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  • Writer's pictureHinton Magazine

Five reasons why #VanLife isn’t as shiny as Instagram shows

It was November 2018, and fresh off the plane (jet lagged and in dire need of a shower) I had images of sleeping on the beach, drinking out of coconuts (I’m allergic) and a wooden clad van decked out with the latest van gadgets. The reality was scrubbing the ex-hunting van until most of the stains were out, realising freedom campsites are mostly old carparks and surviving off peanut butter and jam sandwiches.

Instagram has a way of making everything seem perfect with a touch of fairy dust (and a ton of filters), but the reality is a lot of these travel pictures have been orchestrated and miss out one vital fact.

Travelling, specifically living in a van, can suck.

Now I know, I get to travel around the country with all my essential possessions (plus my boyfriend), seeing incredible sights, spending days on the beach and living that life. Yet, with every silver lining there’s a cloud, so let’s take a closer look…


Living in England I was used to the constant on-off drizzle of rain threatening the day’s plans (slowly getting back into my duvet hoping no-one notices). However, other country’s rain is insane. When it rains you might as well call it a day. Whilst this may not sound too bad, being confined to a metal box for the day can take its toll. No TV (I know), no shower to warm up after being outside (I know) and only opportunities for endless naps (sorry).

Locals can be hostile

The majority of locals I’ve met on the road have been nothing less than perfect- accommodating, friendly and rolling their eyes at my lack of cultural knowledge. However, there’s a minority who are hostile towards the idea of travellers. It seems to be the favourite form of protest to drive by camping spots at 4am and beep horns excessively. As someone who is cautious at night whilst sleeping in a van (an utter nervous mess), this can be less than optimal for a good night’s sleep.


I will never take the ease of a shower in your own home for granted again (probably a lie). Choosing when to shower, knowing where you will shower, knowing who you’re showering with… (just kidding)- what a life. Most showers on the road are taken in gyms or swimming pools for a modest fee and seriously lack in pressure and heat. Microfibre towels are great for saving space and drying at speed, but nothing can match the feel of a warm, fluffy towel after a hot shower in your own home. Solar showers are great in theory but imagine trying to shower in a carpark next to a main road and a hundred other campers. Yeah, it’s great.

Not knowing where you will sleep is exhausting

I know, I know, the point of travelling is to move from place to place and it’s great for many reasons. Yet, moving comes with the inevitable battle of finding a safe, half decent (standards are lowering) place to sleep each night. Most free campsites are over an hour’s drive from main attractions and cities, and there is always the risk of them being full, closed or just damn right grim. Cue driving another hour tired and hungry (lethal combination) with the risk of a repeat performance. It can get seriously exhausting.

Homesickness will hit the most seasoned traveller

Before leaving home, I knew homesickness would be a factor. However, I was surprised about when it would hit. Instead of the hours laying crying clutching pictures of my family that I imagined, it would come in short, sharp hits which would leave me breathless (okay, a bit dramatic). The same brand washing machine as at home, a particular song or a familiar shop can quickly throw you back into a pool of nostalgia. Being thousands of miles from home with a different time zone can be challenging, as well as leaving the home comforts behind (microwave, I’m looking at you). However, the internet is a wonderful thing, and being in frequent contact with home can be the best remedy.

Despite this clearly focusing on the negatives of travelling in a van, there are many, many rewarding and exciting factors which make it worth it. Resilience and a taste for adventure (and a lowering in standards for yourself) are the key to making it work, and it’s an adventure no-one could regret.

Emma Southwell

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