Forewarned is Forearmed: Emotional Reactions When you Start Vandwelling

by | Sep 21, 2013 | 63 comments

Forewarned is Forearmed: Emotional Reactions When you Start Vandwelling

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Many of you are about to be forced into vandwelling; others are longing and dreaming about it. Whichever you are, you don’t really know what it is going to be like to live in a van. Others of you have just moved into a van within the last few weeks or months and are surprised by how hard it has been. The problem isn’t just the normal things like figuring out cooking, bathing and sleeping, the bigger surprise is often your emotional reaction to it.
It's darkest, and coldest, before the dawn. You are standing at the dawn of a new and wonderfu life but you have to endure the
Vandwelling is so far out of our normal lives and comfort zone that nothing we’ve experienced before can prepare us for our reactions when we finally start living in a van. Most of us experience at least some troubling feelings like:

  • Confused
  • Disoriented
  • Afraid
  • Lonely

Operating under the principle that forewarned is forearmed, in this post I want to talk about what you may expect to feel and assure you it is normal and nearly universal among us (although I have known some people who instantly loved it). Anytime I am with a group of vandwellers and the topic turns to how we felt at first they almost all say they went through these exact same things. But the goods news is that we almost all got over it after a period of time. Sometimes it was quickly and sometimes it was slowly, but among all of us who keep doing it eventually we calm down, adapt, and fall in love with our new life!
As you read these typical reactions to vandwelling, keep them in mind so you won’t be surprised if you feel the same way when you start. Hopefully, you will take some comfort in knowing that what you’re feeling is normal and reasonable and most importantly, that it will come to an end and things will get better. Next Sunday we will look at why you’re feeling that way, what it means, and how to cope with it.

What to Expect When you Start Vandwelling

1) Lack of Defined Territory: Whenever you live in a house, you have a defined territory that belongs to you and is your castle, your fortress. Living in a van you no longer have four thick walls keeping you safe from all the bad things in the world. Instead you are sitting in a parking lot, public street, or maybe out in the middle of the boonies. Wherever you are, you feel all alone and helpless. Inside the van is YOURS, you own it. But step outside and you have no claim to it. Anybody has a total right to stand exactly beside your van and do anything they want. You have no control over it. That is an unsettling feeling.
2) Uneasy about Parking: Where will you park? What will happen to you while you are parked there? Will you be hassled, fined or arrested? Those are scary questions and it takes a long time before you get it all figured out and get comfortable with it. But with time and practice finding a parking place becomes second nature and it stops being a problem.
3) Disturbed by all the Strange Noises: My goodness sleeping in a city is noisy! One night at about 2;00 AM I was woke up by three drunks standing outside my van finishing off their last bottle of booze. They had every right to be there so I just waited till they were done and they moved on. It’s just part of vandwelling! You will constantly be hearing these things in your sleep:

  • Traffic Noise
  • Car doors slamming all around you
  • Street Sweepers
  • Snow plows
  • People walking and talking around you
  • Sirens
  • Rain sleet or hail on the roof
  • Birds on the roof

For a long time it is disturbing and every sound wakes you up and brings you to an alert state. But after a while your brain learns that those sounds aren’t a threat and will start to just barely register them. Eventually you will just barely stir and go on sleeping right through them.
Transforming from something ordinary and bland to something extrordinary and magical is not an easy process. But it is well worth enduring the pain!
4) Lonely and Isolated: If you live in a city then you aren’t really any more isolated than you were when you lived in a house. The chances are really good you never met or spent any time with your neighbors any way so living in the van doesn’t really change anything. But at least in a house there were people you were familiar with all around you. You may not know their names, but at least you saw them every day and that felt good. That’s not true in a van. Where you sleep changes all the time and there usually aren’t the same people around. So you feel alone and disconnected.
This can be especially a problem if you are a boondocker and live on public land. I’ve gone a week without seeing another human being while camped in the desert. You may not want to hear this, but most of us have lost the ability to be alone and regaining it is a very good thing. I’d encourage you take the time to learn how to embrace the silence around you and find it in your own head.
As I’ve said many times, I’ve made more, deep, life-long friendships as a “hermit” vandweller than I ever made living in a house. The internet had made it possible for us to connect with each other and create a “tribe’ of mobile people. Take advantage of it!
5) Worried About the Police: At first you won’t be good at following your instincts and finding a place to park, but after some practice and trial and error, you will figure it out. Most of us develop a number of places we know we are safe to park and won’t be hassled. Eventually we will almost all have run-ins with the police, but after a few of them they start to lose their terror for you, “Here we go again, another cop at the door.”
6) Worried for Your Safety: You really aren’t more at risk by living in your van; but it feels like you are. Fortunately, that just fades away with time. You will gain confidence in yourself and in your safety as time goes on and the danger never materializes.
7) Disoriented: When you live in a house, you live in a very orderly fixed world. “Home” rarely changes. But in a van, “Home” changes every night! For a very long time every morning when I woke up I felt totally lost! I had no idea where I was and what all the noises I heard around me were. For some reason that lasted a long time. It was like my brain reset every morning and started searching for clues to its location in time and space and when it didn’t find any, it was worried. Eventually it stopped and doesn’t happen anymore. Now ever morning I wake up in the trailer and it is my comfortable home surroundings. Where the trailer is located in time and space doesn’t seem important at all.
8) Upset by A Lack of Routine: For your whole life you have had a normal routine beginning with when you woke up and lasting till you went to bed. It changed and adapted over time but not very fast. The day you moved into a van, it all went out the window!! Think about your daily routines at home and how different it has to be in a van. The things you have taken for granted your whole life are suddenly gone:

  • Heating
  • Air Conditioning
  • Unlimited Lighting
  • Bathroom
  • Toilet
  • Shower
  • Running hot water
  • Closets
  • Kitchen
  • Stove
  • Coffeepot
  • Refrigerator
  • Microwave
  • Sink
  • Dining Room table
  • Sofa
  • TV

The only solution is to establish all new routines, and that just takes time, so hang in there.

Changing your life is possible. Transformation is in in your hands.

Changing your life is possible. Your transformation is in in your hands!

9) Wondering if the Van Will Break-down: Living in a house brings you a lot of security! You can be certain that unless something terrible happens (like a fire or flood) you have a home for life. It is solid, substantial and seemingly forever. But when you move into a van, you know it isn’t “if” the van will break down, but “when.” As certain as you are that your house is safe and not going anywhere, you are equally certain that your van is going to eventually suffer a breakdown and leave you homeless. For a very long time this was my single greatest fear. When it finally broke down, I wasn’t just inconvenienced, I was homeless. That terrified me.
It took a long time to get over that fear and mainly it was just having multiple experiences with break-downs. Every time it happened, I coped with it. One time I stayed for a week with a friend; several times I was able to sleep in the van at the shop while it was being repaired. Many times it has been in and out in one day so no major problem. One time I simply slept in it along the side of the road while I waited for daylight to hitch-hike into town and get a tow truck.
I’ve written a blog post about this topic so I am not going to repeat it here. Suffice it to say that if you do preventative maintenance and learn to roll with the punches break-downs turn out to be a paper-tiger and not so fearful. In fact it is no longer a fear of mine at all. Now I just look at break-downs as another very minor adventure and look forward to learning how I am going to get out of this one.
Next Sunday we will look at why you are having these feelings, what it means, and how to cope with it.

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63 Comments

  1. Cyrus A Palmer

    Great post Bob! I took to it right away, I didn’t experience some of the negative reactions you mentioned. But I was concerned about them before I started. I had to dive right in before I realized they were non issues.

    • Bob

      Thanks Cyrus! We are all so different that no two of us will react in the same way. But these are the most common reactions so I thought I would share them.
      I have one friend whose life was so bad before he moved into a van that he instantly loved it and everything about it! But that isn’t typical!
      Bob

  2. McBeef

    Breakdowns will probably be my greatest concern, along with the weather. I still intend to work while vandwelling, so I’ll need to make regular maintenance a priority. Really, something like that should be priority for all vandwellers anyway. As far as noise, I have ten hours of celestial white noise downloaded onto my ipod, so I tend to just slap on my headphones when going to bed. Still living in my car for now. It’ll be a couple months more before I get my van. :/

    • Frank

      You can also buy some soft foam earplugs at Wal-mart, much less noise and you’ll sleep like a dead man.

      • Frank

        P.S. MacBeef, however you sleep more soundly, It sure is much more cheaper than trying to soundproof your whole vehicle like some people have. Its money in your pocket and much much less work. Always keep it supper simple for the savings.

        • McBeef

          Agreed! If I make any home improvements to my van at all, it’ll go to insulation. Winter is not far off, and I detest the cold….

