Estimated Reading Time: 7 Minutes
Today I wanted to share my first van life-related article – so thanks for coming alongside me as I try something new!
Why did we choose the van life? What made us take the leap? Are we bored? Broke? Crazy?
The Van Life Story So Far…
Nathan and I have been thinking and praying about van life for a few months now, but we first suggested the idea probably 6 months ago.
Honestly, we kept it between us two until about a month ago. We wanted to make sure we were making the right decision – and that God was leading us in this direction.
We toured quite a few kitted-out vans as we searched. All them were really amazing, and honestly very close to what we wanted in a van home! Buuuut – they were crazy expensive, and we weren’t keen on taking on a ton of debt for an adventure like this.
Once we discovered how expensive already-built vans were, we decided to build one ourselves. So we started searching for a gutted van.
Honestly, we saw a few used vans that were going for pretty cheap, but when we compared the prices and experience, we felt safer going through a dealership. So a few weeks ago, we pulled the trigger and bought our van!! I still can’t believe it 🤯
I remember the day we were waiting in the dealership to make a decision – we stood by a coffee machine in the back, pacing back and forth asking ourselves “Are we crazy? Is this wise?”
I reached out my hand for Nathan’s and closed my eyes. “Hey God. We love you. Please guide us with this decision – show us your peace if this is what you want us to do, and shut the door if it’s not. We trust you.”
A few minutes later, our salesman asked us if we wanted to move forward. “Do you have peace about it?” I asked Nathan. He nodded. “Do you?”
“100%,” I said. “Let’s do this.”
One thing that’s been consistent through all the big decisions in our lives has been God’s peace. Whether it was the day I met Nathan, the day we got married, or the day we signed a lease on our apartment, we’ve always sought the peace of God as direction. And time and time again He faithfully shows us, through His peace, the way He wants us to go. It’s crazy. God is just incredible haha.
Now, how we’re learning to build a van home ourselves is a story for another time…
But I want to share all the reasons we decided to do the van life because – let’s face it – a lot of us are hungry for adventure too. It’s scary jumping off the cliff, taking the leap, and being adventurous. Hopefully our reasons can help you decide if you should take the leap in your own life, or if you should wait.
At the end of the day, God’s peace is the best compass. Follow it.
10 Reasons We’re Doing Van Life:
Taking the leap didn’t boil down to one single reason, but 10 different reasons that culminated together. Here they are:
1. We Love Spontaneity
Nathan and I love being spontaneous and trying new things. The Adventure Challenge often dictates our date nights, and we’ll often flip a coin to determine how we spend our evenings.
This is a small example, but being spontaneous doesn’t scare us as a family – we kind of thrive off it. I mean, when we felt God directing us to have a small immediate-family-only ceremony to get married last November, we booked it within the week.
Not everyone thrives off of spontaneity – and that is totally OK. We are all different! But there is an element of spontaneity attributed with van life. Some days, our plans will need to change on a whim. We might have to park in places we didn’t plan, explore areas we didn’t intend on, and adjust our schedules on the move. Because we already live like this to an extent, leaning into that a little more didn’t scare us.
Before you take the leap on a big adventure, make sure you are okay with plans changing last minute. It’s not always fun, but keeping a good attitude is key.
2. We Want to Travel More
This one’s simple! We want to travel more. We really love Colorado, and can’t want to explore more of it.
Also – both of us are Colorado natives, born and raised in the same cities our entire lives. We want to explore other states and see more of this beautiful USA!
Van life gives us an affordable way of traveling together. We won’t have to pay for a rental car, hotel, or plane tickets when we drive places, which is pretty dope.
3. We Have Jobs That Work Well with Van Life
We are blessed to have jobs that fit well with van life. I work remotely for Parker Baby Co., and Nathan is a firefighter (which means he works two days and has four days off).
Our plan so far is for both of us to keep working the first few months of van life. We’ll stay in Colorado so Nathan can continue working as a firefighter. If we do feel called to travel across the nation, Nathan would quit his job and start studying paramedicine, while I’d keep working on the road.
Not everyone has a job conducive to this lifestyle, and I am thankful to say we do. But if our logistics didn’t line up so well, we wouldn’t have jumped into van life so confidently.
4. Building is Fun for Us
Nathan and I have loved working on the van together the past few weeks, and I know it’s only going to get more fun as we go. But that’s the thing – both of us really like getting our hands dirty, learning new things, and building together. And that’s not everyone’s cup of tea.
