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10 Things Nobody Tells You About Van Life

Hey! We're Lee and Kitt, a couple from the UK who decided to leave everything behind to pursue life in a micro-camper. We've been living in our Renault Kangoo for 3 months now and wanted to share some surprises and truths about van life! Did we miss any? Add them in the comments below!


Driving around the Dolomites

You will go a whole week without showering 


I know what you’re thinking, but believe me when I say showering every day is more hassle than it’s worth! Unless you have a van with an internal shower (and hot water!) then it’s likely you shower once or twice a week whilst living in a van. 


When we started living in our Renault Kangoo mini-camper 3 months ago, we kitted it out with a portable shower that uses your car lighter port as a means of pumping water out. It’s a nifty little shower, but truthfully, we haven’t used it once since living in our micro-camper full time! When the weather is nice, we use lakes, streams and public toilets/showers to get clean. This way, we are immersed in nature (half the time) and don’t need to use the precious water in our van’s water tank to shower!


Wild swimming in Heiterwanger See, Austria

As the days get colder, for us, we have relied more on baby wipes to get clean and the wild swimming has come to a firm halt. Showers through these weeks will be sought from public facilities, leisure centres, campsites and maybe a cold dip in the sea if we’re feeling super brave (and a bit mad!)


The answers to your questions are; no, it doesn’t get easier having fewer showers but yes, it is absolutely 100% worth it to be able to live our lives on the road and see incredible places on a budget like we do. 


‘Getting ready’ may become a thing of the past 


One thing I (Kitt) love about van life is the time I save not getting ready. This includes choosing an outfit, putting on makeup and doing my hair. Without an office job or any real social plans, there is no need for me to do this anymore! As liberating as this may sound, falling into a habit of wearing my ‘slob’ clothes every day doesn’t always make me feel good. 


It’s so easy for us to grab the same clothes each day that we wore the day before, as our clothes are stored in boxes under our bed and are not as easy to access as opening up a wardrobe. This being said, I have learned that I feel brighter and better about myself if I take the time to choose new clothes and keep to simple habits like moisturising daily. Implementing routines into our day that seem unnecessary whilst living in a van, really help us to feel good about ourselves in an otherwise messy way of living (I use the word ‘messy’ as cramming all of your belongings into a tiny space where you also eat and cook gets messy often!) 


Kitt getting ready in front of our magnetic van mirror

Something we have slowly realised is that choosing to live in a van isn’t a holiday, and that we should choose habits to help us sustain this new way of living for longer (FYI daily beers is something we are working on!) To conclude, do what makes you feel good, and do it for YOU!


Van life is a form of permanent exhaustion 


Something we have learnt over the last 3 months is that van life can be very tiring. Between finding a location to sleep in, being in a new destination each day, keeping the water tank filled up, hiking, travelling, keeping the van clean and working online, the hours in a day get pretty full! I’m not sure whether I spent more time cleaning when I lived in a house, or now! It sounds crazy, but keeping everything tidy and organised in such a tiny space is so important. You wouldn’t believe it but items can get lost so easily!


We love this way of living, but have learned that we need to take time to relax so that we don’t feel burned out. The ways we used to relax at home don’t exist in our new life such as watching TV or cooking together. Our Renault Kangoo is significantly smaller than most camper vans, and because of this cooking feels more like a chore than fun, so we tend to choose very simple and easy meals to prepare. You can read more about what we eat and our day-to-day van life here!


We know that being able to travel full time is a luxury and although tough at times, the challenges we face from living in a small van are incredible experiences that teach us so much about ourselves. 


You start to see water as a form of liquid-gold 


We use an app called ‘Water-Map’ to find free water in public locations to fill our water tank up. It’s amazing and it saves us so much money compared with buying water from the shop. Something you may hear often in the ‘van world’ is how sparingly people use water. It’s true! Leaving the tap running whilst brushing your teeth seems insane now, and shows us how wasteful we could be with water before. 


