How to Talk to Your Family about your Van Life Plans – Bearfoot Theory


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After exploring New Zealand in a camper van for 3 months, I returned to the US craving the liberty of the open street. When I made a decision to buy my first Sprinter van in 2016 and begin van life full-time solo at 33 years previous, I shocked lots of people near me.

Most of my family and friends had been excited for me once I informed them the information about my resolution to stay and work remotely in my dwelling on wheels. Others thought I used to be loopy, expressed concern for my security, and tried to speak me out of it – particularly since I began van life as a solo feminine. What if I encountered weirdos? How would I earn cash and was I throwing away my profession? What would occur if I didn’t like van life?

I spent two years dwelling in my van full-time with out paying hire. Since then, I’ve spent greater than a thousand nights on the street, touring throughout the US and Canada with my companion Ryan, our two canine, and now our son.

As the individuals closest to me noticed how completely happy this life-style made me, they slowly got here to phrases with my resolution (even when they weren’t on board at first). Now, my family and friends stay up for listening to my tales from the street every time I go to them.

It is difficult to listen to critiques and damaging reactions from the individuals closest to you, particularly while you care about them and their opinions deeply. In this information, I’ll stroll you thru my suggestions for speaking to your family and friends about your resolution to do van life and provide recommendation on dealing with their reactions if the dialog goes south.

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Tips for Breaking the News to your Fmaily

You know your loved ones and associates greatest. While there isn’t a one proper approach to speak to them about your resolution to begin van life, listed here are my seven suggestions for dealing with the topic.

1. Know your “why” for van life

As with all massive life selections, you in all probability spent a whole lot of time researching van life and excited about whether or not it was best for you earlier than you determined to maneuver right into a van full-time.

Personally, I spent numerous hours researching the nomadic life-style, studying van life blogs, and reflecting on whether or not working remotely can be the only option for me. I wished to know the ins and outs of how one can stay on the street, together with the great, the dangerous, and the ugly.

Once I made a decision that I used to be going to go for it and provides van life a whirl, I felt assured in my selection. I knew why I wished to stay in a van and the way it might profit my life (as I’ll clarify additional beneath).

Although you might need to share your information together with your dad and mom or closest associates as quickly as you resolve to do van life, it is very important decelerate and mirror in your “why” for desirous to do van life. I can nearly assure that this one-word query is the primary your family and friends will ask while you inform them your information.

If you don’t know your “why,” then how will you clarify it to others? I like to recommend journaling about it or meditating on it till you are feeling assured in your causes for desirous to do van life.

My “why” for van life is as a result of I’m the happiest, healthiest model of myself once I prioritize time open air. I see van life as a method to spend extra of my time in nature and do the actions that make me really feel good, together with climbing, backpacking, and snowboarding.

Woman standing in the doorway of a sprinter van looking out on the rolling mountains
Van life permits me to spend extra time in nature doing the issues I like like climbing

Once you’ve got your reply, observe saying it out loud as in the event you had been explaining your reasoning to an in depth good friend or member of the family. You may even attempt saying it to your self within the mirror or perform a little role-playing with the individual you intend to do van life with. Keep rehearsing till you are feeling assured you possibly can look somebody within the eye and clarify your “why” with out hesitation.

2. Explain your reasoning

Once you inform your family and friends that you just’re doing van life and also you clarify your “why,” they’ll seemingly need to hear you broaden a bit extra in your causes for selecting this life-style. There are quite a few benefits to van life, and you have to think about which of those advantages greatest explains your resolution.

Since most of your loved ones and associates in all probability comply with the standard path of graduating faculty, climbing the company ladder, and settling down someplace, you may additionally think about explaining why this path doesn’t attraction to you. When you clarify this to your individuals, ask your self: what does van life provide {that a} conventional path doesn’t?

