Picture your ideal backyard and magnify it into a vast valley of wildflowers or transform it into a serene beach with crashing waves – that is the oasis some people have created for themselves by taking their homes on the open road. Van life is a growing lifestyle among adventurers who convert old buses and vans into whimsical mobile homes ready for wherever the wind takes them.
Founder of ‘Van Clan’, – an online community and content page for campervan lovers and travel addicts – Brandon Saltalamacchia, told Bored Panda that the first allure of van life is the freedom it gives, “People want freedom to escape the ever daunting bills, stress and constraints of “real life”. The thought of having a minimalist lifestyle for a little while is certainly an aspect of van life that intrigues many newcomers, and it’s certainly true.” These custom mini houses utilize economical space design to fit all the necessities one would find in a normal sized home. Ovens, closets, beds, and fold-out desks they all fit in these gorgeous mobile dwellings that would make Marie Kondo proud. The other obvious benefit according to Saltalamacchia – cost. “All you need to sort is insurance, food and gas, and then you can go anywhere your heart desires, all while taking in the ever-changing world around you,” he said, adding that cost is the most common question they receive on their page. Scroll down below to see some of these inspired van life designs and don’t forget to upvote your favs!
We are so excited to finally be on the road after first purchasing our bus 2 years ago! Our build took a year and a half to complete.
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Not sure if life on the road is right for you? According to the Van Clan founder people from all walks of life are jumping on board with this new trend, the only qualification – an adventurous soul. “It’s your typical adventurous human who just wants to live a little, you could be 18 years of age straight out of school, or freshly retired, there’s no real type of person who takes on this lifestyle, but you can bet your money, that each one who does has an adventurous streak in them that wants to discover new places and meet new people,” said Saltalamacchia.
To answer everyone’s concern how do we keep everything still while we are moving – we use Velcro tape! Thus, after a few attempts of driving the bus, surprisingly everything stayed as it is without taping it. Gotta thank the soft air suspension of the bus
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Getting started on your van life journey may seem daunting but Saltalamacchia has some words of advice for newcomers before they purchase a van or throw down money on construction supplies.”If you’re looking at taking on the van life we really suggest you think about it hard. Is living in a tiny box really what you want? Do you want someone knocking on your vehicle at 2am in the morning one day because you’ve parked in the wrong spot? Do you want to pee in bushes now and then? These are some of the things that will most likely happen, but you’ll be rewarded with many incredible experiences along the way.”
If you think you have what it takes to tough it out in the great outdoors, the Van Clan founder says there are some logistics to consider while planning, “Firstly, if you’re buying an already converted van, you may have to redesign it to your style if not, then you’ll have to do a conversion that has multiple uses, for example, your seating will convert into a bed, and then convert into a desk, and while all that’s going on, it’s storage space at the same time. Secondly, do you want a toilet and/or a shower? If so, again, prepare to somehow fit it in to your vehicle, for smaller vehicles this might not be an option. And thirdly, test drive it. Find a rental, and rent it for a weekend, see if you can deal with the space, does it drive well? And is it something you can LIVE in.”
Our sweet bus is starting to look more and more like a home! We are almost at the finish line. We absolutely cannot wait to move in
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Downsizing is cost efficient in the long term, but how much does a van conversion set you back? “Van conversions vary in price, you can go as cheap as $1,000 if you really want the bare bones and fancy finding scrap wood, or you can go all out and have conversions well over the $10,000 mark, ” explained , “It all depends on the size of your van, and how deep you want to go with the conversion, we recommend doing it yourself with a budget, it makes every inch feel more YOU.” As for monthly expenses the cost is very little, he said, “Your biggest outgoing is gas, then food, then insurance. You can do it all on as little as $250 a month, but your average van lifers is most likely spending around $300-$600 per month living in a van, and that’s including gas.”
I really enjoy designing alternative spaces and giving them a new feel and life. When I first got my bus it was an old yellow bus just like the one most of us probably took to school. With some planning and imagination, I turned it into my home. Most of the time, I forget that ‘I live in a bus.’ It just feels like home to me
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One hesitation people have about a smaller home is not just missing the larger luxuries but basic hygiene, however this expert said that the idea that van life people don’t shower is probably the biggest misconception about this lifestyle. “This could not be further from the truth, yes, there’s times where you don’t shower for a couple of days, but getting to a water source, or using a portable shower bag is very common with van lifers. Most of them are very clean!”
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But who has the time and resources to just take off for a year? “Many people think you have to do van life for years, no, you could be doing it for a year, a few months, or even a couple of weeks, hell, you could be a weekend warrior, someone who likes to do it on the weeks only. Van life can be a day, or a lifetime, it’s your path, you can choose how long it lasts.”
