Are you thinking of full-time RVing because you want to live a less complicated, simple life? If so, you’re likely to discover that the term “simple living” means different things to every RVer. To some like Jim and I, simple living means being unencumbered by the financial costs of a stick house and all that goes along with it, like lawnmowers and sub-zero freezers. That’s why we choose to live in our RV.
To a growing number of other full-time RVers, “simple living” means full-timing in a smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicle than the typical motorhome or fifth wheel chosen by most full-timers like us. Whether it’s to save money or enjoy more maneuverability in off-the-beaten path destinations, these ultra simple living full-timing folks are opting for the “vandwelling” full-timing lifestyle.
The term “vandwelling means:
“A lifestyle of living full or part-time in a wide variety of vehicles, mainly cargo vans that have been modified with basic amenities like house batteries, a bed platform, some form of toilet, sink and storage space. Although the term can apply to living in other types of vehicles, it is mainly associated with vans because the word vandwelling is a portmanteau of the two words, van and dwelling. Some vandwellers live this lifestyle by choice; seeking freedom, self-sufficiency and mobility by living outside the normal life of paying into conventional housing. Vandwelling may be done using a Campervan, Recreational vehicle, Travel trailer, or a mobile home. However, SUVs and larger station wagons can also be lived in. – Wikipedia.
Last month, Jim and I made a temporary leap to the vandwelling lifestyle when we headed to the East Coast for an extended business trip. We left the rig in Colorado because as native-born Westerners, the narrow, congested and fast-paced roads of the East, along with higher camping costs, make us stressed out and grouchy. So instead, we rented a van from Budget for three weeks in an attempt to lower our costs and enjoy a low-stress trip. My next few blog posts will share the ups and downs of temporarily downsizing from our 27′ fifth wheel to a soccer mom mini-van.
While preparing to hit the road as vandwellers, here are some critical things I discovered:
Packing is hard. Cramming one month’s worth of our stuff into a van is tougher than I thought (I can’t imagine doing it for a permanent switch). Since our trip was 90% business and 10% fun, we had to store enough work and play clothes to get us through a week. The tough part was keeping them separated in different bags so we didn’t have to drag our work clothes out when we only needed a casual outfit. We also had to include business tools like laptops, mobile devices, networking tools and more.
Choosing the right foods to pack was surprisingly difficult. It’s challenging to pinpoint good foods to keep on board when you don’t have a refrigerator. Since you can’t keep left overs and you only have the top of a small beer cooler to prepare them on, food options are more limited when you live in a van.
Staying organized is tricky. Once you have everything together, you must carefully create a Rubrick’s cube of luggage, bags and boxes in order to minimize the amount of time you’ll spend digging for that one thing you need that somehow always ends up on the bottom of the pile.
It took me about two weeks to figure out what would and would not, fit inside our mini van, while leaving enough room to return with a few packages we would bring back. Before we left on the trip, I was certain that learning the fine art of vandwelling packing would be the hardest part of our adventure. How wrong I was!
Stay tuned for our other vandwelling discoveries, including the pleasant surprise of navigating in and around tight city streets.
Rene Agredano and her husband, Jim Nelson, became full-time RVers in 2007 and have been touring the country ever since. In her blog, Rene chronicles the ins and outs of the full-timing life and brings readers along to meet the fascinating people and amazing places they visit on the road. Her road trip adventures are chronicled in her blog at LiveWorkDream.com.
Bob Collins says
Did you really think this was a real test? There is a real big difference between a fixed up, full size Sprinter van and what sounded like an unmodified minivan.