10 reasons why vanlife makes you happier

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Living more with less…

A concept I’ve always loved but didn’t know how well I’d go, implementing it into my life.

I had a pretty fortunate, relatively routine and safe home life, but I loved it. My amazing family and friends, my job, the weekends, the gym, life was easy. So if I’m honest…when we first decided to live the vanlife, a small part of me thought…will I like this? Will I like living in such a small space? The only clothes I own, folded into one basket, the no time schedule (I’ve always been so organized), the no wifi, the no power (there go the hair straightners…oh and a fridge), the no washing machines (unless at a campground or laundromat), the no toilet or shower (again, unless at a campground).

Man, I remember this being a little daunting and I definitely had doubts…am I too precious?

Everything about home life was so easy, the simple idea that you can flick a switch, plug in your phone and boom its charging. Or walk upstairs, fling open the fridge and grab a cold drink. Those easy life aspects go out the window and yeah, at the beginning it takes a bit of adjusting, but my god does it wake up a happiness inside of you. One that wasnt there before and one that only living the vanlife, will bring out of you.

So here you have it…Here’s 10 reasons why living in a van makes you happier

1. You expect nothing, so everything feels like a win
The beauty of vanlife is that you expect nothing and because of that, everything that happens, feels like a win. You don’t know whats just around the corner…it could be a beach, a big city, an old church, an abandoned train station, a long straight road, a rainforest, a surf break…okay I think you get the point. But when you don’t know whats coming…you appreciate it when it comes into view.

Parked up on the hill in Spain, at a beach called Los Locos (you can read more about it in “CHASING THE SURF ON THE WEST COAST OF SPAIN” post) we didn’t know what to expect. Firstly, it was one of our first nights free camping and me being, well…scared of doing my business in nature, was a little uncomfortable with the idea already.

Up on the hill above the beach, we chose a spot where other campers we’re parked and set up camp. Bryn took off for a surf and as per had a wicked one, with some gnarly waves, pumping into the shore. After some dinner, with the light still on our side, we walked up the hill a little further to see a row of rugged cliffs dropping straight down to the ocean, a good 50 metres below us. WOW, we thought. With the sounds of the wind howling, the waves beating up on the cliff wall and a deep echo, from a huge cave to the right of us, the whole scene around us, felt electric. We sat high up on the cliff edge, appreciating everything we could see, until it got dark. We really didn’t expect it from such a random spot in Spain and because of this, it made it all more special.

 

2. You gain an incredible sense of freedom
What screams freedom more than having no time schedule and no deadlines? Being able to do whatever you want, whenever you want? With nothing but unknown roads, unknown territory, your little home on wheels and the love of your life…Vanlife opens you up to this incredible sense of freedom.

Throughout our two months in the van, our life was spent swimming, surfing, cooking, reading and living. The perfect escape from big city life, work or whatever it is that keeps you strapped to that storm called stress.

I know it’s not easy to drop everything and say “Alright, I’m buying a van, going to live like a hippie and never coming home,” but it is worth it. Whether it’s a week trip around your country in a hired camper, or buying your own and setting off…whatever your buzz, the sense of freedom will have you high on life, drunk in love and drowning in happiness.

3. You learn things, a lot of things
When you’ve got your own little portable home, not a whole lot of money and an unknown adventure ahead of you…its surprising how much you’ll learn.

You don’t only learn about car parts, mechanics and motors, like when the van breaks down and you have to figure it out for yourself, but you’ll also learn a lot about each other as a couple. Spending 24 hours, 7 days a week, not further than 5 metres away from each other is testing, I’ll tell you that. But you learn to do it all together, hand in hand and I think that’s pretty damn cool.

Of course and along with that, you’ll learn a lot about the country you’re in and the places you visit, the crazy and inspiring people you meet and not to forget…yourself. Cue “who am I?” question.

4. You seize every opportunity
Living in a van, allows you to seize every opportunity. Not one day is spent lounging around, watching TV, chilling in your pj’s (something we’re all guilty for back home). Instead, you’re up at the crack of dawn, (mostly because it’s too hot), but also because you can hear whatever it is, on the outside of that van door.

You meet people who are travelling inland to a waterfall and you think to yourself…fuck it, well come along too. You see a road sign pointing to some rock formations, 15km off the highway and you say to each other…lets check it out. You see an amazing beach, full of other van lifers and although you were aiming to drive for another hour, you decide…meh well just stay here. You itch for adventure, because…what the hell else is there to do? And as the days go by, flooding into one another, you slowly just start going with the flow, taking it day by day and loving every second of it.

