I’ve travelled around the world a lot – by car, plane, train, bicycle, you name it. After 14 months of travelling around Australia in a van, I feel I’m qualified to make a bold claim about Van Life: it’s the best! I consider this mode of travelling to have a lot going for it. I’m comparing it specifically to long term travel with luggage, where you often will be using public transport to get around and then paying for AirBnbs, hotels, hostels etc. I am aware there are other more luxurious ways of travelling if your wallet allows, but even for some of those alternatives, I believe VanLife is superior!
Your own bed every night!
One of the annoying things about travelling is having to get used to new beds and rooms all the time. For those of us who are light sleepers, this can result in broken sleep. In the van, we take our bedroom everywhere with us. We prioritized a high quality mattress in the van so we slept comfortably every night. The van provided us with a safe, familiar sanctuary every night. It’s a real comfort to snuggle into your own bed, with your own bedding and our night things exactly where we like them every night and have a good solid sleep. After a good night of sleep, one is always more cheerful and resilient to take on whatever the new day may bring.
No time and less money wasted looking for accommodation
Accommodation forms a large proportion of the costs when travelling. When travelling in a long term way, a lot of time can be eaten up looking for accommodation which meets all the requirements at a sensible price. Travelling with our van eliminated the constant time consuming search for decent (and appropriately priced) accommodation. The cost of camping or staying in caravan parks is also significantly cheaper than hotels or Airbnbs. Plus, we have the luxury of our own bedroom every night. Win, Win, Win!
So much flexibility
The best thing about VanLife for long term travel is flexibility. Your plans can evolve depending on the circumstances. One example is to design your plans to follow good weather. We did this and entirely avoided the winter of 2021. We enjoyed so many days of stunning, beautiful, Aussie weather. This has the added advantage of seeing all the sights at their best. Another example is avoiding rainy areas. We could see that the areas close to Sydney were experiencing floods and weeks of rain so we avoided the area until the weather improved.
Other examples of how flexible VanLife is includes;
- Taking a nap when you are feeling tired, regardless of where you are – just pull off the road and roll into bed;
- Moving on if a place is disappointing; and
- Keeping an eye on the news, pre-empting and outrunning a Covid lockdown.
Food can be a fun part of travel but when travelling long term, it can become very tiresome, time consuming, unhealthy and expensive to constantly eat out and the ability to self cater can be limited. When travelling with luggage, we could go to the supermarket for a cheap meal but we were limited by what cooking facilities were available and the lack of even the most simple of staples e.g. oil, salt, herbs and spices. You tend to end up with stuff you can eat raw or pre-prepared food eaten cold e.g. tuna, sandwiches etc.
With the van, we had room for lots of food including the usual pantry staples like flour, rice, canned food etc. A portable burner sufficed for making hearty, filling and healthy one pot meals. It meant that we could save a lot of money on food and eat the sort of food that we liked and made us feel good. It’s not the same as a real kitchen in a house but the view is often much better and everchanging!
The other upside is the flexibility to eat when we wanted. When travelling with luggage, in a strange new city, you are often wandering around hungry and searching for the most economical place to buy decent food. With the van, we could just pull over and get out whatever we wanted to eat, whenever we wanted to eat it. No more “hangry” related issues!
Free to make your own itinerary
Traveling in the van without a strict schedule, we could design our days to our liking. This meant being able to alter our plans depending on the weather or being flexible with our plans depending on how we felt. If we woke up feeling a little under the weather, we could take an easy day. We were not restricted and tied to plans as you would be if you were part of a tour group for example.
Check out my post covering the tools you can use to help plan and managed your own road trip.
You can have more possessions on your trip vs luggage
It’s sometimes nice to carry some extra things on your trip for those times when they come in useful. Things that come to mind are tennis rackets, snorkeling gear, more clothing and shoes, your own towels and linen etc. These little things can give you more options on your trip, save some money and make a long trip more sustainable as it removes some of the discomforts of being away from home. In a van, despite being a minimalistic way of living, you can carry so much more than in a suitcase and it makes for a more comfortable way of traveling. In addition, because things are organised in cupboards and drawers, it’s much easier to get to things – beats rummaging through your suitcase to find that missing pair of socks!
Different kinds of attractions
One of the big advantages of having a vehicle is the type of attractions that are accessible vs relying on public transport e.g. buses or trains. Public transport is only economical when servicing large population centres. It will not take you to bushwalks or remote attractions. Traveling by public transport is more of a city to city, hopping affair and what you can see is more limited to city type attractions. Whilst these are fantastic, there are also plenty of natural attractions and other things to see outside of major city centres. Getting a good look at the suburbs is also a much better way to understand how the average person lives. This is why having a vehicle is so much more powerful than just using public transport.
Ready for whatever the day brings
When you are in a new place, you have no idea what you might encounter and it’s often hard to plan what you might need during the day. It’s not fun lugging around a giant backpack of stuff to cater for the “what-ifs” of the day. It’s awesome with the van because all our possessions come everywhere with us. If we come upon a lovely beach and want to swim, we have our bathers and snorkeling gear in the van. If we see a free tennis court and feel like a hit, we grab our tennis rackets and balls and off we go! If we feel like lunch, we stop and get some lunch stuff out of the fridge and pantry. We never have to think about what we need to pack for the day. If we feel like a break, we park the van, lounge in bed and chill out till we feel like moving again. I cannot think of any other form of travel that allows you this indulgence; a midday nap!
Your Van can be a Blank Canvas
If you’re handy, or if you’re learning to be handy, your van doesn’t have to be a static space which never changes. During our travels, we made a number of changes and improvements to increase our comfort and personalise our space. Youtube and Instagram are not just tools for people to encourage envy, they can also be a great source of ideas, education and amazing tips on how to get things done. Evolve the van to make it your own. It allows you to be creative and also learn new skills.
With VanLife, you can truly “Make It What you Want”!
Does this make you want to experience VanLife? Are there other advantages that I have not mentioned? If so, leave a comment.