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Vanabode: Home is Where the Van is Parked


The popular Chris Farley skit on Saturday Night Live had him play a “motivational speaker” who lived in a van down by the river. It was his way of telling his audience that they would become failures and also end up living in a van down by the river. Most people would probably be surprised to know that there are thousands of people who live in vans all around the world. They do this not because they have failed. They live in vans willingly and are doing well.

We’ve featured interviews with Adventure Photographer and vandweller Trevor Clark here before (Part 1 & Part 2), and we have more features in the queue. Readers have told us they love his 4×4 Sportsmobile Van, as it is one of the best vehicles you can buy for a camper-type van.

Several people have asked us how to live like this. They have told us they would like to do what Trevor and so many others do, but usually follow it with a long list of reasons why they can’t. Why would someone want to live in a van instead of a house? How would they go about doing so? Most of the questions are asked in the “yeah but…” format, as it does seem like such an odd thing to much of the population. A lot of people have a lot of questions.

VanAbode

Jason Odom has spent years on the road, living out of a van. His approach is slightly different, using a nondescript van that blends in anywhere, rather than an RV or trailer. He and his wife have spent years on the road, living wherever they feel like being at any given time. They have gone from coast to coast, exploring the country.

Jason also got constant questions about how to create such a different lifestyle. He wrote a book of his experiences as a how-to for anyone considering living this way, called Vanabode™ – how to happily camp, travel and live forever on $20 a day.  He sent me a copy to read since I was getting so many questions, and he knew it would be of interest to me.

Some of the topics covered include:

  • Vehicle choice and outfitting.
  • Parking and camping considerations in every type of area.
  • Safety and Security (which seems to be the most popular worry among readers).
  • Money, savings and budget breakdowns.

The self-published book is 113 pages, and filled with tips and techniques for making the most of your time, money, and enjoyment while living in a van. The book covers a variety of tips and techniques to overcome the most common objections, as well as a tremendous amount of options. Everyone wants something a little different, and it covers a range of ideas for living in a van no matter what your situation.

As Jason says, “Vanaboding is about spending time living a fun life rather than spending money trying to buy a fun life.” They aren’t homeless, they are home wherever they park their vehicle, sleeping in their own bed every night. They aren’t starving, they eat at some of the nicest restaurants in cities all over the country.

They do more, spend less and have more freedom than the average person working too many hours a week to keep up their mortgage and toy payments. Whether you are ready to sell off your house and live full-time in a van or RV, or you just want a way to get more time and money out of family vacations, I think you’ll find Vanabode will answer any lingering questions or doubts.

Go check out his site and grab the book. If you think people living in their vehicles are just down on their luck, you may come to realize that the people living in a van down by the river might very well be living better than the rest of us.

Vanabode™ – how to happily camp, travel and live forever on $20 a day

Do you know anyone who lives in their vehicle? Have you ever lived in a van? Would you ever try it? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

About the author: I write fun Sales Copy for your lagging small biz website & bring you your right people. Also writing about location irrelevant work, life, & play.

{ 15 comments… add one }

  • Carmen April 7, 2010, 7:26 am

    Thanks for telling us about Vanabode, Jim. As our family nomads, I become more and more aware that what I love is seeing new places constantly. That’s hard to do when you’re renting a home or apartment in your location. Having the mobility of a van would allow us to be constantly experiencing new things.
    .-= Carmen´s last blog ..Meet the Nomads – Doug Baum’s Love for Camels Connects Him to True Bedouin Nomads =-.

    • James Schipper April 7, 2010, 1:36 pm

      Having a home base is nice, but there is a lot to be said for not being tied to a plot of land with a pile of sticks on it.

  • Andrew MacPherson April 7, 2010, 2:03 pm

    Before I bought the sailboat, I tossed around the idea of throwing a mountain bike in the back of a van and riding as much Western Hemisphere singletrack as humanly possible. This was before my current obsession with zero fuel electric propulsion, but coincidentally, the thought of endless gasoline bills is what ultimately caused me to scrap the idea.

