Making a van a home

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For many, purchasing a home is the first sign you’ve made it in the world—and a home on four wheels is still a home.

Van life encompasses many nomadic living options. Some people choose to gut and convert Mercedes Sprinter vans, others opt for a bus conversion or the premade RV option and some—more daring—nomads build-out retired ambulances. With a little creativity, a nail gun, and a stack of plywood, anyone can make a vehicle their home.

But not everyone is Jack Kerouac, so what makes van life a viable option even if you aren’t a divorcee on a quest to find yourself?

Living in a van means giving up the security and reliability associated with living on-grid. Van life relies on alternative hydro and water sources. Usually, converted vehicles can only hold around 200 litres of water, and all their power comes from roof-top solar panels.

Most vans also lack a full bathroom and consistent Wi-Fi connection, never mind the obvious challenge of a lack of living space. Although van life seems populated by limitations, these restrictions simply make space for more freedom down the road.

Van life forces a return to simplicity while cultivating an environment for personal growth.

To start, van lifers must take on the ultimate challenge: constructing their home. Unlike traditional living options, van life is infinitely customizable since design is up to the owner as they prioritize what matters most to them.

Perhaps they want a surfboard rack, a reading nook, or a rooftop deck. When the homeowner is in control of designing and executing their own living space, the options are endless. Plus, because the space is tiny, the project feels manageable instead of paralyzing.

Van life presents opportunities to focus on the skills associated with the project like simple electrical wiring, basic plumbing, and the fundamentals of woodworking. The pursuit of van life means an opportunity to learn unique skills that would otherwise be difficult to try.

Nomadic lifestyles push people out of their comfort zones in the best way. They provide a slower pace and unique challenges that develop problem-solving skills and encourage independence.

Traditionally, people who partake in house life often require a regular escape or vacation. This departure is always accompanied by the hassle of packing and coordinating transportation on top of the guilt associated with the environmental impact of plane travel.

With a van, travel is simple and perpetual. There’s no packing and unpacking; your house and your belongings travel with you.

Car travel is also a much greener form of transportation. Van life is self-paced so the driver can decide when and where they go which allows for a deeper connection to the destination. Home is anywhere and everywhere.

Van life may seem like a fantasy, but as more people choose nomadic living it’s becoming more accessible and more attainable.

Buying a van is significantly easier than buying a house—and both can be a home.

Sarah Maat is a fourth-year English student and The Journal’s Senior Sports Editor.

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