#vanlife: Why I Don’t Do It (Full-time) Anymore

A few weeks ago, I had a comment on the blog that asked me why I don’t find a job that includes my passions. The commenter seemed to think that I was set to miss out on something by settling into a more “normal” life with property and a future house. A little offended, I almost didn’t publish the comment. It seemed to imply somehow that I was a “faker” and not a into outdoor stuff as I claim to be. It kinda got under my skin. I’m not a pro-athlete. I’m not even a cool amateur living in my van chasing the dream. I’m a teacher who’s biggest dream right now is saddling myself with a mortgage.

I lived the #vanlife (or camper life, etc. as I detailed yesterday). It was amazing in so many ways but I honestly found it really isolating. Since we paid for a Jetpack, I had some internet connection to friends and family but mostly, it was just me and my ex-partner (and Sprocket).

The travel was exciting but after awhile, I needed a friend to share a glass of wine with and talk about our lives. It isn’t even a comfort thing, I spent last summer living out of my FSJ and this summer I’m living out of the XJ (and the shed). I needed a place that was mine where I had roots. I needed that place where I could go for a walk and find myself waving to nearly every car going down the road. I needed more independence to do things on my own. I also am a planner and a goal setter: I needed more stability than a cobbled together job on the road.

Is travel in my make up? Absolutely. I love my weekends and summers wandering around Colorado and the larger West. I am growing my life so that I can do this. The alternation between home and travel is sustaining to me. Teaching fits me for many reasons, one of which is the summer and vacation schedule. Spring Break in Mexico? Sounds great! Roadtrips? ALWAYS.

I actually feel a little bit bad that I was bothered by that comment. I adventure a lot. Not always as much as I like but I think I do a pretty good job prioritizing it! In fact, I am writing this blog post from a Starbucks while out on a multi-day adventure.

To those of you hoping to live the vanlife soon: cheers. If you take a hard-pass on mobile living all together: just don’t forget to adventure and you’ll be just fine.  To those of you who have tried it and gone back to “the real world” because of money: it is still there. To those, who like me, tried it and found it lacking: it’s okay; you’re still an adventurer in my eyes.

17 Replies to “#vanlife: Why I Don’t Do It (Full-time) Anymore”

  1. I actually have an almost-ready post on a similar topic. The internet is flooded with people telling you to quit your job and travel the country in a van, as if that’s what everyone wants to do. But what about those of us that have tried it (in some capacity) and found it lacking, like you said? The assumption that it’s the “best” is what gets me. Sounds like I need to get that post live!

    1. I can’t wait to read your post.

      I’m really rubbed the wrong way by the assertion that being a (full time) dirtbag is the only way to be an outdoors person. My part time weekend and summer dirtbag status works really well for me!

  2. Thanks for posting this. Having lived a vagabondish life for about a year and a half with two thru hikes and some field work in between, it’s fun, it’s awesome, and it would be great to have a break like that every five years, but there’s another reality, especially those of us who decide to have families. Sure, I know there are bloggers who travel with their families, but it isn’t necessarily a forever thing. And sometimes not sustainable financially or emotionally.

    Thanks for sharing your side of the story, too!

  3. Good perspective! I’ve lived the $20 in the bank account life, and while the whole no job = freedom thing sounded nice on the surface, wondering if I had enough money to cover gas to Yosemite was seriously hampering that freedom.

    To be honest, having a stable job and income and mortgage has actually given me more freedom. I don’t have to worry about funding that next trip, wondering how I’ll pay for it if my car breaks down in the middle of Death Valley, or having adequate gear for whatever adventure I’ve planned. I also am a homebody in many ways – I like having a place to go back to to regroup and ground myself. I love being on the road, but I need an anchor.

    1. Oh man, I’ve had those “I have time to adventure but not the gas money to get there” moments (or the discussions with a partner about whose goal we’re going to have gas to go to). It’s just not that fun.

      And Bend as an anchor!! You’re killing it!

  4. You are TOTALLY living a life that involves your passions. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, since we’re both considering career transitions. My partner works in art museums but is ready to try something different, and people keep asking, “But you love art. How can you give it up after all this preparation?” But he’s not giving it up at all! He can still be around art and write about art and exist with art everywhere. Not everything we love has to be monetized! You can build a life around things even if they aren’t your whole profession, and I think you’re kicking ass at that.

    1. I think the biggest thing I’ve learned it to keep things simple so you have space in your life to do the things that you’re passionate about.

      Also? Ugh to people who have Opinions about how you should conduct your life. >:(

  5. That’s one thing I hate about this wonderful internet and that’s the amount of judgement! There is no “right way” to be an outdoor enthusiast, the only requirement is to get outside. There is no “right way” to do anything, it’s all about doing what’s best for you.

    1. It’s weird, I don’t hear the judgement so much as a proclamation that quitting your job to travel is the ONLY way to be an outdoors person. You’re just not a cool kid unless you live in a van.

  6. I’ve been having more discussions like this with my younger friends, who scoff at the idea of owning a home. I know there is a sea change in the idea of ownership (owning CDs/MP3s vs Spotify, Netflix vs DVD collection, Uber vs car ownership, etc.), but still feel that owning property has served me well. In some ways, a home is a savings account that gives you a place to live with some market risks/benefits.

    I tell them that I’ll be the one with some passive income to travel the world while I collect rent from them from my paid-off property.

    I am tempted to purchase lots near you or Rebecca, but I don’t want to be a creepy stalker. 🙂

    From what I’ve seen, #vanlife tends to be a temporary state of being, as is youth. I might even try it for a bit, knowing there’s a house waiting for me at the other side.

    I’ve said this before, someone has to make the vans, and someone has to own the property that people rent.

  7. I agree with the previous commenter who talked about #vanlife being a phase in life, similar to one’s youth. It makes perfect sense to eventually want to be in one place. I’ve actually been reading a lot of travel bloggers who are choosing to no longer travel full-time because they are ready to tackle other aspects of their life which require a more permanent home base, such as starting or expanding their businesses or starting families.

  8. I’m so glad you wrote this. You are an inspiration to me. While I like reading blogs about people who travel full time, it is your story that I relate to the most. I have a stable job as a graduate research assistant (someday I’d like to be a professor and teach). I truly enjoy my job and my day to day life, yet I also love traveling and exploring the outdoors. Your blog is a fantastic example of how I can incorporate both into my life. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing, and I like that.

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