How to Start Van Life

Van Life

Bradee Felton

January 30, 2024

Today I wanted to share a more personal side of the actual WHY behind taking the plunge and moving into a Sprinter van full-time and tangible tips on how to start van life. The truth is, I grappled with this decision for years. I spent a lot of time being intrigued, but unsure of if it was actually a realistic option for my life. It didn’t happen over night. A lot of big changes were made along the way to make this lifestyle a possibility. So if you’re reading this right now and can relate, I’m going to take you along for the journey of how this went from a dream to reality in my life! 

It really all started with a weekend warrior adventure lifestyle. My fiance, Shane and I found ourselves taking trips to the Colorado mountains and nearby states literally every weekend. From the second we got off work on Friday to Sunday night, we were on the go finding places to explore outdoors. Over the years, we found ourselves remarking more and more that we didn’t want to go back every Sunday. We were tired of having the constraints of needing to be in Denver Monday-Friday. We were craving the time + space to move a little slower, stay a little longer, and go a little further. 

When the conversations started getting more frequent, we both felt like it was worth having an honest look at van life to see if it would be feasible for us. At a first glance, it seemed impossible. We were both working in Denver Monday-Friday, had leases, and we honestly had no idea where to start. But you know the age old saying “if you don’t like something, change it”? Well, the thought of van life just kept circling back. So here are the steps we starting taking that ended in us owning Vancy!

  1. Break down the financials 

One Friday night, I distinctly remember van life weighing heavy on our minds. We went to an absolute hole-in-the-wall dive bar, and got into the nitty gritty of the costs associated with van life. Would we save money? How much is a sprinter van already converted? How much would it cost to convert one ourselves? Would we keep a place in Denver or not? Would we sell our other vehicles? It was an important conversation that needed to happen. After that, we found that we would actually save A TON of money. We landed on selling both vehicles, giving up our places in Denver, and going all in. We also decided on getting a mostly converted van and making adjustments as needed rather than a full conversion. This option made more sense based on the fact that neither of us had lived in a van before, we didn’t have a designated work space (no garages), or really the necessary time given our jobs. 

2. Find remote work

The reality is, van life is impossible without remote work. As I mentioned, both of us previously worked at jobs where we went in each day, Monday-Friday. So a big change for us was pursuing remote jobs. Shane started applying to remote positions in his field, and I started working on building my own online fitness business for the outdoorsy, adventurer! This process probably took the longest. It was about 8 months of working towards this before it became a reality. My biggest advice in this department is to think BIG! We tend to put ourselves in boxes like: “I’ve always worked this job so that’s all I’m capable of” or “There’s no way I can find remote work in my field”. Look diligently and put yourself out there! It’s uncomfortable but it can be done. 

3. Make sure the van lifestyle makes sense for you

While you don’t REALLLYYY know until you’re doing it, you can research and research a lot. Watch youtube videos on all the pros and cons. Talk to current van-lifers about their struggles. Read forums. It’s important to know that you can handle the less glamorous side of the lifestyle like: not always having a shower/toilet available, lots of bugs, inconsistent wifi, technical/mechanical issues, super tight space, minimizing clothes/luxury items, getting sweaty A LOT. You’re much more likely to be cut out for van life if you:

-Take long trips + live out of your vehicle for at least a week

-Camp frequently 

-Can see yourself going without a dishwasher, microwave, laundry machine, closet, etc. 

-Deal with lack of routine like a champ

4. Finding your van

There are other routes, but we found Vancy through this website. You can look specifically for the van that fits your preferences, size needs, and price range. You’ll want to go meet the seller and check out the van. Ask tons of questions (research what to ask!) so you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into. Here are a few items to think about:

-Does it have an AC unit to cool the van when it’s off?

-Does it have a bathroom/is a bathroom a deal breaker for you?

-Does it have good built in storage space

-Does the “floor plan” maximize the space and make sense for your lifestyle 

-How many miles does it have?

-How does it get power? Solar?

-What kitchen amenities does it have?

-What is the gas mileage?

-How big is the water tank?

-Can it handle 4×4 roads? Good traction in snow?

-Does it have a heater for cold nights?

-Does it come with window covers to block out light/heat?

-Does it have a work/dining space? Is that a deal breaker for you?

-What is the wifi situation?

Ultimately, despite all the initial work, time, money, and lifestyle changes, we decided van life was the right choice for us at this time! We aren’t putting a deadline on it, but rather seeing how it goes and riding the wave. I hope this is helpful for anyone thinking about doing the same! What other van life topics would you like me to cover?? 

Happy Trails,

Bradee xoxo

PS- Need to get in shape for your mountain adventures?? Check out a FREE week of my Fit for Hiking workout guides by clicking HERE!

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