Vanlife: the Dream of Living on the Road (Yours, too?)

Vanlife: what is it?

Vanlife is not an Instagram fad,

But a Courageous Life Choice.


A Dream of Freedom, cultivated by Many,

to abandon the Routine

and Live, Work and Travel on the Road.




Vanlife is an adventure, a dream and a way of life.

If you were asked why you have a lifelong desire to travel, what would you say?

It is difficult to explain.

As for me, for example, I made a wish at the age of 17: I wanted to travel to every state in the world before I was 40.

From that day, all my life, I thought of nothing but exploring and pushing myself out of my comfort zone: walking with a backpack on my shoulders, on a plane, on a boat, in the summer, in the winter, before bed… I can’t explain why, but Being in a different place every day always made me feel happy, and still does.

Trying to escape from the routine of each day, from that “re-living” the days already lived and then forgetting about them, without almost realizing it I found myself today living and working in an orange van, living that freedom that is called“vanlife.”

I can only tell you that no matter how difficult it is in some instances, it is beautiful and I would choose it hundred times over..

In this article, I want to tell you about what vanlife is, its origins, costs, needs, and the positives and negatives of living in a van.

If you’re reading this article, you’ve probably had or are having thought about throwing everything behind and starting to live by traveling. With this article, I hope to clear your mind and show you that if I’ve jumped in, you can do it too!

Enjoy the reading! 🙂


1. What Does Vanlife Mean?

what does vanlife mean - meaning

Vanlife is a nomadic lifestyle adopted by people who decide to live and travel inside a camper van. Vanlife is a trend that originated in the early 2000s in America but is quickly catching on in Europe and Italy as well.

The growing interest in vanlife is a response by a section of modern society to the boredom of routine, excessive consumerism and mass tourism.

Vanlife in fact is a lifestyle choice, brave and sometimes misinterpreted as a “fad,” where we choose to live with less, but better: freer to travel, freer to learn, and freer to invest time in what really makes us happy.

Of course, all that glitters is not gold: living in a van or RV full-time has its upsides, but it also requires compromises, a spirit of adaptation, and of course flexibility in readjusting to a new lifestyle.

It is not for everyone, and it is no better or worse than many other lifestyle choices; it is merely a growing “alternative” lifestyle that is attracting the interest of more and more people, especially those who love to travel madly and would do so full-time.

2. What is the Difference between Van and Camper?

What is the difference between van and camper? Vanlife

The difference between a van and a camper is simple: a van is a vehicle that starts out as a van and is converted into a camper, while a camper is a vehicle that already starts out as a house on wheels.

The van, Italian for “van,” is a vehicle that in fact does not start out of the factory as a house on wheels, but is converted (Do-It-Yourself or by Specialized Companies) into a vehicle for residential use. Once converted, in addition to van, it is also called “camper van,” “van camper,” or “pure camper.”

In contrast, a motorhome is a vehicle that is manufactured and sold from the factory with a living cell, that is, as a house on wheels. Motorhomes are normally divided into van (van type), coachbuilt (with bed over the rail) and semi-integrated (chassis cab without coachbuilt).

We often hear the term vanlife or camperlife. Between these two lifestyles (virtually identical and almost synonymous), the only difference is precisely the vehicle one drives: a van in the case of “vanlife” or a camper in the case of “camperlife.”

3. The Origins of Vanlife from the 1960s to Today.

vanlife hippie origins from the 1960s

Although ancient photos of rudimentary motorhomes can be found since the advent of the first motor vehicles. (early 1800s), Vanlife as we know it today (a quest for freedom from the classic stages and routines imposed by modern society) finds its origins at the turn of the 1950s and 1960s.

Indeed, in that era of economic boom, when people began to find a little extra money in their pockets beyond what was strictly necessary to eat, many large automobile companies flourished, including a certain German company called Volkswagen, a German brand that would forever remain in the legend of the world of houses on wheels.

