I lived in my 2012 Ford Transit Connect for around a year. From May 2019-January 2020, and then off and on for various points beyond that. I got to experience different aspects of vanlife, and wanted to use this space to reflect on that. I have since sold my car, as I’d like to try to live a car-free lifestyle, but I may live in a car again one day.

I bought my van for $7000 in February 2019, and hastily began building it out. A few weeks into owning the car the transmission failed, which cost $3500 to repair. Car ownership is expensive, the average american spends over $10,000 annually on their car. I learned this lesson the hard way.

Nonetheless, I got to try out vanlife. In May 2019, I moved into my car and drove it across the country to work in upstate New York for the summer. Upstate New York is not a mecca for vandwellers, but I bounced between Walmart, hotels and neighborhoods.

My van

That next semester I lived in the van behind Stebbins Hall, a 64 person co-op in Berkeley, California. I could use the house to cook and shower, so it felt like I was hardly living in the van at all. My partner (at the time) and I both lived in the van and it was quite comfortable. Mold became a problem though as we rarely moved the van from behind the house to air it out.

The van in front of Stebbins Hall

Oh the allure of van life! I didn’t live in the van much after that though, a few road trips, and then finally a few weeks in San Jose, which was a bit more difficult then the wide open spaces of the Eastern Sierra.

One of my final nights camping in the van, in a parking lot in San Jose

Overall, there are many advantages to vanlife: freedom, saving money, and minimalism. I spent a lot more time out doing things, whereas if you have a home it is easy to get distracted there. Our society heavily subsidizes cars. You can pay $50/month for a parking space or thousands for an apartment. However, with everything there are drawbacks, I found it hard to eat as healthy, and car ownership is expensive. Many of my favorite trips (PCT, hitchhiking to Alaska, USA rail pass, bumming around the Sierra), have all been without a car. I may return to the #vanlife one day, but for now I really like being car-free.