How to Live in a Van and Travel: Freedom, Vanlife, and the 21st Century Nomad

Excuse me, sir, ma’am, do you have a second to talk about freedom?

That’s why we travel, right? Sure, maybe it starts as an escape. Maybe your ex trashed you so you ran away from all those delicious problems (don’t feel bad; it’s a common story).

Maybe the looming threat of your tertiary education commitments was rearing its ugly head so you decided to delay.

Maybe you wanted to ‘find yourself’.

Whatever your reasons, the outcome was the same. You left… And then you caught the bug.

Now that I know how to be free, how can I choose to put myself back in the cage?

Excuse me, sir, ma’am do you have a second to talk about van life?

A van camping setup under a sunset

You’ve piqued my curiosity…

There’s something pure about van travel. You’ll have to peel back the layers first: the trashy Instagram hashtags. The ‘polyamorous’ douchebags competing for level-10 gipsy status to sleep with cute hippy chicks at psytrance festivals.

Peel that shit back first and what do you find? Freedom: a sincere desire to simply live freely. Travelling in a van, or any form of motorhome for that matter, is not a lifestyle: it’s an answer.

Less is more.

So let’s talk about that. Let’s talk about why you should live and travel in a van. Let’s talks about the ins and outs of travelling in a motorhome: a beginner’s tips and hacks guide for campervan travel. And let’s talk about travelling the world in a campervan: the best countries to go and how to acquire your new roots-less home.

We’re talking van life.

A van camping setup under a sunset

But sir, what is van life?

 

Vanlife: Let’s Paint a Picture of the Van Travel Lifestyle

Right, so that was soppy – sorry folks! Here’s the deal: it’s a house on wheels. Let me reiterate that for you.

It’s a house on wheels.

Yeah sure, it may not be a very big house. But, look, if your biggest concern is not being able to take much stuff, then, mate… the traveller lifestyle might not be for you.

Let’s call it nomadic van living (just to separate it from actual nomadic living in which if you didn’t move, then winter came and you died). Living out of a van means living out of a home with wheels. Think about that for a sec.

If you run out of milk, you don’t have to leave the house to buy milk. You take the house with you to buy milk.

That’s fucking sick.

A van travelling into a desert sun

Forgot the eggs, brb.

There’s a new level of freedom that comes from travelling the country in an RV, campervan, or even one of the cars with the fold-out tents on the roof (they’re awesome; I’ve seen Wicked Campers in New Zealand do them). Do you know what a common thought for me is while staring out the window on a bus ride? “That’s a nice mountain; I wish I could go climb it.” 

Ta-dah! Traveller vans to the rescue.

And, to be a little bit real for a second, I do think it’s an answer. We’re in a time where we are – possibly, hopefully, maybe – starting to look at the traditional model of ‘How to Adult – 101’ and saying: Maybe, there’s another way. Maybe we don’t need all the things we thought we did.

I’d say it’s an experiment. You travel in a van, living in a motorhome, and you have an adventure. One way or another, you come away with a new perspective. And, if you’re built for it, maybe you come away with a whole new model for life.

 

Why Travel and Live in a Van or RV

Let’s talk specifics, not quasi-philosophical ramblings. What are the benefits of travelling in a van or RV?

I mean, there’s the ease of buying groceries, obviously, but there’s more to motorhome travel than just that:

  • There’s the obvious financial benefit. Your mileage (hah) will vary depending on your style. A family of four living and travelling in a full-power RV and staying at powered holiday parks are going to have a very different cost-footprint than two dirtbags travelling in a van and staying in the driveway of someone called Possum Joe. But, you can’t say rolling your transport and accommodation costs into one while cooking for yourself doesn’t help!
  • You can go anywhere! Unless the road ends in which case you get out and walk. Campervan travel changes the landscape of your adventure, but I’ll save that for when I talk about the best countries to campervan in.
  • You can pick up hitchhikers! Ahh, thank you, much appreciated! My people thank you in advance.
  • There is, of course, the art of minimalism. How low you go is up to you: living in an RV vs. van vs. hatchback Prius all offer different lifestyles. But it’s a middle-point between having what fits in your house and having what fits on your back.
  • It offers freedom of movement. That’s why I call it nomadic van living. It’s like the next evolution up from nomadic horse living on the tech-tree-of-life. Stay, go, settle, cross the country; it’s all your choice. The only difference is that motorhomes breakdown. But, then, horses die.
  • And, of course, it allows you to shift to a more nomadic lifestyle. At a certain point, travelling in a van becomes synonymous with living in a van…
Turn your van into the ultimate leisure travel machine

It’s got a bed, a poopbox, a washing line, and even the kitchen sink!

