Van Life: Myth vs. Reality

Van Life: Myth vs. Reality

Are you dreaming of going on an endless vacation and living out of your car or truck or van? Do you look at Instagram accounts of people in awesome VW buses and vanagons and think, man that life looks AWESOME! If so, read on to learn about some common beliefs about life on the road…Van Life: Myth vs. Reality.

1. Myth: Everywhere we camp is beautiful

Reality: Though more often than not we park in really amazing places, there have been numerous times when we’ve slept in a Wal-Mart parking lot. It has it’s perks for sure in that it’s flat, there’s a bathroom inside and it’s relatively safe but nothing quite shocks you awake as realizing the person in the car next to you is watching you brush your teeth. We just wave and smile when that happens.

2. Myth: We never get homesick

Reality: Bad weather has a way of making us miss home. Luckily, like the storms, the feeling always passes. This is a lot easier to overcome since we’re traveling together and a bit more difficult when you’re out on the road solo.

3. Myth: It’s always a party

Caroline Whatley Working

Reality: Though we listen to a lot of music and have been caught rocking out at red lights more than once, it’s not always a car commercial where we’ve got it blasting as loud as it will go. When we’re on the road, we’re actually working too. We do a good bit of writing and editing while in motion and are constantly in search of fast wifi. When we’re not writing and editing we’re creating content, designing websites, responding to e-mails and making sure we’re meeting deadlines for various assignments. You can learn more about our freelancing business at our other wesbsite, also known as Authentic Asheville.

4. Myth: We live a stress-free life

Reality: Van life has led to lots of feelings of uncertainty. Seems like no matter what it is you do in life, stress is part of the human experience. Yet it’s interesting hear people say to us that we seem brave to live our van life dream. We always tell them when they say this to us that we actually have moments of real fear and uncertainty to work though. Sometimes it’s felt more stressful to live in a camper van than it was to navigate our previous lives which had a bit more stability and structure. We keep some of the stress at by with our Van Life Workouts. You may or may not see us doing them in random places along the road. We also do our best to get alone time away from one another as it can be stressful to spend all of your waking and non-waking hours in the company of another – no matter how much you love them! Read up on How to Get Alone Time on the Road if this sounds like something that might help you in your travels.

Van Life: myth vs. reality
Do I look like I know what I’m doing?

4. Myth: We’re totally in control

Reality: Haha we would be joking if we said we have a complete grasp on van life. This was never more evident than during the Covid-19 pandemic when we had to delay travel plans. We’re learning all the time and as fast as we can but a lot of this experience has been trial and error. It seems like the plan is always changing. We have the big picture figured out (for the most part) but a lot of the time we don’t know which direction we’re headed, where we’ll get our next shower or where we’ll be beyond a week or so. A good bit of flexibility is required of us almost all the time. It’s good practice for letting go but it totally presents it’s own set of unique challenges.

5. Myth: We eat out all the time

Reality: This is one of the biggest camper van myths ever. When we’re on a press trip we often eat incredibly well; it’s fair to say we eat better than we could ever imagine. But don’t be fooled by all of our beautiful photos of food and coffee and cocktails. Because when when we’re not on an actual assignment we make do with leftovers and easy-to-make food like cup of noodles, hard boiled eggs and bananas with peanut butter on ’em. (Check out our tips for saving money on the road: Part I and Part II). Part of it is the hassle of cooking on the road and part of it is cost. It’s expensive to eat out and we’re on a budget. But if you’ve ever had a simple meal in the woods or around a campfire or while looking at the ocean, you know that even so-so food can taste amazing if you’re in a beautiful spot. To learn more about what kind of gear we use for cooking, click HERE.

Van Life myth vs. reality
Not sure how many times a week we eat Ramen – at least twice.

6. Myth: We always agree on where or what to do

Van Life: myth vs. reality

Reality: We often want to do the same things which makes it easy but there are moments when we’ve had to practice really good listening, employ as much patience as possible and find common ground. Sharing one vehicle means you’re going to have to figure the details out together. It’s been a great way for us to learn each other even better. We’re coming up on our one year anniversary (have we ever told you how we got married?!) Oh and if you’re curious … read up on How We Keep Our Relationship Running Strong.

