Every vanlifer has its own style, so do we. Here is our version of vanlife with links to technical details for those who want to copy our innovations. For starters, there is no specific way to do vanlife, but since living in a van presents specific challenges, most vanlifers live in a similar way.
Vanlife is not the same as RVing
There is one huge distinction between vanlife and RVing. RVs are designed for short-term travel and for a hookup on campgrounds. Think of RVing as travelling during summer from to one or more campgrounds. Vanlive is totally different:
- vanlife is long-term, people live in their vans not just during summer, but all year around; they also work from their vehicles; many are digital nomads, like us
- vanlifers are self sufficient, that means they don’t require hookups or campgrounds; many vans have solar panels and dry composting toilets that do not require sewage facilities
- van designs are utilitarian, not entertainment focused; vanlifers don’t typically have large screen TV’s, posh bathrooms, or large windows
How much does it take to get a van ready? How much effort and money does it take to convert it from an ordinary vehicle to a comfortable living space? For us it was 2 years of work and about $40,000 in repairs and upgrades (that includes the cost of the vehicle, which was $2,800)
How we drive without killing our back
Driving is a big part of vanlife. But driving for hours in uncomfortable seats can get into your back in a hurry. We are all about health, so backache is not what we are looking for.
Our seats are totally posh and comfy. They can swivel, tilt, shift, and even be taken out of the van without much hassle. That makes a huge difference to how we feel on the road. Discomfort leads to bitching. Bitching leads to arguments. And that leads to getting another van…. but that’s expensive, so we are going to stick with feeling good.
Our van did not come with those anti-bitch chairs. They came from two separate auto wreckers and also needed to be modified. For technical details follow these links:
How we lounge around in such a small space
Lounging means relaxing: napping, sitting, reclining, etc. Surprisingly, we can do all that in a small space. Our design is modular and we have a fold-able bed that can take on different shapes and forms from a one-man lounger, to two-seater, to king-size bed, to a couch with leg rest, to a party-ready two rows of benches able to accommodate 4 rumps each.
Immobility is the first step to decrepit-ness and since we are not working on either, we love our living space flexibility. If you want to know more about this modular built, follow these links:
How we cook in our mini kitchen
Preparing meals in a van is a challenge. It’s the flame, it’s the mini-counter, it’s the splatter, difficult access to the fridge, the smoke, and other things. It is even more so if you want to eat healthy and well.
We hit the healthy meal wall last year, when we had to resort to soggy broccoli on a regular basis, due to a shortage of cooking facilities. The experience was so awful, that I decided: either I am going to change it or that’s it for vanlifing. Soggy broccoli experience gave a rise to 69 Pleasures, a cookbook designed to counteract horrific broccoli encounters, and make a 5-star use of small spaces and efficient use of energy. Now we can do vanlifing in health and style.
Our mini kitchen contains a good-size sink, relatively large counter space, a solar fridge/freezer, and an alcohol stove. As a backup we also have a simple slow-cooker, and a butane stove. We have one large pot, one frying pan, one cast iron grill pan. That’s all we need for being super-fueled on the road, by great taste and without much hassle.
How we do our morning routine
Believe or not we have a comfortable bathroom with a privacy door in our van. The only thing that is missing is a large mirror with a good light. We have a sink that makes up for a bathroom vanity, a pump sprayer that helps with showers and a composting toilet that gets emptied every three weeks.
Thank God I am minimal maintenance. I have no need for a stack of nail colors, a lineup of sensual lipsticks, a pile of eye shadows or a collection of aromatic body washes. I give my body, may bank account, and my planet a cosmetic break. My beauty stash is made up of three items (foundation, rouge, and mascara) and my morning routine is about 3 minutes or less. My philosophy is: healthy skin does not need much improvement.
For details on bathroom follow these links:
How we stay cozy warm
If you have never lived in a van you may not appreciate how nicely climatized North American houses are. Vans are not. They get cold in winter and cold at night. That’s why most vanlifers must have heaters, especially those living in colder climates, like us.
Two of our heating systems turned disastrous. The first one called “hats and mits on” was no fun in bed, especially if the van temperature went to -5C (23F). The other one, a wood stove, although charming, turned out to be a pain in the b… . Now we are on a thermostat-adjustable diesel air heater. So far so good.
You will find more heating details in these posts.
- Planar heater installation
- Planar heater electrical
- Planar heater van logistics
- The charming wood stove
How we work on the road
Vanlife isn’t all about bumming around. Many vanlifers work on the road. Many work remotely. We do that too. We are digital nomads. We spend between 2 and 10 hours a day spreading messages about self-mastery.
Our computer and all digital gizmos are powered by our solar system. We have 600 W of solar panels on the roof. On a good day, our batteries are full by 10 am. On a cloudy day, we may stay below 100% charge until the sun comes out. Solar power is great, but not in all climates. We adjust our work hours to sunlight, energy, and internet availability.
To see installation details follow these links
If you want to catch us on the road and see our rig with your own eyes, here is our itinerary for this winter and here is our invite for RTR 2020. If you want to know exactly where we are, please drop your name here and become our Uthing Family.