Why Is #Vanlife So Popular?

There has been a growing trend in recent years of people purchasing a vehicle for the purpose of fixing it up for use as temporary or permanent living quarters. In fact, there is even a hashtag, #Vanlife. Twitter and Instagram are full of people living the Vanlife. Why is Vanlife so popular?

A Ford Transit van that has been converted for vanlife sits by the beach.
A Ford Transit van that has been converted for #vanlife | Motion Windows

The Vanlife is not new

Between the 1960s and the 1980s, the full-size van was a popular platform for people to modify not just for work, but for personal living space. Customization could be from mild to wild. The movement grew strong enough that van festivals were happening in multi-day events at multiple places in the country. The vans were converted into anything from a cave with a cot, to steamy love shacks, to fancy RV-like vehicles. The exteriors could be wild and outlandish to inconspicuous. Ask any hippy. They’ll remember them.

Vanlife was dying a slow death

All the interest in the van changed when the minivan was introduced by Chrysler in 1983. Suddenly a minivan offered better steering, better gas mileage, and price savings over the full-size counterparts. So, the full-size vans were relegated, for the most part, for commercial service. Generally speaking, plumbers, electricians, delivery companies, etc., were the big vans’ purchasers, while the regular consumers stuck with the minivans. In short, Vanlife was dying a slow death.

The call of the road still beckons, though. While the 1980s and 1990s were a period of economic growth and increased materialism, now many people, especially Millennials, are longing for a return to minimalism. Many employers’ flexibility to work-from-home or at least work from any place that has an internet connection is making that possible. Also, there is a good amount of people that prefer to work on their own in the gig economy, which also lends to the Vanlife demographic.

A new awareness of Vanlife benefits

The result of the minimalistic desire, the ability to work from home for an established employer, or to work from home in spurts as an independent contractor has opened up the opportunity for many people to look at Vanlife as an option. Basically, a new awareness has sprung up. 

Mercedes Sprinter van conversion by RB Components
Mercedes Sprinter van conversion by RB Components | RB Components

So, many people are finding just about anything to convert into their personal Vanlife headquarters and ditching the mansions. While car camping has increased in popularity, smaller vehicles have their restrictions. Full-size vans offer more space and are seeing conversions starting to happen again, many into living quarters.

It is not just full-size vans

It is not just full-size vans either. People have been buying and converting old busses, affectionately called, Skoolies. There has also been a movement of people making tiny houses that are mobile. These are homes on a trailer that is pulled by a truck. 

The interior of a Beartooth Vanworks Mercedes Sprinter conversion van suitable for vanlife
A Beartooth Vanworks Mercedes Sprinter conversion van suitable for vanlife | Beartooth Vanworks

Vanlife does not end with the vehicle choice either. Bloggers are writing about their experiences with Vanlife and sharing them on the internet. Festivals are starting to come back, as well. Vacayvans keeps track of festivals and events and posts a calendar of events for anyone that is interested in participating in one. Organizations have also been springing up to support Vanlife, such as the app makers. The RV and camping industry has been creating apps that not only show free campsites but also indicate what locations have bathrooms or shower houses. 

a white 2005 Chevrolet Express full-size passenger van
2005 Chevrolet Express full-size passenger van | NHTSA

Camper Sleeps Five and Fits in Garage for Under $15K

All in all, the atmosphere is ripe for those interested in Vanlife. It is not just an experience for a day or two, but something that can be carried on in long spurts depending on the type of employment a person has. Savings from ditching big homes and minimizing into a van, school bus, or a mobile tiny home is an attractive thing that is drawing more and more people with the desire to save money, travel, and experience a somewhat nomadic lifestyle. That is why it is so popular.