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Here are the real worst things about vanlife.  

No matter what I say here, the van lifestyle will always be over glamorized and you generally won’t read the worst things about vanlife.  That’s ok. It’s nice to believe there is a world where we can live whimsically in a perfect van. A place where we’re surrounded by beautiful half naked people.  That we can all enjoy a carefree life outdoors. I like to fantasize about that also.

vanlife couple

But there’s value in honesty and humor too, so we thought you might want to hit pause on the screen saver content for a few minutes and read something REAL.

People have a lot of assumptions around what the worst things about vanlife are.  We’ve found that most of those assumptions are based on things each person dislikes anyways.  And we’re no exception. Our list of vanlife challenges are probably different from other full time nomads.  People are annoyed by different things.

Most people assume pooping outside is something we hate.  This is actually not true.  We prefer it to most public restrooms and in some especially scenic areas, we like it.  Or people think that being in a small space together ALL THE TIME is intolerable. We kind of like each other a lot, so that doesn’t make the list either.  Another popular assumption is showering infrequently. In fact, when you shower less, your body adapts and becomes less stinky and oily in general. We will admit though, a shower after a long day of adventuring sure makes you feel like a human again.  But our tolerance for filth is pretty high, so this one isn’t one of the worst things about vanlife either. 

After living in a van full time for 18 months, we’ve done enough time to determine what we think the real worst things about vanlife are.  Here’s the list.

vanlife couple


Unlevel ground

I never realized how hard it would be to find level ground.  Or how annoying it is. Turns out, hardly anywhere is flat, not even most Walmart parking lots.  Most days we pull into a camp spot tired and hungry. Our desire to eat and relax are thwarted by uneven ground.  It’s everywhere. This doesn’t bother some of our hardier traveling friends, but we don’t sleep well unless we’re pretty much flat.  

Leveling Blocks, worst things about vanlifeWe bought a 360-degree bubble level that tells us if we aren’t level in any direction.  We drive back and forth and around in circles until we’re as close to level as the ground will allow. If we’re still way off, then we have to get out the leveling blocks.  Then we have to figure out how many to put under each tire to balance it out.  All in all, it’s a time consuming and irritating process that is a necessary evil. It makes the list of one of the worst things about vanlife because it’s just so damn tedious. 


Disgusting Feet

I feel confident assuming most of you agree with me that feet are pretty gross to begin with.  Unless you have a foot fetish, you’re probably thinking you’d like other people’s feet as far away from you as possible.  Yeah, same here. But you’re usually ok with your own feet, right?

Not in vanlife.  Lack of showering is a contributing factor here.  But the truth is that when you live in a van, your feet will be dirty the minute you step out of the shower.  So it doesn’t really matter how often you shower or not.

dirty feet, worst things about vanlife

If we’re lucky, we can wipe the day’s grime off with a damp towel.  Other days, not so much. Our feet have been so dirty that it took several scrub sessions in the collapsible bucket with Dr. Bronner’s soap and water to get the crust off.  It just builds up like a nasty dirt callus. I hope you’re not eating… if you are, sorry about that visual.

It’s really unpleasant.  Mostly because the bottom line is: dirty feet smell bad.  Really bad. But the hardest part is that it’s literally impossible to keep your feet clean.  That’s why dirty feet are one of the worst things about vanlife.

The F-word.  Farts.  

You think being around someone else’s farts on your living room or the office is bad?  Try an 80 square foot space where you have NO WHERE ELSE TO GO. And neither does the smell.  You’re trapped.

Yep, farts are the real F-word of vanlife and the longer we live in a van, the less tolerable it is.  You hope that your traveling companion will have the common courtesy to fart anytime they’re outside, but it’s inevitable that the moment will come where upon shutting the door they let a huge one rip.  You try to crank the fan and windows quickly, but it’s all for naught because that brutal stench isn’t going anywhere. The best defense you have to to hide in your own shirt until it dissipates. It’s literally the ONLY downfall of Taco Tuesdays.  And anything that shines a negative light on Taco Tuesdays deserves to be on the list of the worst things about vanlife.