      • McBeef

        I was thinking of that actually, but I need some white noise while I sleep. During this past summer, I had a small portable, battery operated fan that I mounted on my steering wheel that not only kept me cool, but also provided me with a nice layer if white noise. During winter, this will be impractical, so I intend on using my headphones most of the time.

        • McBeef

          *layer of white noise

        • Bob

          McBeef, I worked third shift (midnight to 8) for a long time and got so used to sleeping with white noise I couldn’t sleep without it. When I moved into the truck I took a small Timex alarm clock with me that did nature sounds. One of them was “wind” and it was perfect as white noise. It was 110 volt so I ran it off an inverter at night. Eventually I weaned myself off of white noise and don’t use it anymore. This isn’t the one I had but it does have white noise:
          http://www.amazon.com/Conair-SU7-Sound-Therapy-Relaxation/dp/B000OCK9S2/
          Bob

          • McBeef

            Wow, that is an awesome and cheap solution for those of us who need white noise to sleep, especially since it makes nature sounds! Man, I’m so glad I ran across this site, I have a feeling I’m going to be needing it just about every step of the way on this journey of mine.

          • Bob

            McBeef, I’m glad my experiences were able to be helpful to you! That is the whole point of the blog, to help each other out!
            Bob

    • Bob

      McBeef, I think that is true for most of us, breakdowns are a real source of fear. The best solution is an emergency fund so you know you can get back on the road quickly, but many of us can’t even put that together–we are just surviving day-by-day.
      The one, final solution that always defeats fear is faith. Over a period of time as a vandweller I have developed confidence that everything is going to work out and it really is going to be okay. That solved my fear problems but often it takes a long time.
      Bob

  3. vtchris

    I never have made it to the RTR in Jan and now I am excited to hear that I may have my chance this March on the East Coast…wonderful….keep me posted!

    • Bob

      vtchris, I’ve always wanted an East coast RTR but because I am not there I can’t make it happen. Recently a wonderful reader stepped forward and volunteered to do all the leg work and then she did something very strange: SHE DID IT!Lots of people talk, she did! We think we have a place all lined up and she has talked to the Rangers and I have filled out an application to get a Special Use Permit for over 75 people. She is going to go camping there this month and take photos and if it as good as it sounds it will become official.
      Maybe I will be seeing you in March!
      Bob

  4. Joy

    A large breakdown happened on my very first trip, and I was not prepared for the repair expense. I wasn’t thinking straight with all the emotion going on, and sold the van to a junk yard. In retrospect, I should have stored it in a facility, till I could afford the tranny work, as it was a great van otherwise…and set up perfectly.
    Most times in Van living….it’s not what the van is worth to John Q Public, or ‘book’ value, it’s what it’s worth to YOU, as YOUR HOME, that should determine if you keep on fixing it, or move on to another vehicle or HOME.
    Now I know….So what if you’ve had to replace any and all mechanical parts. So long as the body is sound, and it is comfortable for you, go for it. But you do need to save for those mechanical issues that always happen eventually. Be prepared , before that first long trip.

    • Bob

      Joy, thanks for sharing that! Your experience will help lots of people I bet!

      The single most important thing for every vandweller is an emergency fund!!

      Unfortunately, with the bad economy so many of us are forced into without an extra penny to our name. You just do what you have to do.
      The question of how long to keep putting money into a used vehicle is a hard and complicated one. I don’t have an easy answer. Getting rid of it too early or keep putting money into it to long are equally mistakes. Knowing exactly when is very hard.
      Bob

  5. Marshall

    You really do cover all the bases! Another great, informative post Bob!
    As one moves into the vandwelling lifestyle it is important to note that apprehension and unknowingness will crop up from time to time. However, this happens with every major life change. Persistence will overcome all negative aspects associated with change. There is no creature on earth as resilient as a human. Keep moving forward.
    One thing I cannot stress enough is to have a great running rig. Not a good one, but a great one. Do not be afraid to spend the money on rig care and upkeep.
    We get tune-ups before they are needed. I generally change the oil at 2500 miles. Check water and all other fluids religiously. These actions bring me GREAT peace of mind. Preventive maintenance is key. If its getting old start replacing key components before they fail.
    Nothing in life is worse (besides being w/o the Lord) than being in a rough situation you just didn’t need to be in. Being cheap can end up being very, very expensive in all areas of life. More so as a vandweller.
    I’d rather be broke, happy and safe than be stuck in a bad situation with all my possessions just up for grabs. Understand?
    A good running rig is worth its weight in gold and a key component to a responsible lifestyle as a vandweller. If you start out with that premise all else will fall into place.
    Thank you Bob!

    • Bob

      As always Marshall, a very wise post!! Thanks!
      Bob
      P.S. I haven’t forgotten your Florida post, I think it will go up on my Moab trip when I don’t have time to write.

  6. Steve

    I am not nor plan to vandwell but you make a lot of great points for anyone going out on the road full-time, no matter what their vehicle is. I’ll remember these points you discussed as I bought my first RV yesterday and plan to hit the road NLT May 2014.

    • Bob

      Steve, I always say that vandwelling is an attitude, not a choice of vehicle! It looks like you got a great Class C there! I thought I was making a sacrifice by having one 80 lb dog but I see from the photos your bloodhounds take over your whole rig!!
      Hopefully our paths will cross when you hit the road, I’d love to meet you and your furry buddies!
      Bob

  7. Calvin R

    Great article! This piece both gave me more understanding of people’s fears and helped me appreciate my own history. My first night out is long behind me now, and I did not spend it alone. In my younger days, I usually traveled with family. My first voyage in a vehicle was from Ohio to Florida, with my brother Wayne, his buddy Don and Don’s girlfriend and with intentions of staying. My first night stationary outdoors was on a mattress in the bed of a flatbed pickup beside a lake near Orlando. Don’s girlfriend (sorry I cannot remember her name) was sacked out in the cab. I felt some of those emotions through the night, but right after I woke up that young lady tuned up the radio. Out came the chorus of a Barry Manilow song. “Looks Like We Made It”! We both had a good laugh and my attitude changed right there.
    I still have the fear of a mechanical issue, especially with the car I have now. It’s not what it once was, though, because I have learned from experience that good sense and Greater Powers will carry me though many adventures.

    • Bob

      Thanks Calvin for a great comment! Time really is the great healer. When we are going through hard times we always hate it, but later when we look back those are almost always our most treasured times.
      Unfortunately for me, I seem to be lacking in good sense, but fortunately I more than make up for it in a Greater Power!
      Bob

  8. HappynOak

    WOW…Bob…you have done it again…your timing is incredible…been going thru all of my …stuff…and reading all I can on your blog site…re read your e book…its all there….its just ME …making the decision…you covered all the areas im concerned with…ill keep this short..it comes down to ..the person or persons…to make that…leap of faith…just go for it…and all the other words about taking that leap…we have all had times in our lives when the ;stuff; hit the fan…and we all manage to pull thru it…vandwelling…(truck and tent for me).. and getting financially secure….that’s my main goal…your a great source of info…an inspiration to us all…thanks, Bob n Homer….Happy n Oakley in UTAH!!!

    • Bob

      HappynOak, thanks for your kind words! They are appreciated. I really do try to make it as easy as I can for people by giving them information. But ultimatley it comes down that one moment in time when you let go of the old life and step off the cliff.
      Each of us has to do that all alone and in the light of his own circumstances.
      Bob

      • Nicole

        Bob, I think your post is an other example of your kindness and consideration towards the whole bunch of us, thanks.
        With warmest regards.
        Nicole

        • Bob

          Thanks you Nicole!
          Bob

  9. OpenSpaceman

    Bob_
    “Lack of A Defined Territory” …I feel a strange pull to the area I used to live, but it’s starting to fade.
    *My brains starting to adjust to the fact that now I live nowhere and everywhere.
    This quote helps when I’m feelin’ stress over finding parking and dealin’ with the transition to mobile living.
    “Be kind for everyone is fighting a difficult battle”
    -Great post and timely for me.

    • Bob

      openSpaceman, I’m glad it spoke to you! That makes it all worth it to me!
      Bob

  10. MagicBeans

    Good post Bob. One thing I have learnt over time is to look into the future so that it does not bite you in the A$$. When you decrease some of your possessions, you also decrease your future security in a world that really does not care who you are or what you are dealing with. Having a van and nothing else prompts the question of “What do I do when I get older?”. Maybe you can write a post on that Bob? As the old body finds it harder to move around, one still has to deal with cold, heat and unexpected events with only an aging van as a resource and sanctuary against unexpected illness or lowered health. What type of backup plan is in place, is definitely a question I ask myself.