In fact, VW, after reconverting in the postwar period to the popular market, gave rise to a commercial vehicle that would almost unexpectedly later become an icon of the vanlife world, the hippie revolution, and the flower children: the Transporter.

Transporter 1, better known as “Volkswagen van,” “bullies,” or “splits,” was a simple, sturdy, and versatile vehicle that was adopted by the hippie world mainly because of its ample interior space that allowed it to hold more people as well as food, beds, and accessories for living away from the cities on impromptu, spontaneous, and innocent trips to the search for a new worldview that is freer and more liberal, inclusive, kind, humane and peaceful.

The Volkswagen van, is a vehicle that, as it updated over time, marked an era of travel, escape from routine, the search for freedom and a new worldview.

In fact, since 1950, the VW Transporter has never gone out of production and has 6 versions to date: the legendary T1 “Split,” T2 “Bay,” T2.5/3, T4 “Eurovan,” T5, T6, and in the future it looks like we will probably see an Electric Transporter as well.

Having said that, however, starting in the 1980s with the production of the first Fiat Ducato motorhomes, it is noteworthy that the world of homes on wheels began to move to larger and larger, accessorized, and bulkier vehicles: no longer vans (or vans), but true factory motorhomes.

Between the 1990s and 2000s, the RV became a symbol of family vacations, sociability, and independence, but not of rebellion and escape from “normal” life, as it once was.

Only starting in the 1910s in fact, and even more After the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic., we have begun to see a further reversal of the trend, where camper vans, increasingly converted Do-It-Yourself, are being preferred over motorhomes for full-time living, particularly for their agility, versatility and customization possibilities.

At present, the desire for vanlife in society, is something palpable and growing.

The pandemic seems to have given a signal to a large part of our society, a signal that says freedom is not a given and must be earned.

Writing a blog on the subject, I can only note the growing interest in the topic.

4. What is Vanlife Today?

vanlife today: a choice of freedom

Nowadays, what we callvanlife,” or “van life,” is no longer as in the 1960s or 1970s a rebellion against someone, but a free choice that many people make primarily for themselves.

In fact, vanlife was born out of the desire to use the time in one’s life to travel more, to learn about the world, to immerse oneself in nature and other cultures; it was born out of the need for freedom, to be able to move, to escape and to research.

Living and traveling in a van, does not mean traveling quickly from point A to point B (what we do by taking a plane), but to take the time to explore everything in between more slowly and consciously as well.

5. The Obstacles to Starting Vanlife.

how much does it cost to camperize a DIY van

In words everything is nice, but then what? As they say…between saying and doing, there is a sea!

Choosing to leave everything to “go live in van,” is not an easy choice to make, nor simple to achieve.

First of all, it is a Difficult decision you have to make with yourself: leaving indefinitely means having to give up certain things we love, such as it may be seeing our family every day, our friends every weekend, the security of a steady job or many comforts that come with living in a house.

In addition to giving up so many things, it is normal to feel intimidated by fear of the unknown (where will I go…what will I do…how will I support myself…), and anxiety about making the wrong choice (what if I regret it later?!).

Even once you’ve made the decision to try (for which, by the way, you need courage and a dash of madness), then there will be the practical obstacles: where to find the vehicle, how to adapt it to your needs, the economic cost, labor, relationships, taxes, bureaucracy etc. etc. etc.

Personally, speaking from my own experience, I say to you: if you are thinking about it. the number one obstacle to launching yourself into such a project and changing your life is YOU!

Deciding to camperize a vanor buy an RV to travel in it full-time, it’s scary as hell! Once you get over the fear, however, by getting busy you can find solutions to any problems you may encounter-the important thing is to believe in the goal.

6. Vanlife: Choosing the Right Vehicle

choose suitable vehicle-van to start vanlife

The first step in beginning an on-the-road life is definitely choosing a vehicle.

