10 vanlife challenges
you didn't know these organizations are solving
Taking the leap to life on the road can be intimidating. From building the right vehicle to navigating a lifestyle which, by design, is full of unknowns, the journey before and during is often a daunting one. As vanlifers ourselves, we know this too well. But we also know that in the end, it’s all worth it — and you’ll most likely hear all of us nomads praising the community for it.
Why? Because the vanlife movement is supported by outstanding people, many of whom have spent years on the road, navigating through all the downsides you may be experiencing for the first time. Some have decided to help address those pain points — leading to innovative solutions, dedicated organizations and rich blogs full of tips and tricks for everyone to read about.
In that spirit, we partnered with Kift, a community-owned and run project solving for some of vanlife’s biggest challenges, to present you a list of 10 challenges you probably didn’t know these organizations are working on solving. Enjoy the read!
1. Finding and building a rolling home… where do I even start?This first one is pretty obvious, but it’s such a massive undertaking for anyone who wants to go the DIY route. What vehicle should you choose? And how will you build it? There are so many things to consider… We wanted to share one of our favorite resources out there to get started. Jayme and John (aka Gnomad Home) moved into their van in 2016, and have put together one of the most complete guides out there for newbies who don’t know where to start.
2. Home is where you park it... how cool. But where exactly can I park?Another obvious, but nonetheless important one: once you hit the road, how will you know where you can stay, or plan your trip ahead? You may have heard you can stay legally for free in National Forests and BLM (Bureau of Land Management), but where exactly? And what about all those States where there’s little to no options? What about campgrounds? Are all Walmart parking lots opened to campers throughout North America (hint: it’s not)?
3. Fighting loneliness: I’m doing solo vanlife, but don’t want to be aloneA lot of us took the leap to live on the road full time on our own — and so did I. One day, I decided to just go for it… While it’s still one of the best decisions I have ever made, it can be challenging at times. One of the most recurring themes amongst us is when solitude turns into loneliness, which inevitably happens. Mental health is of primary importance, and having such a vibrant community at your fingertips is a real asset! We’ve mentioned Sēkr, which is on a mission to gather this community together, through social profiles on the app and connecting everyone through events throughout the year and across the country.
- Prescott Valley, Arizona
- Joshua Tree, California
- Lakeport, California
- Sandy, Oregon
- Zion, Utah
- Discovery Bay, Washington
4. Reliable infrastructure for your work life on the road
One question we get a lot is how we afford a life on the road. While we’re obviously saving quite a chunk of money not spending it on rent, nothing comes for free, and most of us have jobs, whether seasonal, part-time or full-time. Here’s a list of jobs commonly done on the road published by Kirsten on her widely acclaimed blog Bearfoot Theory. A lot of these jobs will most likely require a reliable service if not wifi, not to mention a steady routine being primordial in anyone’s productivity.
Here again, Kift addressed these points to provide its members with the best possible infrastructure you could dream of, while still living in your van! Their community houses are all stocked with plant-based food, great wifi, co-working spaces, and a thriving community to share it with. Your dream of living and working from anywhere while being close to nature and part of a like-minded community is closer than ever!
Picture © Kift
5. Life on the road as a solo female travelerHaving been a solo female on the road for 5 years, this one’s close to my heart. It is not nearly as scary as people tend to think — actually it’s very empowering and freeing… but it can be challenging at times, and it requires some preparation. Kirsten put together a list of safety tips for solo female vanlife on Bearfoot Theory, which I’ve found to be very helpful and accurate.
Picture © Kift
6. Barriers to entry for BIPOCLet’s face it, the outdoors industry has historically been (and still is) dominated by white males, and is culturally defined by Eurocentric history — starting with the stolen lands we’re roaming on. The vanlife movement is no different, having been portrayed as a lifestyle only accessible to those with privilege, or the able-bodied. Underrepresentation, inaccessibility and exclusion in the outdoors creates threatening spaces for minorities.
7. The more the crappier: keeping our lands clean and wildIf you’ve been on the road for a few years, you must have experienced the upsetting sight of trashed camp spots. The pandemic increased our population considerably, and so did our impact. It sometimes feels like it’s irreversible.
Picture © Leave No Trace
8. How am I supposed to fit my entire house in a van?Well, I’m glad you asked — you’re not, because it won’t. Moving into a vehicle means downsizing, which isn’t as simple as choosing what you’ll leave behind. You’ll need to optimize for your new space, and opt for better adapted solutions for your everyday needs.
9. How can I limit waste on the road?Another thing we get asked a lot, is how to optimize waste management on the road. Our best answer is that the less waste you create, the easier it’ll be to manage it. We have been partnering with some of our favorite brands to help us define a collection of reusable products to help you limit single-use as much as possible.
Picture © Leave No Trace
10. Is there such a thing as toilets on the road?Last but not least, the million-dollar question: what about #2 on the go… let alone #1? It’s on top of everyone’s mind when they’re building their home-on-wheels, as it should be. There is not one answer to this question as everyone’s different and very much particular one this topic. Katie and Ben wrote a very helpful article on this topic on their great blog Two Wandering Soles, which goes through all the various solutions that exist, as well as the pros and cons for each:
"Taking the leap to life on the road can be intimidating but in the end, it’s all worth it — and you’ll most likely hear all of us nomads praising the community for it."
There are many more challenges we haven’t discussed here… let us know more downsides you’ve experienced, and the solutions you’ve found in the comments below — we'd love to know.
See you on the road!