Can you afford to become a nomadic van dweller?


« Van Life - Oct-15-2017

26th May, 2015

If you look back on your last holiday you will dearly remember the new experiences you had, the scenic places you visited, the foods you had never tried before, and the beautiful people you met. But you may also remember not so dearly the money literally flying out of your wallet as it was blown on flights, accomodation, and entertainment.

What needs to be understood is that becoming a nomadic van dweller is not a holiday; it is a lifestyle. Gone is the glamour of hotel swimming pools, fine dining, and tourist attractions. What is left however is an enriching experience of long term travel that is unique in its own right. Dusty roads and endless sunsets with hearty food cooked outdoors with new friends.

All we need is food, shelter, and a bit of love – that’s what makes us happy! (…and a small emergency fund)

So what makes nomadic van dwelling affordable?

#1  You are not always on the move.

When you don’t have an end date you are in no hurry to get to the next destination. This means you can take your time soaking in every new place and you can limit your biggest expense, fuel. Most nomad’s vans will do less mileage than a suburban sedan doing the school pickup and getting to work. Limiting your distances will save you a bucket load and also save on maintenance and servicing.

31st Dec, 2014

#2  You’re not eating out every night

When you have your own kitchen on wheels you can plan meals ahead, make the most of farmer’s markets and supermarket specials to cook your own 5 star meals. Going out for a meal is certainly a rare treat, but when you have the time to cook the food you love with the backdrop of mountains, deserts, and beaches it’s hard to feel that you’re missing out.



#3  Got a tent, pay no rent.

Think about how many hours a week you have to work to pay for your rent/mortgage, heating, water, rates, and electricity. When you become a nomadic van dweller you can say goodbye to all that and seek comfort that no matter where you are you have your home sweet home with you. It’s easy to find free or low cost places to camp which would rival the locations of 5 star resorts.

#4  You’re not spending big on tourist attractions.

There is nothing wrong with being a tourist! But when you are travelling long term it can get old really quick. Theme parks, animal sanctuaries, visitor centres all lose their appeal as you seek simpler experiences such as farmer’s markets, free museums, parks and gardens, and local events.

#5  You can volunteer

Schemes such as WWOOF or HelpX allow you to get in touch and lend a helping hand with local projects. They will often offer you full accommodation and food but most importantly give you that real local experience, and a home cooked meal.

28th Jun, 2017

#6  Travelling in your own country is cheap.

When you stay close to home there are no expensive airfares, vaccinations, or money exchange fees. It’s also likely that you will already know some secrets of living cheaply.

#7  You make your own entertainment.

Why spend money on cinemas, nightclubs, or helicopter rides when you can make your own fun in some of the most scenic places on earth. Nothing is more rewarding than spending a warm afternoon with a guitar and a hammock. Board games and a deck of cards will ensure hours of fun with people you meet. Write that book you have been meaning to start, or bring your paints and drawing materials. Only the boring get bored.



#8  You can work on the road.

When you are on a 3 week escape on your annual leave the last thing you want to think about is working! But for nomadic travel it is a necessary evil! Van dwelling has to be financially sustainable if you want to succeed with it long term. This means making sure you have a small emergency fund and making sure you don’t eat into it. In Australia seasonal work is plentiful with fruit picking, farmwork, and barwork. In many cases they will include or discount your accommodation or better still give you a place to park your van. Also consider what skills you already have and how you could apply them on the road. Do you have professional experience you could provide consulting remotely? Are you a creative that can sell your art and craft online or at local markets? Are you a writer who can set up a blog and earn from advertising?

17th Jun, 2015

Personally I have worked in a bar, written software, sold stuff I’ve made online, and sold stories and photos to publications. It may sound daunting at first but one thing I have realised is that once you get out there many doors of opportunity will open.

No really…how much does it actually cost?

There are so many different types of van dwellers out there. Many are lucky enough to have been able to work for years and years so that they are now able to subsidise their travels with investments or rental income. While others have headed out there with just the shirt on their back and a dream.

It’s a difficult question to answer because everyone’s situation and needs differ but here’s an example of a monthly cost breakdown.

  • Fuel: $200
  • Food: $300
  • Van Servicing + maintenance + tyres: $600 p/y
  • Van Insurance: $20
  • Phone bill: $50
  • Clothing / Other / Personal items: $100

Total monthly expenses: $720.00

Given that minimum wage in Australia is $22.80 for casual work, you could sustain yourself by working only 3 months every year!

Golden rules:

  1. Don’t spend money you don’t have
  2. Always have an emergency fund
  3. Live well below your means.

So there you have it. Nomadic van dwelling may not be as out of reach as you thought it was. Is it easy? Not really. Is it worth it? Absolutely.

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