    • Bob

      MagicBeans, that is a very good idea. I have mentioned preparing for the future many times, but always just in passing. A post just on it is an outstanding idea!! I’ll do it soon. However, I’m afraid I don’t have any great wise words to add. Basically I am just giving up the future for the present.
      But it will force me to formulate my thoughts and that is always good.
      Bob

    • m.a.

      One hopeful story I can relate to you MagicBeans is the lovely man I camped next to on the Colorado River who was 87. 🙂 He invited me over to share his fire & he told me stories of his life…including that his kids kept telling him to “stop this & come home”, which he had no intention of doing. He was wonderful to spend time with.

    • DougB

      MagicBeans, you’re comment really got me thinking. I guess I’m just in a different place, or I’m misinterpreting things in your very good comment. I agree overall, but with my brand of looking into the future, I was playing “what if” to the level of Plan B, Plan C,…Plan G. I expended so much energy on it that I finally just quit, aided by the fact that what got me was always stuff I couldn’t have anticipated. About the only “possession” I can see as worth its salt is savings in some form or other. Many physical possessions tend to have poor convertibility to hard cash, except of course for gold bullion.
      Apart from that, I’m unclear as to how fewer possessions decreases future security. Perhaps you’re thinking of major items doubling as a form of savings. Apart from certain types of vintage cars today, I can’t think of any consumer “assets” that don’t absorb a very healthy percentage of the money fed into them, making them very inefficient as a financial storage resource. Would have been much more productive simply living “poor” and channelling the money into savings, stocks, IRA etc. Now I live in an old mid-size travel trailer and perceive it as no less of a “resource and sanctuary against unexpected illness or lowered health” than any house I’ve ever owned, the latest of which sold for well under half of what I paid in. A trip straight to the junkyard with this thing would not be much of a financial hit. The money that didn’t go into it is elsewhere, drawing interest.
      I can’t cope with the space limitations of a van, but I find that, as a single aging person, dealing with cold, heat, and unexpected events in an an RV is not a whole lot tougher than dealing with them at “home” – and that “the unexpected”, apart from my own carcass, tends to be a lot less expensive to deal with. I’ll be forced to give it up when I can’t breathe well enough to do simple tasks, but then again, I wouldn’t be able to do them in a house, either. My backup plan is not influenced much at all by where or in what I live.
      Having a van or car (or RV) and absolutely nothing else does not make for a pleasant way of life or future. That detail can tend to get glossed over at times here while we’re getting all oogly over Mother Nature, but it is acknowledged now and then that even vandwelling requires certain minimum monthly costs. They just tend to be less than apartment rentals, mortgages, property taxes, utilities, common vehicle and commuting costs, etc. The goal is not to live destitute in a van, panhandling and dodging rattlesnakes as a glorious way of life. It’s to examine and remove/decrease your own personal unessentials, and to live deliberately, in a way that will prove to be more satisfying – to you. That may or may not include all of the dogma spelled out here. That’s where your question of “What do I do when I get older” comes in. Live smart while you still have choices, and you at least have some resources to approach doddering old age with. A lifetime of panhandling as a lifestyle choice won’t do much for you later, regardless of your abode, if any. Vanning doesn’t change that basic, except as a way to decrease costs so more earnings can be funneled into savings. And possibly to improve health by decreasing stress and all its related, costly ailments. This is where one needs to start defining how possessions may or may not serve as a financial resource somehow. An income or financial stream of some kind is needed. In what form and how deep you want that stream to be is yours to deal with.
      My apologies for blathering on, but I had to get it all out…

      • Bob

        Very well thought-out and written Doug. This is a topic I haven’t really given enough thought to and you have given me a good start and lots to think about.
        Bob

  11. Sameer

    This is a great post and very relevant! For me I did not experience all the range of emotions that some might feel on their first trip out, with the exception of ‘breakdown worry’. My first trip was to the Gulf of Mexico last December. My alternator quit working in Southern Texas and pulled over into a parking area. I was in a panic until my dog looked at me and said, “Get a grip…you can handle this!” I hitchhiked for the first time since the 1960s for the part. To make a long story short. I fixed it and went to the ocean for the Winter. The experience was exhilarating! I knew I could handle anything that came my way! Before leaving I followed all the advice on the Website and in the Forums. For all that information I am grateful! Eight months later I am living everyday with Joy and Peace in my soul….Thanks, Bob.

    • Bob

      Thanks for such a great comment Sameer!! There is nothing as wonderful as the school of hard knocks to build our self-confidence, character and fortitude. We cheat ourselves out of a full and rich life by striving constantly for safety.
      Your experience has been living proof of that!
      Bob
      p.s. You have a very smart dog!

  12. CAE

    Overcoming adversity, whether real of perceived, is fantastic for the soul! You really feel like you’re living when you triumph over fear!
    One thing I did that helped me was to stay and sleep in the van while it was parked in front of my house. It was like vandwelling with training wheels. Then I went on some long camping trips. I never liked staying in the city anyway and I don’t need to. So I don’t

    • Bob

      Very good suggestion CAE! I will include that in next weeks post!
      Bob

  13. Gloria Brooks

    I’m one of those people that has loved living a van from the get go. But, everything was still and still is an adjustment. I just began vandwelling as of May ’13. My biggest adjustment has been figuring out how to eat healthy without refrigeration. It took me about 4 months to finally really enjoy my food all the time. Once I found a little Road Pro fry pan, my life has been so much easier not hauling the propane stove in and out and worrying about propane in the van all the time, though I still have my little one burner propane stove. In winter, I’m told, I should use the little propane stove to cook an evening meal and warm the van up for those cold nights. So, we’ll see how that goes. Good ventilation will be a must. Other adjustments have been clothing and getting the right weather appropriate gear for summer and now heading into fall. It took a while to figure out the right socks and keeping stock of the right amount of those and undies without going overboard. I had fears about not keeping clean enough without regular showers but have come to really enjoy my sponge baths and baby wipes. Keeping clean is now problem now.
    My next investment/project is trying to get a reasonable foam mattress for my bed. I’ve been sleeping on several layers of egg crate foam along with a camping mat and a long pillow. It’s just not comfortable enough and I don’t sleep as well as I’d like. So, now, I’m taking Bob’s advice and looking to purchasing an upholstery grade 4″ thick 36″ X 72″ piece sealed up in a heavy duty water-proof vinyl casing. They want almost $500 for it because it also includes the labor to make it. I may just get the $208 foam and encase it on my own way. But, it sure would be nice to have their vinyl casing for that pretty penny. So, these are my current concerns.
    Another challenge was learning to deal with my trash in the van so that I didn’t continually attract rodents. How the buggers got in? I think from leaving my van door open during those hot days when I needed more ventilation. Now, I’ve figured out to store my trash in a tote in the van and so far, no mice. I was getting tired of trapping the poor things. I make sure I clean up after my meals very quickly now, especially in the evening when they’re mostly active and looking to get into the van.
    So, my life in the van is continually evolving. Now, I’m getting ready to look for my own boondocking campsites for the first time on my own. Thus far, I’ve followed Bob and Randy’s Caravans. Now, I’m going to be relying on my own navigating skills. I’ve had mixed feelings about that but feel confident navigating with my National Geographic Adventure Road Atlas, Google Maps and Free Camp Sites.net. I love how I can zoom in with Google Maps and look at campsites ahead of time. With all those assistants, I should be good to go. I’m a bit scared, I’m getting itchy feet and I’m super excited all at the same time! What a great life!

    • DougB

      One piece of advice, Gloria – throw a sheet over a span of plastic and see how it goes overnight. I once slept on waterproofing covers that protected a mattress, and was drenched in sweat by morning even though I didn’t have enough covers to stay warm. Ugh. If there’s something out there that can both breathe and be water-resistant, go for it. It isn’t common vinyl.

      • Bob

        Boy do I agree totally Doug. My mattress is always getting dirty because of Homer (I share my bed with him both at night and during the day. When it rains, he comes in wet and muddy). I tried putting it in a vinyl, waterproof cover and that was horrible–I got rid of it right away! Now I just put down a waterproof cover when the weather is bad and learn to live with whatever happens to the mattress.
        One thing I did was get a feather mattress topper like this one:
        http://www.amazon.com/White-Goose-Feather-Baffle-Featherbed/dp/B000VM6NH6/
        It made the bed more comfortable and I can just throw it in the washing machine if it gets too dirty. I had worried about it being too hot but that has not been the case.
        Bob

    • Frank

      Gloria, try sleeping on Coalman’s new suspension cott, it’s cost much less, your off the floor, and can be easly fixed with new bought bungee cord.
      When the time comes to replace the bungee cords, in cutting each cord make sure you tape the ends with electrical tape. Just a hint.

