Van life is simple, not easy, but what is the difference?

Simple and easy are two similar words, yet they are quite different. Van life itself is simple but living in a van is not easy.
hinged countertop over stove

Simple and easy are two similar words, yet they are quite different. Van life itself is simple but living in a van is not easy. Confusing? Allow me to explain.

Simple vs easy

A post by WordCounter does a great job of describing the difference between simple and easy. Simple can mean easy, fundamental, uncomplicated or not fancy. Easy can mean not difficult, free of worry or free of awkwardness. In addition, WordCounter also does a good job of comparing living a simple life versus an easy life:

“Easy living and simple living are two different things. Living a simple life means having few material things, doing things the natural way, and avoiding complications like debts. Easy living, on the other hand, is usually associated with having all the luxuries that money can buy! What’s more, the simple life is hard work, but the easy life means avoiding hard work at all costs.”


Van life is a simple life

Living in a van means you must live a simple life. Mark provides shelter and a place to store food and water, taking care of essential needs. Similarly, it also affords space for our hobby items, like golf clubs, fishing poles and backpacking gear. But there isn’t space for trivial material things. Okay, that’s a lie. For instance, we made room for a few unnecessary items because we couldn’t let go

Simple van life means giving up modern conveniences and appliances that make life easier. Lucky for us, we already lived a simple life before moving into Mark. But we did make some adjustments. Our automatic coffee maker is now a French press. The hot water for it needs heating on the stove. Speaking of heating things up, no more microwave! Air conditioning? Only in the cab while driving, and ours isnt’ all that cold anyhow.

foot box in van doubles as storage
The foot box in our van doubles as storage. Utilize all the space!

Van life is not easy

Limited space means you need to make the most of it. Our toiletries sit next to the movies and games. Onions and yoga blocks share a shelf. A plethora of dry goods packs our pantry. The odd shapes and sizes leave it in disarray. As a result, when we need something, odds are a dozen other things need removing to get to what we want. Afterwards, everything needs to go back.

The water flowing from our faucet isn’t on a continuous supply. So, sooner than later our little 7-gallon jug will be empty, and we have to find water to fill it. Likewise, the grey water doesn’t disappear to the nether when it goes down the drain; it’s up to us to dispose of. We don’t have an unlimited supply of electrons at the flip of a switch. If our leisure battery is dead, we have no electricity.

Van life can be uncertain

If you depend on internet access for your livelihood, it isn’t always easy to find. For instance, the gorgeous spot in the mountains might provide breathless views but no signal. After that, you head into town to use the wifi at the local library, but they might ask for your library card. Next, you pop into the coffeeshop, buy a drink and hop on the wifi. Then three hours later the manager could be asking you to leave.

Depending on where you find yourself, securing a place to park isn’t easy. Near civilization you need a safe place. An inconspicuous place. You don’t want homeowners calling the cops on a “suspicious van” parked in the neighborhood. In the middle of nowhere it’s a wee easier, provided your parking spot is legal.

But that’s not the worst of it. When your van breaks down and goes the shop, your home goes to the shop. A car accident could mean a major remodel, or worse, losing your home completely.

I would never sleep with back door open without that bug screen in place.

Van life can be uncomfortable

We have no “rooms” to speak of. There is a “living area” which contains our kitchen, dining/sitting area and toilet. This might be TMI, but I do not like to poop in the company of others. I also imagine I am not alone in this. Our composting toilet is not private, and I am forced to poop in front of my husband. Luckily, the composting toilet is mainly reserved for emergencies.

Living the van life means spending a lot of time outside. Mother nature is outside. She can be a bitch. Blowing her wind, pelting precipitation, searing sun, frigid temperatures and ruthless bugs. Being outside everyday can feel like a battle. And after a day sweating in the sun, what do most folks want? A shower.

Frequent, comfortable showers are a problem of van life. Unless you have an indoor shower. Outdoor showers are great…if you have hot water and it’s warm outside. A dip in a cold mountain brook or lake is refreshing…if it’s warm outside. A gym membership is a common solution, but what if you’re not near a gym?

vanlife is simple, not easy, but who care when you're down by the river fly fishing
This is one of the reasons we van life – fly fishing from our “front yard.”

With all I just told you, why choose van life?

Van life is simple, not easy, but that’s exactly why I love it. That’s why a lot of people love it.

Van life puts you in situations conventional life never will. It forces you to adapt and overcome. It forces you to become a problem solver. You learn to do more with less. You learn how much you’re capable of. Without the distractions of conventional life, you can focus more on yourself. And I don’t mean in a selfish way. It gives you the opportunity to grow as a person. You become stronger, and that’s powerful.

Van life also gives you freedom. Your home is on wheels! The possibilities are endless! Everywhere you go you have everything you need to live. On top of that, with fewer bills you can work less. In addition, a smaller space is easier to maintain. For example, I spend less than 15 minutes a week keeping Mark clean. More time gives you more freedom to live the life you want.

What do you want?

If you’re reading this, van life must have crossed your mind at some point. Do you want the simple life of living in a van? Or do you want the easy, conventional life of structure living? Or a little bit of both? Comment below and tell us how you feel. There is no right or wrong answer! If you’re living your best life, you’re living the life that’s right for you.

Need more help getting started with van life? Check out our How to Start Van Life guide!

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I served 11 years in the Navy, and in 2014 I thru hiked the Appalachian Trail. These experiences helped prepare me for vanlife. My husband and I now live in our self-converted van, Mark.

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About Us

We left “normal” life behind and now live in our self-converted van, Mark. Our time in the military and backpacking adventures made vanlife an easy choice. The leap into vanlife and a self-conversion can be exciting yet daunting. We want to share our experiences and provide resources to give you vanlife your way, and the highway.

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