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Van Life Movement: Exploring the #vanlife trend

Jamie C, 
Tuesday, 28 September 2021
Campervan parked in woods

‘Van life’ is a movement that is sweeping across a generation. During a time where people reassessed their priorities, many have taken to a much more simplistic way of living. People living in vans come in all shapes and sizes, from weekend travellers to full-time dwellers. The mobile homes are mortgage-free and offer an unparalleled level of freedom and joy. Plus, with the rise of the digital nomad lifestyle (with 10 million Americans describing themselves as such), people are working from anywhere and everywhere – and that includes vans.

The van finance experts at Moneybarn have delved into the van life movement, to explore its popularity and hear from a van lifer themself.

The increase in #vanlife popularity

Diving into some data, we can see how the van life movement has exploded in popularity over the last three years, with searches for ‘van life’ having increased by a mammoth 216% since 2018. Even since 2019, there has been a 101% increase and a 27% increase since 2020.
Year Increase
2018-2021 216%
2019-2021 101%
2020-2021 27%

Van life on social media

Van life is taking over travel inspiration, with over 11 million posts on Instagram. In the UK alone, there are over 230,000 posts as people explore the likes of Northumberland, Wales and Scotland in their converted vans. Van life has also swept over to TikTok, with over five billion views of the van life hashtag on the evergrowing platform. Many are using the short-form videos for tips on converting a van of their own, with 27 million views of #vanlifetips.

RankInstagram HashtagVolumeTikTok HashtagViews
1#vanlife11,123,096#vanlife5.3bn views
2#vanlifediaries2,088,835#vanlifetravel368.8m
3#vanlifers1,275,918#vanlifers169.9m
4#vanlifestyle938,126#vanlifesquad148.3m
5#vanlifemovement873,277#vanlifeconversion113.5m

Top five van life influencers on Instagram

Graphic of Yvonnepferrer vanlife

@Yvonnepferrer, 1.4m followers

Yvonne shares her life travelling around Europe in her Toyota van, recently visiting the likes of Croatia and Portugal.

Graphic of divineontheroad

@divineontheroad, 258k followers

US-based Sydney is a van life veteran, having travelled the country in her van for four years, with her partner and two adorable pooches in tow.

Graphic of wheresmyofficenow

@wheresmyofficenow, 165k followers

Emily and Corey have settled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, living in their converted school bus. They’ve been doing van life for seven years, and have recently taken followers on their journey of converting the bus.

Graphic of idletheorybus

@idletheorybus, 150k followers

Kit and J.R. are true nomads, travelling the breadth of the US in their distinctive orange campervan, most recently landing in the forest landscapes of Colorado.

Graphic of rebeccamoroney

@rebeccamoroney, 133k followers

Canadian based Bec travels with her partner Eamon in their van conversion, which they put the finishing touches to over the course of the pandemic.

Van life in real life

While van life looks great on social media, and it is clearly growing in popularity as people seek a simpler lifestyle, Moneybarn wanted to find out the nitty-gritty of living in a van. They’ve spoken to one van dweller, artist Chloe Dymond, who lives and works running her studio, Chloe Dymond Design, from her van conversion which was completed in June 2021.

What is the best thing about living in your van?

“There are many pluses to my van, but the main one for me is the size. It’s a medium wheel base, meaning it’s big enough to live and travel in comfortably, but not so big that it’s a pain to park. It’s also a high top van, which means I can stand up in it comfortably, and it offers lots of living space.”

What’s the worst thing about living in your van?

“Social media is usually a highlight reel of photos showing no faults to van life, but on my Instagram, @chloes.camper, I do try and share when I have issues. The main one for me is mechanical – you put your trust in a moving vehicle as a home, but we often have issues, and have to rely on those that are mechanically trained to help. This is definitely something worth bearing in mind when living or holidaying in a van.”

Chloe Dymond in her van

While van life looks great on social media, and it is clearly growing in popularity as people seek a simpler lifestyle, Moneybarn wanted to find out the nitty-gritty of living in a van. They’ve spoken to one van dweller, artist Chloe Dymond, who lives and works running her studio, Chloe Dymond Design, from her van conversion which was completed in June 2021.

Chloe Dymond in her van

What is the best thing about living in your van?

“There are many pluses to my van, but the main one for me is the size. It’s a medium wheel base, meaning it’s big enough to live and travel in comfortably, but not so big that it’s a pain to park. It’s also a high top van, which means I can stand up in it comfortably, and it offers lots of living space.”

What’s the worst thing about living in your van?

“Social media is usually a highlight reel of photos showing no faults to van life, but on my Instagram, @chloes.camper, I do try and share when I have issues. The main one for me is mechanical – you put your trust in a moving vehicle as a home, but we often have issues, and have to rely on those that are mechanically trained to help. This is definitely something worth bearing in mind when living or holidaying in a van.”

How much did your van cost to set up?

“I bought an older van, and self converted it completely – from ply lining, building the units, furnishing and electrics. So far I’d say I’ve spent around the region of £5,000 on buying the van and converting the interior. However, this of course doesn’t include the cost of road tax, insurance, MOT or any future mechanical work.”

Where is the best place you’ve travelled to in your van?

“Cornwall holds a special place in my heart, but I’ve recently spent a lot of time in the Lake District and Cumbria. I’m yet to visit Scotland and Ireland in my own van, but Scotland is high up on my list because of the welcoming community, and the free to roam laws.”

Is there anything else you’d share with would-be van lifers?

“Unfortunately, Scotland’s free to roam law doesn’t carry over to other countries in the UK, making wild camping technically illegal in Wales and England. Many places are actually becoming hostile to the van life community, due to the huge increase of vans on the road post-covid. I have personally noticed more and more ‘no campervan, no overnight stay’ signs going up around the country, but I don’t believe this is because of van lifers. Many of us pride ourselves on picking up litter, but a lot of day trippers don’t do this and we get the blame.

Unfortunately, in England and Wales, there are fewer spots to stay in, and less facilities to go with it. We want to visit beautiful places, and spend time and money in them. If you haven’t already, have a look at the new law trying to stop anyone sleeping in a vehicle – if it is passed, van lifers could see fines and also have their van – their home – seized. The Instagram VanMonkeys has lots more information on this as they fight to stop the bill.”

Finally, Chloe has shared her three top tips for would-be nomads, to get your own van up and ready for adventure:

Research

“Speak to people already living in a van, educate yourself as much as possible – watch videos and read blogs to fully understand ‘van life’. There is so much choice from self-build to pre-built, or hiring a company to do the conversion work. You’ll also need to look at your circumstances and what you need from a van. Are you tied to a location with work? You’ll need to find somewhere campervan friendly to park. Your van will be your home, so tailor it to your needs.”

Safety

 “This is a huge point and underestimated by many. I actually have a highlight on safety on my Instagram. You need to choose your location carefully and ensure that you park in a way so that you can drive away quickly and efficiently if you need to. You’ll want to be able to access the driver seat without any obstacles, in case you need to drive away without leaving the van.”

Enjoyment

“Not a tip necessarily, but a huge part of van life – ENJOY IT. Enjoy your freedom, enjoy your van and enjoy your surroundings.”

Jamie C,
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