It’s been a long time getting to this point and I am super happy with how it turned out
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It’s hard not to daydream about traveling around and spending the night with breathtaking views in the background, but just like with anything on social media Saltalamacchia warns to take these #VanLife instagram pics with a grain of salt. “Van life is one of the most glamorized lifestyles on social media, not everyone eats strawberries on top of their van, looking at the sunset with their cute dog but I think knowing this will let you take each picture with a grain of salt. These moments can happen, but trust us, it’s not every weekend, some weekends you’ll be stuck in a shopping mall car park, but then some weekends you’ll be on a beach with a cold beer, reading a book with no care in the world.”
This is our first van we ever had in Australia, we had to cook outside rain or shine, you couldn’t stand up inside and we shared a single bed for a whole year! This tiny little home started our love affair with life on the road, it gave us a crash course in alternative living and the kind of freedom that tasted bloody beautiful! We discovered a life which was possible if we put our minds to it, one which was at times.. really hard but worth it every damn time! A life we had been dreaming of
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However, if you weigh the pros and cons and think you have what it takes to be one of these van explorers, the van life enthusiast says it is well worth it, “The most rewarding part about this lifestyle is the peace of mind you get when you’re on the road. You have very little outgoings, you have the choice to go wherever your heart desires and you get to meet a lot of incredible people. The lifestyle is the rewarding part, it all comes together to be a relaxing, slow yet eventful way of living that many can’t wait to start. Time slows down when you live the van life.”
The house is a blessing to stay in but there are so many things about our bus that we miss! Beyond the obvious… the fact that it is “our” space… cleaning 250 sq ft is NOTHING compared to a normal sized house! It takes the family 30 mins to pic up our whole bus versus a few hours getting a home nice and clean…I feel like I can’t keep up!
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It cost me $12k and took 10 months on and off. All together about 3 months straight work
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This build has been quite a process. Most of the time it’s excitement, dreams and drawings, but there have been countless moments of extreme frustration and major setbacks. A 6 month project has turned into two years. We have sold our home, lived in our parents house, just sorta circled around looking for things to do while expecting the bus to be finished just around the corner.
Sometimes it’s felt like the worst idea I’ve ever had, like a never ending problem machine that’s going to take me down with it…like something I shouldn’t have tried… …and then there’s days like these.
Where the fog breaks, and I get a glimpse of the future, of the bus finished. Of my lil’ lady and I’s life on this beautiful dream machine.
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Note: fireplace is a low heat electrical and is at a safe distance from curtain – no threat to start a fire
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Carl’s conversion is in full swing. I can’t believe it’s actually happening! Can’t wait to start exploring
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Whenever I look at my van, it’s like falling in love over and over again. Sometimes I just can’t believe that I built it
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We are definitely not experts, we’ve been working it out as we go (eg. when we hit the road the only tools we packed were a hammer and a tiny screwdriver – which I don’t recommend doing if you plan to drive any car, let alone a vintage Kombi, around Australia
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The van rebuild was a real labour of love, they wanted to create a relaxing and happy environment. A place where they could really feel at home. They had no idea what an arduous task it would be. They worked tirelessly night and day, for 6 weeks. With very little spare money, they had to learn new skills and become resourceful. Building everything themselves from scratch. Scott became a carpenter, plumber and electrician and Ellie a seamstress, painter and decorator.
What they achieved is a touching tribute to their Florence, a dream that never came true. Sometimes the dreams that do come true are the ones we never even knew we had.
Image credits: Ellie Morgan
Kick off is the view from the sleeping/living space including our loved „entertainment area“ the cubic mini. The burning fire adds so much warmth to the whole place and makes it super cozy. It was important for us to keep our build spacious. There is a real cabin feeling inside. On the left is our kitchen counter with sink and quite a bit of storage space underneath. Since we wanted to use a portable gas stove to be able to cook outside as well, we didn’t build a fixed one into the kitchen area. In the drawers, we have dishes, food supplies as well as our freshwater tank, our compost toilet, and our 200ah batteries. The whole build is done by ourselves, and you probably can tell we are not carpenters, so we just call it style
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We have finally hit the road! After 5 days of non stop designing and renovating we finally have our new home for the next 3 months ?? Can’t wait to share the interior with you guys and our months of adventures ??❤️ The first night at this beautiful spot was a success and I’m already in love with the states and this van … (and yes, this home will be up for sale at the end of our stay)
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Well, we don’t have a toilet. Sometimes that makes things a bit complicated. But it also makes us really creative, and we have a funny reason to ask people for help. So at the end that is working out fine. We did some isolating, but during the winter it still gets pretty cold. We have a heater only after an hour or two it is too much for the batteries. Besides that, I’m pleased with the setup
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