I've been reading about digital nomads way too much lately. I read stories of guys/girls/couples/friends breaking free and going off the grid living into tiny vans. Sometimes cars more than vans. Sometimes with their pets. It concerns me a bit. Has it become just a hipster mainstream trend? Are masses being guided into this choice? Let me take down the myth of the "too romanticized" #vanlife experience...
Rome, 20 January 2017Vanlife is uncomfortable. Yes, it is. My van is huge, has a kitchen a bathroom, a fridge, a queen size double bed, a dinette that turns into another double bed, a closet, heater, electricity and more accessories. It is basically a moving house.
Yet is still fucking uncomfortable. So whenever you see people enthusiastic about their tiny spaces, foldable tables, be sure they are, but consider the fact that it might not suit everyone.
The road can be scary. Once I read "the best spot is next to a cemetery, is quite and there is usually a pump of water outside". Believe me, you don't want to sleep in the dark next to a place where people gets buried. MacDonald's is a much better place. It comes with free wi-fi, so yeah, I rather smell french fries all day than wake up and see ignis fatuus in the middle of the night.
Where to hide valuable belongings? That nice laptop and the latest version of the coolest camera, where will you store those when you are out talking a walk into a new city? Yes, there are hidden places in the van, but what if "they" find them? This kind of thoughts will be hunting you every time you go out even for a five-minute stroll.
"How nice a vanlifer and his dog!" Besides of the fact that in countries like Spain and Italy dogs aren't allowed anywhere, ever, all of the time, dogs smell, get wet or dirty, dive into puddles and sometimes like to roll into bird-shit if they are not eating it. A clean van is a happy van, otherwise it is very annoying to live in a tight filthy place.
Cleaning the van can be quick, but also frustrating.
Summers are hot, winters are cold. Nothing more to add here. Unless you can move around and find the mild compromise.
People will hate you. So you think you are going to be the cool, lovely guy who everybody loves because is doing something unique and valuable. No. Some people will hate you. Not all of them, but many will. They will see you as a bum and will ask you to leave at your soonest because they associate you and your van with dirt and problems. Plus they know that you are sneaking into their bushes at night to dump the big one. They assumed it even of myself, ignoring the fact that I have a working toilet in my super-van. But who cares, you are a reject and you have to leave.
The road is expensive. Oh, you thought you could travel cheap? What about gas? What about parking spots? What about highways? What about the fact that you wanted to look supercool and bought a crappy 1976 van that overheats and brakes down every 200kms? Should I continue? Vanlife can be cheaper than a regular rental or mortgage but does not come for free.
Conclusion: vanliving is awesome!Yes, this is a more realistic picture of the downsides to VANLIVING, and yes, I fucking love it and can't wait to get back on the road.
Regardless of all the bad things that may come up into my mind right now, vanlife is bliss and can be understood only if lived in first person. Here are a few of my thoughts.
The van is your kingdom. You will get used to that cozy little space and you will love every single detail and even its flaws.
Best landscapes ever. Even 5 stars hotel will envy your position. Be it in Playa Zurriola in San Sebastian, or in front of a the monastery of Roncisvalle, or in the historical center of Rome, on top of the Alps, next the best public Thermal Baths in Italy, in front of the sandy brakes of Hossegor. Especially when is low season and nobody else is crowding these places, you can get the best of each place you are visiting.
Independence. you get to go wherever you want and you are free. Every day is a new adventure, you are the captain, you decide!
Good people. Many will hate you, especially if you park in a residential area, but you get to meet the coolest cats around. So far I had amazing encounters with some precious people, fellow surfers, and other adventure travelers. Partied all night playing instruments never seen before, got invited to luxurious villas to join incredible feasts. Some of this people will become your "pen friends" as you keep traveling in opposite directions.
You can take your dog with you. I love to travel with Margot, my lovely dog. She is very polite. Her nickname is shit-brake because she loves to roll in bird shit and sometimes I catch her eating whatever she finds on her path. But I just can't imagine life without her. She is 12 now, but still looking young and healthy!
You save money. Yes, gas money is a factor, but no need to book a hotel or buy expensive dinners. You have your house and your kitchen with you, and if you are good enough to avoid highways and camping areas, you get to save a decent amount.
The more you save, the more you travel and sometimes you can allow to spoil yourself to a fancy restaurant or a relaxing spa.
A lot of time for reading and learning new things. Some people love to take Netflix with them in their van, I have my Kindle and I love learning. I also bought myself a ukulele, and I must say I am getting very decent at it after just a few months.
I have a huge project for 2017 and will reveal parts of it very soon!