What is Vanlife Really Like

Self Build Campervan
Vanlife reality behind the image
Overnight parking isn’t always idyllic

What is Vanlife really like

It seems vanlife and motorhome living, travelling and remote working has become a bit of an ideological dream. For many it’s an aspiration for a new way of life but what is vanlife really like?

Thousands of filtered images portray life in a van as an idyllic world full of beautiful people. They often pose alongside perfectly decorated campervan’s amongst incredible scenery and exotic parking locations.

It’s enough to tempt even the most unlikely candidates of vanlife to start searching for that dream campervan.

Reality can be very different

The real vanlife, although often idyllic isn’t always so wonderful. Those social media posts of fabulous vanlife living, often come with declarations of expert guidance.  However,  it’s often through perfectly staged photographic images that the vanlife dream is sold to us followers. 

This vanlife illusion makes perfect viewing, although the reality behind the image can be very different. The simplicity of parking up and happily sleeping soundly under the stars is made to sound blissful. However, vanlife does come with moments that are slightly annoying, awkward or just irritating.

Sometimes having to hook up to electric may dampen the images of long, lazy days in the wild. Then, many will crave the simple things taken for granted in a house, like having a long, powerful shower!

Most definitely – emptying the contents of the waste tanks on a regular basis is all part of the process of motorhome travel. Not forgetting those smelly toilet emptying chores along with often “wild goose chase” searches for fresh water.

Other problems, such malfunctions to technology or fitments can cause stress and expense! Anything form a control panel failing to having no heating in freezing weather or just general glitches, can become frustrating.

La Strada Motorhome
Looking out to the beach we once parked at

Glossy Images Of Fabulous Parking Spots

It’s easy to read and see illusions of fabulous lifestyles from those happy to boast about the ease of living in a campervan.

Lapping up those good vibes! The thought of just parking up where you like without a care in the world, whilst freshly ground coffee brews in the coffee mug! It all sounds so wonderful, doesn’t it?

However, what is often overlooked to be mentioned is the simple reality, such as driving for hours and still failing to find a place where you can park for the night. Then simply getting cold feet about a place you’ve thought was fine, when suddenly in the depths of night it doesn’t seem so inviting!

No wonder there’s such a growing world of “wannabes” to add to the “newbies” and us “oldies”. After all, why wouldn’t you want to see the world from behind the wheel of a campervan? Surely the social media images are right – aren’t they?

vanlife the reality behind the image
A Sunset Parking Spot with Our New Zealand Self-Build Van

Instagram Vanlife

Well this got me thinking back to a time on one of our own road trips. The location shall remain anonymous to avoid trying to guess who it involves.

By chance, we met a high profile Instagram vanlife couple. The beautiful VW campervan, complete with photograph’s of its even more perfect owners were just stunningly enticing to admiring followers. In their Instagram feed, they always parked in isolated and fascinatingly idyllic settings. Their VW campervan positioned in the most perfect setting, portraying an inspirational Instagram fairytale.

However, on our encounter the owners and the van weren’t parked up where you’d expect. No! There was no exotic location or romantic setting and they certainly weren’t watching the sun rise from the rear door of their van either.

Far from it, in fact this Instagram sensation with enough followers to fill a small town back where we come from, were actually parked up on a campsite!…..Yes, shock horror! I can see you now spitting out your cornflakes!

Whilst Nigel jumped at the chance to engage in conversation or really hoped to get a bit of insight into how they had amassed such a colossal following. Along came a tow truck to whisk the star of the show – the VW campervan off to the nearest garage!

All was not well, with the not so shiny looking star campervan, which we hadn’t even really given a second glance to, in the non-filtered real world!

Keeping Instagram Success Tips Secret

With not one useful tip from the unwilling couple on how to become an Instagram sensation. The conversation was instead one of declaration of all the things that had gone wrong with the campervan. Interestingly, how much the wretched thing had cost them to repair!!

So, as Nigel retreated back to our campervan, tail between his legs – the only good piece of advice taken from the encounter was to never buy anything older than us!

Grey Hair and Wrinkles

Dare I say it – the owners of the campervan looked a little more worse for wear in real life! Sharing the campsite washroom over the course of a few days, I couldn’t help but notice wrinkles and grey hair!! Crikey, I know. Can you imagine, if you didn’t spit out the cornflakes earlier, you certainly will now!

Of course, we know all too well that in the behind the scenes reality of those amazing pics, lies an often endless line of pictures that aren’t good enough to use in public.

In addition to the well rehearsed exotic settings, they also come with a line of props to rival an A-list movie set!

Vanlife Professionals

That’s not to mention equipment – from drones and cameras to editing and catching the right lighting. Also, comes that fab sunset and sunrise after first dressing the van, the people and the contents!

Wow!! It seems a little bit too much like hard work!

It’s no surprise that vanlife and motorhome living can become a bit of a shock. So anyone unprepared for life on the road and living out of a van can often fall at the first hurdle – reality

Motorhome Life is still fabulous

Ok, so yes – of course there are some incredible places to park up. However, it’s not all fabulous scenery with birds serenading you in the mornings and waves lashing against crisp white sands.

In this world of mobile Apps, the chances are, those secret spots of a few years ago, are now out there on a minute by minute basis. Inevitably this means everyone knows about those once isolated parking spots and shares their find in an instant.

With the crazy vanlife trend growing bigger every year, those glossy pics and glowing blog posts, will just have to keep getting more and more appealing. Keeping the image alive and the reality a little further afield too.

In the meantime, I guess we all need a bit of theatre. So, if that’s what it takes to get us interested in another world outside of the 9 to 5, then maybe it’s not a bad thing.

For all those incredibly successful promoters of vanlife we salute you!

You’ve done incredible. Illusion or not, it’s our own imagination that decides how we see things. It’s a work of art and the gallery will be open for a very long time yet!

vanlife reality behind the image
The illusion of parking alone in France but we’re parked with about 30 other motorhomes


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