How to Work and Live on the Road


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- Updated May 22, 2023

How to Work and Live on the Road

A Guide to Working and Living on the Road: Van Life and Beyond


As reported by the Washington Post, the RV Industry Association found that around 1 million Americans live full-time in recreational vehicles. This includes traditional RVs, campers, vans, and even converted busses. There are several reasons why so many have adopted this lifestyle: it can be more cost-effective than home ownership, it allows you to travel more, and it’s flexible around your lifestyle.

“Van life,” as this lifestyle is often called, is possible and sustainable if you are prepared. Living and working on the road can be incredibly rewarding for your mental health, as long as you set yourself up for success.

Determine If Nomadic Life Is Right for You

Being a nomad isn’t for everyone. There are certain health and safety risks associated with traveling frequently, as well as other potential complications and quirks. Anyone can become a nomad, but those who feel the most rewarded from this lifestyle often are:

  • Outgoing or adventurous;
  • Constantly seeking change;
  • Self-motivated;
  • Independent;
  • Happy with extended periods of alone time;
  • Outdoorsy.

Nomads often spend extended periods alone, away from familiar surroundings. Because of this, you may want to update your health insurance and adjust your auto insurance coverage to include any unexpected challenges, such as towing or ambulance services, so that you can get the help you need -- even if you’re on your own.

Choose the Right Home on Wheels


When it comes to life on the road, you have several options. Because more and more people are transitioning to full-time nomadic lifestyles, more manufacturers are making travel-friendly homes. Here are some of the most common types of portable homes:

  • Camper vans:** A camper van is what probably comes to mind when you think “van life.” These vans often have a sleeping area, kitchenette, and sometimes even a bathroom. Day vans can also be converted into portable homes, though they don’t typically include the kitchenette.
  • RVs:** RVs, or recreational vehicles, are larger camper vans. They usually come with more than one sleeping area, a dining area, a kitchenette, and a bathroom. These vehicles are typically quite large, and you’ll want to check the weight and length guidelines to ensure you don’t need a special operating permit before you hit the road.
  • Converted busses:** This is a newer type of home on wheels that is becoming more popular. Old school and prison busses are being converted into camper vans, with all the amenities including a sleeping area, kitchenette, and living quarters. These can be a great option for the hardcore DIY-er, and function as a nice middle ground between a camper and an RV.
  • Tiny homes:** Some tiny homes can be built on wheels and towed around. These homes are completely functional, similar to RVs, but have the traditional “home” style. These can be more logistically challenging, due to securing furniture and other household items when it’s time to drive, but you can make customizations that make this process easier.

These homes on wheels are the most common for those looking to live life on the road because they have all the basic necessities and comforts, while fitting neatly within a vehicle or trailer.

Obtain a Remote Job and Tools To Work Successfully


Even though van life is often more cost-effective than traditional home ownership, you’ll still have daily expenses, like food and gas, that you’ll need to earn money for. This is where getting a remote job comes in handy. Due to the rise in remote work, remote opportunities are more abundant than ever. Some of the fastest-growing remote-work employers include organizations in:

  • Marketing;
  • Administration;
  • HR and recruiting;
  • Accounting and finance;
  • Graphic design;
  • Customer service;
  • Writing.

When it comes to working on the road, there are a few things you’ll need to create a productive working environment. These include:

  • Reliable Wi-Fi: Remote work relies on a strong and reliable internet connection. While there are plenty of free internet connections available at coffee shops and hotels across the country, these can vary greatly in quality and leave you more vulnerable to cybersecurity threats. The best thing that you can do is invest in a mobile hotspot. This way, you’ll have a reliable private Wi-Fi network no matter where you are. You can often get these from your phone provider.
  • Reliable power source:** This is another important thing to have for working on the road, to keep things like your hotspot, your computer, and any other accompanying accessories charged while you work. You could get a generator for your RV or van, which can help power things like lights and stoves, or invest in a portable power bank specifically for your electronics.
  • Laptop:** A laptop is much more suited for work on the road than a PC. It’s compact, lightweight, and portable, meaning that you can set up your office anywhere you need to be. Some laptops even have extra features, like touch screens or detachable keyboards, that make them even more versatile.
  • Cloud-based storage:** Cloud-based storage over external hard drive storage is usually a better option for nomads because of the cloud’s increased accessibility, as well as being a space-saving storage option. If your job requires you to store large files often, hard drives can start to pile up and take up valuable space. You can access cloud-based storage from any internet-capable device. It also has increased shareability, which makes remote collaboration much easier.

You’ll also need to make room for job-specific tools, such as drawing tablets or work phones, and their accompanying accessories.

Practice Different Hygiene Techniques


Life on the road doesn’t always include a traditional shower. Even if your tiny home or RV has a shower, water hookups aren’t guaranteed. This is why it’s important to adjust your hygiene routine for any situation. It’s important to keep yourself and your living space clean on the road, to prevent insect infestation and illness. Some hygiene tools you can use when a shower isn’t an option include:

  • Wet wipes;
  • Face wash;
  • Anti-bacterial spray;
  • Anti-bacterial gel;
  • Shaving kit;
  • Nail kit.

If you can shower, either at a gym, truckstop, or another rest area, you will want to invest in a pair of shower shoes. These can be cheap plastic shoes that you wear in public showers, which will protect you from fungal infections like athlete’s foot. Be sure to disinfect these shoes after each use.

Prepare Any Furry Friends You Plan on Taking Along

Furry friends can make great roadside companions. Dogs make great adventuring buddies for hikes and long walks exploring new areas, while cats are independent enough to be left alone for the day and return to. Having a pet can also alleviate some of the loneliness of your nomadic life.

Before you decide to bring a pet into your van life, you’ll need to make some preparations to ensure their safety and comfort. This can include getting them used to constantly being in a moving vehicle, as well as purchasing good pet insurance, due to the elevated risk of accident or vet inaccessibility.

Decide Whether or Not To Keep a “Real” House

There are pros and cons of having a separate, stationary house from your traveling one. For example, this house could be used as a secondary income, as you could rent it out while you’re on the road. It can also be a place for family and friends to stay in, or a place for you to use while your mobile home is getting scheduled maintenance.

However, if you keep a stationary home, you’ll still be responsible for the upkeep, including security. This can be a drain on income and free time.

If your house is going to sit empty for an extended period, then you might consider investing in comprehensive home insurance that protects against damage and break-ins. You may also consider requiring renter’s insurance from any tenants, to protect against property damage caused by them or their pets.

Keep Tabs on Your Mental Health


There are many health benefits to living a van life. For example, spending time in nature has proven benefits to mental health. Additionally, the sense of freedom and independence that comes along with van life can be another huge boon to your quality of life.

However, isolation may pose real problems, particularly if you’re traveling alone. This is why it’s so important to keep tabs on your mental health.

As telehealth has become more popular, mental healthcare providers are more accessible than ever. This means if you have internet access, you have access to a licensed mental health professional.

You can also create healthy habits that will help improve your mental health on the road, such as doing daily exercise, journaling, or joining an online forum of other nomads. These activities can help you feel engaged and supported, regardless of where you are in the world.

As van life continues to grow in popularity, you may feel the urge to trade in your house keys for car keys. This guide can help you be prepared to live your best nomadic life, on your own terms.

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