Why and how did we decide to leave everything behind to be living in a van full time?
We realized that we weren’t happy with our life in Paris and therefore needed to leave and travel to less stressful and sunnier places. At first it was just an idea, we didn’t know exactly where we would go and/or stop, nor how long we would be on the road.
That’s when I started to ask myself how we could have the best experience to travel to these kind of places, with a lot of freedom, not a lot of money, and a pleasant nomadic lifestyle. Do you see how living in a van full time could fit in that picture, yet?
Our going around in Asia and Belfast had been fun, but it also didn’t really work out super well for me: I didn’t like not having money enough to live comfortably and I really didn’t enjoy not being sure of where we would be sleeping the next day or the next couple of days. I think this is probably what has brought me the most stress over all of my traveling: not knowing where to sleep – knowing that accommodations are usually the biggest cost – especially around Europe and the States. So I thought “well, we have to travel with our home, and the easiest and most comfortable way to do this – with all of our limitations – is to buy a converted van to go around!”. Right away, it seemed to me to be the best solution, so I brought it up to Simone who admitted this was one of his big life dreams.
Why buying a camper to travel is a great idea
Traveling on a van seems like a lot of fun to me. Knowing that I have somewhere to sleep at all time is a huge relief. Living in a van full time eliminates most of the stress related to sleeping, money, time, etc. If we’re getting out of money, we still have somewhere we can sleep until we can get our hands on some cash. If we miscalculated our plans, night is falling and we’re in the middle of nowhere, we still have somewhere comfy to sleep in. If we don’t feel like doing anything, here is the bed! We don’t have to go on if we don’t want to, we don’t have to obtain immediate cash if we run out, etc.
In the end, we took the decision to buy a van that was already converted (we didn’t have the time nor the means to convert it while living in Paris) to travel along the coast of the south of Europe, for an undetermined length of time. Maybe we’ll find a spot where we’ll want to settle for a while. Maybe it’ll make us want to do a repeat performance somewhere else. Who knows?!
Since I’m not just a complete dreamer but also a planner, I still have some things to consider.
Some concerns when it comes to living in a van full time
Hygiene and more precisely: the toilets
We have portable toilets in the back of the van – but as I’ve read in a lot of places: “don’t shit where you sleep“. Pretty straightforward, also makes a lot of sense. So I’m hoping to be able to rely on: gas station toilets, cafe/restaurants/bar toilets, beach toilets, road toilets, and deserted and well covered areas where no one is going to stumble upon my bare ass (and we will shovel, don’t worry). Send all your good luck my way, please. Also sorry not sorry: you can expect A LOT of toilet talk here from the moment we start living in our van full time!
I’m not too worried about showers even though I am known to be taking too many showers in summer. The truth is I like to use the shower when I have one available, but on the road it’s not a big deal for me. I just need a bit of water and soap, and I can wash myself. My hair now almost reaches my hips so that might be the most problematic part, but I also don’t need to have perfect hair since I’m on the road and nobody will know.
As for makeup, I’m not going to indulge much while on the road so it’s not a big problem for me either. We’re traveling with a bottle of sesame oil which will be perfect to wash my face when need be.
Driving a 3.3 tons & 2.40 meters high camper van
Simone is the only driver at TakeYourBag. I don’t have a driving license. We considered having me take classes and pass the exam before we leave. That would mean LOTS of money (it’s very expensive in France), no certainty I would pass it, and a big loss of time too. There would also be the possibility to put me under “supervised driving” which would be possible if had taken 20 hours of driving classes and did not take or pass the test – but only in France. Still very expensive plan. So far our decision is to forget about it and keep Simone as the sole driver of the van for the upcoming months.
The (vegan) food when living in a van full time
I’m pretty concerned about eating as healthy as possible. I’m vegan and it’s pretty easy to fall back to a bad eating patterns (pasta, rice, vegan cookies, vegan cereals, and all the other vegan shit) when you travel and want to maximise your calories/€ but I don’t want to get back to that. I want to eat plenty of fruits and veggies, and proteins. So this is going to be a bit of a challenge, especially as we don’t plan on using our fridges (we have 2, crazy right?) Food is going to be one of our top priorities, and we’ll make it work.
Where to park the van to sleep
I would really like to avoid campings at all costs, as well as shitty parking lots/spots. I know it’s not going to be easy, especially at the beginning because I know we won’t be very daring when we start, and close to big cities it might be harder too. What I know though is that we will NOT sleep on « Aires de repos » because I’ve read a lot of reports saying this is one of the least safe place to park your camper for the night. Apparently plenty of vanlifers have been robbed and broken into while sleeping in these places. No thanks!
Drawing a budget for the vanlife
It’s hard to establish a budget beforehand. We have a rough idea of how much the van will consume in terms of gas, but we’re not exactly sure of how much it costs where, how many kilometres we’ll do in a month, etc. Living in a van full time is completely new for us, so for now we’ve settled on 1500€ a month including our very steep insurance, but I’m really hoping we can make it for less than that. We’re going to use my N26 card so we don’t pay fees in Europe! Also we don’t know for sure how much money I’ll make per month freelancing so there’s this insecurity too, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.
That’s about it! If you have any tips or recommandations, send them our way in the comments or drop us an email!
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