Here are some causes to share together with your family and friends about your resolution to pursue van life. I don’t advocate overwhelming them with all of those causes; somewhat, describe a number of of the professionals of van life which are key elements in your resolution:

  • Travel spontaneously: Have the liberty to go wherever, everytime you need.
  • See the nation: Scope out potential future dwelling bases and see the place you would possibly need to plant roots.
  • Save on hire and utilities: Avoid month-to-month funds for issues like hire, electrical energy, sewage, trash, and so forth.
  • Travel affordably: See extra locations with out having to spend cash on flights, rental vehicles, and motels.
  • Spend extra time in nature: Wake up every day with nature proper exterior your door.
  • Be lively: Live a extra wholesome, lively life-style that conjures up you to get exterior every single day.
  • Live with much less: Get rid of the litter and solely stay with the objects you really want.
  • Simplify chores: Instead of spending your weekends cleansing, stay in a small area that you could tidy in a matter of minutes.
  • Be self-reliant: Cook your meals, sleep in your mattress, and handle your self by yourself.
  • Meet new individuals: Meet open, like-minded individuals who additionally selected to not comply with a standard path.
  • Work with a view: Instead of working in a cubicle, work wherever you need.
  • Personal growth: Increase your self-confidence as you navigate challenges and step out of your consolation zone.
Bearfoot Theory founder Kristen Bor working in her Sprinter Van outside of Joshua Tree
One fo my greatest causes for beginning van life was so I might work from the street and journey spontaneously.

3. Outline your plan for the van

When you inform your loved ones and associates that you will stay in a van, they’ll seemingly need to know which van you keep in mind. You may also need to share your plan for acquiring a van.

Whether you intend to construct out a DIY van or buy a professionally transformed van, you’ll want to share this info together with your family and friends. Prepare to elucidate which make/mannequin of van you’re trying to buy (and why you picked that one), the floorplan you’ve selected, and the way you’ll convert it (or which firm you’re going by means of).

They additionally would possibly need to understand how you’ll afford the van. If you could take out a mortgage, you’ll want to analysis which loans you qualify for and what your month-to-month cost will likely be.

Make certain you additionally understand how a lot the van prices to register and insure. You’ll desire a tough timeline of when your van will likely be accomplished and while you’ll transfer into it.

White Sprinter Van parked in front of a campsite with a fire
For my first van, I purchased a brand new 2015 Sprinter van and had it transformed by a non-public builder

4. Demonstrate your van life information

Before you open the ground for questions, clarify to your family and friends you’ve researched how one can make this life-style work. You will need to familiarize your self with van life 101, present them that you just’ve thought by means of the execs and cons of van life, and anticipate the questions they’ll ask (and the way you’ll reply – be happy to make use of my concepts beneath).

Although I wish to be spontaneous and determine issues out as I am going, that is NOT what I like to recommend for this dialog. Demonstrate a sensible grasp of life on the street, the troubles you might encounter, and the way you’ll cope with the complexities of being a nomad.

From there, you’ll want to deal with a number of the commonest questions and issues about van life. Although this may occasionally appear excessive, I assure that these are the questions your loved ones and associates may have while you inform them you’re beginning van life.

It is nice to be ready and present them that you’ve got thought by means of these items to provide them assurance and peace of thoughts.

  • Belongings: Will you promote your possessions or put them in a storage unit?
    When I moved into my van, I offered the vast majority of my stuff and paid for a small storage unit for the remainder. Don’t assume you’ll be capable of retailer your stuff in your loved ones’s storage. You need to present them you are able to do this by yourself with out counting on them.
  • Current dwelling and automobile: Do you intend to maintain or promote?
    I had lived in an condominium, so I merely moved out when the lease ended. I made a decision to promote my automobile so I wouldn’t should pay insurance coverage and registration prices on it whereas I wasn’t driving it. If you’re solely going to do van life for a short while, you might need to hold your private home and automobile. Renting your present dwelling can also be an possibility that can herald some cash when you’re gone.
  • Income: How will you earn cash on the street?
    My weblog was already two years previous once I moved into my van, so I made a decision to work remotely. If you aren’t certain what you’ll do but, listed here are some distant job concepts for van lifers and vacationers.
  • Health insurance coverage: What will you do for medical insurance whereas touring?
    If you don’t plan to work a full-time distant place with advantages, listed here are some medical insurance choices for van lifers.
  • Mail: How will you get mail on the street?
    You have a number of choices for this, together with utilizing a good friend or member of the family’s deal with. There are a number of methods you possibly can set up residency and get mail on the street.
  • Internet entry: What will you do for Wi-Fi?
    Thankfully, there are a number of methods to get web entry as a van lifer, together with Starlink and mobile hotspot information. I like to make use of a mixture of each.
  • Bathroom: What will you do for a bathroom?
    You can embody a bathroom in your camper van construct and would possibly think about choosing one in every of these greatest choices for bogs for van life. I like to recommend going this path to comply with Leave No Trace rules while you’re out in nature.
  • Finding facilities: How will you discover locations to bathe, fill your water, and do laundry?
    Thanks to know-how, it’s pretty straightforward to discover van life facilities on the street, together with showers, dump stations, water fill-ups, and laundromats.
  • Finding campsites: Where will you park every evening?
    While you don’t have to have all your campsites mapped out, you need to a minimum of have some concepts for the way you’ll discover spots. I like to recommend downloading iOverlander and utilizing this information to search out free campsites.
  • Safety: How will you keep protected whereas touring and dwelling in your van?
    This is a typical concern, particularly for staying protected as a solo feminine van lifer. You can take precautions to keep protected on the street.
Kristen Bor working on her blog Bearfoot Theory at a campsite
I like to recommend doing all your analysis and studying van life blogs (like this one) beforehand