 

Living in a Van: From Part-Time to Full-Time

This is what I’m talking about: what starts as toes dipped in the water of motorhome travelling turns into the full immersion of motorhome living. You start off travelling in an RV or campervan around Australia or New Zealand and suddenly you’re reexamining your whole model of life. Suddenly, living out of a van doesn’t seem like such an alien concept.

You start looking at your life. Maybe I don’t need so many possessions. Maybe I don’t need the weekly depression of rent day.

Suddenly, yes, van life is worth it.

Your career aspirations change; you’ve realised just how many jobs can be done while staying in a campervan. How much freedom is open to you when your cost of living has drastically reduced and your office can be any old breathtaking view.

And, suddenly, you’re a digital nomad.

Live the digital nomad lifestyle out of a van full time

Just checkin’ my emails.

Now, a deep-dive into the digital nomad lifestyle is a whole other can of worms and it’s not really my point either. My point is simply that these things tend to go way further and way deeper than we can often imagine. And that many people have created a sustainable (and fulfilling) life model around living in a van or RV full-time and earning money as they travel.

But that’s long term! Don’t get ahead of yourself, buddy. Take your time; patience is good!

First, you need to get out there and experiment with motorhome travel! You need to see if it’s your holy grail. You need to dip your toes in and that means choosing and acquiring your traveller van.

 

Staying in a campervan in an enchanted woods

Also checking my emails… #digitalnomadvanlife.

 

The Best Travel Backpack?!

Pssssst! Not picked the perfect travel backpack yet? The Broke Backpacker team has tried out over thirty backpacks this year! Our favourite carry on backpack is the Nomatic Travel Backpack.

Check out this post to read our full review!

 

How to Live in a Van and Travel

Ok, so I’ve convinced you, yeah? On the awesomeness of van life? Not pressured, mind you; you’re still in control here. I don’t want to talk you into doing anything you don’t want to do…

But, you’re ready: ready for the adventure of travelling the world in a campervan – the full-time RV lifestyle! You’re ready to start thinking about buying your first campervan.

Whoa, Nelly! Slow down there, sexy-legs! I know you’re excited but even buying the cheapest of camper vans is a big and expensive commitment for a lifestyle you don’t know if you’re ready for yet. Jumping in feet-first is commendable but jumping in head-first into an unknown body of water is just bloody stupid!

A selection of different types of motorhomes

What’s your flavour?

Let’s start small with finding the right van to travel in so you can decide if van life is worth it for you. Then, if it’s everything you’ve dreamed of (psst, it will be), you can make the shift to living in a campervan permanently.

So, step 1: finding the right type of motorhome for you. I stress the word motorhome because, as you may have noticed, you have a wide range of options and the different terms get thrown around somewhat interchangeably.

 

Types of Motorhomes

Think of choosing your motorhome like choosing a travel buddy. If you choose well, the vibe is good and you’ll have a long grand adventure together with lifelong cherished memories. But choose poorly and you’ll end up ditching them on the side of the road and hitchhiking in the opposite direction.

