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Van life is taking the world by storm. We really can’t seem to get enough of it. While the nomadic lifestyle can be extremely freeing and truly adventurous. However, it’s not always as glamorous as Instagram and its influencers would have us believe. With any real adventure, the van life is not without genuine risk. From infestations to inclement weather, van life has some pretty severe pitfalls that are worth preparing for. These are the five harsh truths of camper van life that social media users don’t want you to see. 

A Couple Sits Outside Their Volkswagen Camper Van
A Couple Sits Outside Their Volkswagen Camper Van | Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Van life is harder than it seems

The fine folks at Always the Adventure poured their years of camper van life into some harsh realities that need to be shared with anyone wanting to live the van life. This isn’t to warn people away from doing it; it’s only meant to help folks prepare for the jump. 

Like anything else, making a significant shift in lifestyle comes with inevitable growing pains, and knowing them ahead of time can help campers better deal with them. 

Parking a camper van safely and legally is harder than you think

Class B Camper Van Parked in Desert
Class B Camper Van Parked in Desert | Josh Brasted/Getty Images

Parking a camper van and setting up a safe and secure camp is probably the most essential part of the van life process. 

Public parking for camper vans and RVs isn’t always easy to find. Many places across America don’t allow anyone to park indefinitely. Even if you are out doing some wild camping, this can come with struggles. Being remote means that, well, you’re remote. This comes with a pile of dangers like unfriendly locals, wildlife, unknown topography and, weather. 

The key to overcoming this aspect of boondocking, whether in a city or the wilderness, is always to plan and prepare. If you are going into the wilderness, tell someone where you are going and when you might be leaving. In town, Walmart and Cracker Barrel are always free legal places to park, but because of this, there is no telling who may be sharing the lot with, so pay attention and be smart. 

Van life isn’t always exciting

RV Boondocking On Lake
RV Boondocking On Lake | Dukas/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Living the van life isn’t a magic wand that makes your life interesting and neverendingly exciting. In fact, many van lifers report many long, dull days. Aside from long drives, being in a remote location often means no internet, cell service, or anything else we have grown accustomed to. 

You must be prepared to embrace and love the long slow days. This is a reality of long-term van living and is one of the few guarantees associated with this lifestyle. Prepare for this time with books, cards, music, learning new skills, and just enjoying the quiet slowness of nature. 

Don’t forget to take care of your mind

Many experts sing the praises of consistency for maintaining good mental health. The van life is sort of designed to be the opposite of consistency in many ways. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t take steps to make parts of daily life in the RV consistent. 

There is a lot of stimulation and excitement with moving regularly, but there is also a lot of stress and anxiety. Being somewhere new makes our bodies tense and on alert until we acclimate and trust our new surroundings. 

By setting up routines like meal times, chores, and activities, van lifers can maintain better mental health. Also, things like exercising and eating a balanced diet can significantly increase mood and overall health. 

Van life is glorified on social media but not so much in real life

As many full-time van lifers have found, it’s one thing to post beautiful pictures to the internet; it’s another thing to tell your friends and family that you are leaving your stable life to go live in a van – even though many RVs are nicer than many peoples’ homes.

This news will inevitably be met with eye rolls and scoffs. Like many things that stray from the accepted path of the “norm,” van life is challenging and exciting, making some people struggle to see the beauty of the challenge. Stay the course and prove them wrong by preparing yourself and your rig to be as safe and comfortable as possible. 

Be on the lookout for pests 

Sunlight camper from outside
Sunlight Camper | Sunlight

Is Living in Your RV Illegal?

Part of living in the wilderness means dealing with the living creatures of this world. Van lifers regularly preach the importance of cleanliness, specifically as it pertains to food and waste. But even if you stay on top of your chores, mice seem to be nearly inevitable. 

It is wise to bring along a small supply of traps to keep the furry little friends at bay from investing in your mobile home. 

Van life is tough, but for many people, it’s worth it

Like anything else in this world, if you make a good plan, prepare, and use your head, van life can be a gratifying experience. Even for those who like the idea of using an RV to go camping only a few times a year, these steps can help maximize the level of fun and minimize the potential stress and danger that comes with hitting the great outdoors.