Living in a van full time: The TakeYourBag VanLife Project

by Alice
Driving a heavy and tall camper van is not always easy

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

You may also like


Shay 15 July 2018 - 0 h 19 min

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!

Elena Pappalardo 15 July 2018 - 0 h 32 min

Wow, this post really opened up my eyes to van life…it’s something I had considered previously and it was great to read about the benefits! Thanks for sharing 🙂

Simone Cardillo 3 August 2018 - 0 h 31 min

Thank you, it’s always a pleasure reading comments like yours!
Hope we can be helpful!

cheryl H. 15 July 2018 - 1 h 28 min

Hah…Three cheers for Simone! (being the only driver) What a great way to see the continent!

Simone Cardillo 3 August 2018 - 0 h 28 min

I love that triple cheers for me!!!!
I think it’s probably the best way to see a country
Thanks for taking some of your time to read the article

Elle 15 July 2018 - 1 h 56 min

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 🙂

Simone Cardillo 3 August 2018 - 0 h 26 min

Than welcome on board, can’t wait to listen to your adventures!
We’ll try to update as much as we can, thanks again for taking your time to follow us!

CARMEN 15 July 2018 - 3 h 27 min

This is an eye-opener for me. I have been curious about the van life, and I really learned a lot from your post.

Simone Cardillo 3 August 2018 - 0 h 23 min

Thanks, always nice to hear this kind of words.
Hope to be even more useful in the future in case you need it!

Namra 15 July 2018 - 9 h 39 min

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!

Simone Cardillo 3 August 2018 - 0 h 22 min

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!

Sarah 16 July 2018 - 0 h 43 min

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!

Simone Cardillo 3 August 2018 - 0 h 16 min

Thank you for taking the time to read our article.
If we inspired you just a little tiny bit, that is a great great achievement for us!
Thanks again

Simone Cardillo 3 August 2018 - 0 h 33 min

Thanks to you for taking time to read and comment our article!
Hopefully you’ll live your own adventure either if it’s in a Van or not!

All She Things 17 July 2018 - 6 h 36 min

These are some very detailed and well-described tips for anyone wanting to lead a van life! I am sure they’ll find your post very helpful.

Simone Cardillo 3 August 2018 - 0 h 14 min

Thanks so much for your kind words, I really hope we can be useful to someone who wants to start this lifestyle!

Diana - Opium Teahouse 21 July 2018 - 21 h 03 min

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 🙂

Simone Cardillo 3 August 2018 - 0 h 06 min

Sincerely thanks to you for reading this article.
Showers, toilets and food are the main issues of this lifestyle at the beginning, sometimes it gets even hilarious!

Jessica D. Festa 21 July 2018 - 22 h 36 min

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!

Simone Cardillo 3 August 2018 - 0 h 03 min

Go for it, it’s going to be an amazing experience especially in the USA, such a huge country.
We did a roadtrip by bus there and we loved it!

Purvi Kamaliya 22 July 2018 - 13 h 37 min

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.

Simone Cardillo 2 August 2018 - 23 h 59 min

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!

Tara 22 July 2018 - 14 h 18 min

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.

Simone Cardillo 2 August 2018 - 23 h 52 min

Costs at the beginning could be the biggest issue, but already after a couple of months you’ll see that
this money spent was worth it.
No hotel or flight bookings, it makes traveling easier!

Christine King 22 July 2018 - 16 h 29 min

This sounds like an great adventure, and one I would love to try one day! Very interested to see how the rest of the travels go!

Simone Cardillo 2 August 2018 - 23 h 49 min

So far it is a great adventure.
We’ll be posting super soon!

Stephen 22 July 2018 - 17 h 04 min

I’ve been wanting to look more into this for sometime now and now I’ve started researching it

Simone Cardillo 2 August 2018 - 23 h 47 min

That’s how we started, research, research, research…….
It’s quite impressive what you will find!
Good luck

Sarah Wilson 22 July 2018 - 17 h 35 min

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.

Simone Cardillo 2 August 2018 - 23 h 46 min

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!

Sinjana Ghosh 22 July 2018 - 20 h 19 min

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 🙂

Simone Cardillo 2 August 2018 - 23 h 43 min

Thank you so much for all these wishes, we sure are going to do our best to enjoy this great adventure!

Sarah - Borders & Bucket Lists 22 July 2018 - 21 h 21 min

This is so interesting! My first thought was where you would park the van to sleep, and you addressed that. It’ll be interesting to hear your little updates in the future.

Simone Cardillo 2 August 2018 - 23 h 40 min

First of all thanks for taking the time to read, and we are going to give updates more often, be sure about it!

alison netzer 22 July 2018 - 22 h 24 min

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.