Type of MotorhomePros and ConsDeetz
Converted Travel Van+It’s your baby
+Can be super cheap (depending on you)
-Can also go very wrong (depending on you)
-A lot of work
For the best travel van that suits all your gypsy needs, there’s DIY conversion. Take a van (old tradie vans are great for this) and convert it.
Class B Motorhome (i.e. a campervan)+Ready for adventures out of the proverbial packaging (plus a toilet)
+Still, more-or-less, van sized
-Expensive to purchase
A solid, comfy traveller van usually with a lot more headroom. These are the pimped-out roomy-ass vans you’ve seen driving around during your travels. The ones that make you go: “Oh, I want one!”
Class C Motorhome (i.e. an RV)+Nomadic comfort living
+Still not ungodly huge
-Very expensive to purchase
-Stricter maintenance requirements
The next rung above campervans, RV travel offers more luxuries. Comfier bed, bigger kitchen, easier pooping: living in an RV and travelling the country is where you’re really starting to approach ‘house-on-wheels’ territory.
Camper Trailer+Less commitment to the campervan lifestyle
+Detachable so you still have a car
-You’re always driving with a trailer
-Less storage options
A camper trailer that pops up to make a big tent/caravan/portable home type deal. Not my preferred option but then I’m a bit of a sucker for the fairytale van life.
Once you've picked the right type of motorhome, pimp it out

That is definitely my flavour! | Photo: @themanwiththetinyguitar

 

Choosing a Van for Travel: How to Find the Best Motorhome for You

Well, what are your needs? What are your likes and dislikes? How good are you at reversing?

These are the important questions you must ask yourself. The number one tip for van living is that it’s gotta feel like home.

  • Travel camper trailers, for a start, have no appeal to me. Lugging a trailer around everywhere in my journeys is unwieldy. But for someone who doesn’t want to make a full-time lifestyle commitment to RV or campervan travel, a camper trailer means you get to still have a car and a home and you can park the thing in your yard when you’re not off adventuring.
  • A converted travel van is the DIY option for the DIY mindset. Seriously, I’ve watched friends go to town on their DIY van conversion and it’s a marvel to behold – a power tool in one hand and WikiHow in the other. If full-time van life is something you ultimately commit to, I feel this the best option because you’re in control; who needs a loving committed relationship and a beautiful family to raise when you have a van! Backpackers in Australia and New Zealand often invest in buying a cheap van at the beginning of a year-long work visa but for shorter trips, budget campervan hire tends to be a much smarter route.
  • Class C Motorhomes (RVs) provide more luxury; let’s call it the family meal deal. RV travel offers more creature comforts at the cost of higher living expenses making it the top choice with families and grey nomads. But, if your travelling with a big group or just have a soft spot for the luxury road trip experience, RV rental might just be right up your alley.
  • Class B Motorhomes (campervans) are the bang-on choice for travellers fresh to the van travel game. Not too big; not too small: just right (just like a certain narcissistic, little blonde girl’s porridge). For someone looking to dip their toes into van camping and see if this whole van life thing stacks up to the hype, this is the sweet spot.

But, that leaves one last question: how do you acquire your new transient home?

The cheapest vans may not necessarily be the best

Maybe less my flavour.

 

Rent or Buy – Travel Van Rental: The Advantages of Campervan Hire

Ok, so let’s level with each other: buying a motorhome is expensive! The outright cost is enough to make any broke backpacker curl into the foetal position on the floor and that’s before you add in the insurance and registration costs plus the rising fuel prices in an ever-increasingly unstable global community. 

You’d be better of buying a station wagon and crashing at your mum’s house on laundry/shower day, though, I feel that sorta defeats the purpose of the fully-independent, ‘fuck the man’ nomadic van living lifestyle.

Here’s van living tip number two: don’t buy a motorhome until you know that it’s right for you. I’m talking about using campervan hire as your jumping-off point.

Wicked Campers are the best choice for budget campervan hire in Australia and New Zealand

The classical choice in budget campervan hire.

There are a lot of ways to travel a country but I’d imagine we all have a soft spot for having our own vehicle. And, truthfully, a campervan is simply a better way to travel some countries (looking at you, America). Sometimes, public transport sucks; sometimes we want to go far out, and, sometimes, we don’t want to pay 50 bucks for what amounts to 12-hour bag storage and mattress rental (with complimentary white bread for breakfast).

The Great Australian Road Trip is a dream-journey of many travellers I meet (I’m not sure why; I don’t think you realise how boring our roads are). And road trips are fun! Talking shit with your mates, good tunes, smoking ciggies at isolated lookouts (wink-wink): road trips are the best!