    • Bob

      Gloria, thanks for that great feed back, very helpful to lots of people I’m sure!!
      Gosh, I feel like a proud papa watching his little girl take wing and fly away!!
      I am so glad you are my friend, I’m a lucky man.
      Bob

    • OpenSpaceMan

      Gloria_
      Here is the source for where I got my slip cover for my cushion. I use a 6″ mattress foam wrapped in this zippered cushion…w/a warm weather sleeping bag and I also have a cold weather sleeping bag. I’m very happy with the fit and workmanship of the cover.
      slipcovershop.com They have a measuring tool online and I used the material – Leather Like Slate.
      I paid $95 and it took about a week to get.
      *I’m always hesitant to recommend a company but I had a good experience…goodluck.
      **If you want to take a look at it…Bob did a post on my van, labeled “innovative van conversion”.
      ***Note: I do have two vents in my van so I have alot of air circulating…so condensation hasn’t been an issue.
      _Happy Trails

  14. m.a.

    You mean like – “ohmygodwhathappenedtomylife?!”
    “IusedtoBEsomething!”
    “I’mHOMELESS!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
    “I’mgoingtobekilledinthemiddleofthenighttonightforsure!” “Mychildren/friendsareallashamedtoknowme!”
    “Noonewilleverlovemeagain!”
    “WHATARETHOSESOUNDS???!!!!!”
    “It’salldownhillfromhere!”
    You mean like those feelings?
    I don’t know anyone who’s ever had those. 🙂

    • Bob

      m.a. SHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! I’ll never tell!
      Bob

  15. m.a.

    ps – great post.

    • Bob

      Thanks!
      Bob

  16. Frank

    Bob, nice post. Too many people though that worry about fear and comfort. They compare it to conventional living of a fixed dwelling where your loving Landlord or Banker suck the life out of you, and your bank account. But I am now a true believer that a house is in no way any form of security, with global warming, natural disasters, children of the Corn aka (Gangs), Taxes another type of gang, Inflation, unemployment, health care cost or old age – If you can’t maintain a small van how will you ever maintain a house with high labor cost, than living in a van to me translates into far more security and freedom than a house ever will.
    I had far more fear living in the house I once had while now I have no fear. At my house I felt like I was being watched by some bad gang punks. I didn’t want to leave the house for fear of a break-in. Once early morning I found my fence gate open. Someone must have been looking into my patio late at night and maybe thinking about breaking in. What kind of security is that. I think one is more likely to have a house broken into than a vehicle. A fence or some bushes make a great hiding place for thieves and neighbors with DEMON like children are of no help.
    As for comfort, I would rather due without a butt warmer or foot massager than to have to deal with the above risks, dangers, losses, fears, slaveries, premature aging, cost, or to have my soul damaged by an evil system called REAL ESTATE, BANKERS, and LANDLORDS.
    I hope now that this post will ease the fears of people living the MIGHTY VANDWELLING LIFESTYLE. As for comfort, turn to fans, catalytic heaters – maybe a new vented type now on the market, move to a cooler climate or head to California’s natural air conditioned beaches, Coleman’s newer version suspension cot, bathe with hospital type large bath wipes called Assurance from Wal-mart, wash your hair over a small plastic tote, shit in a 5-gallon bucket with a snap on toilet seat and do use cat litter – no bathroom cleaning required, WOW! how great. Sorry though, no electric butt warmer.
    A house is not comfort or security, it crazy and insane unless your rich, rich, rich, If not, It’s all work, work, work, and cost, cost, cost.
    Believe it or not, I read a story about a billionaire, note I said billionaire not millionaire, who does not live or owns any type of fixed dwelling. Not even an old beat-up single wide mobile home on toxic wasteland. Instead he travels and loves to live at beautiful resort hotels. To me that would be an awesome and better way to bring up children – A family that plays together stays together.
    Don’t let fake brainwashed fear keep you from freedom, because if your not rich then keeping a roof over your head will be hazardous to your health. That will be a real fear that will kill you from stress and slavery.

    • Bob

      Frank, why don’t you go ahead and tell us what you really feel like!
      But, I agree 100% with everything you said (although I personally have never had a problem with bad neighbors, I know many people do).
      Freedom is worth any cost to me!
      Bob

  17. Patrick

    MagicBeans, Even you have a lot of money (let say million dollar), but you can’t move and talk. You still need to someone that you trust and love you to help you. That ‘s your kids if you have kids that love you and will anything to take care of you. Living in house, van, RVs are not help with old ago problems therefore enjoy your life now when you are still able to. I ‘m retired at 39 and travel the world to see beautiful and enjoy great foods. Don’t define what is life, just live free, the world has a lot of to offer.

  18. Mario

    Very valid thoughts and emotions Bob, i think 90% of vandwellers go through these before and during the beginning of their “unusual” lifestyle.
    “Forewarned is Forarmed” is a very valuable element to consider,i personally interpret it as :”DO AS MUCH PLANNING AS YOU CAN,BEFORE YOU GO AT IT” ,all my purchases now are based on the intention of making the experience (transition) as pleasant and trouble free as it can be.I am constantly drawing important info from you Bob as well as many of your readers that are seasoned vandwellers ,filing it in a way that i can readily access it as needed.
    In my view,vehicle choice is one of the most important decisions to be made .If the vehicle is going to be my “house” i have to make sure that it is there when the going gets tough,i know that i will be depending on it constantly so i try to envision how extreme the locations i will frequent would be ( as far as terrain, expected weather conditions ) and select the one that can perform well under those conditions.
    Most of my emotions of fear are directly connected with the vehicle’s ability to remain reliable and it’s performance matched to the conditions.(I am looking at late models F150 FX4 SUPER CREW with the ECOBOOST motor and an oversized (tall)bed cap ( i know $$$$$), as a base)and later on increase clearance further if needed . This selection stems from the fact that in the beginning i need to be as mobile as possible trading some comfort ( as that of a van ) in order to have better capability in rougher roads (i think i would be happier in remote locations …. you guys know best if this would be overkill).
    If i “survive the ordeal” (lol) and as i get accustomed to the new surroundings, i will add a short cargo trailer for additional comfort.
    As for the rest of the possible worries(cooking,personal hygene,bathing , keeping warm , loneliness , etc. i find these challenges will be easily dealt with if you focus on what you gain instead of what you loose.I see myself as KING OF ANORTHODOX (out of the ordinary)METHODS and trying to find a solution to a minor problem could prove to be fun interesting and educational.I love testing what others might call “silly ideas” … just think of the level of satisfaction you will enjoy to discover that you can accomplish the same result just by changing the METHOD. What could be wrong with that?
    There is ALWAYS more than one way to accomplish a task and it can be a lot of fun for each one of us to find OUR OWN. Be open to experimentation. (No worries here , we have CHEAPRVLIVING.COM and Bob’s well proven methods to the rescue if we mess up!! (lol)).
    On a more serious note,recognizing that we are all different and these fears will present different challenges to each one of us, with enough determination, PROPER PLANNING ,POSITIVE ATTITUDE and time to adapt to the new ways we will be rewarded with a much more fulfilling lifestyle than the one we live today.
    (EMERGENCY FUND….absolutely necessary for peace of mind)
    Thanks for analyzing and sharing those sensitive issues Bob.

    • Bob

      Mario, I lived in a F150 4×4 for 3 years and loved the freedom. Then I switched to a van and have been stuck several times since. I am actively planning on switching back to a 4×4. So I think your choice is outstanding!!
      Bob

  19. DougB

    Bob, I never mentioned that this is an excellently helpful post. But you know that by now. Currently at the tender one year point, I find that my biggest worries were:
    1) breaking down on the road a long way from mechanical help. Too early for that, with my particular diesel tow vehicle. That’s good, because the damned thing is so electronically complex and tight underhood that only specialized mechanics can fix it, and those are like hen’s teeth in the Great Southwest, I found. So far, so good.
    2) blowing ancient trailer wheel bearings or tires. This one actually came to pass in spades, but fortunately near help, including Bob’s entourage of the moment. This concern is now history.
    3) damaging the 4×4 truck or getting stuck while exploring solo. Exploring 4×4 trails alone is considered foolhardy by 4-wheeler clubs, I found. It was fun, but I don’t do that any more. Duh. Especially with a big vehicle designed for heavy loads in sloppy construction sites, not tight, nasty Jeep trails. Perhaps a club member might one day allow me to ride shotgun, if I’m wearing a gag and a Depenz.
    4) a propane mishap. Had one, thanks to faulty Mr. Heater inline filter sealing surface. Got rid of that problem without damage, and now I’m only mildly paranoid when I hook up and fire up. (I highly recommend the so-called “green” hose that does not require a filter.)
    5) a new one after initial departure: discovering that low trailer ground clearance and ignorance of actual trail conditions don’t mix. It takes quite a bit of extra effort to get around that one, but it’s working out, so far.
    6) my son feared that I’d overload and bend the trailer frame over the axles to drag both ends, opening the body like a sardine can and spewing contents all over the road. And then he’d have to come out and somehow rescue me. I guess that’s because it was a little bent already when I got it. Tish tosh! It’s no more bent now than it was! So Far.
    By the way, if you do betray the iconic VanDweller stereotype and go 4×4 pickup, see if it just happens to use the same size tire as your van. Unlikely, but you could save a bundle and keep those new, aggressive tire treads.

