White Campervan in the early evening light
Australia,  Travel Tips

The 7 ugly truths about vanlife

I live and travel in my van since January 2020. If you are thinking about doing the same, you should know that not everything about it is a dream. In this post, I will tell you the 7 ugly truths about vanlife that you should know before deciding to live in a van.

1st truth: there is no space

It doesn’t matter how big your van is – there is never enough space. I try to organise things as nice and smart as possible, but there is just not enough room. And believe me: I do not have many things.
When I try to stretch out my legs, while lying in my bed, I hit the kitchen with my feet. When I want to sit straight on my bed and read a book in a comfortable position, I collide with my rooftop. And so on…

my kitchen, my bathroom and my living room in one

2nd truth: you are constantly dirty

I don’t remember when was the last time I had clean nails for longer than one hour. I brush my feet every day with a proper brush, but my feet are just always dirty. My clothes are dirty and smelly, everything that I touch in my van is dirty, even if I clean regularly. I wash my dishes immediately after I finish cooking, but my plates are full of dust in the next minutes anyway. My steering wheel is sticky, my windows are dirty, the floor is dusty, and I have sand under my pillow.

3rd truth: you are alone

If you think that you will always meet new and exciting people, then you are very wrong. You will sit in your van for hours, driving on the boring highway without talking to anybody. Then you will get to your final destination, and there will be no-one to talk. You will be alone for hours, days and maybe even weeks. If you think that you can just go to a bar to meet someone to talk, then you are wrong. There is none in the bar at the time you will get there. You will be alone for a long, long, long time.
Btw, I wrote few words about travelling solo, you can read it here.

4th truth: Forget tinder and co.

I thought I could use tinder and co. for meeting some people and getting a beer with locals when I get to a specific place. I was wrong. As soon as I match with someone, I’m already at least 200 km away.

5th truth: In some places, it is sketchy to sleep in a van

Do you think that you will always find this beautiful, quiet place to pull off your van and sleep? Sorry, but no. You will find yourself more often than you think in sketchy locations and you will be afraid that someone will just come in and rob you. You can close your doors and windows when you sleep, but then probably you will die because of the heat and lack of oxygen inside of the car. I think that this is the worst thing out of my 7 ugly truths about vanlife.

6th truth: Driving is dangerous

According to road statistics, there were 1,188 deaths in calendar 2019 on Australian roads. It means that more than three people die in a car accident every day. I once slipped in a roundabout losing control over my steering wheel. I am lucky that no-one was driving next to or behind me and that I have been driving slowly.

7th truth: You can get kidnapped, killed or whatever

In Australia, more than 38,000 missing person reports are received by police each year. While most people are found within a short period of time, there remain approximately 2,600 long term missing persons; those who have been missing for more than three months (source: Australian Federal Police).

Vanlife is not for everyone

If you think that those 7 ugly truths about vanlife will not bother you till the death, then it must be definitely something for you 😉 Otherwise, maybe you can try to travel by bus, sleep in hostels, or find travel-buddy? Read more tips on how to roadtrip around Australia in my post here.

Are you also travelling by van? Share with me your ugliest truth about it!


  • Katalina

    Hi Karolina!

    I just wanted to thank you for sharing your words in hopes of helping people make more informed decisions if they ever consider vanlife.
    I read many alarming things in this post. While I realize it was written some time ago, I hope that you have found a means of supporting your being however it thrives. For yourself and anyone reading this post, its important to recognize the duality that everything resides within and flows between. The middle way is often the place where we feel fulfilled and can share our best selves. Visits to either side, or extreme, leave us feeling certain ways and it is up to us to learn from these and invite or release whatevers needed to restore balance. Your experiences sounded tough and scary especially if they were unaligned with what you were expecting. There are opportunities to learn every moment that passes, and although difficult at times, vanlife offers myself and anyone who gives this a try the most uniquely rewarding lessons. With anything open your mind, try a new perspective, and listen to your intuition. Safe travels and peaceful presence to you!

  • Marcin

    Hi Karolina, I have found that interesting, especially telling the truth that is not always, or most of the time as we see it on Instagram. I would add something here, for now, I have one idea in my mind: sleeping in the van. As living and travelling with your van makes you sometimes stop for the night in the places looking a bit dangerous (as in our perception), sleeping inside is not always possible, because of anxiety we created we might not easily fall asleep. So sleeping in the van might make you feel more vulnerable, it does not have the same feeling of being in a safe zone as simply living in the house. Plus you sleeping easily can be disrupted by various noises around, as you are not used to the new environment with all the surprises around.

    What do you think?

    • Karolina

      Hi Marcin! You just have spoken my mind! I exactly know what you are talking about because I often have felt that way. I really appreciate your feedback! Good luck on the road 🙂

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