It doesn’t mean that one day you won’t have the holy grail converted traveller van but the best way to start that big journey is with a little step. Hire a motorhome, have an adventure in any of the best countries to campervan in, and once you know how to live in a van and travel, you’ll know if the van life is right for you.

 

Start off with an RV or campervan rental and work up from there

Oh, the places you’ll go.

 

The Best Countries for RV and Campervan Travel

You’re going to notice a common theme with most of the countries on this van travel bucket list: they’re costly to travel with plenty of ground to cover. 

That’s why by choosing to travel in a cheap van or RV rental, you’re going to please the backpacking budget Gods. Now, don’t misunderstand. You’re not going to cut your Europe expenses down to the level of Southeast Asia but taking all our usual tricks-of-the-trade backpacker secrets and applying them while living out of a van certainly helps.

The other recurring theme? They have nice roads to drive on! Picturesque and long and fast.

Mount Cook in New Zealnd: one of the best countries to campervan in

Get used to this view.

You’re still on an adventure. Spend some money, live a little! You know that 2000-year-old tree in the middle of buttfuck-nowhere… you have a house with wheels! Go see it!

Again, you’re driving a campervan. You’re in control.

We are freedom.

 

Australia RV and Campervan Travel: Whole Lotta Nothin’

Ok, so there is actually a lot to see in Australia. From the east coast’s tropics and beaches to the rugged solitude of the west it’s fair to say that you’ll find something you vibe with amongst Australia’s massive scope. And if you get down to Tassie, that shit will blow your mind right open.

Only, Australia is big. And the roads are long and straight. Notice how you never meet anyone who says they circumnavigated Australia twice?

Travelling around Australia in a motorhome is the way to go. Travelling and living in a campervan is a good antidote to the high prices of everything and, given the country’s lacklustre public transport services, is also the best way to see everything

There’s such a campervan culture in Australia (and New Zealand) with backpackers that vans are being bought, sold, and traded for weed all the time so buying is a viable option. Of course, the thing about buying a backpacker van is that one minute everything is hunky-dory and then the next your broken down in the middle of the Nullarbor Plain with black smoke spewing from both ends (of the van… not you… you should get that checked). Also, our insurance and rego costs are daylight robbery.

One tip for a campervan in Australia is to take plenty of water into the outback

Yup, sounds like Australia.

Of course, you can – and should for trips on a shorter itinerary –  go for a budget campervan hire in Australia. What’s the best campervan hire in Australia? Easy, Wicked Campers.

Wicked Campers Australia have been around serving backpackers for a long-long time so they know their clientele well. Even back in Byron Bay almost twenty years ago I remember always seeing scores of Wicked Camper vans parked at the beach. Usually, with some dirty joke and spray-art on the side that my prepubescent mind couldn’t comprehend.

They do cheap campervan hire in Australia and they’ve been around for almost two decades so they’re probably doing something right!

Check Out Wicked Campers in Oz

 

New Zealand RV and Campervan Travel: The Real Aotearoa

It’s fairly comparable to campervan travel in Australia but with less roadside drug testing and you can cross the country in about six fewer days. Oh, and petrol is more expensive!

New Zealand’s campervan travel culture is so booming that we even wrote a sweet van travel guide just for it – you’re welcome!

Everything aside, New Zealand is gorgeous. Like, ‘I’m having transcendental moments from watching a sunset’ gorgeous. There’s so much to explore in every tucked-away corner and then you cross the ferry to South Island and New Zealand is all like: Welcome to New Game Plus.

Public transport is meh and hitchhiking is traditionally the gold-standard but to truly get lost in Aotearoa (The Land of the Long White Cloud) driving a campervan is the way to go. It’s kind of hard to put into words the true majesty of traversing New Zealand’s natural landscape. Can we just say that it did things to my soul and leave it at that?

Tips for a campervan in New Zeland: keep your eyes peeled for sheep

Sometimes there’s traffic…

So, what about cheap campervan hire in New Zealand? Well, you’ve got Wicked Campers New Zealand (yes, same guys obviously) who are also probably the best campervan hire in New Zealand. Seriously, I can’t stress Wicked Campers enough for budget campervans in New Zealand and Australia. RVs, mini-campers, minibuses too – they know they’re way around.