    • Bob

      Doug, you are living proof that time heals our fears and eventually we start to get over them.
      Happy 1st anniversary on your birth into a new life!
      Bob

  20. Myddy

    I still have little mini-freak-outs. I love it over all, but these same feelings you mentioned often get to me and I have to leave to go do something outdoors to cheer myself up. But in the end this has been the best decision I’ve ever made, I’ve already saved two months of rent, that’s 800$..not to mention the utilities!! My only issue now is getting my solar panel system to work correctly and stop giving me issues. I think that’s where my scare is. I’m always afraid of not having any power, I think if I could get my solar panel system working properly I’d lose some of those fears.

    • DougB

      Is this a consistent, repeatable problem, or one that comes and goes? Or are you talking about simply running short of power when you need it?

      • Myddy

        Actually, I believe I installed them incorrectly. I can’t be certain though. It’s a consistent problem and I’ve had to replace the battery twice. I think I didn’t hook things up to the controller right maybe? I’m unsure. I have a fiberglass roof so I had to get those roll-out flexible panels.

    • Bob

      Myddy, if you want to explain the problem for us maybe we can help. Just be aware it is very difficult to trouble-shoot by mail.
      Bob

      • Myddy

        Well, I was planning on attending an RTR soon, probably the east coast one (since at the moment my temporary home is Tennessee). If figuring it out by mail doesn’t work perhaps someone at the RTR that knows more about solar power could give me advice on it.
        I think that I drained the batteries too far. I have trouble understanding how to measure the amp/volt usage that I require with the instruments I run. So my battery has been changed 3 times so far. I’m running a laptop, a phone charger and a heat blanket on them, they’re 3 69watt panels. I can easily add more panels, I have money put back to buy an entirely new system, I’m just not sure how to install everything correctly. I had someone help me with this one and I think that may have been part of the issue. I think it’s power failure from over use, but I’m having trouble calculating how much watts of panels I need, or how to keep my battery from dying.

        • Bob

          Myddy, that should be enough power but what are you using for batteries?
          Do you have a volt meter and know how to use it?
          I’m concerned about the electric blanket. That may be using more power than you think. Can you tell me more about the electric blanket? Is it 110 or 12 volt? Do you know how many watts it uses? What are you using for an inverter and how often do you leave it on? How many hours do you leave the blanket on?
          Bob

          • Myddy

            I do not have a volt meter, I have been trying to decide which one is a good one to buy but haven’t made a decision.
            It is a 110v plug in, it says on the blanket cover 18.6V DC. The blanket stays on about 6 hours per day, in the night usually when it’s cold.
            I’m unsure what else I’m using, I know that sounds horrible. The inverter is not labelled by brand, and the batteries came from an auto shop, they’re ACDelco batteries.

  21. Curtis

    Great post Bob!
    Learning about these things before hand will help many of us to deal with them if an when they come up.
    I am starting to notice many things we encounter in life have their root in fear.

    • Bob

      Curtis, yes, fear is an incredible source of pain and misery for most of us. One of my favorite quotes is

      “Fear was like an evil and corroding thread woven through the very fabric of our lives”


      Shining the light of truth on it usually helps me overcome it so I try to help other see that the risks of this life really are very low.
      Bob

Table of Contents

63 Comments

  1. Cyrus A Palmer

    Great post Bob! I took to it right away, I didn’t experience some of the negative reactions you mentioned. But I was concerned about them before I started. I had to dive right in before I realized they were non issues.

    • Bob

      Thanks Cyrus! We are all so different that no two of us will react in the same way. But these are the most common reactions so I thought I would share them.
      I have one friend whose life was so bad before he moved into a van that he instantly loved it and everything about it! But that isn’t typical!
      Bob

  2. McBeef

    Breakdowns will probably be my greatest concern, along with the weather. I still intend to work while vandwelling, so I’ll need to make regular maintenance a priority. Really, something like that should be priority for all vandwellers anyway. As far as noise, I have ten hours of celestial white noise downloaded onto my ipod, so I tend to just slap on my headphones when going to bed. Still living in my car for now. It’ll be a couple months more before I get my van. :/

    • Frank

      You can also buy some soft foam earplugs at Wal-mart, much less noise and you’ll sleep like a dead man.

      • Frank

        P.S. MacBeef, however you sleep more soundly, It sure is much more cheaper than trying to soundproof your whole vehicle like some people have. Its money in your pocket and much much less work. Always keep it supper simple for the savings.

        • McBeef

          Agreed! If I make any home improvements to my van at all, it’ll go to insulation. Winter is not far off, and I detest the cold….

      • McBeef

        I was thinking of that actually, but I need some white noise while I sleep. During this past summer, I had a small portable, battery operated fan that I mounted on my steering wheel that not only kept me cool, but also provided me with a nice layer if white noise. During winter, this will be impractical, so I intend on using my headphones most of the time.

        • McBeef

          *layer of white noise

        • Bob

          McBeef, I worked third shift (midnight to 8) for a long time and got so used to sleeping with white noise I couldn’t sleep without it. When I moved into the truck I took a small Timex alarm clock with me that did nature sounds. One of them was “wind” and it was perfect as white noise. It was 110 volt so I ran it off an inverter at night. Eventually I weaned myself off of white noise and don’t use it anymore. This isn’t the one I had but it does have white noise:
          http://www.amazon.com/Conair-SU7-Sound-Therapy-Relaxation/dp/B000OCK9S2/
          Bob

          • McBeef

            Wow, that is an awesome and cheap solution for those of us who need white noise to sleep, especially since it makes nature sounds! Man, I’m so glad I ran across this site, I have a feeling I’m going to be needing it just about every step of the way on this journey of mine.

          • Bob

            McBeef, I’m glad my experiences were able to be helpful to you! That is the whole point of the blog, to help each other out!
            Bob

    • Bob

      McBeef, I think that is true for most of us, breakdowns are a real source of fear. The best solution is an emergency fund so you know you can get back on the road quickly, but many of us can’t even put that together–we are just surviving day-by-day.
      The one, final solution that always defeats fear is faith. Over a period of time as a vandweller I have developed confidence that everything is going to work out and it really is going to be okay. That solved my fear problems but often it takes a long time.
      Bob

  3. vtchris

    I never have made it to the RTR in Jan and now I am excited to hear that I may have my chance this March on the East Coast…wonderful….keep me posted!

    • Bob

      vtchris, I’ve always wanted an East coast RTR but because I am not there I can’t make it happen. Recently a wonderful reader stepped forward and volunteered to do all the leg work and then she did something very strange: SHE DID IT!Lots of people talk, she did! We think we have a place all lined up and she has talked to the Rangers and I have filled out an application to get a Special Use Permit for over 75 people. She is going to go camping there this month and take photos and if it as good as it sounds it will become official.
      Maybe I will be seeing you in March!
      Bob

  4. Joy

    A large breakdown happened on my very first trip, and I was not prepared for the repair expense. I wasn’t thinking straight with all the emotion going on, and sold the van to a junk yard. In retrospect, I should have stored it in a facility, till I could afford the tranny work, as it was a great van otherwise…and set up perfectly.
    Most times in Van living….it’s not what the van is worth to John Q Public, or ‘book’ value, it’s what it’s worth to YOU, as YOUR HOME, that should determine if you keep on fixing it, or move on to another vehicle or HOME.
    Now I know….So what if you’ve had to replace any and all mechanical parts. So long as the body is sound, and it is comfortable for you, go for it. But you do need to save for those mechanical issues that always happen eventually. Be prepared , before that first long trip.

    • Bob

      Joy, thanks for sharing that! Your experience will help lots of people I bet!

      The single most important thing for every vandweller is an emergency fund!!

