Hi there! I'm Daichi of Tabiwa Life, and my wife and I are currently on our vanlife travels around Europe for three months. This is the fourth part of the European vanlife series in VANLIFE JAPAN. Click here (The Departure / The Rental / The Drive) to see the earlier volumes!
Allow me to introduce to you the van, which is both our home and our transportation system. I used to really want to try van living but was put off by the idea of cramped existence. (LOL)
The reality of living in a van worried me so much, wondering if it’d be comfortable enough or easy to sleep in. In this article, I want to talk about these worries to hopefully enlighten you about them and encourage you to join the awesome Euro vanlife with me!
Everyone, meet my van!
She’s a beautiful Ford Transit.
.Our van is slightly bigger than the usual car being 5m long, 1.9m wide, and 2m high. But you don't need a special class of driver's license to drive it. Also, it's only a 2-passenger vehicle because the back is customized and only the two front seats have seatbelts. Ford is an American company but surprisingly popular in Europe. We see it from time to time while driving here. It's got a pretty simple and practical built, quite similar to Hiace in Japan, so it's commonly used for cargo and business. And oh, it's diesel-powered.
The van’s highlight!
Now, let’s talk about the van's interior. A talented couple from Belgium converted the interior into a stylish DIY space. They installed real wood ceiling planks, creating a very cozy feel inside the van. There is also plenty of storage inside for our clothes and food.
My favorite is the sofa bed. We use it as a sofa during the day to eat and do work in our computers (blogging and editing YouTube videos), then turn it into a bed at night. It fits two adults with outstretched legs so we don't feel cramped while sleeping.
Then, we fold it back up into a sofa in the morning, which is very easy to do as it only takes about 30 seconds. It somehow feels "refreshing" whenever it's a sofa again. With all that said, the best thing about having a small space is how easy it is to clean. Hah!
Making use of limited space
Other than the sofa bed are other space-saving furniture and appliances. Here are some of the amenities that we love:
There’s a smallish refrigerator inside. Despite the size, it can hold food for two people. This is perfect for saving money because you can make your own food, considering the high prices in Europe.
・2-Burner Gas Stove
You can prepare a lot of dishes with two burners and 2.75 liters of gas.
Our rental van came with handy sets of tableware and kitchen utensils.
The storage space is mainly found in wall cabinets and under the sofa bed. We put our clothes in the wall cabinets and keep our foldable outdoor chairs and tables under the sofa bed.
There are three outlets inside the van and four outlets outside, two in the front and two in the back, all with USB connectivity. You can charge your phone or computer even at night using the electricity generated when the van is running or from the solar panels on the roof.
All these things make it possible to cook, work, and sleep comfortably in the van.
Enjoying life inconveniences in the convenient modern age
It may be a very comfortable van but it's still not a house. Here are some of the things it lacks:
Many big campers have those things. I think they are what separate vanlife vans to luxurious campers. Another thing that I wish we had were window screens. It can get pretty hot in some parts of Europe in summer even at night that will force you to open your windows to let the breeze in. Only problem is, you might have unwanted bugs crawling in when the lights are out. I cannot stress how practical window screens are.
I asked my wife about this and she said that the lack of water amenities (toilet, shower, sink) makes it a little tricky to live in our van. Of course, we knew that from the very beginning, so we're not that disappointed now. It’s just that we've become jazzed about houses with built-in showers as if that's unusual.
Another issue when cooking in the van is trash disposal. Luckily, there are lots of RV parks where we can camp at night in Europe that have trash collection facilities. That helps tremendously.
Rethinking "life" with vanlife
What do you think about all this? Beyond the romantic facade of vanlife, you will encounter challenges about the everyday aspect of living. A van is not a house. You only have a very limited space so you will learn to prioritize what's necessary for you to live as well as learn to get rid of the material excesses as much as possible.
I just described to you what our van looks like, which is a good example of the vans used for vanlife. If you want to check out more ideas, just search #vanlife on Instagram and be prepared to open your eyes to the limitless possibilities of customizing your van that suit your personality and style. (Click here for more articles related to the vanlife movement.)
There are both good points and bad points that go with the choice of van living. Nevertheless, you'll sure find a great mix of new lifestyles such as minimalist living, address hopping, nomadic working, and tons more. If you can learn to have fun with the inconveniences in life, I think you'll learn to re-appreciate the conveniences of the modern age. Why don't you give vanlife a try with Carstay?