VANlife…”Must Be Nice!”

We know you’re guilty of it. You read blogs like ours and you think, “Yeah, that’s cool. Must be nice.” (You know…where “nice” is emphasized with a sighing hint of envy.) Some people are quick to assume that we must be independently wealthy, that we never work, or that our situation is a product of luck, not choice. In today’s post, we challenge those notions and hope to get you rethinking things a bit.

Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 2.55.59 PMThe truth is, not a day goes by during our travels that we don’t encounter people who are, on one hand, drawn to VANdal and excited about what we do, yet on the other hand, quick to provide every excuse in the book about why they could never do the same. Invariably, after a few minutes of conversation, someone will say something to the effect of, “It must be nice, but……. {insert lame excuse here}.” Usually, it’s one of three:

  1. “I can’t afford it.”
  2. “I have children.”
  3. “I don’t get enough vacation.”


Here’s what we’ve noticed: These reasons, as well as the, at times, snippy assumptions people make about those who are actually living their dreams are only a reflection of their choices.

In a nutshell: If you’re unhappy with your life, think about the decisions you have made to get you to this point.

Wouldn’t you agree that your current position in life is based mostly on your choices, sprinkled with a little bit of luck and opportunity? The trick, we think, is to be prepared to seize opportunity! And if you can’t articulate where you want to be tomorrow, next month, next year, or in retirement, then you will never get there.


The distinction is decision-making that’s ACTIVE versus PASSIVE. To live without excuses, apologies, and regrets, you have to make active choices versus passively accepting society’s preapproved homogenized plan. Hard to do considering our culture’s impervious infatuation with all things passive, from TV to video games, to the way we educate our children….


Basic as it may sound, literally sit down and begin with the end in mind a la Stephen Covey. What do you envision? It’s too easy to go through the motions day to day, and then suddenly wake up and realize you’re miserable, your priorities are skewed, and you’ve barely put a dent in your bucket list. Once you know what’s really important, it’s easier to chart your new course and act accordingly.


To be fair, part of the problem is that those of us born before 1990 grew up within the four corners of the industrial model imposed upon us. From early on, we were made to believe that choosing a single career path, working hard for the next 30-40 years, accruing “Things” to satiate our desire to feel successful, and retiring in a warm climate on a golf course community were the sheer definition of the American Dream. In this cultural climate, we quickly adhere to the “more is better” instead of the “better is better” life plan.


A small but growing group of people, like us, have chosen a new work/life paradigm. For us, success is not measured by our paycheck, corporate standing, or the square footage of our home. We choose to view “work” not as its own stand-alone goal, but as a means to fund a life. That doesn’t mean that we do not take our jobs and careers seriously, it just means that we have chosen to rebalance the scale.


In life, we only have one currency. And the amount of that currency is unknown. We sell minutes, hours, days and months of our lives in exchange for money, which in turn allows us to live. Therefore, the question becomes, “What are we willing to trade in exchange for that currency of time?” Is it comfort, as defined by property ownership? Or, is it a series of experiences, relationships, and connections with people? We think it’s the latter.


That path, like any series of choices, is not without its consequences. We have a much smaller home, a less prestigious car, and rarely cross the threshold of a Four Seasons. What we do gain are weekly three and four-day excursions to paddle, surf, kite, mountain bike, run trails, hike, and play in conjunction with visiting friends and making new ones along the way.


We all need to feel out these choices, put a value on priorities, and decide whether or not the things we have and do define us. For Martin, the large waterfront home, the boat, the sports cars all created an aura of comfort and success, but in reality were golden handcuffs, only perpetuating the need to run faster on the hamster wheel to support and polish those golden handcuffs. When his experience proved that the longer and faster he ran on the habitrail, the less time he had to enjoy those items, he shifted his focus.

So, you see, it’s not the children, the job, or the employer that keep people from having a life. Those are the symptoms of the choices we make.


For us:

  • We CHOOSE to use our five-year old Subaru Outback as long as possible instead of indulging in purchasing a shiny new one so we can take those funds and spend two months traveling.
  • We CHOOSE a smaller house with fewer furnishings, lower energy consumption, and reallocate those savings to our excursions.
  • We CHOOSE jobs that allow us flexibility where our only needs are an internet connection and some great personal connections.
  • We CHOOSE to only buy items with a purpose. Each item mission-specific and not merely a social ornament or status symbol. If it doesn’t facilitate fun, good food, travel, sports, or make us more comfortable doing those things, we don’t need it. The industrial model of consumption is unsustainable. So do yourself a favor and help the next generation reject consumerism and embrace consumption of nature and all its wonder. A good place to start? Try for a week not buying disposable shit that comes in a container from China. Make IKEA your sworn enemy. Leave the chotchkes on the shelf at the Pottery Barn, and for God’s sake quit buying totefuls of holiday decorations in the name of Pinterest!
  • And finally…We CHOOSE not to have children. Yes, it is a CHOICE to have children or not. No one forces you into it. Kids are wonderful, but too often we hear people using them as an excuse for not living the way they’d envisioned for themselves. Don’t let us hear, “It must be nice you can get away like this; you don’t have kids.” That’s right. We don’t. We do, however, know and have met plenty of families who do what we do with kids in tow, giving those lucky children an incredible opportunity to learn, travel, experience, and grow.
    The Navarro Family and their Brownie VW
    The Navarro Family of Cutler Bay, Florida, races, travels, and focuses on the fundamentals — much of it using their beloved VW affectionately known as “Brownie.” Check out their blog at

    Rejecting computer games, video games, and hours in front of the television, these families instead embrace the ocean, mountains, and experiential learning at its finest. Instead of whining about how kids tie you down and you can’t do anything, figure out how you can maximize your life WITH kids. (Or really think about why you’re having them in the first place).


    There. It was a bit of a rant, but we think we’ve made our point. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to keep up with the Jones’s and work to pay for the life you’ve created – just don’t glare green with envy when you see people like us, the new generation of relatively frugal land-yachters, on our next adventure. Either embrace your life or change its direction to suit where you really see yourself. If it’s to eventually be living the VANlife, then start trimming the fat in your life and make some decisions that help drive you closer to it.

    The choice is yours.


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