SO, THERE YOU ARE, having decided you want have a nomadic life, living in some type of vehicle or trailer, and perhaps you’re feeling overwhelmed. Ack! So much to figure out! So much to prepare! Where do I start? ……….AAAAACK!!!

Start with the essentials

If you’ve been looking at other nomads’ and #vanlifers’ rigs, reading their blogs, watching their videos, you might be thinking, “Oh, I want something like that. They have it so it must be important, right? But how do I pull all that together?” It’s easy to get lost in a forest of details. Or is it a swamp of the extraneous?

You prioritize. You start with the most essential things and work upward from there.

William Least Heat-Moon’s Blue Highways was a huge influence on me and many others. “Travel the country in a van? Yeah, I want to do that someday!” 

What did Heat-Moon hit the road with? A bare van, a mattress, a sleeping bag, a duffle of clothing, a cooler, and a Rand-McNally atlas of the United States.

I’m not saying we should all go as stripped down as Heat-Moon, but it points to how we should approach our preparations. It gives us a clue about what is essential.

1. A Reliable Vehicle

Without mobility we’re not nomads. But not only do we travel (if only to migrate with the seasons), we also live in our rigs. If it doesn’t run, we don’t travel. If it’s in the shop, we become temporarily homeless. So the absolute number one priority is a good, trouble-free ride. Everything else is irrelevant without it.

2. A Place to Be

When we live in a building, society (and the law) says, “Yeah, okay, that’s your place. No problem.” It also says, “You and your vehicle can only be someplace you pay to be.” Otherwise, well, you know…

So the number two priority is figuring out the big picture of where you’re going to be, where you can be. Are we going to be a boondocker? A stealth camper in cities? A Wallydocker? A moochdocker? Are you going to use campgrounds and parks? Some combination of those? Your plans for that affect the rest of your preparations.

3. A Place to Sleep

Nothing makes vehicle dwelling more miserable than not having a comfortable place to sleep. Any layout of your nomadic home should start with the bed. Whatever the type, size or orientation, everything else should adapt to fit it, not the other way around. It’s better to be bumping into the bed while you’re moving about your rig than to be sleeping awkwardly every night for the sake of something else having enough room.

4. A Place to Poop

We all have to do it, and we all need a way to deal with it.

5. Health

What will you need to maintain your health or to compensate for health limitations? A way to keep medications cool? A way to power a CPAP machine? Steps? Grab handles? Heating pads…? 

6. Food

Gotta have it. Will you cook or not? If you cook, how? Where? Will you refrigerate, use a cooler, or stick with foods that don’t need either of those? Again, those decisions influence others to follow.

7. Clothing

What type and how much will you need? Where will you keep it—both the clean and dirty? This is simplified if you’re a nudist. Or like Jack Reacher, wearing one outfit until it’s too dirty, then discarding it and buying new clothes.

Get Ready Enough

Once you have the essentials handled you can then worry about other stuff. The less essential things can be delayed. It’s not always necessary to have everything 100 percent buttoned up before hitting the road. In fact, you might not figure out whether you have everything done in a way that fits your needs until you live with it a while. It’s an ongoing process even for us veteran wanderers.