- I moved into a house after spending four years traveling around the US and Canada in a van.
- Van life looks relaxing on social media, but I have much more free time now than I did then.
- It was challenging to build lasting friendships on the road, and I longed for a sense of community.
I spent four hard, amazing years living in a van before deciding I wanted a home without an emergency brake.
Back when I built out my 2006 Dodge Sprinter in 2016, residing on the road full-time wasn't a mainstream lifestyle. After all, most people didn't have jobs that could be done remotely.
I wanted to travel and rock climb as much as possible, so I went all over the United States and Canada, bouncing from California to Utah to British Columbia to Yosemite National Park and back. I also met some incredible people.
But it wasn't all glamorous. By the time I moved into a house in Moab, Utah, in 2020, I'd been kicked out of many overnight parking spaces and had more breakdowns than I could count.
Here are the main reasons I gave up full-time van life.
Van life looks laid-back on social media, but I had very little downtime on the road
Because of the everyday tasks required to keep a van up and running, I had significantly less free time when I was on the road than I do now.
My house in Moab has running water, a consistent Wi-Fi connection, a shower, a safe place to sleep, and laundry machines.
These things weren't all guaranteed in my van, at least not on a daily basis. I had to spend time and resources locating and securing them in every single town and campground I pulled into.
Many times, I'd finish a day of climbing only to remember that the local aquatic center or gym where I usually showered had closed for the day. Sweaty and exhausted, I wouldn't be able to properly wash off until the following morning.
After four years, those minor inconveniences piled up and became too exhausting to handle.
I was alone most of the time, and the lifestyle made it difficult to build lasting friendships
Van life made me feel free and untethered, but, more often than not, I was also very lonely.
Whenever I visited a new place, I would often see it through a tourist's lens, which was isolating since I traveled solo and did many of the activities on my own.
When I had the chance to socialize, I loved meeting fascinating new people on the road. However, I felt like I was always introducing myself and building new friendships from scratch.
Days or weeks after introducing myself, I'd say goodbye, drive to a new town, and do it all over again. The cycle was draining.
I was ready to build a consistent community, and I couldn't do that from my van
I'm grateful for my four years on the road. Toward the end of them, I just realized that it was time for a change.
I was done searching for a safe place to sleep and scouring for a reliable Wi-Fi connection. I was ready to have a community that would stand by me even when the weather was bad or campsites were closed.
More than anything, I wanted to make friends who have the time to get to know me.
I haven't completely turned my back on the lifestyle. I still spend long periods of time in my van.
Each summer, I drive out of the Moab heat in search of cooler temperatures and enticing rock climbs. But I set out on these small journeys knowing that my house and my community are waiting for me when I return.
One day, I might give full-time van life another try. For now, I'm sticking to shorter trips.