    That Chris Farley sketch has probably done more damage to the used van industry than anything but the uncle in Napoleon Dynamite. I love it.

    • James Schipper April 14, 2010, 12:00 pm

      I am still torn on the idea of boat or land. In many ways being land-based would be easier, but at the same time limiting. Also more difficult to get around on land without burning gas if you have some stuff, so I see why sailing would work better for you.

  • Isao April 7, 2010, 4:42 pm

    I love the idea of living in the van with minimalistic lifestyle – many people, including my parents, still associate the living-out-there type of lifestyle with “Into the Wild” where the protagonist lives a happy life but prematurely terminates it too. I envy Trevor Clark for realizing his life and riding it along with his partner.
    Well, the point is to have a mobile life, not owning a van, so I will try to continue doing that in the city. Thank you for the inspirational post.

    • James Schipper April 14, 2010, 11:58 am

      There are quite a few stereotypes to overcome with this type of lifestyle. It surprises people to know how many many people do this, though. There are many ways to live more simply without owning a van. I imagine it is not as commonplace in Taiwan.

  • Susan April 18, 2010, 8:32 am

    Having just returned from three months on the road with my husband and our 103lb American bulldog in our Lance truck camper, I know I could full-time in a small vehicle. 14 states and 10,801 miles of primarily boondocking, adjusting to being frugal with water and power took some time getting used to, but for me, it’s been more difficult adjusting to being back in a home that’s too large and too excessive for just the three of us. I’m not sure yet if full-timing is on our horizon, but we’re definitely making some changes based on our experiences.
    I envy the people who have already made the decision to live with less *stuff* and more freedom, and a self-contained van definitely has its advantages.
    .-= Susan´s last blog ..Want a life on the road but don’t think you can afford it? =-.

    • James Schipper April 18, 2010, 7:04 pm

      I have a Lance Campers brochure sitting here on my desk. My grandpa had a camper on a pickup similar to yours when I was a little kid. He later went to a Class C, but no bigger. One of the things that gave me the bug in the first place, I’m sure!

      We have a 900 Square foot condo at the moment, and we have rooms we don’t even enter for weeks at a time. The absurdity of it is making us move on these changes. Still a way to go, but we’re getting there.

      I’m enjoying reading about your trip.

  • Rasheed Hooda June 4, 2010, 12:04 pm

    James,

    Thanks for this inspirational post. I just bought a van and am ordering personalized plates for it. I intend to remove the seats, throw in an air mattress, strap a folding chair, a bike and a small suitcase to the luggage rack and hit the roads very soon. My wife likes to travel but she is not into the mobile lifestyle, yet.

    I am sure we’ll find a compromise that will make this work for us. My youngest one has one more year of High School, so, I will be experimenting with my nomadic excursions for a year, and then go full time.

    I have already taken the van for it’s virgin voyage to the nearby Sam Houston State Park, and spent a day there having fun. You know, hiking, paddle boating, eating nuts and berries and stuff. I do need to invest in a good camera.

    Rasheed
    .-= Rasheed Hooda´s last blog ..What is Original? =-.

    • James Schipper June 8, 2010, 11:00 am

      You really don’t need a lot to do it. Especially in the U.S. Our needs are not nearly as complicated as our wants. People like to have the gigantic, multi-slideout RV’s to have a lot of living space. But as Jason points out in the book, the whole world is your living space, the van is just to have someplace to sleep when you’re done exploring.

  • Johnnomads April 13, 2012, 5:50 am

    I’ve been a vandweller for 28 yrs now, and i love it. Odoms book is long on promise, but very short on useful info, with some of dubious legality (like stealing electric, and using hotel pools to bathe) . I think Odoms book $37 print & $10 Kindle, tries to sell an idea to beginners, but those just starting the lifestyle can get far better advice for free from sites like http://www.cheaprvliving.com and the Yahoo Vandwellers Group.

