Living in a van full time: The TakeYourBag VanLife Project

Road Trips, Travel Stories, VanLife / Friday, July 13th, 2018

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.

Living full time is a good idea when you want to travel to sunnier places

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.

Driving a heavy and tall camper van is not always easy

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!

If you want to know how we’re doing on our van trip that started on the 2nd of July, you have a few means to do it. You can subscribe to our sporadic newsletter to have exclusive infos and news from us. You can also follow us on social media: we upload a lot of stories our Instagram along the road, and post at least once a day on our Facebook page with cool pictures of our adventures. Also come back here to check our new posts!

Living in a van full time | Pros and cons to travel in a camper van | Traveling in a converted van | #vanlife #convertedvan #campervan

71 Replies to “Living in a van full time: The TakeYourBag VanLife Project”

  1. Wow! I could never imagine living in a van full time and with the added difficulty of being vegan, props to you girly! I can’t wait to read more of your van-life journey!

  2. That sounds absolutely awesome! I plan on moving on to the same type of lifestyle within a year or so! I’ll definitely sub to your blog to see your adventure unfolds 🙂

  3. I’m always fascinated by people who decide to quit their jobs, sell everything and start travelling full time or people who get rid of most of their belongongings to start living on a tiny house or in your case: A van. It seems so life changing. I would like to have the same freedom as you, but do feel this is easier to do when you’re two.

    That been said, love your van, «mint» is one of my fav colors! And it’s funny you mentioned the toilets because I was just thinking about it «but where do they go?», so toilet-talk does not out me off???? For money I would think it would be clever of you already talk with a magazine or a website if they would be interested on regularly pieces from your van-life, maybe you can make a deal so that it gives you more certainty? Just an idea.

    Anyway, good luck on this trip!

    1. First of all thank you for the amazing comment, toilet talk is THE TALK when it comes to van life!
      So as you said it won’t cut you out from living in a van.
      Thanks for the idea you are giving us, we will definitely pitch magazines as soon as we will have a stable electricity and wi-fi connection.
      Again it was a pleasure reading your comment!

  4. Wow thanks for sharing your van story. It’s something I’ve thought about a little bit, but it’s nice to know how and why you started. Maybe it’ll give me inspiration to do the same!

  5. Great article. Van life something I’ve always been curious to explore and I’ve often thought about all the points you mentioned in this post. Especially the showering and being able to sustain a healthy vegan lifestyle!

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

  6. Ahhh this is so inspiring! One day 🙂 I can travel full-time, but my boyfriend is a teacher. I’m begging him to take a summer off (from summer school) so we can live somewhere that’s not NYC for a summer!

  7. Surprisingly, RV traveling isn’t a trend in my country. And thus, such travellers from other countries and their stories inspire me a lot. It is indeed a challenging decision but after all humans are meant to be nomads. It is really an amazing way to live a dream life.

    1. I imagine you are talking about India, well I haven’t heard much about RV traveling there either.
      Probably here in Europe it might be easier but I’m just making assumptions, anyway I really love your sentence about being nomads!
      Happy travels to you!

  8. I love it! Getting a camper van for adventures is literally a bucket list item for me and I can’t wait especially now. I can see it being so much more convenient especially somewhere like Europe.

  9. We have been talking about doing this for ages. I love travelling but paying out for hotels gets so expensive. I shall be following your journey. Thank you for this.

    1. Hotels, flight, trains, restaurants….. you name it, we got it.
      No, sincerely, budget wise, if your goal is to travel by land as much as possible, living in a Van is a great option!
      We will keep you posted for sure!

  10. Wow! This is so fascinating – like having a house on wheels. I can feel your excitement about this new life and wish you all the best for this journey. Be safe and live your dream 🙂

  11. Wow, what an exciting life. I have never imagined living on the road, but It must be so fun and at times difficult. I’m not vegan, but like you I know my diet would go to shit. However, unlike you, I don’t know if I could restrain myself from the unhealthy eating.

  12. Getting a van to sleep is such a cool idea. I am glad you touched upon the financial aspects of the van as well! I love to travel and just like you, I feel that I waste a lot of money on putting up in a hotel for a night so the van seems like a super cool idea! Thanks for a wonderful read!

    1. That’s the point, I choose to travel where I want, when I feel to, without having the issue of checking prices for accommodation.
      No matter if it’s high season or not, you’ll always have your room for free!
      Thanks for reading our article!

  13. Living in a van full time is one of our dreams since we slow travel and are concerned about the same issues that you highlighted. You have shown how to make this dream become the reality. Thank you for sharing candidly, not just the rosy stuff. Some challenges are very real like toilets and shower and its nice to know how you have been dealing with them! While we are nomads already, this is another level and we hope to get there soon! Thank you for the inspiration! Love.. Backpacking Series.

    1. The not rosy stuff (love how you used this terms) is there 24/7 but that’s what makes the challenge even better!
      Your comment is sincerely appreciated as I also stumbled through your blog and I know what you guys are doing.
      Thanks so much.

  14. I can never imagine living in Van full time but looks like you have enjoyed a lot experience this thrill 😀 I loved reading your experiences. Thanks for the sharing. this is so great.

  15. I can never imagine living in Van full time but looks like you have enjoyed a lot experience this thrill 😀 I loved reading your experiences. Thanks for the sharing. This is absolutely wonderful.

  16. This is inspirational stuff guys, and I am seeing lots and lots more people doing this! One of my best friends bought an old van last year, converted it and is now travelling in it. Thinking about trying this myself next year. It looks like such an amazing way to travel.

  17. You are so brave to have decided on embarking on this adventure. You inspire me but I know I will never be able to live in a van.

  18. I live in the US and I would love to do this one day. It sounds like a lot of work but it also sounds like it is well worth it. Good luck to you both and I look forward to reading more posts about your travels. I would love to see photos of what your van looks like and how you manage to pack things for life on the road. Perhaps you already have a post about this, I will look through your blog. Safe travels to you both!

  19. We would love to give vanlife a go! One of our best friends did it a year ago and has had the best time. Seems to be the new trend in travelling. Thanks for the extra motivation with this great article!

  20. I love that you guys weren’t happy in paris and decided to do something. I think a van is a great solution when you are concerned about money and have no idea where you will sleep from one day to the next. Thanks for a great article.

  21. This is something I have wanted to do for so long and in all honesty I wish we had done it before we settled down and had our daughter! It is still something I’m considering but with a toddler in tow there will be even more to consider. Life is the road is so appealing to us and I can’t think of a better way to get to see more of the world than buying a van. Like you said, the biggest worry is always having somewhere to sleep and that instantly takes away that worry and also relieves a lot of money that would otherwise be spent on hotels/airbnb’s etc. Great post!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.