On Instagram, van life looks idyllic. You park up by the beach or in a serene forest, cook on a fire, crack open a bottle of wine, and watch the stars. Who wouldn't want that?
1. "Public perception. On Instagram, van-lifers are called adventurous and free-spirited. In the parking lot, they’re called bums."
2. "For me, the hardest part has always been food — it's almost impossible to buy food packaged for just one person, and since I have no fridge, I end up tossing a lot of leftovers to the birdies."
3. "Pooping in a bucket when it’s over 100 degrees out is pretty bad. I have no AC, so it’s like cooking to death in a hot metal shit can.
"The rest of the time, I don’t mind the bucket. But, it’s a different animal when it’s, like, 120 degrees inside the van in the middle of the desert somewhere during the day, and holding it 'til later or finding a bathroom is not an option."
4. "You have to figure out where to park/sleep/live every. Fucking. Night. Sometimes, it's 9 p.m. and you haven't come up with a good solution for this yet. Sometimes, your plans A, B, and C aren't so good or are already taken when you roll up to them."
5. "Finding a shower. I took a bath in a freezing lake behind a church one time, and have warmed up some stream water and took a sponge bath in the woods."
6. "My mom tried renting an RV for a trip, and they told her every campsite was booked out for the next two years. ... I don't know how anyone does this!"
7. "The fact that I had everything I owned with me, and I knew I couldn't afford a serious repair.
"I was scared I would end up stranded in the middle of nowhere with all of my worldly possessions and have to abandon almost everything."
8. "I am fortunate enough to have a fund for repairs, but I could break down in the middle of nowhere, and AAA only goes so far. Then, I have to use a mechanic which could be amazing, but also has no online reviews. You never know what you will get out there."
9. "My anxiety makes it very hard at times. I’m paranoid wherever I park, even just at the grocery store to buy something, that someone is calling the cops on 'the homeless person in the van.'
"I’m a 5’2”, 115-pound girl who’s always smiling, sitting in a conversion van covered in stickers on love and peace. I am completely respectful and obey all of the rules where I park, and never stay somewhere too long, yet it seems my presence causes Karens to freak. It gets to me.
10. "The biggest thing for me was the loneliness. Always traveling to a new place, it was rare to see the same person more than one day in a row."
11. "One thing that has caused my burnout is just always being exposed to the miserable public. Cranky people who hate their lives are everywhere, and it gets boring really fast, having to see scowling faces every day. I really think the reason a lot of people hide in their homes and apartments all day is because they don't want to see that all the time."
12. "As a woman, the hardest part is feeling secure. When we sleep at truck stops, it's pretty loud at night, and I feel like I can't completely fall asleep.
"I've even considered getting a gun since I am in Texas, and it seems to be promoted here."
13. "Trying to find a job that pays well enough and that you can do on the road. Then, there's the issue of internet access and installing electricity."
14. "Sleeping in warmer, humid temps is by far the hardest thing about van dwelling.
"Which is why I prefer a hybrid, like a Prius...so you can sleep with the AC on."
"In the Midwest, it's too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter. Van life here is really only possible during spring and fall."
15. "It's not as peaceful as it seems on Insta. Lots of noise until 12 a.m. Then, it begins at 6 a.m."
16. "It's hard to sleep sometimes, as there might be unexpected traffic nearby with loud engines, or people talking outside. Or, somebody can park by you while you're sleeping and sit there with their car idling, and their exhaust fumes start getting inside your vehicle."
17. "I hate peeing. I don't want to keep a bucket just for waste. I don't have the space. Getting up to do it at night feels dangerous; doing it inside feels primitive and stinky."
18. "The pushback for me is not being able to have guests over. I bartend, so I have some late nights. When I get outta work on weekends, there are very few choices as far as places to hang out.
"I am stationary and have a full-time job, but opt to live in my SUV.
"I used to always be like, 'Let's just go back to my place. ... I can cook, we can drink,' but I no longer have that option. I find myself spending many late nights at my 24-hour gym, just trying to unwind from my shift."
19. "Not having a permanent connection to a group of people. One of the best parts is that you get to meet so many new people who share similar interests to you. One of the worst parts is that it's very likely that those new friends you meet you will never see again. It’s fleeting.
"It depends on your personality. I would say having a partner with you makes this much easier; not sure how solos could do it."
20. "One inconvenience for me is recyclables pilling up, because there's been a profound lack of public recycling bins in Reno, between my bi-to-tri-weekly runs to the dump."
21. "I think the worst thing is forgetting about something. You forgot you had a half-full beer on your counter from the night before, and it slides off as you take your first turn out of the parking lot.
"When you miss a scheduled pee bottle or gray water emptying, and then forget about it until the next time. You forgot about those two bananas you put in your day bag and then jammed your day bag into some small space, and it's now covered in banana paste. Stupid shit you can avoid but happens anyway.
22. "For every task, it takes, like, 10 extra steps. If I want to cook, I gotta drag out the stove, clear a space, check the butane, roll down the window. ... Will this plastic melt underneath it?? I should move it...get the pan...where's the...aw fudge, it's stashed in one of those bottom boxes.
"And you have to stay organized every minute step throughout your day because one act of laziness can literally fuck up the whole system, and the inside of your van is now chaos.
"Not to mention the fact that it's important to keep an orderly appearance for all the onlookers that are already judging you."
23. "Getting stoned and having severe munchies in the middle of nowhere, and trying to not eat my next 4 days' worth of food."
24. "Returning from van life can be difficult, having a gap in address history, lack of references for rentals, and just generally not being established in any given area can cause a lot of problems. On paper, it really looks like a period of homelessness.
"How badly this affects you obviously is dependent on personal circumstances, but it's worth being aware of and maybe doing something to mitigate it."