Be careful, though: if you start living in a van in New Zealand, you may decide that your travelling days are over.

Check Out Wicked Campers in NZ

 

Japan RV and Campervan Travel: Ore No Daibouken!

Once upon a time, this may have been considered a weird entry on this list. Maybe it still surprises you.

It’s not that your transport options in Japan aren’t excellent (because they are) but a road trip in Japan by campervan is still an amazing way to see the country, and there’s loads to see. Once you’ve broken off the main roads into the mountains, forests, and villages, you’ll see why.

The downside to campervan travel in Japan is that petrol is pricey and the tolls on expressways (the country’s primary road infrastructure) are a nightmare. The upshot is living off home-cooked tofu stirfry is ridiculously cheap and the Japanese are some of the most patient and courteous drivers you will ever encounter.

Campervan and RV rental will let you explore Japan's landscape more freely

I’m seeing the appeal of a van in Japan…

So what about campervan hire in Japan? I mean, you could buy one outright but somehow I imagine that could get confusing. Well, guess what? For campervan rental in Japan, you’ve got Wicked Campers again! To be honest, I didn’t even know that until I wrote this article.

If you’re thinking you’d like to partake in a road trip somewhere other than the standard destinations, I would highly suggest going for a Japanese campervan journey. Japan is still fairly unused to nomadic van living so you can get away with a few more sneaky overnight parks then you would elsewhere and if you want to travel off the beaten track – Shikoku or most definitely Hokkaido is the place to go for van travel – you’ll be a fan of a van in Japan… man.

Check Out Wicked Campers in Japan

 

USA RV and Campervan Travel: The Good, the Bad, and the Not-So-Ugly

I mean, there are fifty states so campervan travel in the USA is a pretty damn good way of seeing them all (although Alaska and Hawaii may take some tricky planning to reach by car). Road trips in the USA, from the east coast to the west coast, are so quintessential that we actually have multiple regional guides on the subject – you’re super welcome!

Look, here’s a picture of the American wilderness:

A budget campervan is the way to travel the USA

Yum.

Now does a campervan road trip in the USA make sense? The American landscape is so majestic that even just seeing an old Spaghetti Western gives me them wanderlust vibes – and that is a term that I loathe and do not use lightly!

So, let’s talk campervan hire in the USA! I mean… you could buy one off of Craigslist but you might get shot.

For cheap campervan and RV rental in the USA, check out Outdoorsy. It’s another takeoff in the sharing economy; you’re renting motorhomes of actual humans with actual thoughts and feelings and lives. I gotta be honest: that’s seriously dope.

For budget campervan rental in the USA, Outdoorsy is the go. Then you can go and have your own 21st-century Spaghetti Western!

Oh, plus there’s all that legendary rock climbing in the States. You want a van for that shit.

Check Out Outdoorsy in the States

 

Canada RV and Campervan Travel: A Little Drive Aboot

To the north of the States is another big-ass country filled with gorgeous nature and lovely people who get weirdly offended whenever I drop the C-bomb. Cultural differences aside, Canada makes the list of the essential ‘Great Roadtrip’ countries.

The Canada RV and campervan game is strong. It might have something to do with the expansive wilderness simply built for van life. Well, it would be fairer to say that van life was built for the expansive Canadian wilderness.

Anyway, forget the split hairs! The Canadian campervan holiday is the best way to truly get lost there. But you’re getting quite far north. By which I mean, it’s getting cold. You’ll want to get the best travel van you can (with some damn proper insulation).

Travelling Canada in a campervan means getting closer to the wildlife

Bear-proof is also a wise decision.

Outdoorsy, once again, is the top pick for cheap campervan and RV rental in Canada. It’s all about that sharing economy!

Find yourself a budget campervan to hire in Canada (ideally with good insulation) and go find a moose! Why a moose? I dunno, I’ve just always wanted to see a wild moose!

