So much time at home, remote work, and dreams of a future less dystopian has pushed people to want a new lifestyle. Many adventurous souls are renewing their interest in the ultimate tiny house lifestyle: vanlife.
Whilst one would think living in a global pandemic would decrease the number of people wanting to live on the road, the complete opposite has occurred.
It’s true: current vanlifers have not had it easy. With stringent lockdowns all over the world, including the never-ending (it seems) lockdowns in New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia, the past two years have been challenging.
A lifestyle based on freedom and travel doesn’t seem like the right choice during this situation. But, vanlifers have made it work. We’re here to tell you that nothing, not even a global pandemic, can prevent you from living the vanlife.
That’s not to say you should disregard public health notices and safety rules. You shouldn’t be having major vanlife meet-ups or international travel if your region has forbidden it. But, with a few tweaks to “normal” vanlife, you can still fulfil your dreams during covid.
Why the increase?
Before we delve into our tips for having an excellent vanlife experience, covid or no covid, let’s talk about why we think so many new people are now interested in this lifestyle during covid.
With working from home orders, attractions and activities closed, and international travel impossible, many an adventurous spirit has found a rare commodity: time.
Many vanlifers have begun their DIY conversions stuck in lockdown. With no other activities available to distract them, they can spend copious amounts of time designing and making a beautiful van conversion.
Furthermore, people have had time to re-evaluate their life. For better or worse, being cooped up at home can help you re-evaluate your priorities. For many people previously stuck in a cycle of 9-5 work, chained to their office, with limited vacation time, lockdown has shown us that maybe there is another life that we can live with the freedom to travel.
Life is short, and most of us want to get on the road as soon as we possibly can. Vanlife, for many travel-lovers stuck at home, seems like the perfect answer. Covid has given us plenty – too much? – time to think, and we find ourselves re-evaluating previously held norms.
You Can Do Remote Work
What previously seemed like a pipe dream is now a reality for millions of people: remote work.
We’ve found out that you can work from home and get things done. Many of us have found out that remote work suits our ideal lifestyle.
A significant hurdle of vanlife has always been money. How do you support yourself? An increased ability to not go to the office has solved this issue in light of covid in the digital era.
Others have found vanlife during the pandemic, unfortunately out of desperation. Losing jobs and many pay cuts are not good on the bank account balances, and people are trying to find more affordable ways to live. Van life can be a great option to cut costs while travelling.
Challenges of Vanlife during Covid
Vanlife during covid is no cakewalk, and numerous rules and regulations make it sometimes feel impossible to survive.
Here are some of the challenges vanlifers have experienced during this pandemic.
- Moving from one region to another restricted region with 14-day quarantine.
- Normal overnight parking spots getting closed.
- Campgrounds and national parks shut down.
- Some towns not selling food to out of town folks to combat panic buying.
- Temporary local work on hold due to many tourism industry jobs being closed. (There are other remote options, though! )
- Cut off from friends and family. Not able to get back home.
How to Travel Safely During Covid
While covid has impacted vanlifers, the community is still strong. Here are some of our tips for successful vanliving during the ups and downs of the pandemic.
1. Plan your route in advance.
While planning has always been important, it’s even more essential with lockdowns. Know where you are going to stop during your travelling, read all safety rules before travelling into a new region, and scope out potential camping areas before leaving.
2. Stealth camping.
You might want to do more research on how to stealth camp in light of the pandemic. With many campgrounds closed, you may find yourself spending the night in places that may not be used to vanlifers. Staying inconspicuous is important!
3. Scope out rural areas.
Going along with tip #1, figure out the lay of the land before travelling. While rural areas are often ideal for safe travelling and isolation, some towns have limits on what out of towners can buy. Other neighbourhoods may be downright hostile to anyone not from the area.
4. Find your clan (esp if travelling alone).
If you are travelling alone, finding at least a couple like-minded souls on the road will do wonders for your mental health as well as safety on the road. Many international vanlifers have found themselves stuck in countries away from their friends and families. Finding others to scope out places to stay during your journey is an excellent way to keep sane during the pandemic.
5. Binge on comfort.
When you’re planning out what van you’re going to use, remember that in this pandemic, you might spend more time indoors than you initially had dreamed. Isolation, stealth camping, and activities and shops closed can mean you will be living in your van rather than out of it. Binge on things that will make your vanlife experience more comfortable. A portable toilet, a work area, a fridge, higher ceilings. While some of these may seem superfluous at the moment, you will be more than grateful for them once you embark on your vanlife journey.
6. Have a home base.
We don’t know how many more lockdowns there will be or what rules will change or evolve as time goes on. Having a home base can help with planning. A homebase could be a friend’s driveway or crashing at a buddy’s house for a few weeks to wait till restrictions ease. Having a home base gives you a bit of stability when the unknown hits.
7. Check your insurance.
It’s more than a good idea to check with your health insurance and local embassy (if you’re abroad) to see if you’re still covered during the pandemic. Some international insurance companies do not protect you internationally during the pandemic anymore.
8. Getting back home.
While many international vanlifers have weathered the covid storm abroad, it is an excellent idea to know if and how you can get back to your country of origin in case of an emergency. Check if there are resources available for getting back or further restrictions like hotel stays or vaccine requirements. It’s also a good idea to check your travel visa to make sure you have legal status for however long you’re stuck away from home.
And if you find yourself in a situation where it is impossible to get back home, try to build a safety net of good friends abroad. Although it’s not the same, having a community is your best bet if an emergency strikes.
Vanlife Pandemic Inspiration
These vanlifers have lived in their van during the covid crisis. Some of them were already vanliving pre-covid era, others hit the road in 2020 or 2021. Some are ex-pats others are exploring their own country until boarders re-open.
Whatever their story is, they’re great inspiration for those dreaming of hitting the road. It’s not impossible!
Dusty started his vanlife journey right before lockdown in Australia. As a Canadian based out of Melbourne – a city with one of the strictest covid lockdowns in the world — he quickly realized having a homebase would be the best way to navigate the covid crisis. He was lucky to meet his new girlfriend, who offered him a home to stay in during lockdown until he could safely get back on the road.
Corey and Jenna Lynn began their American vanlife adventure during covid. They bought a used Mercedes Freightliner sprinter and upgraded it themselves. Leaving their apartment in DC, they work remotely while travelling throughout the country.
People are realizing that vanlife can be affordable. Abby and Cody Erler bought a used Ram Promaster for $25,000 and outfitted it with $10,000 of upgrades before hitting the road. They still work their office jobs from their van but are grateful to be able to see the country without needing to use their minimal vacation time.
This vanlifer converted her van this year and is now travelling down the coast of Australia with her dog. The pandemic has pushed her to live in a van and see the world instead of waiting for the perfect time.