At the end of the day, we were pretty intimidated building the van ourselves because we know *literally* nothing about van home construction.
But even though it was intimidating, it didn’t sound terrifying or impossible. It sounded like a fun challenge.
If you view a big project like this as more of a chore than a fun activity, it might not be for you.
5. We Aren’t Claustrophobic
Van life can get a little cramped – but honestly, this didn’t scare us too much. Our biggest worry so far is sleeping together in such a tiny bed LOL.
Some people need space, fresh air, and lots of alone time, and for those personalities, van life might be a struggle. But Nathan and I are okay with the idea of living tiny for a time.
A note on alone time: alone time isn’t impossible for van life! We just have to be much more intentional about how and when we get it. Nathan enjoys alone time driving around and listening to music for a while. I get a lot of my alone time when he’s on shift. When we transition to van life, we’ll just have to be more intentional about communicating when we need alone time, and how to allow space for the other person when it’s needed.
6. We’re Already Pretty Minimalist
You have to be pretty minimalist to pull off the van lifestyle, but Nathan and I are already halfway there. Our apartment is simple and pretty bare-bones. Clutter is my nemesis (hahaha).
We’re also both very low maintenance. I don’t really wear makeup or do my hair often, and I take 5 minutes to get ready in the morning. Both of us cycle like 5 outfits every week LOL. When we counted the “things” we use every week, we both turned up with a list that didn’t go over 10 items.
Knowing this about ourselves already, I think the transition to a minimalist van life will be a little easier.
7. If Not Now, Then When?
Doing van life is a bucket list item for both of us, and we both strongly believe: if you have dreams, goals, and passions, why wait until you’re retired to pursue them?
Today is a gift, and when you’re retired you’ll just be more exhausted, achy, and resistant to breaking routine. Honestly, if we chose to wait until we both retired, there’s a good chance it would never happen.
We also want to get comfortable with traveling before we have a family. That way, once we do have kiddos, traveling with them won’t be so intimidating. And we want to give our kids the same adventure we’re hungry for, too!
8. A Van Home is a Better Investment Than a Trailer Home
Trailers are one of the worst investments because they depreciate terribly. Plus, they are viewed more like a luxury item, so interest rates can be crazy.
A van, however, has the potential of breaking even or even appreciating, especially if we invest time and energy into building it ourselves.
Of course, we didn’t go into this thinking “This is the best investment – we’re going to make so much money off of this!” Honestly, if we break even, I will leap for joy.
But at least at the end of this crazy adventure, we know we can probably sell it for a decent amount.
To be completely transparent, our gutted van came to $34,000 (pretty standard). But when we were looking at self-built kitted-out vans for sale, we could hardly find one under $65,000. Converting a van yourself only costs about $10,000 – so that means a potential $20,000 profit (if you convert it well). And with van life being so popular since Covid – it’s an investment I’m less worried about than a trailer.
9. We Can Save for a Home
Obviously, after a year or two we’d love to settle down into a home for our future family. But houses (especially Colorado ones) are insanely expensive. And we’re young – I can’t even drink yet – so we do not have the funds to afford a house.
The problem is – renting is stupid. Each month we’re paying a ridiculous amount, and none of that money is going back to us like a house.
Van life gives us the opportunity to limit expenses on the road and save money for a house. We won’t have to pay rent – just a low car payment (which we’ll be able to pay off quickly) and gas.
10. Biggest Reason: God’s Peace & Direction
At the end of the day, none of these reasons would matter if God shut the door on this opportunity.
Like we said before, God’s peace is a big compass in our lives, and we saw His hand all over this van life thing.
God knows what is best for you and your family. He knows exactly what you need, even if you don’t. And to be honest, when I trust myself I’m often let down – but I never regret trusting God.
We really felt peace over this decision – and that’s the biggest deciding factor!
The Adventure’s Just Started…
We’ve made the leap and now we’re locked in – and I couldn’t be more more excited. Your prayers and support for this next chapter of our lives is so appreciated!
If you want to keep up with our conversion progress and (eventually) adventures in the van, make sure to follow me at @a_with_abba on Instagram – I post regularly there!
I can’t wait to keep building and hit the road soon:) Until next time!
Xoxoxo ~ Annabelle & Nathan