Check Out Outdoorsy in Canada

 

Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan RV and Campervan Travel: Meet Stan

See, told you I’d give you some interesting choices! Have you heard of the Pamir Highway? Probably not… I hadn’t either until one of my fellow Broke Backpacker Adventure Experts told me it was the perfect place for a non-standard campervan road trip.

And he’s right! The Pamir Highway is gorgeous! Officially it’s called the M41 Highway (but nobody calls it that) and it runs from the city of Osh in Kyrgyzstan down into and through Tajikistan. Hell, if you’re feeling super adventurous, you can keep driving it into Uzbekistan and Afghanistan!

In all honesty, the scope of Central Asia is breathtaking. It’s huge, there is so much space, and it is still vastly untouched by the hand of western tourism. If you’re looking for a van life adventure that really is ‘off the beaten track’, it’s the way to go.

The Pamir Highway is an exciting destination for anyone travelling the world by campervan

The roads may be a splash more challenging than New Zealand. | image source: Alj87 (Wikicommons)

How do you acquire a campervan over that way? Well, you’re outside the scope of most of the standard budget campervan hire services but you still have options. One of the highly recommended options is Iron Horse Nomads in Kyrgyzstan. Owned and run by a couple of ex-pats, these guys can get you sorted for transport around the Stans.

Or you could just charge it: catch a flight over and hope for the best. Worst case scenario, you just buy a horse!

Check Out Iron Horse Nomads in Stan

Want to save the world? Single-use plastic bottles are a huge threat to Marine Life – Be a part of the solution and travel with a filter water bottle.

The GRAYL GEOPRESS water bottle is the ONLY all-in-one filter water bottle setup you’ll need. Whether you need to purify the water from a hostel sink in Kathmandu or a stream trickle in the Andes, the Geopress has got you covered.

 

Europe RV and Campervan Travel: Home of the Autobahn

“Europe isn’t a country!”  Shut-up, dude; nobody cares. It still counts.

An RV or campervan in Europe goes a long way towards getting you around; there is a lot to see there. It’s also expensive as all hell (on the western side) so travelling in a motorhome is also going to go a long way towards keeping your budget in check.

The cool thing about a campervan road trip in Europe is all the countries you’ll visit. By the time you’re done, you’re reasonably looking at 5 to 10 different countries (at least). That’s a lot of unique cultures, languages, landscapes, and… food! All those accommodation cost savings? Yeah, just put them towards eating your way across Europe!

Campervan hire in Europe make for some fun roads to drive

So. Much. Fun! | image source: Srdjan Marincic (Wikicommons)

So, what are your options for cheap campervan and RV hire in Europe? Well, there’s CamperTravel Bookings. They have great coverage right across Europe (in case you forgot, there are a lot of different places in Europe) and they’re cheap with lots of different rental options.

Europe is a bit of a funny one for van travel. When it comes to the idealised road trip, it often gets left behind. But with such great options for budget campervan and RV rental in Europe, it’s becoming a more sought-after destination.

Plus, the roads, man! So big, so fast, so furious, and so damn pretty! Arrgghh van life, yes!

Check Out CamperTravel Bookings in the EU

 

Stealth van living by the beach

Stealth van living by the beach.

Need rental insurance for your RV? RentalCover.com has got your back. Their policies include all the common damages at a fraction of the price you’ll get at the rental desk! Get your quote now.

 

Vanlife Tips 101: Your Beginner’s RV and Campervan Travel Guide

So, it’s as simple as finding the best van for your new van life and you’re away, right? With that sort of simplicity, you could be living and sleeping in a campervan within a week. Nay, good sir! Campervan life requires more finesse than that.

Do you remember how the first time you left on a backpacking adventure you packed like a dickhead? But then, you repeated the process and, every time, you got better. The question of what to take in a campervan and even how to live and travel in a van is the same.

It’s all about practice.

A camping setup of some full time RV lifestyle experts

The more you do it, the better you get.

You’re starting out – be it your first budget RV rental or your first converted traveller van purchase – and that makes you a beginner. That’s fine though, that means you’re only going to get better: it’s all practice!

And besides, you’ve nabbed yourself a campervan and RV travel guide 101 filled with tips for beginners. Let’s talk about finesse!