These decisions are opportunities…you have the freedom to just jump on them and ride the wave. How bloody cool is that? #happinessoverload

5. You experience things you never would have
When living the vanlife, you spend more time exploring smaller, more remote areas, than you would have while backpacking…in my opinion anyway.

When we we’re backpacking, we were bouncing from place to place, big city to big city, hostel to hostel. We didn’t have the time to slow down and figure out what life was like, 100km to our left or right…it was always go, go, go. We would stay at hostels and go to cities or countries that people would recommend and although these places we’re usually rad, it left no room for exploring new and unheard of places for ourselves.

When we got in the van it was the total opposite. One night, we we’re parked up in an amazing free camping spot in Portugal, called Praia de Odeceixe (read more about it in “OUR TOP 10 SPOTS TO SURF IN PORTUGAL” post). We had no idea about this amazing little spot, nor did we know how beautiful it was, but we do know that we would have looked right past it, if it weren’t for our home on wheels to take us there.

This is one of a hundred moments, that we wouldn’t have experienced, if we weren’t in the van. In such a random little spot in Portugal, so far from the bigger cities, we felt blessed and happy to be living the vanlife.

 

6. You focus on you and your own shit
To be able to just focus on us and our own shit had to be one of my favourite parts about living the vanlife, making me and our relationship, happier and healthier. It’s so easy to get caught up in everyone else’s lives, everyone elses dreams, goals, problems and dramas, but as cliché as it is…you really gotta look after YOU.

With Bryn and I literally living in each others pockets, we had the time to deeply talk about shit (life, goals, the future, whatever). Nothing else came into play and this was really beneficial for us. Before leaving New Zealand, we both dealt with anxiety about things we couldn’t control, but living in the van really helped us let shit go and focus on things that really mattered.

That, at the end of the day, is what makes you happy.

7. You turn a little wild…and going wild for a while, isnt a bad thing
Right, before you even start the vanlife, tell your mindset and your body that things are going to get a little wild…but who said wild was a bad thing?

Your hygiene standards drop…they plummet actually. Expect not to shower for 1-5 days (if you’re free camping) and you never really wash your hair. You learn to sleep with SO MUCH sand in your bed that it seems natural and you change your sheets…hardly ever. You start peeing in places that you once thought were far too public and number two?…well get used to the old bush poo. The clothes that you would usually throw into the wash basket, are now, to your sense of smell, still clean. You start eating food past its use by date and you sleep in random, side-of-the-road locations, not really knowing or caring, whether its safe to do so.

Okay your probably thinking…ummm how does this make you happier?
Well it just does and this is why…

Because you start finding your partners lack of hygiene, absolutely hilarious, making you laugh harder and smile longer. You do all this super weird stuff together, like the time we rubbed an onion on our skin in an attempt to scare off mosquitoes…yes this actually happened. You see your partner looking their worst and still, without a doubt, are totally in love with them and most importantly…you awaken a sense of ridiculousness inside of you, one that got lost somewhere along the lines of being that snotty nose child and that working class adult.

To be a little wild is to be a little happy and going wild for a while, was seriously the best.

8. You meet all sorts of random people and learn a life lesson or 5
This ones pretty key I think. During your little vanlife journey, you’re bound to meet people who are on one of their own.

You come across such different people. Old, solo travellers in their 60s, excited best friends on their uni holidays, retired husbands and wives, who never got the chance to travel when they were younger, couples like us, who are living in the moment, plus EVERYTHING in between.

All I can say is…take interest in these peoples lives. Listen to their advice and adventures. Embrace their different culture. Respect their different age or situations and find happiness in meeting all these wonderful different people. You will learn a thing or two, I promise.

9. You stop taking things for granted
As you venture through your vanlife journey, you’ll soon realise how much you stop taking things for granted. Obvious things first. Like when you have a shower for the first time in a while or when you put on clean clothes after using the campgrounds washing machine.

But after this, you learn to stop taking the little things for granted. Like when you crack the door open on a hot night and the cool breeze hits you. Or when the kettle boils, after sitting on the portable, gas-top stove for nearly half an hour. Or even when you realise you have enough coins for the next toll road.

These simple life pleasures are usually and so easily taken for granted, but when you’re living the vanlife, you value every moment of it.

10. You live more with less
Ahhhhhhh the best for last and now something I can proudly say I am good at…living more with less. This concept will change your life if you let it.

I no longer find myself etching to have more. More clothes, more makeup, a bigger bedroom, the next best thing.

You become 100% happy with everything you have in your little home on wheels. Happy with all the clothes you have, folded up in a basket, under the bed. Happy that the hair straighteners don’t work because you never have power. Happy when your phone runs out of battery and you can’t charge it until the van turns on and happy with the fact that you don’t have a lot, but you do have enough.

