Van Life

Van Living by Choice: We’re Not Homeless

By on October 31, 2013

One of our favorite quotes from the past year of van living has been from Ellis, an American in Istanbul. When he found out we live in our Westy, he said:

“You don’t look homeless. I mean, you look clean and stuff.”

When we made the choice to live in Mork (our van), the thought hadn’t even crossed our minds that we might be stereotyped.

Or judged.

We just wanted to travel together, without a lot of hassle. The VW campervan was our solution.

What Led to Our Decision to Live in a Westfalia

My partner, Armando, made the decision to become a digital nomad in June of last year. He sold everything he couldn’t carry and made his way from his life in Sofia to visit me in the Czech Republic. I was also ready for a change.

IMG_8205We both loved to travel, so we looked at our options together:

  • Relocating to another country, as a couple (replacing our static lives with another static life)
  • Traveling by plane, train or bus to different locations while lugging our luggage and computers/work stuff from place to place
  • Buying a van and using it as both storage and transport

We knew we weren’t happy being static, so relocation wasn’t an option. We’d already done the rooted-in-one-spot thing for 10 and 13 years, respectively.

Armando already knew what a pain it was to carry your life in two bags+ and imagining us hauling around all of his camera gear, clothes, etc. from place to place seemed to be a job in itself.

The van seemed to be a perfect solution. We could be together, we’d have a place to sleep and storage, and we’d have independent transport. It was a no-brainer, really.

Meeting Our Westy Mork

I was working and living in Brno, Czech Republic. Armando went to Prague to make some money chalking art in the streets. He was staying in a hostel there when we decided a van was the best option.

He’d barely started looking into vans when he spotted one outside of the hostel and chased down the owner to pick his brain on what to look for in a van.

It was up for sale in fact; it had only been advertised two days earlier. It seemed fated. He worked in Prague, his uncle loaned us some money and voila! Mork was ours.

Planning Ahead for Road Travels in Europe

Originally, we’d planned on moving me from Brno and ‘testing’ our travel and van living legs in Prague to adjust. Armando got a job offer in Sofia, Bulgaria that required him to be there in 24 hours.

He wrote me and told me to pack up- we were leaving immediately. I had literally about 3 hours to get rid of any extras, choose my essentials and before I knew it we were having our first dinner in Budapest.

We didn’t have the time to have doubts. We were on our way to our next destination: discovering ourselves and rediscovering our possibilities of life.

One Year Looking Back at Van Living

IMG_7988Our quality of life is so much higher than our expectations led us to believe was possible. We’ve had the most magnificent ups and downs than either of us have had for a very long time

Our priorities are more genuine, which truly has given us more space for happiness.

We can enjoy the little things and let go of so many unnecessary stresses, which we couldn’t do in our ‘former’ lives. Thanks to that contentment, we’re much more resilient than we were before when tough things happen. And they do. It’s life.

Stereotypes of Van Living

The one unexpected drawback we’ve had with living in Mork: outside perceptions of who we are and what we’re worth. We so didn’t see that coming. Honestly, the response to our lives has been in two halves: good and bad.

We’re either:

  • Living the dream
  • Brave and adventurous
  • Embodying a ‘hippie existence’ of days of yore
  • The new generation

Or living in a van because we’re:

  • Homeless
  • Thieves, i.e. gypsies, i.e. freeloaders looking for a handout
  • On permanent vacation
  • Too lazy to work

It’s trying to dispel the negative stereotypes that really try our patience. We work harder now than we did when we were settled, with regular jobs and ‘normal’ existences. We have longer hours, with more motivation and attention to detail.

We work hard, because the tradeoff is worth it: we get to travel when and where we want. We chose this life. We have few regrets for this choice. Dealing with a few misguided stereotypes is a small sacrifice for the daily joys we have.

Yes, we live in a van. Yes, we are nomadic in a way. But no, we aren’t homeless.

Home is where the heart is, and in our case- it’s our Westy, Mork.

What do you think? Do you live in a van, have you or do you want to? Please feel free to leave your comments below!

