You can live in a van and make money! We’re here to show you how.
Too many people use money as an excuse for not living in a van, and we’re here to prove to you that you can have it all. We’ll give you some vanbuild suggestions, including the best internet and electricity options we’ve found. We’ve got tips on how to find the internet in new places. We also have curated a list of our favourite remote working opportunities.
What are you waiting for? Start living your vanlife dreams!
We’re not here to tell you that remote work is always easy. You may have experienced remote working already and know that it is not all roses. We are here to tell you, though, that you can make your experience easier by building your van with remote work in mind. Here are some of our tips.
Arguably the most crucial aspect of remote working is the internet. Finding a good system of reliable internet can be a challenge in a van. Lack of cell service, isolated areas, and bad internet coffee shops can make remote working stressful. When planning your van build and remote work situation, make reliable internet one of the most essential things on your list. Here are some ways to have internet in your van.
- Data Plan
The easiest way to have internet is to have a good data plan on your phone. Don’t skimp on your cellular plan if you’re planning to be a digital nomad. Check if the plan has good cellular coverage before buying. You can check the OpenSignal app in the US, which will tell you where various phone plans have service. If you plan where you will be travelling, you can see if you will have service in those areas.
- Signal Booster
A signal booster can be a godsend when you are in low-service areas. A booster will increase a one bar signal to a three bar signal, for example, so that you can stream, hop on a video call, or post on your social media.
With your good signal booster and data plan, using a hotspot to connect your computer to
Wifi shouldn’t be an issue. It’s easy to link your phone data to other devices. Alternatively, you can buy a prepaid hotspot that you need to refill monthly. Most prepaid hotspots offer 30 GB of data and have an initial fee plus monthly charges.
- Other options
Most vanlifers opt for the hotspot and data options when choosing the internet for their van. Satellite internet is often exorbitantly expensive, although it does have a good signal in remote areas.
See the section “planning work and travel” for more information on places to find internet on the road.
Whether or not you’re planning on working out of your van, you’re likely going to want to have good reliable electricity. Here are some standard electricity options that you will want to consider.
- Solar panels
The most popular electricity option for vanlifers is solar power. Initial setup costs have gone down recently, and the clean, silent energy source is much appreciated. The downside of solar power is it is not always reliable and is weather based. It’s helpful to have a backup electricity mechanism if you live in a place without consistent sun or heavily rely on electricity 24/7.
If you need reliable electricity and lots of it, a generator may be your best bet. Designed for the sole purpose of providing electricity, they can power your electricity-sucking devices like air conditioning, microwave, and electric heaters in the remotest of locations. They are generally gas or diesel powered.
The downsides to generators are they take up a lot of space and need to be in a properly ventilated area. Some vanlifers mount their generator on the outside of the van to keep it out of the way. Another issue is that generators make lots of noise while running and need to be constantly running for you to get electricity.
- Second battery
A secondary battery is a must for vanlifers. While you can, of course, charge your items from the car battery while you’re driving, this will quickly drain your battery when you’re parked. A secondary battery will give you back up when you’re not moving. And, if you are almost always on the road, it may be the only electricity backup you need.
A comfortable interior design will help you stay focused and productive during vanlife work sessions.
Make sure you install enough outlets in your van build. The more, the merrier. There’s nothing worse than having to shuffle around and unplug other devices because you only have a couple electrical outlets in your van. Our advice? Install more outlets than you think you’ll need. And invest in extension cords.
- Working area
While it can be alluring to work from bed, especially in a small space like a van, studies have linked working from bed can cause sleep problems. If you’re planning to work remotely, installing a separate work area is a must. This can just be a small desk or double up as a kitchen table. But creating this separate work area will significantly improve your productivity and health on the road.
Initially, when you’re looking at a van, some extra bells and whistles may seem excessive. But, we’re telling you now, if you’re planning to work, sleep, and live out of your van, add those extra comforts to your van. A high roof, a small fridge, an extra-long van for more space, these minor additions will significantly improve your work from a van experience.
Items you may need
Do you absolutely need these items? No. Will these items make your life easier? Yes.
You’re going to want to invest in some good quality headphones, especially if you have to take business calls. Headphones with good speakers will drown out background noise when you’re on the phone and limit distractions. You can also get noise cancelling headphones if you find yourself working in noisy environments like a café.
Many remote workers and vanlifers have a very comfortable addiction to caffeine, so don’t skimp on your coffee maker. Buy yourself a nice one that gives you joy.
- Portable batteries
Portable batteries are a must when you’re working remotely. Some are large, others are small, but we recommend getting one large enough that it can keep your laptop charged at least a couple times. Not only is this great if your van runs out of electricity, but it also means you aren’t going to be worrying about finding the table near the outlet at the coffee shop or running back to your van to charge up while you’re working outside.
Planning travel and work
Like anything in life, planning your travel and work in advance is the surest way for remote work to go smoothly. Here are some things to keep in mind while travelling and working on the road.
One of the main concerns of travelling with all your things in a van is safety. With all your expensive electronics in the van, you don’t want to be the target of thieves. Make sure you’re only camping in safe, well-lit areas (See our article about stealth camping here), and you and your van have a low profile. You may also want to consider installing security systems and deadbolt locks on the door as a further means of protection. Keep you and your belongings safe!