And here already, a world opens up:

Ready-made camper, or camper van? If it is RV, new or used? If it is van, commissioned or Do-It-Yourself? What do you need to travel? How many kilometers is too many? How many can a vehicle make? How much can it cost? etc. etc. etc.

The questions that will go through your head are really a lot, and it is quite normal.

Rejoice though, since you have made the decision to embark on a vanlife adventure, the hardest part is done. Everything else is downhill, and with work and patience you will be able to find answers to all the questions in your head.


You’d better choose an RV if you want a standard, proven and definitely reliable vehicle. Motorhomes are usually wider and more spacious than vans, however, because of this they are also slower to drive, more expensive to maintain, and more cumbersome to be on the road.

The van, or pure motorhome, is a generally more streamlined and snappy vehicle, better suited for narrow roads, climbs, or dirt roads (being taller and more balanced than a motorhome). In addition, modifying the vehicle out of the factory leaves more room for building custom solutions and layouts tailored to one’s needs and according to one’s aesthetic tastes.



The market for both RVs and camper vans has literally exploded in the last 2-3 years post-pandemic. In fact, the growing interest of more and more people in these types of vehicles (whether for holiday or full-time use) has caused their prices to skyrocket from just a few years ago.

To give you an idea, a new RV can cost between 60 thousand and 100 thousand euros (a full-optional). A new van (e.g., Mercedes Sprinter, VW Crafter, or Fiat Ducato) can easily cost you around 50 thousand euros, to which must be added between 20-40 thousand to commission a professional camper (depending on what you want to include in it). We go up to 70-90 thousand euros for a camper van.

The cheapest way speaking of quality/price, is at the moment definitely the Do-It-Yourself Camper (where we are talking about an expenditure of 40-50 thousand euros) for a Full-Optional in good condition. Obviously, this path requires time, work and untangling the not-so-easy Italian bureaucracy regarding homologations.



Generally, the engines of vehicles used as the basis for RVs (Mercedes, Volkswagen, Fiat, Ford etc.), can easily get over 300,000km, but there are stories of vehicles that exceed even 500,000km or a million!

Of course, what matters is that the vehicle has always been treated well and maintenance has been done when necessary. Personally, I would advise you to consider all used vehicles under 200,000km.


Below, I leave you with links to three articles I have written, which I think you will find useful in case you are thinking of campering a Do-It-Yourself van:

Recommended Site to Begin Searching:

7. What is needed to Experience Vanlife in Van?

bed for living in a camper / camper van

iEvery person has his or her own lifestyle, passions, work and different interests that presumably influence what he or she needs to lead a happy life.

That being said, there are some essential things you will definitely need if you plan to embark on a full-time vanlife adventure:


Nowadays, it is unthinkable to live without it. In a van/camper, once a service battery bank has been installed where energy can be stored, energy can be procured in a number of ways: with solar panels, with the engine alternator, through a column or even with a portable generator. Most vans, have a combination of charging systems to get more range.

If you want to learn more, I recommend reading the Guide for a Do-It-Yourself Camper’s Electrical System.


Having at least one sink in a self-respecting RV is a must: for washing hands, teeth, taking care of your personal hygiene, and washing dishes. In more advanced vans, a shower and toilet can also be found. Living in a van, you can normally find and charge water at campgrounds, at picnic areas, from water fountains, at some gas stations, or from private individuals.

If you want to learn more, I recommend reading the Guide for a Do-It-Yourself Camper’s Water System.


The refrigerator is another essential vanlife accessory: it’s for storing food in good condition and keeping beers cold for the times when you need them most. RV refrigerators can be of three types: thermoelectric (like those at home, they consume a lot), trivalent (run on gas, 220V or 12V-they don’t cool as much) or 12V compressor (high-efficiency but higher cost refrigerators).

If you want to learn more, I recommend reading:The Best Fridge for Your Camper – Which One to Choose?


To live in the van, you will definitely need a bed to sleep on and a table on which to eat, work, and plan your adventures! As small as the space in a van or RV is, you’ll be surprised to know that there are so many options for putting in a bed and table and the best layout for you depends on your needs and requirements!