5. Address their questions and issues

After you clarify your resolution, reasoning, and plan, your family and friends members will seemingly have some questions and issues. Give them an opportunity to react and speak in regards to the issues on their thoughts with out getting defensive.

It is tough to anticipate what their greatest issues is perhaps. While you might not be capable of predict how they’ll react, you possibly can have a plan for what you’ll do in the event that they increase a priority that catches you off guard.

I like to recommend actively involving your family and friends within the precise planning and problem-solving of the very issues that they brainstorm. If they increase a priority you haven’t thought-about, you possibly can ask them for his or her ideas on how they’d deal with it or what they’d do in the event that they had been in your sneakers.

It can also be okay to confess that you just don’t know or have all of the solutions to one thing they advised, however inform them you intend to look into it. After the dialog, comply with by means of with this and present them what you discovered. This will assist your family and friends members really feel heard and revered.

Bearfoot Theory founder Kristen Bor talking with a friend inside of a Sprinter Van with a laptop on the table
Researching van life options together with your involved family and friends may also help them really feel reassured

6. Empathize with them

Remember to be affected person with your loved ones and associates as they course of your information of beginning van life. Although generally their feedback might come throughout as insensitive, annoying, or patronizing, do not forget that they love you above all else.

People usually mission their fears onto others, particularly when you’re doing one thing that scares them or they might by no means fathom doing themselves. Their greatest concern is probably going your welfare, and so they need to do no matter they’ll to maintain you protected.

For BFT contributor Kaylin, her dad and mom despatched her information articles about risks for locations she was touring to, climate alerts, and even a taser to defend herself on the street. Although Kaylin by no means requested them to do these items (and secretly rolls her eyes), she is aware of it comes from a spot of affection and appreciates them pondering of her.

I skilled one thing related with my dad and mom. My dad and mom had been primarily anxious about my security, in addition to my monetary well-being. Even although my weblog was two years previous on the time and beginning to usher in cash, they couldn’t perceive how I’d be capable of help myself or make a dependable revenue on the street.

People additionally worry change and being left behind. Your associates could also be extra involved about your friendship ending. As a full-time van lifer, you can be far-off for months at a time, and they’ll seemingly miss you.

Thankfully, you possibly can textual content, speak on the telephone, and video name. You may even ship them postcards from the locations you go to. Staying in contact is less complicated stated than accomplished, although, and in the end requires effort from each side to make it work. You will need to fastidiously think about the friendships in your life, which of them matter to you and are value the additional effort, and the way you’ll prioritize retaining in contact.

Looking into the back of Kristen's second Sprinter Van as she's laying on the platform bed looking out
When I lived in my van solo, I took security precautions like storing precious gear inside my van

7. Give them time to course of

Although your family and friends could seem confused or caught off guard while you inform them you’re beginning van life, they seemingly want time to course of the information earlier than they’ll absolutely share your happiness and pleasure.

