After espousing some of the advantages of van dwelling, it seemed important to balance the picture with the downsides. Every decision in life carries risk — otherwise it wouldn’t really be a decision — And it’s important to do our cost/benefit analyses along the way. After a major decision is made, it’s also important to review the results and ensure they were what you expected.
As with any lifestyle, van dwelling certainly isn’t for everyone. Especially when you don’t have the time to plan things out, if you don’t have an ongoing source of income, if you have little or no savings, or if your research was incomplete, you may find the results very different from what you expected.
First, it’s important to realize van dwelling is hard. While being constantly on the move keeps life interesting, it also forces you to find new campsites every few weeks to every day. If you decide to go urban camping in some cities, you may even have to move two or three times in a day. There is also very little FS and BLM land in the Eastern states.
If your vehicle breaks down, your house breaks down, and vice versa. When your van is in the shop, your home is in the shop. Your choices here are basically to sit there and watch it, or to go find something else to do and hope it’s safe. This can be especially hard either way, because some vehicle work can take a up to week or two. If your rig of choice is an RV, you may not even be able to find a qualified mechanic nearby or soon enough.
Even the best laid plans often fail. Therefore it’s critical that you always have plans, and backups to those plans, and backups to those backups. If you plan to heat your rig with a propane heater, also have an electric heater, thermal clothes, coats, and extra blankets. You should also keep a backup propane bottle on hand, and as a last resort, have somewhere warm to go if all else fails.
All these backups are merely for heat; there are many other considerations that require primary plans and backup plans: Propane, electricity, water, cooking, cooling, light, Internet (maybe), food, mobility, phone, navigation, shower, dishwashing, and laundry. If you have the time and resources to do so, you should be planning these primary and backup plans ahead of time. If you’ve already set out on the road, come up with those plans now, while you can.
It’s important to research the cons as well as the pros, and plan for them. I’ll be doing longer articles on the pros and cons, but here are a few of the downsides:
“Things have gone wrong […] at the worst possible times”
“What if I’m stranded in the middle of nowhere and this thing decides to blow up on me?”
“It’s no fun making pasta in a hailstorm”
“I literally am homeless”
“I did have a good routine before, and now it’s gone.”
[without solar] “No electricity means I have to go to, like, Starbucks”
Stigma: “It’s almost the equivalent of a dude saying he lives in his mom’s basement”
“Internet on the road: It’s gonna be an issue.”