Take a look at #vanlife on social media and you’ll see dreamy campsite views and perfect tiny homes. However, van life is definitely not all sunshines and butterflies. There are days where the van feels really small or you have to dump your own pee or you run out of water. I’ve compiled a list of the hardest parts of van life!
I have been living in a van and traveling the US with my partner for 7 months now. We have had an amazing time and have gone on so many adventures, but there are things that really get to us on the day to day. Read below to find out what we think are the worst parts of this lifestyle!
You Might Also Like These Posts
Table of Contents
Hardest Parts of Van Life
#1 Finding Places with Service to Work
Dylan and I both work full time from the van, which means that we need to have Wifi or cell service from Monday to Friday. However, we also try to spend as much time as we can outdoors, going on hikes and visiting national parks. Most of the areas that are more remote or natural often have little to no cell service. So that means we have to find other solutions during the week.
So, every single weekend we spend Sunday planning out our coming week. We usually aim to be in a campsite that we know has cell service, a small town with a coffee shop that has free wifi, or a public library in the area. Luckily, we have a cell signal booster on the roof of our van, so if there is cell service around it helps to make it even stronger.
We try to still make time for after work adventures, but sometimes that means we have to drive a bit further than we would otherwise. Many of my van friends will tell you that searching for service is a constant battle. Although after seeing some of the most beautiful places in the US this year, I really cannot complain at all.
#2 Long Days of Driving
Honestly, the drives themselves are not that bad and that alone would not be one of the hardest parts of van life. Dylan and I have gotten used to switching off drivers, driving down long stretches of highway, with podcasts, audio books, or music playing in the background. Sometimes its even a bit cathartic to drive down beautiful highways in the middle of nowhere. It’s the side effects of the long drives that are the worst part.
Some of the side effects of taking long drives that are the most noticeable are painful body aches, poor diet, and less free time. We often end up driving after work, so we don’t have time to workout or make a good healthy dinner. Over time, we have started to get better about driving less during the week, scheduling time for workouts, and coming up with creative, healthy snack ideas.
Unfortunately, we have not managed to figure out how to make driving less impactful on our bodies. Until we moved into the van, we didn’t realize the toll it would take on them. We purchased a theragun to use after hours of driving down the highway. If anyone has any good long drive tips, then let me know in the comments!
#3 Not Having a Restroom
You really don’t appreciate having a restroom until you don’t have one at all. Okay, admittedly, Dylan and I do have a toilet in our van, but it’s basically a glorified bucket. We only use it to pee and only when we have an emergency or there’s nowhere else to go. Otherwise, we are constantly searching for public restrooms to use. It can become a very difficult problem at times. We have definitely had more than a few close calls.
One of the things you have to get used to while living in a van is getting close and personal with your bodily fluids. After a week or so of leaving the toilet full, you start to smell the stench of pee. I have a controversial opinion, but old stagnant pee is way worse than any #2 smells. So eventually you will have to dump the toilet. There is truly no worse chore in the van than that. It’s one of the most unpleasant experiences.
If you noticed me saying we don’t have a restroom, then you may be thinking “what about a shower?” We have a convertible shower in the van and an outdoor shower. However, any shower we take in the van is very short, so that we don’t waste water. Taking a nice hot shower at a gym or a friend’s house is always a treat.
#4 Lack of Space
Okay, we definitely knew that this would be one of the hardest parts of van life going into it. I am not a minimalist, as much as I wish I was. I love having lots of clothing options and lots of things in my home that may come in handy. I had to seriously downsize my wardrobe and it was a struggle. When we do our laundry, my clothing kind of overflows. So I’m still trying to get better at it.
The other problem with the lack of space is that Dylan and I sometimes get into each others way. One of us will need to change and the other will need to grab something from their cupboards and we can’t do it at the same time. As the months have gone on, we have learned to communicate about the space and we usually take turns. However, there are still times when I just feel incredibly cramped. That’s when I know it’s time to head outside!
#5 Small Kitchen Space
One of Dylan’s and my favorite things to do together is to try new recipes. It’s a bit harder to do this in our van. We have three burners and one oven rack, so we can cook most things, however, it just gets super cramped in the van. It is hard to have both of us working on things at once, but we have managed to figure out some systems so that we can cook together.
Also, we are used to having all the fun appliances like air fryers and toaster ovens. However, we don’t have space in the van for those things. We don’t even have a freezer! So we have managed to become creative with a lot of recipes and go back to the basics. We fantasize about having a large kitchen again one day with all of the fun gadgets, but we still love our little van kitchen. We like seeing all the creative things we manage to do in our space.
Despite all of the annoyances and our grievances, we wouldn’t trade this life for anything else. All of the hard moments are worth it for the things we get to see and the adventures we get to take. We are so grateful to be living in a van and we would make this choice all over again!
Let me know in the comments if you think van life is still worth it!
📌 Pin 5 Hardest Parts of Van Life to Pinterest