People usually assume that you’ll comply with the identical formulaic life plan as they do. Since you’re going towards the standard roadmap of checking off packing containers, this is perhaps the primary time they’ve ever thought-about that you just received’t comply with of their footsteps or pursue the same life to what they selected.

They might even want extra time to see how a lot happiness van life brings you earlier than they perceive. When you’re completely happy, it radiates, and individuals who see that can naturally be completely happy for you.

You could also be shocked how their reactions change over time. My dad and mom who had been very involved at first have since informed me that in hindsight, they need they’d’ve accomplished the identical factor at my age.

In reality, my dad, in his mid-70s, has now adopted in my footsteps with a Sprinter Van of his personal. He’s been touring in it the previous couple of summers, and we’ve been in a position to meet up on the street.

Bearfoot Theory founder Kristen Bor sitting in a camp chair next to her dad at a campsite with their Sprinter vans behind them
Camping with my dad at an RV park close to Ophir Beach in Oregon

How to Handle Negative Reactions to Starting Van Life

Although you would possibly strategy this dialog feeling ready, assured, and empathetic, it’s nonetheless potential on your associates or relations to react negatively to your information of beginning van life. Depending on their response, listed here are three other ways you possibly can reply.

1. Laugh with them

If your family and friends have a humorousness, they might quote the basic Chris Farley SNL skit and say one thing alongside the traces of: “So you’re going to live in a van down by the river?” Everyone thinks they’re so authentic with this joke!

If they’re teasing you, snicker with them and take a look at to not let it trouble you. If you are feeling comfy, you possibly can even leap in with your personal jokes!

In my opinion, this sort of teasing and other people supplying you with a tough time is definitely a optimistic response. However, it in the end will depend on the connection you’ve got with the individual teasing and if it feels pleasant or mocking. If it seems like they’re mocking you, you’ll need to ask them their intentions, as outlined beneath.

2. Clarify their intentions

Words can harm. If your folks or relations make you are feeling dangerous or mock you on your resolution to stay in a van, it’s seemingly as a result of they’re doubting their very own life decisions and deflecting to save lots of face.

If they nonetheless don’t “get it,” that’s okay. You don’t want their validation or approval to stay in a van. But you want them to respect you and your resolution if you wish to preserve a relationship with them going ahead.

In my opinion, one of the best ways to deal with that is to be direct. Let them know that their remark harm your emotions and clarify why. You might additionally allow them to know why you had been excited to share your information with them and the way you hoped they’d react.

If they apologize and clarify their intentions in a means that is sensible, you possibly can forgive and transfer ahead. Perhaps they’re jealous, insecure, anxious about your security, or involved that your relationship will change. They may not know how one can specific it.

However, in the event that they persist, turn out to be defensive, or blame you for his or her hurtful feedback, I like to recommend taking a step again to get some area. They is probably not pondering clearly and later remorse their phrases and apologize.

If not, you’ll want to think about if this can be a relationship that you just need to proceed.

4 people standing next to a lake in Stanley Idaho
Van life has allowed me to introduce my dad and mom to the outside. Now they love climbing and getting exterior.

3. Set wholesome boundaries with those that don’t approve

Sometimes, the individuals closest to you understand how to harm you probably the most. Your family and friends might specific disapproval to your face or gossip behind your again. 

If they specific that you’re in any means a failure, loser, or loner, you might need to ask your self in the event you even need to proceed to maintain these individuals in your life. Or you might have to set a boundary that each one conversations about your selections round van life are off-limits.

As we evolve and develop, there will likely be individuals who settle for and embrace our adjustments and others who need us to remain the identical.

You in the end have to comply with your happiness with out caring about what others assume. Their opinions are simply that – opinions.

As you get on the street and meet different van lifers and construct a model new group, you’ll swap tales and discover that so many people went by means of related experiences sharing our needs to stay in a van. Relating to different van lifers, you’ll shortly discover validation in your resolution to maneuver right into a van.

Three women standing in front of a Sprinter van at Open Roads Fest
Hanging out with my fellow van lifer associates in entrance of my Sprinter at Open Roads Fest

Are you beginning van life? Check out these articles earlier than hitting the street:

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What questions do you’ve got about speaking to your family and friends about beginning van life? If you’re a van lifer, how did they react while you informed them? Let me know within the remark part beneath!


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