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5 Comments
  1. Reply

    Wallis & Futuna

    September 22, 2014

    hi! we are a couple from Barcelona and we’ve been living in our own campervan for the last 11 months. we came across your blog earlier this year and enjoy reading your adventures… we especially liked this post and your insights about van living and the stereotypes. we came to consider people who never lived in a van for a while can hardly imagine what it actually is… both the amazingly rewarding side and… the other one 😉
    anyway, we mainly blog in french and spanish, but yu’ll find a couple of pages and articles in english,if you’re curious!
    keep rolling and maybe meet you someday along the way! kindly, wallis and futuna

    • Reply

      Armando

      September 23, 2014

      Hi guys, great to meet you. For sure we will keep an eye on your blog, thanks for sharing it. We are now in Berlin, but ready in a bit, as the winter is coming, to start traveling south, speaking about Spain Morocco and Portugal. So maybe will be possible to meet you on the road 🙂 keep in touch.

  2. Reply

    Mary

    June 18, 2016

    Melony and Armando, you guys are an inspiration! It is my husband’s and my dream to live on the road. We have just started research and are so lost! How do you decide the right van? How do you find a job that allows you so much flexibility? My husband and I are not writers nor photographers. How do you find the motivation and time to start blogging? What other jobs offer a nomadic lifestyle? I have a blog (with one small post). Blogging is something I’ve always been interested in, but can never stay committed. Thanks for sharing! Take care and safe travels! -Mary

    • Reply

      Melony Candea

      June 22, 2016

      Hi Mary. Thanks for the comment! I understand the intimidation and lack of consistent commitment with a blog well. 🙂 I think once you start, have a posting day. Just once a week (baby steps). If you start enjoying it, you can add other days.

      As far as working online, we started by looking at job platforms. Here’s a link to start with (it’s in sore need of getting updated): http://westfaliadigitalnomads.com/freelance-job-sites/. There are loads of jobs you can learn online. For example, you can teach English online via Skype.

      Finding the right van depends completely on what you want out of it. Do you want to customize it? Do you want a ready-made campervan? How much stuff will you need? Do you want to be able to stealth camp (park in cities, as a car) or do you prefer/imagine campgrounds and/or wilderness? Also the age is a factor- newer, more expensive vans will have less upkeep and more available parts; older vans have more character and sometimes more ‘livability.’ Grin.

      Our van found us- we’d just started looking when Armando wanted to ask a van fella details. He said it was for sale. We bought Mork within the week.

      Let me know if there’s any direction you’re interested in-? Or if you have any other questions.

  3. Reply

    R. Matthew Woodall

    October 14, 2016

    I want to live in a van very much so, me and my wife. But we are disabled, with me having a damaged backbone and can’t lift over 10 pounds my surgeon says, and that if I fall again it will leave me paralyzed from the waist down, and my wife being disabled due to being bipolar, of which she has to take medication for. And we can’t come up with the money to buy a van on our low incomes. And we both want to go out into the world and travel the US and tell people the things that Jesus told us to, which are the things he taught us. And we really just want to help people in that way, and give them hope for life in God’s kingdom. So, the only way that we could try to come up with the money for a van was to try to ask for help through the GoFundMe website we thought. Well, we posted our story on that website on the 30th of September, last month, just a few days ago really, but only two people have donated money to help us out,..one being $25. dollars and one $15. dollars, which was a start we thought, but it’s not going like we expected it to. We wanted to have the money to buy a good used and dependable van by the time our apartment lease ran out, which is in February-March. Do you know of any other way that we could acquire a good van ? We could afford to pay $100. dollars a month on one, because we would also have to pay for insurance and gasoline and of course food. Gasoline alone will cost us a lot, if we are to go anywhere, like across the states. If you don’t have any other answers for us, could you at least help us by donating to our cause ? If you will please, go to this address,.. https://www.gofundme.com/2q99238 ..and please read our story at least, and please read the update that I posted this afternoon, as it tells why we want a van so much. Thank you so much friends. I will use the email option I suppose, so maybe you can write us back there to help us figure out what to do. Thank you so very much, from the bottom of our hearts. R. Matthew Woodall

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