 

Vanlife makes you happy, its as simple as that.

Peace
Leah | free & addicted

 

 

 

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  • I so totally agree Leah. Material things dont make you happy and you can’t take them to your grave, but life’s experiences and adventures are “happiness and treasured memories” with you forever! ENJOY

  • Thanks for this. Have recently bought a van and we are quitting our jobs this summer to live in it! Super excited but also a little apprehensive about some things (like you said at the start). I’m sure it will be an amazing experience.

    • I’m sure you will LOVE IT – very excited for you and will keep up to date with your travels. We have some more vanlife blogs if you want to check them out to get a grasp on the whole vanlife buzz :]

  • I totally appreciate that you can do this and most certainly you make it look and sound so appealing. As much as we would somehow love to try this, I don’t think I could adopt this lifestyle. I am envious of those (such as yourself) you can do it and boy, I admire you hehe
    I think I still like taking things for granted (like my shoes!!). One day, tho…who knows!

  • This is so perfect and incredibly true. I’ve spent about 3 out of the last 6 months trying vanlife. One time my husband and I went 12 whole days without properly showering due to a snow storm in New Zealand (long story!) But I totally get it… all of it. We are hoping to live most of this year out of an old westie. I’m sure it will be quite the eye opener!

  • I love your photos you guys live and breathe happiness! I don’t think this life is for everyone but it was really interesting to read about what you learned from your experience

  • From fellow nomads, it is such an amazing feeling. Movement, freedom and less stuff. Have fun on your journey as we love it and can’t imagine anything else. Spreading the word is what we need to do, it’s such a great community out there!

  • I think “you expect nothing so everything feels like a win” depends very much on your baseline mindset. I have noticed that the more excited I am about certain destinations the more disappointed I become when I finally get there. It is very important to be open minded and just get things as they come.
    On a side note, how long have you been traveling like this?
    I always wanted to try van-life, but my bf is not too excited about this 😀

    • Yes totally, we had nothing planned for our vanlife trip, so our baseline mindset was very much open and we loved every part of it. We travelled in our van for two months but have stopped over winter where we’re in Chamonix doing a snowboard season 🙂 We aim to jump back in the van in May.

  • We’re so keen to embrace the #vanlife movement… although after spending the last year travelling the world we’re a little short of cash. So, we’re working for a while and then… VANLIFE!

    If you guys end up in London hit us up, we’d love to catch up!

    Mark and Mim x

  • Totally enjoyed your article, it sums things up beautifully. I try to explain vanlife to people and you can see they just don’t get it but we love it and all the unknowns it brings. I think everyone should experience a more basic way of living for a while, the trouble is its so hard to then go back to mainstream life. Keep liviving the dream x

  • I’ve always loved this idea, but we have two small kids (ages 2 ½ and 10 months)…but with the high cost of rent these days, I sometimes wonder if it’s more cost effective to go this route. If I had a big enough bus/van maybe it could be done. Would you say it’s more cost effective to live this way, compared to how you used to live?

    • Hmmmmmm, I’m not too sure to be honest. We lived like this for 2 months and for us, the expenses were totally doable (fuel, maintenance, tolls, food, water etc etc) – however we had saved for a year prior to doing this so had the money to do it :] I would love to know how you get on if you do it! Keep in touch x

  • Awesome, guys! Is this your van? Made into a campervan yourselves? We had a “brief” 4 month van life experience as well, while road tripping Australia and New Zealand. We didn’t go free camping though, because we needed WiFi to keep Brecht’s online business going. Although our rented campervan was basically a big car (so tiny), and we got cranky every once in a while because it was why too hot or cold, I kind of miss that life now we’re back home. We’re dreaming of transforming a van into a campervan ourselves and taking a European road trip, but I wonder if it will ever be more than a dream.

    Keep wandering the world!
    Birthe

    • Hi Birthe – yes this is our van! We brought it already converted but did it up a little more to make it feel like home! Once the winter has finished we can’t wait to get back in the van for some more adventures! I would love to travel Aus and NZ in a van! Deff a goals for when I get home!

  • I absolutely love this! Feeling really inspired and excited for when my partner set off on our van life journey at the end of the year 😀

  • I like the sound of vanlife. Although the toilet and shower thing sounds a bit challenging. But I’ve camped before, so I guess it’s not THAT much different. Is it cold at night in the van though? Are there lots of blankets involved? Anyway, good onya for giving it a go and finding out how great it is!

    • You should! Its honestly the best. Nah it wasn’t too cold! My boyfriends like a heater so I was always toasty haha! Would definitely need more blankets during winter thats for sure!