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Whether you are a fan, follower, curious bystander, or an active participant in the world of travel, chances are you haven’t missed the rising trend. The #Vanlife movement has splashed romantic photos all over the web, idolizing the hippie versions of Barbie and Ken traipsing the world in their cute, colorful campervans. The images are intoxicating to the wanderlust spirit, the notion paralyzing to closet revolutionists.
The lifestyle is symbolic of freedom and wilderness. Happiness. Liberation. Spontaneity. Serendipity. Rising with the sun, sleeping under the stars, and floating through life with no particular plan or inhibitions. Vanlife is often represented as a sensational time pre-kids or post-kids, the benchmarks which determine how and when most things in life are achievable. But, what if children were not a limitation, and instead were an asset? These were exactly our thoughts before we embarked our own nomadic journey one year ago.
Stephanie Frias shares her experiences and gives her 8 most important tips for preparing for life on the road.
One thing is for certain, if you choose this path right now, this year, in these moments; you will be among the few. As idyllic as the family travel life sounds, committing to this journey will mean straying from the crowd. Doing what isn’t popular invites criticism, scrutiny, and controversy. Parents who are considering the #vanlife with their kids, best be prepared that many of their peers won’t support the cause. Be sure that you are doing this for the right reasons, for the betterment of each member of your family. When you are firm in your reasons and desires, it doesn’t matter what the rest of the world thinks.
Don’t wait for life to get in the way. Stop dawdling for a certain amount of money, the perfect season, or the least impactful school year. Just go. Each and every one of us deserves to live the life we’ve always dreamed of. If your family lives for travel, pines to the see the world, and craves other cultures: why are you living a life feeling unfilled?
No plan comes to fruition if the first step hasn’t been implemented. Do something, anything, and everything necessary to start moving towards your goal.
You can’t live in a van if you can’t commit to a minimalist lifestyle. This minimalism will be a family effort. Everyone will have to learn to live with less. Less clothes, less toys, less gadgets, less things. Less convenience, less comfort, less privacy. The list goes on and on. You are living with less to travel more, to be together more, to live a more meaningful life. Preparing for and existing under these conditions is truly life changing. The impact on your perspectives of the world is astounding.
It is impossible to create a life that mimics the traits of another family. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to replicate the system of other Vanlifers. Just like a house, vehicle conversions are typically highly personal and unique to the travelers. It’s certainly okay to ask questions and to learn from others but remember to create a mobile abode that suits the needs of your family.
We didn’t choose a van at all, but instead converted a vintage Landcruiser into our living space. For us, off-road adventures are essential. We needed good clearance, 4-wheel drive, and something sturdy yet easy to repair. Our kids are small, just 3 and 5 so we don’t need a big sleeping space, and we all fit comfortably in the modified bed. It has been the perfect choice for the past year driving through South America
If your kids are babies, you’ll be in the clear for a while. But, if they are school age, education will certainly be an issue at some time for those with long term travel in mind. There is no right or wrong answer for this. Schooling is a highly personal choice and comes with a wide array of options. Do your research, talk to your kids, and investigate each avenue. Be flexible and willing to change your decision as your family evolves along the way. Remember that seeing the world will offer the best education you could ever hope for. Trust that the details will sort themselves out over time.
Moving into a van will be a major lifestyle adjustment for most families. This is not the same as going camping for the weekend. Every imaginable angle of your life with be altered, and we all know that change is not always easy. Your family will need to adjust to a new routine, location, “house”, and possibly variations in food, customs, and language. It is very possible that one or all of you will experience symptoms similar to culture shock. Remember to slow down, keep communication open, and to be sensitive to the needs of everyone.
The most common question we get is related to how we survive financially. First and foremost, never feel obligated to answer this question. In the world of full-time travel, this is akin to asking someone how much their salary is.
You should know how long your money will last and budget it carefully. The last thing you want is to wind up in a foreign country with no money, no job, and hungry kids to feed.
If your Vanlife adventures are more than a gap year or a summer holiday, do some heavy research on how to keep working as a digital nomad. You might be surprised how many opportunities exist that are location independent. These days, anything is possible.
At all times during your travel lifestyle, be prepared for deep moments of enlightenment, dramatic changes in perspective, and steady signs of evolution. It is very unlikely that any of you will return as the same person that embarked on this journey. Be mindfully aware of each person in your family and their unique adaptation process. Be fully prepared to stop traveling, continue traveling, or completely change and adapt to suit the needs of your family.