      Unfortunately, with the bad economy so many of us are forced into without an extra penny to our name. You just do what you have to do.
      The question of how long to keep putting money into a used vehicle is a hard and complicated one. I don’t have an easy answer. Getting rid of it too early or keep putting money into it to long are equally mistakes. Knowing exactly when is very hard.
      Bob

  5. Marshall

    You really do cover all the bases! Another great, informative post Bob!
    As one moves into the vandwelling lifestyle it is important to note that apprehension and unknowingness will crop up from time to time. However, this happens with every major life change. Persistence will overcome all negative aspects associated with change. There is no creature on earth as resilient as a human. Keep moving forward.
    One thing I cannot stress enough is to have a great running rig. Not a good one, but a great one. Do not be afraid to spend the money on rig care and upkeep.
    We get tune-ups before they are needed. I generally change the oil at 2500 miles. Check water and all other fluids religiously. These actions bring me GREAT peace of mind. Preventive maintenance is key. If its getting old start replacing key components before they fail.
    Nothing in life is worse (besides being w/o the Lord) than being in a rough situation you just didn’t need to be in. Being cheap can end up being very, very expensive in all areas of life. More so as a vandweller.
    I’d rather be broke, happy and safe than be stuck in a bad situation with all my possessions just up for grabs. Understand?
    A good running rig is worth its weight in gold and a key component to a responsible lifestyle as a vandweller. If you start out with that premise all else will fall into place.
    Thank you Bob!

    • Bob

      As always Marshall, a very wise post!! Thanks!
      Bob
      P.S. I haven’t forgotten your Florida post, I think it will go up on my Moab trip when I don’t have time to write.

  6. Steve

    I am not nor plan to vandwell but you make a lot of great points for anyone going out on the road full-time, no matter what their vehicle is. I’ll remember these points you discussed as I bought my first RV yesterday and plan to hit the road NLT May 2014.

    • Bob

      Steve, I always say that vandwelling is an attitude, not a choice of vehicle! It looks like you got a great Class C there! I thought I was making a sacrifice by having one 80 lb dog but I see from the photos your bloodhounds take over your whole rig!!
      Hopefully our paths will cross when you hit the road, I’d love to meet you and your furry buddies!
      Bob

  7. Calvin R

    Great article! This piece both gave me more understanding of people’s fears and helped me appreciate my own history. My first night out is long behind me now, and I did not spend it alone. In my younger days, I usually traveled with family. My first voyage in a vehicle was from Ohio to Florida, with my brother Wayne, his buddy Don and Don’s girlfriend and with intentions of staying. My first night stationary outdoors was on a mattress in the bed of a flatbed pickup beside a lake near Orlando. Don’s girlfriend (sorry I cannot remember her name) was sacked out in the cab. I felt some of those emotions through the night, but right after I woke up that young lady tuned up the radio. Out came the chorus of a Barry Manilow song. “Looks Like We Made It”! We both had a good laugh and my attitude changed right there.
    I still have the fear of a mechanical issue, especially with the car I have now. It’s not what it once was, though, because I have learned from experience that good sense and Greater Powers will carry me though many adventures.

    • Bob

      Thanks Calvin for a great comment! Time really is the great healer. When we are going through hard times we always hate it, but later when we look back those are almost always our most treasured times.
      Unfortunately for me, I seem to be lacking in good sense, but fortunately I more than make up for it in a Greater Power!
      Bob

  8. HappynOak

    WOW…Bob…you have done it again…your timing is incredible…been going thru all of my …stuff…and reading all I can on your blog site…re read your e book…its all there….its just ME …making the decision…you covered all the areas im concerned with…ill keep this short..it comes down to ..the person or persons…to make that…leap of faith…just go for it…and all the other words about taking that leap…we have all had times in our lives when the ;stuff; hit the fan…and we all manage to pull thru it…vandwelling…(truck and tent for me).. and getting financially secure….that’s my main goal…your a great source of info…an inspiration to us all…thanks, Bob n Homer….Happy n Oakley in UTAH!!!

    • Bob

      HappynOak, thanks for your kind words! They are appreciated. I really do try to make it as easy as I can for people by giving them information. But ultimatley it comes down that one moment in time when you let go of the old life and step off the cliff.
      Each of us has to do that all alone and in the light of his own circumstances.
      Bob

      • Nicole

        Bob, I think your post is an other example of your kindness and consideration towards the whole bunch of us, thanks.
        With warmest regards.
        Nicole

        • Bob

          Thanks you Nicole!
          Bob

  9. OpenSpaceman

    Bob_
    “Lack of A Defined Territory” …I feel a strange pull to the area I used to live, but it’s starting to fade.
    *My brains starting to adjust to the fact that now I live nowhere and everywhere.
    This quote helps when I’m feelin’ stress over finding parking and dealin’ with the transition to mobile living.
    “Be kind for everyone is fighting a difficult battle”
    -Great post and timely for me.

    • Bob

      openSpaceman, I’m glad it spoke to you! That makes it all worth it to me!
      Bob

  10. MagicBeans

    Good post Bob. One thing I have learnt over time is to look into the future so that it does not bite you in the A$$. When you decrease some of your possessions, you also decrease your future security in a world that really does not care who you are or what you are dealing with. Having a van and nothing else prompts the question of “What do I do when I get older?”. Maybe you can write a post on that Bob? As the old body finds it harder to move around, one still has to deal with cold, heat and unexpected events with only an aging van as a resource and sanctuary against unexpected illness or lowered health. What type of backup plan is in place, is definitely a question I ask myself.

    • Bob

      MagicBeans, that is a very good idea. I have mentioned preparing for the future many times, but always just in passing. A post just on it is an outstanding idea!! I’ll do it soon. However, I’m afraid I don’t have any great wise words to add. Basically I am just giving up the future for the present.
      But it will force me to formulate my thoughts and that is always good.
      Bob

    • m.a.

      One hopeful story I can relate to you MagicBeans is the lovely man I camped next to on the Colorado River who was 87. 🙂 He invited me over to share his fire & he told me stories of his life…including that his kids kept telling him to “stop this & come home”, which he had no intention of doing. He was wonderful to spend time with.

    • DougB

      MagicBeans, you’re comment really got me thinking. I guess I’m just in a different place, or I’m misinterpreting things in your very good comment. I agree overall, but with my brand of looking into the future, I was playing “what if” to the level of Plan B, Plan C,…Plan G. I expended so much energy on it that I finally just quit, aided by the fact that what got me was always stuff I couldn’t have anticipated. About the only “possession” I can see as worth its salt is savings in some form or other. Many physical possessions tend to have poor convertibility to hard cash, except of course for gold bullion.
      Apart from that, I’m unclear as to how fewer possessions decreases future security. Perhaps you’re thinking of major items doubling as a form of savings. Apart from certain types of vintage cars today, I can’t think of any consumer “assets” that don’t absorb a very healthy percentage of the money fed into them, making them very inefficient as a financial storage resource. Would have been much more productive simply living “poor” and channelling the money into savings, stocks, IRA etc. Now I live in an old mid-size travel trailer and perceive it as no less of a “resource and sanctuary against unexpected illness or lowered health” than any house I’ve ever owned, the latest of which sold for well under half of what I paid in. A trip straight to the junkyard with this thing would not be much of a financial hit. The money that didn’t go into it is elsewhere, drawing interest.
      I can’t cope with the space limitations of a van, but I find that, as a single aging person, dealing with cold, heat, and unexpected events in an an RV is not a whole lot tougher than dealing with them at “home” – and that “the unexpected”, apart from my own carcass, tends to be a lot less expensive to deal with. I’ll be forced to give it up when I can’t breathe well enough to do simple tasks, but then again, I wouldn’t be able to do them in a house, either. My backup plan is not influenced much at all by where or in what I live.
      Having a van or car (or RV) and absolutely nothing else does not make for a pleasant way of life or future. That detail can tend to get glossed over at times here while we’re getting all oogly over Mother Nature, but it is acknowledged now and then that even vandwelling requires certain minimum monthly costs. They just tend to be less than apartment rentals, mortgages, property taxes, utilities, common vehicle and commuting costs, etc. The goal is not to live destitute in a van, panhandling and dodging rattlesnakes as a glorious way of life. It’s to examine and remove/decrease your own personal unessentials, and to live deliberately, in a way that will prove to be more satisfying – to you. That may or may not include all of the dogma spelled out here. That’s where your question of “What do I do when I get older” comes in. Live smart while you still have choices, and you at least have some resources to approach doddering old age with. A lifetime of panhandling as a lifestyle choice won’t do much for you later, regardless of your abode, if any. Vanning doesn’t change that basic, except as a way to decrease costs so more earnings can be funneled into savings. And possibly to improve health by decreasing stress and all its related, costly ailments. This is where one needs to start defining how possessions may or may not serve as a financial resource somehow. An income or financial stream of some kind is needed. In what form and how deep you want that stream to be is yours to deal with.
      My apologies for blathering on, but I had to get it all out…

      • Bob

        Very well thought-out and written Doug. This is a topic I haven’t really given enough thought to and you have given me a good start and lots to think about.
        Bob

  11. Sameer

    This is a great post and very relevant! For me I did not experience all the range of emotions that some might feel on their first trip out, with the exception of ‘breakdown worry’. My first trip was to the Gulf of Mexico last December. My alternator quit working in Southern Texas and pulled over into a parking area. I was in a panic until my dog looked at me and said, “Get a grip…you can handle this!” I hitchhiked for the first time since the 1960s for the part. To make a long story short. I fixed it and went to the ocean for the Winter. The experience was exhilarating! I knew I could handle anything that came my way! Before leaving I followed all the advice on the Website and in the Forums. For all that information I am grateful! Eight months later I am living everyday with Joy and Peace in my soul….Thanks, Bob.