    • James Schipper August 2, 2012, 6:50 pm

      There are plenty of ways to do things, and he puts it out there. People do much worse than anything he talks about. Some people won’t agree with everything he talks about or has done, but the same can be said about anyone else, too :-D

      You can find pretty much anything on the internet if you’re willing to scour it thoroughly enough. Some people prefer having it laid out in a nice orderly book, rather than trying to dig through forums. So I put it here, too.

      I bet you have plenty of stories to tell after 28 years!

  • Theresa August 1, 2012, 11:57 pm

    I have just begun this new lifestyle and it’s quite exciting. I really enjoy the freedom and the nomad outlook of it.

    • James Schipper August 2, 2012, 6:47 pm

      Great! I’ll follow your adventures along.

      You look pretty dug in to the vandweller forums and such, but if I can help with anything, just let me know!

  • Robert July 19, 2013, 10:50 pm

    I lived in a van for 4 months in Louisiana for fun. I was employed full-time and making very good money. I was living with my fiance in an apartment, and we were in the process of getting jobs in the northeast and moving from the gulf coast. She got a job first, so I stayed behind. We already moved everything we owned up north, so I was alone in an empty apartment, sleeping on a mattress on the ground with a couple items here and there. My apartment was a month-to-month at that point – so I said screw it and bought a van that met my specs. It was something I wanted to do for years and this was my last chance before getting married. For the next 4 months, I lived beween my commuter car and my van. I had a gym membership. I got hassled once by the police at night in the parking garage of the gym – but once they saw that I wasn’t a drug-crazed hobo and I had a gym membership, they left me alone. My parking garage was attached to a 4 star restaurant, so I ate there a couple nights a week.
    Living in a van was enjoyable. It really forces you to organize your life into what you really want around you, and that creates clarity and calm from a lack of distraction. You don’t waste your life away in front of a tv – if you are bored in a van, you turn the key and go do something.

    here’s my top learning lessons:
    - Consider the fact that your van will require servicing at some point. If your van is inaccessible for several days, that’s where a backup car (commuter car) is very helpful.
    - Don’t drink stuff that’s the same color as pee. When you wake up in the morning and you’re thirsty, you don’t want to inadvertently grab a pee bottle.
    - Felt up your windows when parked with velcro. Black felt looks like window tint, and draws less attention, but it cannot be penetrated by light. Someone can illuminate the entire inside of your van with a flashlight when you rely on tint alone. As for blinds, there’s nothing creepier than being inside a van and wondering if someone is peering in at you through the slits in the blinds.
    - Lose the cargo-space seats and re-do the interior in a way that works for you.
    - You can always put on more clothes in the cold, but you can’t do anything about the heat. You get more used to sleeping in the heat after a month or so. A rooftop vent would have been great.

    Now, I live in a 2,000 sqft home with my wife. I spend 10-20 hours a week maintaining/fixing the house. There’s so much unnecessary stress in life from adopting scripted social norms.

    I love my wife, but if she passed away unexpectedly – I’d be in a houseboat with a van for commuting. The van could be used for living on vacations or daytrips, in addition for general commuting and errands. The houseboat would just be a van on water. I love the water and boat slips come with the simple creature comforts (electric and bathrooms) that would allow for cooling as desired. Also, a houseboat wouldn’t creep-out an employer, whereas a van-home has a stigma.

    I’ve always enjoyed small spaces like forts and nooks. In today’s world, with so much service being offered, there’s not much need for a house when you’re alone. You can get wireless internet anywhere, people use portable laptops now instead of desktops, you can eat anywhere, you can bathe and exercise (and swim in a pool or sit in a jacuzzi) at a gym. with a solid job, the amount of money you could save is ridiculous – because everything in your life becomes organized and efficient, not just your rent.

    The fact that this author was able to find a partner that shared the same desire for small and simple living is very special.

    PS: Living in a van out of desire and working a lucrative job is in no way related to the challenge of being poor and living in a van out of necessity. Having a means to support yourself in troubling times is what makes van-living so stress-free for those that seek it. I can’t imagine ever living in a van without backup plans available (paying for a hotel if the van is inaccessible, or having a commuter car, having the money for repairs, etc.).

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