The shit shuffle

We try to be super organized and minimal.  For the most part, we succeed. But for some reason, there is ALWAYS a pile of stuff on our bed that gets moved every single day.  It sits in the front seat when we’re sleeping, and gets moved to the bed when we’re driving. No matter how hard we try to find a place for everything, this ever-revolving pile never goes away.

stuff everywhere, the worst things about vanlifeSometimes it’s groceries that we bought in bulk that don’t fit in our pantry. Other times it’s a pile of clothes that are too clean to be put away, but not dirty enough to be put in the laundry bag.  Also know as “Semi-Cleans”. Right now we have 2 ukuleles that just float around the van, never finding a permanent storage spot.  In the case of this photo, we were getting ready for a backpacking trip and stuff was EVERYWHERE!

In the end, it’s clutter.  And clutter in a small space can literally make you go insane.  It’s distracting, ruins our zen mojo, and gives us anxiety.  This book about minimalism explains how important it is to keep your space clean.  Anything that can bring our mood down like that is definitely on our list of the worst things about vanlife.  And it gets really old shuffling the same shit pile back and forth everyday.

All in all, this is our list of the worst things about vanlife.  What have you experienced while traveling that is the worst to you?  

Want to know about a few accessories that make vanlife a little easier?  Check out our blog of favorite things!

Or are you curious about why we chose a Ram Promaster for our van?  Read our blog post about our van-buying adventure!

8 Comments on “The Worst Things About Vanlife”

  1. Awesome! and also funny a bit!!

    I never experienced van life as it is not very popular in my country, especially due to safety reasons. But I always dream to enjoy this exciting travel experience.

    You have highlighted several negatives of van life, few are pretty funny (smell from dirty feet, F-word, pooping in scenic nature), and these are really tough to tolerate for 18 months long. Taking shower irregularly is a big deal. I personally feel headache if I don’t take shower at least once a day unless it’s extreme cold.

    But for a 7-15 days van life, these all are tolerable, which I am looking for.

    Thank you for sharing such an awesome description of your personal experience.

    • Thanks Dr. SD, it’s great to hear perspective on travel from people in other areas. I imagine it would be a completely different experience in a place where safety is a concern. We’ve only felt unsafe a few times and we just drove somewhere else. A lot of people prefer to take showers more frequently, and there are definitely moments where I wish I could!
      Thanks for reading along!

  2. wow what a great read. A great and unique article for once

    I have never thought of living in a van because I am scared something might happen while I am out there alone. Are you never scared of this?

    The farting part made me really laugh. it is indeed something you can never run away from lol.

    • Thanks so much! We have definitely had experiences where we felt unsafe, but the beauty of living in a van is that we can just drive somewhere else. Most places we travel are very safe and we enjoy finding campsites where we can be alone.

      Thanks again for reading along!

  3. The F-word is brilliant. That made me laugh out loud. I didn’t notice it so much when I was traveling in my Van around Australia, because the windows are always open, it’s just too hot otherwise.
    I get what you mean with the clutter, and I find boxes work best for me. Even if you have to move a box around it feels more organized, unless you open the box ;)
    Have you thought about just wearing flip flops in the shower and around? I know they can keep your feet cleaner a little longer.
    The worst thing in my van-life was that I couldn’t stand up completely, but that kept me more outside,, which was nice too, I guess. Thanks for sharing.

    • Oh right, standing up all the way is critical to our happiness in the van! Greg is 6’2″ and it was essential that we bought a van he could stand up in. But it makes sense that it would keep you outside more, which is partially the goal anyway, right?! We should shower with shoes on, that would probably help!
      Thanks for reading along!
      Jess & Greg

  4. I want to live the van life so bad. It is why I am doing Wealthy Affiliate.
    I love that you were so honest here. It is awesome!
    I am going to put my email – one because it is required but two because I would love to connect. Shoot me an email if you’re interested in chatting a little. Someone recently said that I should talk to people who actually live the van life before I venture out to do it! I was like woah what an incredibly profound idea hahaha duh I should do that.
    Yay, well look forward too hearing from you.

    • Hi Molly – it’s always great chatting with aspiring vanlifers! We really love this lifestyle and love sharing it with others as well. We’re happy to share anything that you’d like to know!

      Thanks for reading along,

      Jess & Greg