Van Life: Myth vs. Reality Recap

Are you surprised by any of these camper van myths or realities? It’s definitely a departure from what you commonly see on Instagram. Some of these realities have been a shock to us but overall we’re loving what we’re doing in our Wayfarer Van Camper Van Kit and are happy to take the little bit of bad that comes with a ton of good. If you’re living or have lived the van life, do any of these ring true for you? Read here for more tips on how we keep our relationship running strong as well as how we get alone time on the road!

Additional Camper Van Road Trip Resources


Published by Erin McGrady

Erin McGrady is a filmmaker, photographer, and writer exploring Asheville and beyond. My work focuses on sharing about LGBTQ safe spaces, camper van life, and the outdoors.

22 thoughts on “Van Life: Myth vs. Reality

      1. Well, let’s see. I converted my Jeep into my home for a few months. I lived on jerky. I lost considerable weight. I stayed in several really nice campgrounds because I was traveling off season. They were beautiful. However, there were some nights I pulled over just to get some rest, not fabulous. There were some long travel days. Researching where I was going to stay was often stressful. I was traveling by myself. I could go on… I will be back on the road again soon, not in my Jeep. I killed it, actually almost burned it up. I am going in the direction of the sun.

      2. Love the idea of traveling in a Jeep – have always been a big fan of them. The camping sounds awesome but we hear you on the research – it gets old doesn’t it?! What vehicle will you be back on the road in? Looking forward to following your adventures!

      3. Ah that’s awesome!!!! Just started following your blog so we’re looking forward to keeping up with your adventures!

    1. lol thanks for the feedback. we’re field by instant noodles more than we’d like to admit. just the other day we were calculating how much of our body was made of ramen lol. Are you living out of a van also?!

  1. I totally get and agree with what you say.. Especially about van lifers on IG… And being that I’m about to embark on the van life myself (solo female) I try my best to follow those in IG that are “Real” the ones who post the breakdowns, the tears and the fears. Don’t get me wrong seeing the luxurious vanlifers is nice too yet for those that want too or are about to embark on the van living lifestyle, it’s mandatory to follow the ones such as yourself that post the real deal cause everything in life isn’t a beautiful bowl of cherries… Thank you for being real…I am grateful 💗🤗💗

    1. Thanks for saying that-means a lot! It’s a fine line, right? We worried people would think we were complaining about our life when we actually LOVE what we’re doing but felt it was important to share the behind the scenes reality…really appreciate you saying what you did. Are you getting ready to leave on an adventure?

      1. I am… My reasoning is for a couple of reasons actually.. 1. because I’m a true nature lover and gypsy at heart and 2. Because in 2014 I was put on permanent disability (long story lol) and so my son and I decided we were going to save for a van, convert it and travel all over the country, Mexico and Canada .. well July 30th my son passed away and so I made a promise to him that I would continue with our dream and sprinkle his ashes at all the places he wanted to see… So for me it’s way more than just testing the waters… For me it’s about a journey to heal and find what makes me happy again while doing the things I love… Traveling and being in nature… I begin my adventure May 1st and will be heading out west as that’s where I love… I truly hope to meet you both on my journey… Safe travels to you both and much love and happiness to you always 😘💗😘

      2. Wow thanks so much for sharing your story. I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your son and am hoping that the life on the road is all that you’re hoping for and more. Sending lots of positive energy your way. Best of luck getting your rig ready! There’s so much to see and do out west-super pumped for ya. Safe travels!

  2. Love reading your blog. We have had our Wayfarer Van since November and have already camped in 11 states. We love van-life. We are going to PIckett State Park in Tennessee this weekend.

    1. Thanks so much that means a lot!!! So glad y’all are enjoying van life. Never been to Pickett State Park. Lots of trails there?!

  3. Thank you for your post — I appreciate the balance. I am planning on purchasing a van this spring and am doing my research & planning. Perhaps we’ll pass on the road!

    1. You are so welcome! I hope it’s helpful to you. What vans are you considering so far? And yes to passing on the road! Let us know when you make the leap!!!

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