How to Live Well in a Custom Van

Five things to consider before you wind up down by the river

By Evan Bleier

 
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14 July 2016

Matt Foley figured it out.

Scooby and Shaggy figured it out.

And Zach Both, he figured it out too.

After years of living in conventional homes and feeling something was lacking, they realized they were a special breed — van guys— destined to rest their heads each night in the same vehicles by which they traveled the road of life by day.

A photo posted by Zach Both (@zachboth) on


In order to help other like-minded individuals who were drawn to van living, Both, a filmmaker by trade, created an advice site called The Vanual that offers tips on “living a mobile lifestyle” as well as tips for converting a van into a camper.

A photo posted by Zach Both (@zachboth) on


If you’ve ever been tempted, here are five things to consider.

      1. What van do you want? Although Both considers classic VWs and conversion vans to be decent options, he prefers cargo vans because they are truly blank slates. Although the mileage isn’t great, cargo vans offer the most flexibility, use common parts and are built-to last.
      2. Can you afford to be a digital nomad? The downside of “vanlife” is that if your job requires you to be connected, you either need to purchase a good data plan and a mobile hotspot or leave yourself at the mercy of whatever unlocked wifi signal you can find. That said, do you really need to work? Both says van living is a bargain compared to living in an apartment, claiming he only spends $700 a month, including food and fun.
      3. Do you wanna shower at the gym every day? Unlike their high-class Airstream cousins, most vans are facility free, which means the best showering option for residents is the local gym. If the last time you wore shower sandals was in college, vanlife might not be for you.
      4. Can you sleep with stealth? Since it is frowned upon, if not straight-up illegal, to live in a van in many locales, it’s good practice to minimize your exposure, according to Both. He advises finding a “night spot” that you only drive to when you’re ready to sleep and also recommends taking advantage of parking lots for 24-hour businesses like Walmart. (Sounds glamorous, doesn't it?)
      5. Are you a van guy? Do the advantages of life on the road — simplicity, affordability freedom — outweigh the potential inconveniences, career ramifications and road rage incidents you may experience? If the answer is “Yes,” it maybe it’s time to hit up Autotrader.

A photo posted by Zach Both (@zachboth) on


Head to The Vanual for more of Both's insights and for van conversion tips, this is the ticket.

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