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For some, the idea of getting rid of all the worldly possessions, including a house, and trading it in for van life, sounds appealing. After all, fewer things, fewer problems, and responsibilities, right? Well, it’s not entirely true. While the simplistic life in a camper van has its benefits, including forgoing a mortgage payment, there are new challenges you should expect to face.

One man spent some time experiencing the van life temporarily and realized just how harsh living in the camper van could be. There are some harsh realities to know about before you make the decision to buy your own camper van. And it’s important to note the van life isn’t for everyone.

Is living in a van worth it?

Insider shared the story of one man who rented a camper van for a weekend. His goal was to experience the van life first hand, and his rental came fully equipped with the systems, sleeping area, and essentials.

But he soon realized and has since reported that there are some harsh realities to living in a van. From a failing heater to finding a place to park, this van life experience was a stark contrast from the happy-go-lucky couples on social media.

The lessons he learned in one weekend can serve as a cautionary tale for anyone thinking about buying a camper van.

Common problems that arise when you’re living in a van

During his weekend excursion, Frank Olito, according to Insider, immediately began running into challenges. Finding a place to park and navigating a behemoth van through city streets was tougher than expected.

And despite being given a tutorial on how to run the various systems within the camper van, like the heater, Olito faced mechanical failure and frigid temps. His heater went out, but he had no thorough understanding of how the systems were installed.

When he called the van owner, the advice he got was to turn on the cooking burners for heat. Olito also pointed out that during his chilly weekend, the van windows were constantly full of condensation and foggy. So much for taking in the scenic views.

Van life through rose-colored glasses

Scrolling through the van life videos online, you’ll likely see bare toes extended out the back of the van, with a beach backdrop and sunshine. The reality is most van lifers’ views, including, are of parking lots and crowded campsites.

Taking a shower might mean having a gym membership to use the facilities. Going to the bathroom when you’re on the road can be tough, too. And as The Fairy Tale Traveler points out, there’s always room for costly vehicle breakdowns, as well.

Weighing your options before hitting the road

To be fair, most people aren’t using camper vans to travel to cities, so some of those issues mentioned in the article are easily avoidable. Not to mention most of the problems discussed in the Insider article could’ve easily been avoided by proper research. Still, it still good to be aware of issues beginners commonly face.

Before you start your search for your ideal camper van, it might be a good idea to sit down with the pros and cons of van life. You’ll want to prepare yourself for long, boring drives and circling through the city to find a suitable parking lot.

You’ll want to educate yourself on the heating, electrical, and plumbing components of the camper van, as well. These can be complicated to operate and fix on the fly if you consider yourself a novice in these areas. 

Van life requires careful planning and thoughtful preparation. Buying a camper van and sporadically hitting the road will likely leave you with more headaches and challenges.

The van life is much simpler than life in a house or an apartment. And shirking those home-owning maintenance and financial responsibilities might sound appealing. But before you race out and buy or build your own camper van, make sure you understand the harsh realities that go with it. Frank Olito’s story is just a reminder that van life is certainly not for everyone.