If you want to learn more, I recommend reading: Campering a Van: How to Build a Bed?


Not essential if you plan to use your vehicle only for short vacations or in campgrounds/equipped areas, but essential for your physical and mental sanity if you plan to live in your van full-time or stay a long time in the open. A shower to wash yourself, and a toilet for those times when you run off, are two spaces that really make a difference in terms of comfort on the road.

If you want to learn more, I recommend reading: Guide to Bathing in a Do-It-Yourself Camper.

If you want to learn more, I recommend reading: Ideas and Guidance for Building a Shower in Your Van.


If you plan to live while traveling, you are unlikely to have sufficient resources to eat out every single meal. In fact, to save money and reduce travel costs, having a stove for cooking is practically a must. Normally, in RVs the stove can be of three types: gas, diesel or electric. In addition, stoves can be either permanently fixed or portable.

If you want to learn more, I recommend reading: Cooking in a Do-It-Yourself Camper.

If you want to learn more, I recommend reading:15 Useful Tips for Cooking in a Camper

These are the things that I personally consider essential. Next, depending on your more or less minimalist style, you may want to include any other optional amenities in your RV (heating for cold countries, air conditioner for hot ones, TV, Internet antenna, more or less cabinets, fan, etc.).

8. The Good and the Bad of Vanlife.

the good and bad of vanlife and camperlife - pros and cons

Vanlife is often portrayed on Instagram or other social media as something always magical and idyllic: waking up in front of the sea with the doors open, being in remote places with no one around and cooking in peace and quiet. By now, taking certain videos or photos seems to have become a fashion.

Unfortunately, however, the reality of things is not so, or at least not always! Sometimes, in fact, living in a van also means sleeping on the side of the road with the noise of cars around, wasting hours finding a parking space far away from what we would like to visit, or finding ourselves trapped in traffic or even worse on foot because of a breakdown.

Below, find some positives of living full-time in a van, and some negatives.


  • Being able to Wake Up Every Day in a New Place
  • Freedom of Movement, Being Where You Want, When You Want
  • The Cost of Living is lower than living in a House
  • You learn to Live with little (in the end, space is what it is!) and throw away the unnecessary
  • You have everything you need to live, Always with You wherever You want
  • Opportunity to See Many Places and Meet Many People


  • Buying a Camper or Building one is economically expensive
  • It is difficult to maintain a salaried job
  • Some People will not understand your Choice and will see you as a Fool.
  • Parking is not always easy, attractive and/or free
  • You don’t see your family or close friends very often
  • Moving Always is Not Easy and Requires Constant Planning (Water, Weather, Distances, Times etc.)

9. What do you learn from living in Van?

what you learn from traveling and living in a van - vanlife - to be more flexible

Living in a camper van, van, or RV is an experience that teaches you to live with little, reinvent yourself, be flexible, and seize opportunities .

As there is little space available, you are often faced with a choice: figuring out what is really important and deserves to be kept, and what is not. This makes you appreciate a more essential and minimalist style of view: eliminating the superfluous to leave what is really important.

It also makes you appreciate even more the simple things we often take for granted (a shower with “endless” water like at home, a private place to rest, seeing people who love us etc.).

Lastly, vanlife (or camperlife) help you develop a flexible mindset: on the road there will always be problems, unexpected events, surprises, both positive and negative. Understanding how to take what comes and make the best of it is something that ultimately cannot be learned any better than by traveling.

Read also: Why Is Traveling Important? 25 Reasons That Will Inspire You to Go!

10. How much does it cost to live in a camper? Vanlife costs less than what you think

How much does it cost to live in an RV?

Once you own your van/camper (which is the main expense of embarking on a nomadic lifestyle), the monthly cost of living in an RV is generally much less than renting an apartment.