As previously mentioned, there are ways to check if you will have cell service while you’re travelling. Since data is most vanlifers primary internet source, making sure you will have it for work can be crucial. Scope out the areas you’re travelling to see if they have service there, and plan “internet stops” into your route if you’re headed to a remote location without service.
Where to Find Internet
Working in your van and constantly using your phone for data can get old fast. That’s why it’s an integral part of work on the road to find areas that are good for remote working. Here are some of our spots where you can find internet on the road.
Public parks in cities are an excellent option for people living the van life. Most big city – and some small town – parks have great first-class internet providers. Furthermore, if it’s big enough, you can often find a quiet spot for calls. If you have a portable battery, you can spend all day here. And, it’s free. You don’t even have to buy a coffee.
- Coffee shops
Speaking of coffee, coffee shops aren’t always the best option for remote work. Some cafes have spotty internet, especially if other people are using it. Furthermore, coffee shops are loud. They aren’t a professional spot to have client calls, and they have many distractions. Many Starbucks have spotty internet, and it’s difficult to determine whether the internet will be good or bad if you’ve never been.
- Public Library
Most public libraries offer free Wifi. The issue is sometimes, it is only for library patrons. If you come from out of town, you likely won’t have a library card for that location. Ask in advance if this is a requirement to use their Wifi. If it isn’t, public libraries are a great quiet place to get work done.
- Chain Stores
Stores like Walmart and McDonald’s often have public Wifi you can connect to. Sometimes, if you’re parked close enough to the door, you can even use it from your van. Like coffee shops, though, the internet is sometimes spotty.
- Public Areas
While we already mentioned parks, train stations, bus stops, visitor centres and city halls often have complimentary Wifi. Check-in advance and get some work done.
10 full-time remote jobs for vanlifers
Perhaps the most significant excuse people use for not starting living on the road is the money issue. How do you earn money on the road? There are multiple ways to be a digital nomad, tied to no place, yet money is still coming in. Here are some remote work ideas for you. Some are easier to start than others, but all of these have been successfully accomplished by other vanlifers.
- Work from Home
The simplest way to start working remotely is to ask your current employer if you can work from home. If you have a desk job, this is a viable option. If you worked from home during the pandemic, you will not be asking for anything new. If your employer says no, you can look for a job in your field that is advertising work from home.
- Online Teaching
Multiple agencies will hire people to teach online. Especially if you’re a native English speaker, working online as a teacher can be done, sometimes even without certification. Most online teaching companies require you to have a bachelor’s degree (it could be in anything) to get started. Some need you to get TOESL certification, which does not take very long (less than a month) and can be quite affordable.
- Social media manager
Social media is a must nowadays, and businesses realize this. This is why working as a social media manager is booming. As a social media manager, you will create content for brands and manage posting their stories, posts, and DMs. There are different ways to get started, but freelance platforms can be a good start.
Speaking of freelancing, you might not want to be a social media manager, but you may have other skills you can offer. Can you do web development or design? Content write? Edit youtube videos? Edit photos? People are looking to hire you! The freelance market is booming right now, so find something you are good at and get started on a freelance platform. Also consider creating your own website and advertising, so that you can work off platforms like Fiverr or Upwork.
- Creating your own brand
This job can take a bit to become lucrative but is incredibly rewarding. By creating your own brand (i.e., blogging, youtube, social media), you are working for yourself. You get to call the shots, and you might not even have to work with clients as you do in the freelancing world. Look into affiliate marketing, brand deals, and ad sense for ways to make money from your own brand. The most important thing to remember is: be yourself, let your personality shine through. That and be patient because it can take a while to build a following that you can monetize.
Did you know that writing is one of the few jobs that AI hasn’t been able to master? If you’re a good writer, you can find work creating content for people online. If you like marketing, you can combine your marketing skills with writing and create click-worthy website content for major brands. Like freelancing above, there are many platforms you can use to get started, or you can try to find your own clients.
- Pet sit/house sit
Check local sites and pet and house-sitting sites to see if anyone needs help in the area you’re travelling to. It’s a good idea to create an account on pet sitting agency websites. House sitting is a fun way to stay in a house and take a break from your van. You could also rent out your van while you house sit and make extra income (see #9).
- Seasonal worker
Seasonal work is a fun way to get to know a particular place. Pick up a job at a national park during the summer. Or work at a ski hill during the winter. You could even bartend for a season – there is almost always a job available for an excellent mixologist.
Check out job boards for many part-time and seasonal job options that combine travel and work. It will also get you out of your van and working with others, which is an added bonus.
- Rent out your van
Did you know you can make up to $200 a night renting out your van? Sites like Outdoorsy are the Airbnb of van rentals, where you can advertise your vehicle for a few days to make money. It does not have to be permanently listed. Combine this with housesitting and you can make double the income.
- Travelling healthcare worker
If you have a profession in the health industry, like nursing, there are travel options. Pick up 6-8 weeks of work in different hospitals and centres around the country and beyond. Some agencies will help you find this remote work and do all of the scheduling, so you don’t need to be constantly looking for openings. The best part? Lots of these jobs pay even more than working a regular job.