We get the pandemic, with offices closed and people getting awfully tired of being trapped in apartments, and van life looks even more attractive. According to a recent survey for Move.org, over half of Americans are dreaming about this, and only 7% said they wouldn't consider it under any circumstance. From the survey:
- 52% were more likely to consider van life as a result of the pandemic
- 72% would trade the comfort of their home to pay off debt
- 74% would choose van life if it meant they could retire comfortably
- 24% would live in a van for 2+ years
- 25% would be willing to live in a van for 6 months to a year
- 35% would like to be located in beach regions
- 35% are primarily drawn to van life to travel and be outdoors more
- 33% said their primary motivation to live in a van would be travel
- 23% said their primary motivation to live in a van would be to live without rent or a mortgage.
When van conversions can range in price from $15,000 to $300,000, the poll then deviates into a cost per square foot analysis, with an useless comparison of a little mobile house and one that incorporates real estate. Additionally, it is useless because Denver does not sell homes smaller than 100 square feet.
Any kind of comparison to a conventional home is fraught. Whenever Kimberly would write about van living, readers would complain, "Articles about a lifestyle of driving around with no purpose other than to avoid middle-age boredom come off as selfish." Or, "It might look good on Instagram, but has no place on an environmental focused [site] like this one." Although they are burning gasoline, it would be fascinating to calculate how much extra natural gas they are likely burning in their home since they almost certainly own a car. It is a minimalist lifestyle; you can't buy a lot of goods. Van life probably leaves less of a carbon footprint than living in a house and driving around.
The fact that many beaches are closed due to the epidemic is an issue for the 35% of the population who wish to live in their van by the beach. The gymnasium where people frequently use to take showers are shut. As a result, many of the destinations that people fantasize about visiting are inaccessible, and the infrastructure needed to sustain an expansion in van life is still lacking. When the pandemic hit, many trying to live the van life were getting yelled at; according to the Washington Post, there were worries about them introducing infection. "Communities begin to resent the presence of outsiders, whether they’re van dwellers, hikers or vacation homeowners." RV parks have restricted capacity, and there are fewer places to fill the basic needs like emptying waste tanks. One van-living couple told Insider:
"Van life is different now. What was once part of our routine is no longer possible because of the pandemic. We typically rely heavily on public areas, cafés, gyms, and more. We now had to change our routine and become even more self-reliant."
But the pandemic is driving the van life boom. As one California van builder tells the New York Times,
"Right now... people want more control over their environment. If you’re in a van, you know who’s in it, you control how clean it is, and you know where you’re going."
Of course, encouraging people to consider living in a van as opposed to really doing it is extremely different, and it's probable that everyone in the nation is currently daydreaming about moving somewhere else. But it's interesting to note how many people have van life dreams.