Travel writer finds that living out of a van on the open road wasn’t as free-wheeling or fun as it’s made out to be

Travel writer Erin Clark was tired of living in a cramped apartment with roommates. She thought she found the answer to her problems:

When you search “van life” on social media, you’ll see aesthetically pleasing interiors and pristine couches without a cushion out of place.

Inspired by these photos, I decorated my camper in a tan-and-teal color scheme and decked it out with flax-linen bedsheets, bamboo memory-foam pillows, and a set of rose-gold cutlery.

Clark discovered that van life isn’t all its made out to be:

I thought having my home, office, and vehicle expenses all bundled together would be cost-efficient. It wasn’t.

Because my laptop battery was limited and I wasn’t willing to go very long without a shower, I stayed at campgrounds during the week, which charged between $15 NZD (around $10) and $25 NZD (around $15) per night. And a full tank of gas cost roughly $200 NZD (around $125).

So in one month, I spent $784.85 NZD (around $490) on gas and accommodations. For comparison, my rent in Auckland was $848 NZD ($528) per month.

Other than going on weekend hikes, van life wasn’t particularly healthy. My home on wheels didn’t have a refrigerator, so storing fresh fruit and vegetables was a pipe dream.

Plus, the idea of doing dishes in the tiny sink, which had a manual pump, was enough to dissuade me from cooking. Instead, I stopped by supermarkets every couple of days to buy easy-to-prepare foods, like sandwiches and crackers.

I also ambitiously packed a yoga mat in my van, but I didn’t unroll it once. Rather, I resigned myself to an achy neck from hours of driving and contorting myself around my laptop.

The main lesson here seems to be that if you desire to live happily on the open road, you probably need to make it a bare bones pleasure-only adventure with little to no work. Either that or you need something larger than a camper van. And it can cost a lot of money to do it in a glamping, connected-to-the-grid sort of way.

In other words, you probably need to be upper middle class or higher.

You can read the rest of the article here.

Erin Clark’s travel van never looked as hip or pristine as the ones she saw in promotional videos. (Photo: Petrina Darrah)

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