Imagine exploring a new place with open road ahead and your home at your back. If the thought of traveling in a campervan brings a surge of wanderlust and makes your hands itch to be at the steering wheel, living in a campervan may be your next perfect adventure!
My husband and I have spent the past 3 months living in a 6-by-13-foot camper van. It has been one of the greatest adventures of our marriage.
All About Living in a Camper Van
We are huge advocates of campervan life but can tell you firsthand that it isn’t always s’mores around a campfire and skinny-dipping in hot springs.
We’ve traveled around the world to more than 40 countries, yet exploring in a campervan is different than any other type of travel we’ve experienced. There are challenges and joys unique to this type of tiny living in a camper.
Before you go ahead and trade in your jet-setting ways for a home on wheels, know that you may need to make some drastic changes to your travel style.
Whether you’re traveling in an RV or a campervan, there are some very important things you should consider before you hit the road.
Packing gets more complicated in a Camper Van
When you’re packing for a trip and have just one suitcase or backpack in which to fit everything, it can be a hair-pulling, nail-biting puzzle with no right answer.
It might seem that all your problems would be solved when you upgrade from a 50-liter backpack to an 80-square-foot campervan. But that’s hardly the case. Sure, you have more space, but it gets a bit more complicated than that.
You’ll need to pack enough to make your campervan a fully-functioning home – kitchen, sleeping area, living space and all – with just a fraction of the room of your actual home. So yeah, you can pack more. But it also opens up a whole new slew of decisions.
The tradeoff for a more complicated packing list is that you’re able to travel with some of your favorite comforts, like a French press and a fluffy pillow.
Personal space is no longer personal
If you’re traveling with a companion – whether it’s a partner, children, pets, or all of the above – you’re going to have to get comfy with your newfound lack of space. Your personal bubble will be popped several times a day. (Scratch that. Several times each minute.)
When you’re living in a tiny space, you sacrifice privacy. You give up the ability to, say, pass gas without anyone knowing. You might have to get creative about finding time alone.
But the beautiful part of giving up your personal space is you will be rewarded with quality time with your favorite people or furry friends. Hopefully your companion is someone you actually enjoy spending time with!
Before you even consider moving into a campervan with your partner, be sure to ask each other these 20 questions.
You’ll thank me when you realize how many arguments you’ve avoided by asking your travel buddy these important questions.
Your consumption will be visible
When you stay in hotels, it’s easy to take a 20-minute shower without noticing how much water goes down the drain because when it disappears down those tiny holes it is out of your mind. And when someone else is emptying the bins you throw your trash into, the amount of waste you produce may seem small.
But when you transition into traveling in a small space, your consumption is magnified.
You will suddenly see the exact amount of water it takes to do dishes because you have to physically empty your wastewater instead of letting it disappear into a drain underground.
When you live in a tiny space, your eyes will be seriously opened to how much you consume because it’s not something you can simply ignore.
Normal things become luxuries
There’s nothing like living in a campervan to make little, everyday things seem like luxuries. When you aren’t showering daily, it feels oh-so good when you do (especially when the pressure is high and the water is hot).
And don’t get me started on ice. Lukewarm water just doesn’t quite give you the same satisfaction as an icy glass of H2O on a hot day!
It’s quite humbling actually when you start noticing all those little things you typically take for granted. Many people around the world live their lives without these luxuries, and it’s good for the soul to take notice of our privilege every once in a while.
You’ll have more control over your budget
Traveling in an RV or campervan allows you to really control your budget. That’s not to say that it’s cheap, but you suddenly have the option of cooking your own dinner instead of eating out for every meal.
You can forgo Starbucks and brew your own cup o’ Joe instead. And forget about paying ridiculous rates for a hotel room. You’re in a traveling home, after all!
All that said, gas ain’t cheap when you’re towing a small home behind you, and sometimes you’ll want to splurge after roughing it for a bit. It all balances out, but RV travel puts the control in your hands.
You’ll grow as a person
Traveling in a campervan or RV means you’ll run into some bumps in the road, both literally and figuratively.
Sometimes when you’re traveling, other people take care of those bumps for you, like a guesthouse owner who moves you to a different room because the air-conditioning isn’t working quite right.
When you’re traveling in an RV however, you’ll need to take ownership of any hiccups, like fixing the AC yourself. You’ll feel empowered when you solve problems and forge your way all by yourself.
Even if you don’t intend to live in an RV long-term, you’ll grow as a person and learn the world around you. And that’s a pretty powerful thing.
You’ll travel slow and deep
Traveling with your home will make you realize you can’t hop around as fast as you would with just a suitcase. It’s exhausting!
When you’re the one behind the wheel instead of a bus driver, you’ll reconsider an itinerary that includes hopping around 8 cities in 8 days.
When you’re in the driver’s seat, you have the opportunity not just to see your destination cities, but also the “in-between”. You know, the small towns and hole-in-the-wall cafes that you’d never venture to had you been traveling by plane, train or taxi.
You’ll drive on small roads and get glimpses into people’s lives as you pass by, giving you a more complete, more authentic experience than if you skip the “in-between”. You’ll come to appreciate slow travel and the beauty of a day that doesn’t move too fast.
You have to seek out interactions with locals
When you stay at hotels and take public transportation, you are likely to interact with locals and other travelers on a regular basis.
One of the more challenging parts about traveling in a campervan is that you have to work a little harder to seek out interaction and get the lowdown on local hotspots.
You’ll definitely have people who are curious about your home along the way, so use this as an opportunity to ask about their favorite things in the area.
You’ll need to make sacrifices
If you’re used to business class flights, plush hotel rooms and fine dining, seeing the sights in an RV will mean you’ll have to make some adjustments to the way you travel.
Even if you’re an experienced backpacker and are no stranger to “roughing it,” there are some certain differences between sleeping in hostels and parking on the side of a road for the night.
You won’t always have Internet access while traveling in an RV, and you may not be able to shower as often as you’d like. You’ll need to get creative with meals, and the air-conditioning might not be the strongest you’ve ever had. But in exchange for all these sacrifices comes a beautiful reward.
You will feel the wind blowing through your hair on the open road with endless possibilities ahead. Too corny? Okay, let’s just say that you’ll get to experience an adventure that many only dream about.
You’ll realize that the best parts of travel don’t necessarily come with a butler or an eye-watering price tag. You will learn to appreciate little things and come to value simplicity over extravagance.
Freedom is a tangible thing
RV life means you have nearly endless freedom. Want to sleep in the mountains tonight and next to the ocean tomorrow? No problem.
You’ll start to seek out detours that you wouldn’t be able to take otherwise. The world seems more accessible when your home has wheels. And there’s something so strangely satisfying about having all your necessary belongings in 80 square feet of space.
It may sound cliché, but campervan life gives freedom an entirely new meaning.
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