Filling up our water in beautiful Siusi, Dolomites

In addition to this, a luxury for us is HOT water! We went for a beer the other day, and when we came back from using the toilet there, we both turned to each other laughing and said ‘oh my gosh did you notice the hot water!’ How crazy is that! Many vans may have hot water, but for us we have been without it long enough for us to notice it in a pub toilet! Lastly, hot showers. The feeling of a hot shower is incredible nowadays. Van life really does make you appreciate the little things. 



You miss the days of having a sofa to relax on


This point only applies to vans that don’t have a comfortable seating area. Something we have both missed after spending 3 months on the road, is a comfy sofa. We usually sit on camp chairs, plastic boxes, or our bed when it’s set up. Though somehow, none of these choices compare to a proper sofa! Short and sweet, but very true. 


You are at the mercy of the ‘Weather Gods’


If you are prone to checking the weather, then you will do this a LOT living in a van. Lee and I are no strangers to a rainy walk and we would brave a storm to go out and get our hike in at home. In the van however, it is a different story. Getting your clothes wet and shoes muddy can make the van a pretty miserable place to be, especially when there’s no space or ventilation to allow the items to dry. Due to this, we tend to avoid hiking on bad weather days to preserve the comfort of the van.


Another task that is challenging in our Renault Kangoo is cooking in bad weather, since our kitchen is outside. We have since installed a tailgate tent and a side awning to maximise the amount of outside space we can use in bad weather. 


Making coffee before our hike to Tre Cime, Dolomites

In short, good weather makes van-living an absolute dream, and bad weather presents challenges. But hey, you have to roll with it! 


Everyone pees in the bush 


Some camper vans have a toilet and others don’t. Even in our mini-camper, we have a portable, collapsible toilet that we use for emergencies. You can read more about our day-to-day life including how/where we use the toilet here!


That being said, everyone pees in the bush. I’m sure there are some people who don’t, but generally, the ease of peeing in a bush from time to time to reduce how often you need to empty your waste is too tempting. 


Obtaining wifi, data and signal can be challenging whilst living on the road 


Following Brexit, using your mobile data in the rest of Europe as a Brit presents so many challenges! In a nutshell, pre-Brexit, Brits could generally use their entire data allowance in most EU countries without bother or extra charges. Now, we are slammed with ‘fair usage’ policies, which means that once an amount of data has been used (typically 12-25GB) in a month, we will be charged extra. Each phone provider is different and these rules are usually applied to new contracts taken out in 2022. 


It’s not all bad - there are a number of options for you! One budget option that has saved our bums is Holafly. Holafly offers eSIMs (sent to you as a QR code rather than a physical SIM) which contain data packages for selected countries. Check that your phone supports eSIMs, but as an example, you can get 90 days of unlimited data for around 80 GBP. This solution for obtaining data is far cheaper than many options we have seen elsewhere and the speed has been reliable. Please note, Holafly data packages do not allow tethering so hot spotting your laptop won’t work!


The van community is so friendly!


Before we started living in our micro-camper, we religiously followed many ‘van life’ accounts on social media to help us learn about what life might be like, and to provide some insight into what we were getting ourselves into. Since our journey began, we have befriended many others who live in their van, or simply have a van. Everybody is welcoming, rich with advice and happy to help a fellow traveller. It’s so reassuring. 


Even in park-ups, people have approached us to ask for something they may have run out of, and we have too. It’s a very lovely community to be a part of and one that we can learn so much from. 


Van life is better for the environment than house life 


It’s easy to assume van life may not be environmentally friendly, due to driving around a diesel-guzzling motor every day. When compared with our old lives living in a house, our footprint is far less harmful now that we live in a van. Around half of all our energy comes from our solar panel (which charges our portable battery), we are resourceful when it comes to our water usage, single-use plastics have been reduced significantly and we rarely eat meat since we have lived in the van. In addition to this, we never leave a trace in places that we park our van.


Eager to know more about our life on the road? Head to our YouTube! New series each week!



Interested to know what tried-and-tested items we have in our van? Check out our 'Van-Friendly Items'!


 

Some of the links featured in this blog are affiliate links. This means that we may make a few pennies if you decide to make a purchase through them, at no extra cost to you. This is one way in which we are trying to sustain our new life on the road and provide you with exciting content! Thank you!

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