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I spent years considering van life and finally embarked on a 2-week trip last fall. 5 months later, I'm still dreaming of the lifestyle.

Monica Humphries   

I spent years considering van life and finally embarked on a 2-week trip last fall. 5 months later, I'm still dreaming of the lifestyle.
  • The concept of van life has intriqued me for years.
  • I've interviewed dozens of nomads who encouraged others to try van life with shorter trips.

Last summer, I stepped outside my dew-covered tent in Bryce Canyon National Park after a night of tossing and turning.

Before I could process the vibrant sunset, the first thought that crossed my mind was how the knots in my back wouldn't exist if I had slept on a mattress.

The spring before that, I woke up sweaty at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, craving a Glacier Freeze Gatorade that spent all night cooling in a fridge.

Sandwiched between those nights in tents are countless early-morning hikes and late nights stargazing, where I wished the comforts of my home were feet away instead of miles away.

Those desires could be answered with van life — especially since the version of van life I saw scrolling on Instagram and TikTok seemed to fit my outdoorsy lifestyle.

While not everyone who lives in their car does it by choice — vehicular homelessness is on the rise across the United States — there is a growing population of people who choose to live out of cars, vans, and RVs. Fueled by the pandemic and rising costs of living, more people are trading their houses and apartments for vehicles. In fact, Allied Market Research reported that the global RV market was valued at $57.3 billion in 2021 and could reach $117 billion by 2031.

Last October, it was my turn to test out the lifestyle.

Instead of diving head-first into the lifestyle, I gave it a test drive

Since becoming a reporter at Business Insider, I've profiled dozens of nomads living in RVs, vans, travel trailers, and tiny homes on wheels.

Interview after interview, conversation after conversion, one piece of advice constantly popped up.

"I would recommend trying to rent a van for at least a week or two," Maddy Garrett, a 25-year-old who moved into a Subaru Outback and recently upgraded to a Ram ProMaster, previously told BI. "After that, it's like, 'OK, I know I can do this.'"

The lifestyle has its downsides — bathrooms and campsites can be tough to find, people can struggle to find community, and not everyone is built to live in a state of flux.

For some, the positives outweigh the negatives. For others, the advantages don't come out on top.

As someone who has a habit of romanticizing everyday tasks like neighborhood walks and grocery shopping, a test run felt required before uprooting my life and emptying my bank account.

Last summer, I began planning a two-week trip in a campervan. Two weeks was enough time to test out camping in RV resorts, on public land, and in parking lots outside Cracker Barrel and Walmart.

I could grocery shop and cook meals while balancing long days driving with isolated days hiking.

I knew two weeks wasn't enough to experience every aspect of van life. For example, my biggest hesitation is a fear of getting lonely on the road — which is something I knew I wouldn't face in a two-week period.

But I hoped two weeks could give me insight into whether it would be a lifestyle I could explore more in the future.

I rented a Ram ProMaster for two weeks and covered six states

As I eyed different campervan rental companies, Native Campervans caught my eye. The rental company has four locations, with a hub in Denver. This meant I wouldn't need to fly during my trip.

Plus, the company's vans were what I dreamed of when I pictured van life. I rented a Ram ProMaster, and at about 75 square feet, it was plenty of space for one person while still being small enough to fit in an everyday parking spot.

In October, the rental company handed over a set of keys. I was visiting an array of destinations — deserts, mountains, forests, and cities — and I packed for each place. Plus, I had my outdoor gear and grocery shopped at Costco days before. Simply put, I had overpacked.

Seeing my nearly dozen bags fit in the van with space to spare eliminated my first fear of van life — that there wouldn't be enough space to live. I decided I could manage full-time with 75 square feet.

After I unpacked, I climbed into the front seat and set off toward New Mexico.

For the next two weeks, I explored America's Southwest. I drove through small mountain towns, sat in traffic in major cities like Las Vegas, and discovered remote campsites on public land.

I fell in love with the freedom the van gave me. If I was hungry, I pulled over and made breakfast. If I was tired, I found a quiet place to nap. If I was itching for a hike, all I had to do was pull up a map and find a place to explore.

I saw striking landscapes that I could've never seen on a weekend trip from Denver. I met fascinating people who were eager to share their life stories. And I discovered more about myself.

I dropped off my van and left with more interest in the lifestyle

After romanticizing the lifestyle for so long, my biggest fear with the trip was that it'd extinguish my longing for van life.

If anything, it did the opposite.

I arrived back home exhausted and with some lessons learned. I never need to travel that fast again — six states in two weeks is about five states too many, in my opinion.

Cooking extravagant meals and baking will be hobbies I leave behind if I do live a nomadic life — I haven't seen many vans equipped with ovens.

And I still fear I'll get lonely after spending months bopping from location to location.

But beyond that, I experienced the appeal so many describe, and I'm eager to try it out again. This time, though, I might leave my apartment for a month or two.




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