Simone Cardillo 2 August 2018 - 23 h 38 min

Believe me, when it comes to unhealthy eating we have our days where we become the King and Queen of junk food!!!!!

Ambuj Saxena 23 July 2018 - 11 h 36 min

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!

Simone Cardillo 2 August 2018 - 23 h 34 min

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!

Backpacking Series 23 July 2018 - 15 h 17 min

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.

Simone Cardillo 2 August 2018 - 23 h 28 min

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.

Lingue e Viaggi 23 July 2018 - 19 h 33 min

It’s such an incredible post, I never tought about living a van life but now I’m really curious.

Simone Cardillo 2 August 2018 - 23 h 20 min

Thank you, happy to know that we made you curious about it.
Even if not for a long period, a short time experience it’s definitely worth it!

Krupa 24 July 2018 - 8 h 17 min

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.

Krupa 24 July 2018 - 8 h 18 min

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.

Simone Cardillo 2 August 2018 - 23 h 16 min

Thanks for taking some of your time to read our stories!
I mean after all, that’s why we all blog, share adventures and enjoy them.
Thanks again for the beautiful words!

Alex Trembath 24 July 2018 - 9 h 24 min

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.

Simone Cardillo 2 August 2018 - 23 h 14 min

Exactly, we got inspired by all this van-life movement, seeing others doing what you always wanted to do makes you say
“hey, that’s me, let’s do this”!
Hope you can do the same soon!

Claire 24 July 2018 - 10 h 58 min

You guys are so brave! I don’t think I could ever fully give up the comfort of my home or a hotel room.

Simone Cardillo 2 August 2018 - 23 h 11 min

Ooh we love hotel rooms a lot too, believe me, but this was something that was in my head since I was little.
I had to do it!

Stephanie Tay 24 July 2018 - 11 h 00 min

It must be such a freeing experience! I wish it’s something I could do but I think I would be a little claustrophobic 😀 great post anyway!

Simone Cardillo 2 August 2018 - 23 h 09 min

It’s freedom, absolutely pure freedom…
Thanks for your kind words!

Maša 24 July 2018 - 14 h 02 min

Wow that is a great story!! I wouldn’t do it myself but it does look tempting!

Simone Cardillo 2 August 2018 - 23 h 07 min

C’mon get seduced by temptation…….!
Anyway thanks for taking your time to read this article.

Alexandra Tran 24 July 2018 - 21 h 43 min

this is my dream! Hope to get there one day.

Simone Cardillo 2 August 2018 - 23 h 04 min

Ooh it was my dream since I was a little child, then when my wife told me: let’s buy a van and let’s go….
Well there my dream came true!
Never give up your dreams.

pujarini 25 July 2018 - 10 h 14 min

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.

Simone Cardillo 2 August 2018 - 23 h 00 min

Wow these words are truly flattering….. how can I reply, thank you so so much!
I sincerely wish for you all the best adventure!

Daniel 25 July 2018 - 14 h 05 min

This is something I wanted to do for some time now. Thank you for providing these useful tips 🙂

Simone Cardillo 2 August 2018 - 22 h 56 min

If we can be useful to anyone in anyway, well…. we did our job
Thanks so much for reading our article about it!

Martina 22 August 2018 - 15 h 09 min

Buying a campervan is my dream! I hope you will have a smashing time whenever the wheels take you..Happy travels.

Louis 22 August 2018 - 18 h 21 min

Living in a camper is the dream 🙂 such an epic way of life 🙂

Nicole 22 August 2018 - 19 h 17 min

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!

Diane Bishop 22 August 2018 - 19 h 38 min

My husband and camp in our van when we travel in the US. We love it! Great post.

Anna Schaeffer 22 August 2018 - 20 h 45 min

Fascinating post! I’ve always been curious about living in a van!

Utsav Srinet 23 August 2018 - 9 h 57 min

looks like a great city to explore.You’ve put it on my bucket list

Alex Trembath 23 August 2018 - 12 h 31 min

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!

Luda 23 August 2018 - 14 h 43 min

This is so well thought out! I hope you’re enjoying van life (it started on July 2, right?) – can’t wait to see more posts 🙂

Kelly 24 August 2018 - 21 h 43 min

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.

Chloe 24 August 2018 - 23 h 24 min

This sounds amazing! I would love to go travelling, especially through Europe, in a campervan. Definitely helps to cut down on ridiculous hotel costs

stacy 25 August 2018 - 14 h 23 min

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!

Nina Nichols 27 August 2018 - 19 h 45 min

I sincerely admire people who live their dreams and passion! Not all people get a chance to live the way you love it! Best of luck on your adventures!


Leave a Comment

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

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More