of home, that includes running water, heat, a fully stocked pantry or refrigerator. And you certainly did not venture out on a road trip adventure only to be stopping at restaurants and convenient stores every 5 miles, so do yourself a favor and stock up so you spend your time doing far more enjoyable things. 

The point is to enjoy yourself...and I hope you do!