Social media really does paint an amazing picture of the skoolie, RV, and van life. A lot of the content you come across are these gorgeous builds with people that look like they are living the ultimate dream. At the end of the day, we are living our dreams but are normal people like everyone else. And, no matter how amazing the lifestyle may look on digital media, it’s not necessarily like that every single day of the week.
Regardless of the “not so glamorous” parts of the van life that I’ll so happily share with all of you, there are tons of perks. Van life really does change your perspective on nature and the way you want to live your life.
Parking & Driving
Driving for some could be considered relaxing. For us, we’ve found all the driving to be a bit exhausting, especially when only one of us is doing it. For the most part, David is driving the bus while I work comfortably on the couch behind him. Luckily, he usually likes driving the bus but doesn’t usually drive over 3 hours in a day. Driving the bus can be uncomfortable, especially during longer hauls.
Finding a secure, safe, and cheap location to park can also be challenging, depending on where you are. Our skoolie is completely off-grid capable which allows us to stay in some of the most remote locations in the country for up to 14 days. If you’re looking to save money, we’d highly suggest finding BLM land or using the iOverlander app to find free parking. Another excellent resource to save you the headache of finding parking would be Boondockers Welcome.
Regardless of how much you have it all figured out, you may still wind up running into a roadblock. If all else fails, Walmarts and Cracker Barrels are NOT the worst possible options. Of course, RV parks and campgrounds are also options if you aren’t too crunched for money and don’t mind crowds.
Something is ALWAYS Breaking
When you’re traveling full-time in a skoolie, van, or RV, you have to anticipate wear and tear on your vehicle. For the first 3 months of our travels, we had at least $1,000 of mechanical repairs needed on the bus. In the 6 months that we’ve been traveling, we’ve had to replace our bus’s belt (mainly our fault for going full send off a major speed bump…), change the oil (manually…and messily), refill the coolant (we almost overheated during our 1st drive in the bus), replace the batteries, and flush the coolant. Our bus only had 86,000 miles on it when we left, but we put on at least another 10,000.
And, that’s just the outside! We went home for the holidays for Christmas in 2019 and came back to a bus filled with frozen pipes, a cracked water heater, a cracked faucet, and sliced pex in our radiant heat floor (meaning it had to be teared up). Other times, we’ve had our Chinese Diesel heater die at high altitudes, our car trailer’s wheels fall off, and our flooring starting to gap.
Don’t let this scare you too much! At this point, we’ve made it a plan to budget for bus or car expenses every month. Additionally, we take extra precautions with regularly maintaining our bus and are a lot more prepared for the unexpected.
Getting Resources Can Be Challenging
Whether you’re thinking about life on the road or already know all about it, you know the importance of finding resources. Every build or RV has different specs and capabilities. While some skoolies, vans, or RVs can handle off-grid living for long periods of time, others need to be hooked up to power and water more frequently.
Solar panels are a great way to pretty much eliminate your need for an electrical hookup if you have access to sun. Even during cloudy or snowy days, we’re able to pick up just enough sunlight to get power for the day.
Our skoolie has 135 gallons of fresh water with a 35-gallon grey water tank. Our fresh water tank holds us over for about 2 weeks on water with limited showers. Finding access to water can be difficult in some locations. However, we’ve had a lot of success staying with hosts on Boondockers Welcome and asking for water, as well as visiting gas stations, travel stops, and truck stops along the highway.
Filling Your Rig Up for Van Life is EXPENSIVE
Diesel or gas fill-ups for your rig can easily become your biggest expense on the road. While we’re not 100% sure, our skoolie’s diesel tank is about 40 gallons. We usually fill up with 1/4 of the tank left which costs us between $80-$100. During a full month of travel where we’re constantly moving, we spend about $500-$700 on diesel. Of course, this number is going to range depending on how often and where you plan on driving.
People May Look At You a Little Funny or Judge Your Lifestyle
When I first told people that I wanted to build a bus and travel full-time back in 2018, I had quite a few people looking at me funny. Out of the “nay-sayers” were people saying that I should instead get a full-time job, especially right after spending 2 years in school to get my Master’s degree. For me, it was tough to hear a lot of the negatives from those close to me. But, with every person that thinks your new or existing van life is a crazy one, there are the many that think what you’re doing is amazing including friends and family!
To be honest, we haven’t experienced any hateful or judgemental comments from people during our 6 months of travel. I expect it will come as it does to most people living full-time out of their rigs, but we’ll cross that bridge when it happens!
There Are A Lot of “Unexpecteds” With Van Life
It’s important to be adaptable as a roadlifer, otherwise, you’ll quickly become overwhelmed. I’ve always had a bit of anxiety. At first, having to adapt to constant change was a challenge for me. Now, I almost embrace it!
We’ve had experiences during our travels that we couldn’t make up if we tried. For the first couple of months of travel, we were towing a trailer with our 4runner on top. While in the middle of Minnesota, David noticed sparks coming from the trailer and stopped the bus. When I asked what was wrong, he simply said “I can’t explain it. You just need to come outside”. As we stood there on the side of the highway and stared at the 2 missing tires from the right side of the trailer at 5pm, we had no idea what to do. While trying to get the car off and brainstorm how we were going to get rid of this initially expensive investment, a guy pulled off on the road and greeted us. He offered us $400 for the trailer and it was a done deal from there. That was just one of the MANY unexpected we’ve experienced on the road (and one of my personal favorites).
The Bus is Always Getting Dirty…Inside & Out
Another honest moment: We’ve only cleaned the outside of our bus once. And, that was way back to when we first left on this crazy journey! While we have hosed it down, the outside of the bus is just always dirty. Whether it’s mud, dirt, snow, or some other debris, our skoolie’s exterior truly has seen it all.
Unlike the outside of the bus, I am constantly finding myself having to clean the inside. Whether it’s dirt and sand gathering all over the floor, dog hair, or just a mess that David left behind him, cleaning a bus definitely keeps you on your toes! Granted, it’s a tiny space and doesn’t take a ton of time to clean up. But, I think the frequency of cleaning is much higher than a normal space.
While there may seem like a lot of things that could wrong by living a lifestyle on the road, we wouldn’t trade van life for anything. This has been an amazing experience for us and has taught us the importance of being patient and not taking life too seriously. What are some of the worst things you’ve experienced on the road or during travel?
Still have more unanswered questions about the van life or just want some quick tips for roadlife? Check out a list of all our van life articles!