 

The RV Travel Lifestyle: What to Expect from Travelling in a Motorhome

Before I give you the bullet point list of deliciously digestible tips, let’s talk about the actual ins-and-outs of campervan and RV lifestyle. Whether you’re going on your first great campervan road trip or experimenting with living in an RV full-time, it’s not all about freedom and good shots for your socials.

First up, there’s adulting. There’s always adulting. Just because you’re living out of a van doesn’t mean you’re not an adult!

Chores are a big part of van life. You know how when you live in a really small flat even not washing the dishes kills those rocking feng-shui vibes. Well, it’s the same deal in a van only multiplied by fifty: it’s a small space.

Kitchen cleanup, sweeping out the dirt, changing the grey and sewerage water, making your bed… don’t forget to brush your teeth too! Living in a campervan permanently still means being a good homemaker. And if it’s travelling and living in an RV, you’ve just doubled up on your chores and maintenance schedule.

The van travel lifestyle still demands a certain level of adult resposibilities

Feng Shui Levels: Shaggin’ Wagon | image source: dave_7 (Flickr)

That’s another important point to touch on – maintenance and breakdowns. If you’re not a gear-headed person, prepare to learn. Rolling into the mechanic’s every time you hear an odd noise is going to severely hurt your budget. I’ve watched mates brand new to the van living game teach themselves welding, change windows, and play with their vehicle’s electronics all with the assistance of our benevolent overseer Google: that shows a good mind.

It’s also worth mentioning cops. Mileage varies depending on how many laws you’re breaking (aim for less than five) but you will always be in closer proximity to the coppers. And – I think it goes without saying – losing your licence is a death sentence to your van life.

The idea of pulling over anywhere anytime is super appealing but it’s also hardly the case, especially in urban environments. Overnight parking and sleeping in a campervan is something cracked-down on, especially in our good ol’ friend, the affluent West, though the ferocity of revenue-raising tactics varies by area. 

Stealth van living is an acquired art form and something you will gradually get better at over time. Again, it’s about finesse.

One tip for a campervan in Australia is to take plenty of water into the outback

You should always have emergency cash hidden on you – pick up this awesome security belt with its hidden pocket before you travel, it’s perfect for hiding money, a passport photocopy.

GET IT HERE

 

RV and Campervan Hacks for Travelling

Everyone likes a good hack! Here are some practical tips for beginner RV and campervan travel. A few bits to keep you travelling smooth until you’re a van life pro!

  • Bring tools – Have a solid supply of tools to work with stored somewhere inside your campervan – everything that’s good for an emergency. A well-stocked toolbox, duct tape (definitely), spare fuses – put some effort into your motorhome checklist! Check out our mega camping checklist for some ideas and definitely check out our roundup of the best headlamps because that is a must-must-must.
  • Van and RV camping apps – There are actually tonnes of these and many that are region-specific (like CamperMate for Australia and New Zealand) They’ll help you suss out good camping spots to set up your van at from the free to the ‘Why am I paying $35 for cold shower and shit-pit usage?’
  • Utilise 24-hour stores and petrol stations – They can be a really good place for staying overnight in a campervan. Buy some supplies and then ask the attendant if they mind if you hang around until the sun is up. Or don’t ask and just look scary and unapproachable and they’ll probably leave you alone. Face tats help with that.
  • For the ladies – Get yourself a GoGirl – it makes girls pee like boys! I won’t give you a how-to but I reckon you can figure it out. Jokes aside, it’s honestly a really important safety tip. The reason animals are so cautious when and where they do their thang is because they’re vulnerable while they do and it’s the same for people… unless you have face tats.
  • Clear storage bins – And for any other containers you use for storage, clear plastic is the way to go. Not having to unpack everything to find what you’re looking for goes a long way when you’re van living.
  • Anti-moisture packs – The desiccant ones (of the ‘DO NOT EAT’ variety) that come in just about any sorta packaging and fresh packets of burrito wraps. Use them for keeping away the damp in your campervan’s storage. But, yeah, don’t eat them.
  • Grippy rubber mats – Yeah, look, I have no idea what these are called. These ones! Stick them under your plates, cups, condiments, and whatever else so they don’t slide around on the road.
Stealth van living is something you will get better at with time

Stealth van living is something you will get better at with time.