    • Bob

      Thanks for such a great comment Sameer!! There is nothing as wonderful as the school of hard knocks to build our self-confidence, character and fortitude. We cheat ourselves out of a full and rich life by striving constantly for safety.
      Your experience has been living proof of that!
      Bob
      p.s. You have a very smart dog!

  12. CAE

    Overcoming adversity, whether real of perceived, is fantastic for the soul! You really feel like you’re living when you triumph over fear!
    One thing I did that helped me was to stay and sleep in the van while it was parked in front of my house. It was like vandwelling with training wheels. Then I went on some long camping trips. I never liked staying in the city anyway and I don’t need to. So I don’t

    • Bob

      Very good suggestion CAE! I will include that in next weeks post!
      Bob

  13. Gloria Brooks

    I’m one of those people that has loved living a van from the get go. But, everything was still and still is an adjustment. I just began vandwelling as of May ’13. My biggest adjustment has been figuring out how to eat healthy without refrigeration. It took me about 4 months to finally really enjoy my food all the time. Once I found a little Road Pro fry pan, my life has been so much easier not hauling the propane stove in and out and worrying about propane in the van all the time, though I still have my little one burner propane stove. In winter, I’m told, I should use the little propane stove to cook an evening meal and warm the van up for those cold nights. So, we’ll see how that goes. Good ventilation will be a must. Other adjustments have been clothing and getting the right weather appropriate gear for summer and now heading into fall. It took a while to figure out the right socks and keeping stock of the right amount of those and undies without going overboard. I had fears about not keeping clean enough without regular showers but have come to really enjoy my sponge baths and baby wipes. Keeping clean is now problem now.
    My next investment/project is trying to get a reasonable foam mattress for my bed. I’ve been sleeping on several layers of egg crate foam along with a camping mat and a long pillow. It’s just not comfortable enough and I don’t sleep as well as I’d like. So, now, I’m taking Bob’s advice and looking to purchasing an upholstery grade 4″ thick 36″ X 72″ piece sealed up in a heavy duty water-proof vinyl casing. They want almost $500 for it because it also includes the labor to make it. I may just get the $208 foam and encase it on my own way. But, it sure would be nice to have their vinyl casing for that pretty penny. So, these are my current concerns.
    Another challenge was learning to deal with my trash in the van so that I didn’t continually attract rodents. How the buggers got in? I think from leaving my van door open during those hot days when I needed more ventilation. Now, I’ve figured out to store my trash in a tote in the van and so far, no mice. I was getting tired of trapping the poor things. I make sure I clean up after my meals very quickly now, especially in the evening when they’re mostly active and looking to get into the van.
    So, my life in the van is continually evolving. Now, I’m getting ready to look for my own boondocking campsites for the first time on my own. Thus far, I’ve followed Bob and Randy’s Caravans. Now, I’m going to be relying on my own navigating skills. I’ve had mixed feelings about that but feel confident navigating with my National Geographic Adventure Road Atlas, Google Maps and Free Camp Sites.net. I love how I can zoom in with Google Maps and look at campsites ahead of time. With all those assistants, I should be good to go. I’m a bit scared, I’m getting itchy feet and I’m super excited all at the same time! What a great life!

    • DougB

      One piece of advice, Gloria – throw a sheet over a span of plastic and see how it goes overnight. I once slept on waterproofing covers that protected a mattress, and was drenched in sweat by morning even though I didn’t have enough covers to stay warm. Ugh. If there’s something out there that can both breathe and be water-resistant, go for it. It isn’t common vinyl.

      • Bob

        Boy do I agree totally Doug. My mattress is always getting dirty because of Homer (I share my bed with him both at night and during the day. When it rains, he comes in wet and muddy). I tried putting it in a vinyl, waterproof cover and that was horrible–I got rid of it right away! Now I just put down a waterproof cover when the weather is bad and learn to live with whatever happens to the mattress.
        One thing I did was get a feather mattress topper like this one:
        http://www.amazon.com/White-Goose-Feather-Baffle-Featherbed/dp/B000VM6NH6/
        It made the bed more comfortable and I can just throw it in the washing machine if it gets too dirty. I had worried about it being too hot but that has not been the case.
        Bob

    • Frank

      Gloria, try sleeping on Coalman’s new suspension cott, it’s cost much less, your off the floor, and can be easly fixed with new bought bungee cord.
      When the time comes to replace the bungee cords, in cutting each cord make sure you tape the ends with electrical tape. Just a hint.

    • Bob

      Gloria, thanks for that great feed back, very helpful to lots of people I’m sure!!
      Gosh, I feel like a proud papa watching his little girl take wing and fly away!!
      I am so glad you are my friend, I’m a lucky man.
      Bob

    • OpenSpaceMan

      Gloria_
      Here is the source for where I got my slip cover for my cushion. I use a 6″ mattress foam wrapped in this zippered cushion…w/a warm weather sleeping bag and I also have a cold weather sleeping bag. I’m very happy with the fit and workmanship of the cover.
      slipcovershop.com They have a measuring tool online and I used the material – Leather Like Slate.
      I paid $95 and it took about a week to get.
      *I’m always hesitant to recommend a company but I had a good experience…goodluck.
      **If you want to take a look at it…Bob did a post on my van, labeled “innovative van conversion”.
      ***Note: I do have two vents in my van so I have alot of air circulating…so condensation hasn’t been an issue.
      _Happy Trails

  14. m.a.

    You mean like – “ohmygodwhathappenedtomylife?!”
    “IusedtoBEsomething!”
    “I’mHOMELESS!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
    “I’mgoingtobekilledinthemiddleofthenighttonightforsure!” “Mychildren/friendsareallashamedtoknowme!”
    “Noonewilleverlovemeagain!”
    “WHATARETHOSESOUNDS???!!!!!”
    “It’salldownhillfromhere!”
    You mean like those feelings?
    I don’t know anyone who’s ever had those. 🙂

    • Bob

      m.a. SHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! I’ll never tell!
      Bob

  15. m.a.

    ps – great post.

    • Bob

      Thanks!
      Bob

  16. Frank

    Bob, nice post. Too many people though that worry about fear and comfort. They compare it to conventional living of a fixed dwelling where your loving Landlord or Banker suck the life out of you, and your bank account. But I am now a true believer that a house is in no way any form of security, with global warming, natural disasters, children of the Corn aka (Gangs), Taxes another type of gang, Inflation, unemployment, health care cost or old age – If you can’t maintain a small van how will you ever maintain a house with high labor cost, than living in a van to me translates into far more security and freedom than a house ever will.
    I had far more fear living in the house I once had while now I have no fear. At my house I felt like I was being watched by some bad gang punks. I didn’t want to leave the house for fear of a break-in. Once early morning I found my fence gate open. Someone must have been looking into my patio late at night and maybe thinking about breaking in. What kind of security is that. I think one is more likely to have a house broken into than a vehicle. A fence or some bushes make a great hiding place for thieves and neighbors with DEMON like children are of no help.
    As for comfort, I would rather due without a butt warmer or foot massager than to have to deal with the above risks, dangers, losses, fears, slaveries, premature aging, cost, or to have my soul damaged by an evil system called REAL ESTATE, BANKERS, and LANDLORDS.
    I hope now that this post will ease the fears of people living the MIGHTY VANDWELLING LIFESTYLE. As for comfort, turn to fans, catalytic heaters – maybe a new vented type now on the market, move to a cooler climate or head to California’s natural air conditioned beaches, Coleman’s newer version suspension cot, bathe with hospital type large bath wipes called Assurance from Wal-mart, wash your hair over a small plastic tote, shit in a 5-gallon bucket with a snap on toilet seat and do use cat litter – no bathroom cleaning required, WOW! how great. Sorry though, no electric butt warmer.
    A house is not comfort or security, it crazy and insane unless your rich, rich, rich, If not, It’s all work, work, work, and cost, cost, cost.
    Believe it or not, I read a story about a billionaire, note I said billionaire not millionaire, who does not live or owns any type of fixed dwelling. Not even an old beat-up single wide mobile home on toxic wasteland. Instead he travels and loves to live at beautiful resort hotels. To me that would be an awesome and better way to bring up children – A family that plays together stays together.
    Don’t let fake brainwashed fear keep you from freedom, because if your not rich then keeping a roof over your head will be hazardous to your health. That will be a real fear that will kill you from stress and slavery.

