The “VanLife” movement has officially taken over. Photos of people living out of their vans are flooding the internet. Some of the biggest accounts feature beautiful people who are always in remote places where the sky is perpetually casting a sunset glow on their poreless faces. And their vans are as pretty as they are: designed to look like @Socalitybarbie‘s Dream House.

Of course, there are many genuine perks to #VanLife. Cutting down on material possessions to focus on experiences is an admirable way to live. And traveling in a van is a great way to camp! But sometimes, we don’t see the whole story. As the viral New York Times article “#Vanlife, the Bohemian Social-Media Movement” pointed out, some vanlifers are more concerned with setting up the perfect shot, rather than living a fulfilling life on the road.

#Vanlife can be messy, ugly, and stressful. Enough with only showing the sunsets and the feet pointing towards the ocean horizon. We dug a little deeper to find people who are keeping it real; showing us what it’s REALLY like to live out of a van.

It’s not always pretty. But yeah, sometimes, it really is.

1. @tinyhousetinyfootprint

The beginning of a van project is super exciting. But an old van can also look like a sad cave when you’re just starting out. (Check out Kathleen’s profile to see the transformation.)

2. @liz.sampey

You won’t find many van pictures on this vanlifer’s Instagram account. That’s because Liz focuses on the adventures she has outside of her van. The endurance athlete spends her time mountain biking and skiing fresh powder.

3. @donorun

Navigating slippery roads is even scarier when your ride is also your home. But Donovan doesn’t seem to mind. When he’s not studying for nursing school, he’s often exploring Mt. Hood or the surrounding Pacific Northwest.

4. @thetravellingshed

Rainy days are hard on everyone. But Lewis (the dog) and Sasha (the cat) are ok with the down time. Getting stuck in the van on a rainy day is a good excuse to be lazy!

5. @ambercollective

The nifty pull-out beds you see in the back of vans aren’t easy to build. @Ambercollective is beat after building his, but now he can relax in the back of his ambulance-turned-adventure-lance.

6. @we_who_roam

When it comes to converting a van, there are endless nooks and crannies that need attention. Here, Bec from @wewhoroam is securing carpet under the bed in her Sprinter. Keep up the hard work, Bec! It’s looking good.

7. @adventroverts

Many vanlifers work from the road. And that work/life balance can be extra challenging when there are always new places to explore, just outside your door. The two introverts behind @adventroverts take advantage of colder, wetter places to focus on productivity.

8. @eganomicon

Vans don’t always look like the set of a magazine shoot: with a bed that’s just the right amount of messiness, lined with designer pillows and plush comforters. Sometimes, a van is just plain messy. But it still looks cozy to us!

9. @ahhhdananana

We love how Dana keeps it real, documenting all of her vanlife mishaps (even though it’s actually a truck). Repairs and missing parts are just a regular part of life when you live in an automobile.

10. @wheelsoffrida

Vanlife gets you close to nature. Sometimes, it gets you a little too close. As you can see on Marta’s face, a wasp sting on the butt isn’t ideal–especially when you have to drive. But it looks like she’s powering through!

11. @theveryorangevan

Bathrooms are sometimes few and far between when you’re living on the road. But really, who needs a shower when you can scrub down outside?

12. @surftripping

Sleeping in your kitchen isn’t ideal. Until it means easy access to breakfast in bed.

13. @cluelessidiots

The dream never ends! Unless you run out of gas. Ems and Mikey of @cluelessidiots are road tripping through the Canadian Rockies, and they aren’t shy about sharing the blunders and bumps along the way.

14. @vantrails

When your days are full of adventure, your nights are sometimes full of work. But having the freedom to work from the road makes the late nights well worth it. We think Heather of @vantrails would agree.

15. @time_for_adventure

You don’t have much alone time when you’re living in a van. And naps don’t happen when your canine companion would rather play. This pooch belongs to Tyler and Cat of @time_for_adventure, who are touring the United States in a Ford E-150. They might not get much alone time, but it looks like the trio has lots of fun together!

Vanlife isn’t perfect. But it does look like a lot of fun–especially since it’s basically one big camping trip! If you’re camping/living in your van, we’d love to see photos from the campsites you make home. Upload campground reviews and photos on The Dyrt, and you could win free camping gear!


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