 

 RV and Campervan Travel Tips for Staying Sane and Not Killing Each Other

Practical tips are good but what about mindset tips for van life? If you’re travelling with someone, there’s always the off-chance that you’ll get sick of them off and drive off the next time they’re using a petrol station toilet. If you’re travelling alone, well, sometimes the hermit’s path can send us a bit loopy:

  • Keep structure – The most important part about freedom is not having too much of it; constraints are good. Set an alarm, have a morning routine, write a to-do list; these things go a long way for keeping you focused.
  • Exercise – Similarly, keeping a routine of steady exercise is equally important. Many people like to join a 24-hour gym chain which has the added bonus of shower usage (that’s a van life hack). That said, if you’ve ever watched a Youtube video on callisthenics, you know that any old park or tree can be a gym!
  • Keep a tight ship – A more-or-less no-brainer but take control of your space, keep it clean, and keep the feng shui on-point.
  • Meet ‘n’ greet – Use the nights you stay at campsites, backpackers, or wherever else to make friends. Socialising is good! It can’t all be a stoic monk living in a van.
  • Take space – For travel buddies and partners, take some damn space from each other sometimes. It’s basic relationshipping 101. It’s totally ok to have days where everything they say and do makes you want to kick them in the shins but the healthy response is to go for a long walk (up a mountain).
  • Bang it out – For every great fight, there must be a great catharsis. If we’re talking a platonic travel buddy, maybe just roll a joint on it.
  • The traveller mindset – Always remember to don your traveller hat. “What’s a ‘problem’? I only know of  ‘fun challenges’. That person looks friendly, I’ll ask for help.”
Remember to take space from your buddy when travelling in a van together

Last night I strongly considered smothering you in your sleep.

 

Get Insured Before Embarking on Your Van Travelling Adventure

Oh, so you got some legally mandated vehicular insurance? Well, that’s a good start but what about some optional insurance for your anatomical features? Your face, your spine, your favourite bits…

You’re going travelling in a van and that means getting travel insurance before you do because, like it or not, things go wrong. And when they do, someone has to pick up the tab. Personally, I’d prefer that someone be a faceless insurance corporation with the cash to spare rather than my mum.

Shoutout from Will – The OG Broke Backpacker: Have fun on your backpacking adventure, but please do get insurance – take it from someone who has racked up tens of thousands of bucks on an insurance claim before, you need it.

Make sure to get your backpacker insurance sorted before you head off on an adventure! Travelling without insurance would be fucking stupid. I highly recommend World Nomads. Check out our review on why it’s the best.

 

Find out why I recommend World Nomads, check out my World Nomads Insurance review.

 

Freedom, Vanlife and the 21st Century Nomad

History is a funny thing: it works in cycles. Once upon a time, our ancestors walked great distances shepherding their livestock and foraging for food. They followed the sun.

And then, we discovered how nice it is to have a home. You mean I can have a mattress, a flushing toilet, and a kitty-cat? Sign me up!

And now reality is settling in. Faced with the reality of crushing debt, overwhelming mortgage payments, and storage spaces full of stuff we never use, we once again yearn for the romance of the nomadic life. But it’s different now.

Our horses have been replaced with vans, our cooking fires with gas stoves, and our deep-seated fear of the night’s terrors with deep-cycle solar-powered batteries. It’s a new kind of romance. But it’s still an adventure.

To live the minimalist lifestyle and see the world with no roots save the one you’re driving. To do something kick-ass!

You know that feeling you get when you’re doing something awesome and ballsy and you’re going your own way? That’s van travel.

Give it a shot. Hire a campervan, or an RV, or a converted ice-cream truck… but just give it a damn shot!

Take that first little dip in the water of van life. Then, see if you can go back in the cage.

A little van travelling in a big world

A little van travelling in a big world.

 

Yay for transparency! Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you book your accommodation, buy a book or sort your insurance, I’ll earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only link to stuff I’ve actually used and never endorse crap. Your support helps me keep the site going.”


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