Electricity? Self-production (solar and alternator). Water? It can easily be found for free in almost all of Europe. Bed, Table, Toilet, Shower, Fridge? There are.

The cost of living in an RV pretty much comes down to three things: gasoline, groceries and extras.

The monthly cost of gasoline, obviously depends on how far you want to go: the slower you travel, the less you spend. We, on a 150Euro fill-up, do about 700km. If you think about it, by doing 700km in a month in Italy you can visit the length and breadth of 3-4 regions (and so a bit throughout Europe!).

For food, again it depends on how you eat, whether you cook or eat out. Cooking in the van, we spend an average of 200Euro per person per month (including beer!).

Extras, can be parking, coffee, clothes, maintenance, museum admissions, bus tickets, etc. We normally consume about 150Euro per person in extras monthly.

Doing the math a bit, living in the van (there) costs about 400/500 Euro per person per month (gasoline, food and visits all included!). The cost, when you think about it, is really low compared to just renting an apartment (which costs as much money if not more).

This is an approximate figure, obviously living YOUR vanlife can cost you more as well as less depending on how fast you want to travel and all that. With this paragraph, however, I wanted you to understand that living with little, even economically speaking, in van is possible 🙂

11. What Jobs Can You Do While Traveling?

What jobs can be done while traveling?

“But how do you support yourself?” “But are you always on vacation then?” “But how do you make money?” “But where do you get the money?” “But how do you do with work?” “Ah but do you work?”

These are just a few of the (however innocent) questions I have been hearing over the past few months since hon decided to leave full time. What I like to answer is, “well yes, we are in 202X and you can work and support yourself even by traveling!

In fact, working while traveling is not a utopia: far from it! Nowadays there are so many jobs that you can do wherever you are. Of course, not all jobs. Of course, it takes inventiveness. 

If you were doing manual labor or otherwise work that required physical presence before you left, you may not necessarily be able to do it while traveling. You may have to do something else. You may have to re-invent yourself. After all, though, so many before you have done it, and why shouldn’t you be able to do it? Anything is possible!

These are just SOME of the jobs you could do to support yourself by traveling in the van: work in smart-working for any company, consulting, the designer, start a blog, the social media manager, the SEO expert, the programmer, the Yoga instructor, teach a language online, rent your apartment, work as a translator, casual jobs, seasonal jobs, sell videos, the drone pilot, freelancer photographer, the online personal trainer, the artist, create costume jewelry, the street artist, the chat operator, affiliate marketing, create a products and sell them (design, books, courses, services?), etc.

Think about it again and again, start with what you can do, then think about what you can learn and how you can be of help to others. At first everything seems difficult or impossible, but with effort you will see that efforts always pay off and a solution suitable for you can always be found!😉 

12. Vanlife: Conclusion

vanlife is a modern trend and a lifestyle choice - conclusion

In conclusion, Vanlife is a trend that is increasingly expanding in Europe and Italy as well.

The prospect of a life that is more flexible, more mobile, freer and more removed from routine is no longer a choice solely of rebellious “hippi” or aimless “wanderers,” but is increasingly becoming a lifestyle choice embraced by many and a dream for many.

If you have come this far to read, chances are that you too are entertaining the sweet idea of embarking on a similar project.

What I can tell you is: jumping in! Think about what you can lose on the one hand (some money?), and what you can gain (a dream!). Reflect, think about what you need, how to get it, and how to reinvent yourself to sustain yourself on the road.

I wish you to realize your dreams, because. dreams are not meant to stay locked in drawers! I know, it seems impossible, but that’s the same thing I thought at first too, and yet here I am writing this article to you sitting inside a funny orange van and lost on a seaside road.

Dreams really only come true if you let them out and let them fly free.

Thank you for reading, I hope this article helped you understand what vanlife is and answered your questions on the topic. Let me know in the comments below if you liked the article, have any questions or concerns-I’m glad to hear different opinions or otherwise know that my writing is helpful to you 🙂

See you in the next article!



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