Traveling Tiny: Exploring the World in a Van

Traveling Tiny: Exploring the World in a Van

Living in a van offers the freedom, independence and adventure many are dreaming about; but balancing practical considerations with your desires may prove challenging.

This documentary includes interviews with full-time van dwellers of various ages who share how they got started as well as survival tips for living on the road.

Into the Wild

Are You Searching for a Van or Looking Forward to Travelling Around in an Converted Traveller Van? Before Taking the Step

Jon Krakauer’s 1996 nonfiction book about Christopher McCandless – who set off into the American wilderness in 1992 but ultimately succumbed to starvation after abandoning his bus – as chronicled in Into the Wild is brought vividly to life on film by Emile Hirsch, playing him. The film provides an insightful look into the sacrifices life on the road can demand of us all.

No matter if you’re seeking practical tips or simply exploring vanlife as an adventure, this informative book is an excellent source. Packed with advice on everything from choosing a van to cooking while traveling, this is essential reading for anyone considering life on the road.


Director Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland, inspired by Jessica Bruder’s 2017 nonfiction book of the same name, portrays a subset of baby boomers who have abandoned home ownership in favor of living itinerantly in vans or small RVs. Frances McDormand stars in Nomadland as Fern, an imaginary widow who uproots herself from her homestead and embarks upon her travels in her new dwelling place.

Zhao’s film is an unqualified success, thanks to McDormand’s riveting performance as she moves effortlessly between locations. However, the movie doesn’t fully address why so many nomads – also known as “workampers” – live this way and neglects to address that many workampers are black or Latino.

Risking romanticization, the film depicts its characters as adventurous heroes rather than as struggling individuals trying to survive financially. Yet it still captures an authentic slice of American life with poetry; clearly the product of an expert director; nominated for six Oscars (winning three)

Walden on Wheels

Ken Ilgunas’ memoir recounts his attempt at escaping $32,000 of student debt after graduating with a “useless” liberal arts degree. To get out from under his financial obligations, Ilgunas took odd jobs such as janitorial work, tour guiding and garbage pickup while traveling throughout America.

He used the money he made from selling items on Craigslist to purchase a 1994 Econoline van and transform it into his living space on wheels. Stationed at Duke University parking lot, he lived out two years while working toward earning his graduate degree while facing challenges such as cold weather, hygiene concerns and campus security guards discovering him living inside.

Walden on Wheels is an engaging read that is sure to ignite those seeking alternative lifestyles. Combining it with Marie Kondo’s organizing methods and minimalism, many are opting to live in their vehicles rather than traditional houses – just make sure you come prepared with extras like sleeping bags and emergency first aid kits!

Exploring Alternatives

Van life is an increasingly popular travel trend that has quickly taken hold on social media. It offers travelers freedom, flexibility, and adventure; but it may not be right for all individuals; to determine whether van life is suitable for you it’s important to consider your priorities and values before making your decision.

Many van-dwellers embrace minimalism, striving to minimize their environmental footprint while also following creative passions instead of traditional careers. Living in a van offers sustainable and cost-effective means of exploring the great outdoors while discovering new places.

While some vanlifers take full-time vanlifer journeys, others only travel in their vehicle during weekends and holidays. Here are their stories.

The Rolling Home

There’s something purer and less superficial about traveling in a van than many may realize – beyond its use as a trend or trashy Instagram hashtags, van travel represents true freedom of travel. Once you peel back all the superficialities (Twitter tags and level-10 gipsy douchebags vying to sleep with cute hippy chicks at psytrance festivals for example), there is an authentic spirit of freedom which lies underneath.

Living the nomadic lifestyle allows you to see parts of the world that many will never experience first-hand. You’ll explore places you always wanted to go and meet the locals – and the freedom to do it at your own pace without needing reservations or setting tight schedules is invaluable!

Are You Thinking About Living Full-time Van Life? Planning is crucial if you want to transition into full-time van living. Consider how you will finance and store your van when not traveling – climate-controlled garage storage could become costly; and also ensure you understand all applicable state laws prior to setting out on your journey.

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