    • Bob

      Frank, why don’t you go ahead and tell us what you really feel like!
      But, I agree 100% with everything you said (although I personally have never had a problem with bad neighbors, I know many people do).
      Freedom is worth any cost to me!
      Bob

  17. Patrick

    MagicBeans, Even you have a lot of money (let say million dollar), but you can’t move and talk. You still need to someone that you trust and love you to help you. That ‘s your kids if you have kids that love you and will anything to take care of you. Living in house, van, RVs are not help with old ago problems therefore enjoy your life now when you are still able to. I ‘m retired at 39 and travel the world to see beautiful and enjoy great foods. Don’t define what is life, just live free, the world has a lot of to offer.

  18. Mario

    Very valid thoughts and emotions Bob, i think 90% of vandwellers go through these before and during the beginning of their “unusual” lifestyle.
    “Forewarned is Forarmed” is a very valuable element to consider,i personally interpret it as :”DO AS MUCH PLANNING AS YOU CAN,BEFORE YOU GO AT IT” ,all my purchases now are based on the intention of making the experience (transition) as pleasant and trouble free as it can be.I am constantly drawing important info from you Bob as well as many of your readers that are seasoned vandwellers ,filing it in a way that i can readily access it as needed.
    In my view,vehicle choice is one of the most important decisions to be made .If the vehicle is going to be my “house” i have to make sure that it is there when the going gets tough,i know that i will be depending on it constantly so i try to envision how extreme the locations i will frequent would be ( as far as terrain, expected weather conditions ) and select the one that can perform well under those conditions.
    Most of my emotions of fear are directly connected with the vehicle’s ability to remain reliable and it’s performance matched to the conditions.(I am looking at late models F150 FX4 SUPER CREW with the ECOBOOST motor and an oversized (tall)bed cap ( i know $$$$$), as a base)and later on increase clearance further if needed . This selection stems from the fact that in the beginning i need to be as mobile as possible trading some comfort ( as that of a van ) in order to have better capability in rougher roads (i think i would be happier in remote locations …. you guys know best if this would be overkill).
    If i “survive the ordeal” (lol) and as i get accustomed to the new surroundings, i will add a short cargo trailer for additional comfort.
    As for the rest of the possible worries(cooking,personal hygene,bathing , keeping warm , loneliness , etc. i find these challenges will be easily dealt with if you focus on what you gain instead of what you loose.I see myself as KING OF ANORTHODOX (out of the ordinary)METHODS and trying to find a solution to a minor problem could prove to be fun interesting and educational.I love testing what others might call “silly ideas” … just think of the level of satisfaction you will enjoy to discover that you can accomplish the same result just by changing the METHOD. What could be wrong with that?
    There is ALWAYS more than one way to accomplish a task and it can be a lot of fun for each one of us to find OUR OWN. Be open to experimentation. (No worries here , we have CHEAPRVLIVING.COM and Bob’s well proven methods to the rescue if we mess up!! (lol)).
    On a more serious note,recognizing that we are all different and these fears will present different challenges to each one of us, with enough determination, PROPER PLANNING ,POSITIVE ATTITUDE and time to adapt to the new ways we will be rewarded with a much more fulfilling lifestyle than the one we live today.
    (EMERGENCY FUND….absolutely necessary for peace of mind)
    Thanks for analyzing and sharing those sensitive issues Bob.

    • Bob

      Mario, I lived in a F150 4×4 for 3 years and loved the freedom. Then I switched to a van and have been stuck several times since. I am actively planning on switching back to a 4×4. So I think your choice is outstanding!!
      Bob

  19. DougB

    Bob, I never mentioned that this is an excellently helpful post. But you know that by now. Currently at the tender one year point, I find that my biggest worries were:
    1) breaking down on the road a long way from mechanical help. Too early for that, with my particular diesel tow vehicle. That’s good, because the damned thing is so electronically complex and tight underhood that only specialized mechanics can fix it, and those are like hen’s teeth in the Great Southwest, I found. So far, so good.
    2) blowing ancient trailer wheel bearings or tires. This one actually came to pass in spades, but fortunately near help, including Bob’s entourage of the moment. This concern is now history.
    3) damaging the 4×4 truck or getting stuck while exploring solo. Exploring 4×4 trails alone is considered foolhardy by 4-wheeler clubs, I found. It was fun, but I don’t do that any more. Duh. Especially with a big vehicle designed for heavy loads in sloppy construction sites, not tight, nasty Jeep trails. Perhaps a club member might one day allow me to ride shotgun, if I’m wearing a gag and a Depenz.
    4) a propane mishap. Had one, thanks to faulty Mr. Heater inline filter sealing surface. Got rid of that problem without damage, and now I’m only mildly paranoid when I hook up and fire up. (I highly recommend the so-called “green” hose that does not require a filter.)
    5) a new one after initial departure: discovering that low trailer ground clearance and ignorance of actual trail conditions don’t mix. It takes quite a bit of extra effort to get around that one, but it’s working out, so far.
    6) my son feared that I’d overload and bend the trailer frame over the axles to drag both ends, opening the body like a sardine can and spewing contents all over the road. And then he’d have to come out and somehow rescue me. I guess that’s because it was a little bent already when I got it. Tish tosh! It’s no more bent now than it was! So Far.
    By the way, if you do betray the iconic VanDweller stereotype and go 4×4 pickup, see if it just happens to use the same size tire as your van. Unlikely, but you could save a bundle and keep those new, aggressive tire treads.

    • Bob

      Doug, you are living proof that time heals our fears and eventually we start to get over them.
      Happy 1st anniversary on your birth into a new life!
      Bob

  20. Myddy

    I still have little mini-freak-outs. I love it over all, but these same feelings you mentioned often get to me and I have to leave to go do something outdoors to cheer myself up. But in the end this has been the best decision I’ve ever made, I’ve already saved two months of rent, that’s 800$..not to mention the utilities!! My only issue now is getting my solar panel system to work correctly and stop giving me issues. I think that’s where my scare is. I’m always afraid of not having any power, I think if I could get my solar panel system working properly I’d lose some of those fears.

    • DougB

      Is this a consistent, repeatable problem, or one that comes and goes? Or are you talking about simply running short of power when you need it?

      • Myddy

        Actually, I believe I installed them incorrectly. I can’t be certain though. It’s a consistent problem and I’ve had to replace the battery twice. I think I didn’t hook things up to the controller right maybe? I’m unsure. I have a fiberglass roof so I had to get those roll-out flexible panels.

    • Bob

      Myddy, if you want to explain the problem for us maybe we can help. Just be aware it is very difficult to trouble-shoot by mail.
      Bob

      • Myddy

        Well, I was planning on attending an RTR soon, probably the east coast one (since at the moment my temporary home is Tennessee). If figuring it out by mail doesn’t work perhaps someone at the RTR that knows more about solar power could give me advice on it.
        I think that I drained the batteries too far. I have trouble understanding how to measure the amp/volt usage that I require with the instruments I run. So my battery has been changed 3 times so far. I’m running a laptop, a phone charger and a heat blanket on them, they’re 3 69watt panels. I can easily add more panels, I have money put back to buy an entirely new system, I’m just not sure how to install everything correctly. I had someone help me with this one and I think that may have been part of the issue. I think it’s power failure from over use, but I’m having trouble calculating how much watts of panels I need, or how to keep my battery from dying.

        • Bob

          Myddy, that should be enough power but what are you using for batteries?
          Do you have a volt meter and know how to use it?
          I’m concerned about the electric blanket. That may be using more power than you think. Can you tell me more about the electric blanket? Is it 110 or 12 volt? Do you know how many watts it uses? What are you using for an inverter and how often do you leave it on? How many hours do you leave the blanket on?
          Bob

          • Myddy

            I do not have a volt meter, I have been trying to decide which one is a good one to buy but haven’t made a decision.
            It is a 110v plug in, it says on the blanket cover 18.6V DC. The blanket stays on about 6 hours per day, in the night usually when it’s cold.
            I’m unsure what else I’m using, I know that sounds horrible. The inverter is not labelled by brand, and the batteries came from an auto shop, they’re ACDelco batteries.

  21. Curtis

    Great post Bob!
    Learning about these things before hand will help many of us to deal with them if an when they come up.
    I am starting to notice many things we encounter in life have their root in fear.

    • Bob

      Curtis, yes, fear is an incredible source of pain and misery for most of us. One of my favorite quotes is

      “Fear was like an evil and corroding thread woven through the very fabric of our lives”


      Shining the light of truth on it usually helps me overcome it so I try to help other see that the risks of this life really are very low.
      Bob